Escaping Death’s Shadow
By Hal Lindsey
It’s one of the most memorable verses from probably the most beloved Psalm. Perhaps you can recite the words from memory.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.…” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)
As a writer, I look at those words with astonishment. In just a few phrases, they convey some of the most compelling imagery ever put on paper. They project the sense of a dark valley, and the claustrophobia of knowing you have no escape. Shadows are ethereal, but they represent something solid, real, and close. The shadow’s shape replicates the thing that obscures the light. And when the shadow moves, it gives a sense of danger in the darkness. Some shapes can be especially scary — a man, a hand, a knife in a hand.
In this case, the shadow’s shape is that of death itself.
Death casts its shadow into all parts of our lives. From the moment you first realize you will one day die — a moment too early in life for most of us to remember — death casts its shadow over you. In that sense, we all walk in the valley of the shadow of death, and we walk there our entire lives.
Sometimes the shadow of death looms larger and darker than usual. The doctor gives you bad news, or a loved one dies. We grieve for the one who is gone and for everyone who will miss that person. But our grieving often carries with it a sad remembrance of our own mortality.
Death is normal, and we know it. Hebrews 2:15 says that the fear of death can be a lifelong form of slavery. Hebrews 9:27 calls death an appointment for every human being; an appointment to be followed by judgment. It begins to look as if the valley of the shadow of death is a box canyon.
But at this point, the scripture tells us something amazing. Not everyone dies.
The passages we often call “the begets” in the Bible, have a redundancy that causes most people to begin to scan for more interesting material. But that redundancy tells us something important. They usually follow this pattern. “Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died.” (Genesis 5:6-8 NKJV)
That’s how they end. “And he died.” The people of early Genesis lived amazingly long lives. But it didn’t matter in the end, because almost every beget ends with, “and he died.”
That’s right. I said, “Almost.” They don’t all end that way. Hidden in the “the begets” is a man who broke the pattern. His name was Enoch. “So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:23-24 NASB)
He didn’t die. God just took him away. It was an anomaly, but a telling one. Something like it happened again later in the Old Testament. Instead of dying, the prophet Elijah “went up by a whirlwind to heaven.’” (2 Kings 2:11 NASB)
Could these two biblical precedents hold any meaning for us? 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 in the New Living Translation says, “But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”
This is a beautiful description of the Rapture of the Church. What wonderful news! “We will not all die!” Those who are in Christ at the time of the rapture will be snatched away with Him.
But as we wait for that event, Christian believers die. In the words of King David, they “go the way of all the earth.” (1 Kings 2:2) Death looms before us. So how do we escape the fear of it? Go back to the 23rd Psalm. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.” There is a reason we should “fear no evil.” It’s because He is with us. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us.
The LORD promises us that there is no reason to fear death and here is why, “For we know if this earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan earnestly desiring our habitation from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by (eternal) life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the (Holy) Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore we are always confident that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the LORD. We are confident, yes, to be well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the LORD.” (1 Corinthians 5:1-8 NKJ)
God is waiting to bring us home with Him. So let us have the same expectation as the Apostle Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NKJ
If we die before the Rapture, God gives us temporary clothing so we can be present with Him. He then raises us in the Rapture and gives us our immortal body. Praise the LORD ! Who’s afraid now? We have God’s eternal promise. And the Holy Spirit is His guarantee !