Free From the Fear of Death: Law and Works vs Grace Part 1
Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics

Authored By  :
Bill Kochman

Published On :
December 17, 2012

Last Updated :
December 17, 2012


Historic Fear Of Death, Fate Of Unbelievers, Some Christians Fear Death, Jewish Fear Of Death And Bondage To Mosaic Law, A Lifetime Of Bondage, Proud Self-Righteous Jewish Scribes And Pharisees, Jesus Lambasts Hypocritical Religious Leaders And Accuses Them Of Being Liars Murderers Oppressors And Children Of The Devil, Ye Shall Die In Your Sins, Apostle Paul Raised As A Pharisee, In Bondage To Fear And Death, Jewish Religious Leaders Endeavored To Establish Their Own Righteousness, Our Righteousness Comes Through Christ Alone, God Has Not Give Us A Spirit Of Fear But Of Peace, We Are Children By Adoption Through Faith In Jesus Christ, Contrasting Messages Promoted By Jesus And The Unbelieving Jews, Why Jews Hated Jesus And The Apostles, Jerusalem In Bondage With Her Children, Modern Hatred Towards Jesus And Paul, It Is Impossible To Establish Our Own Righteousness Through Good Works, Jesus Purposely Set The Bar High So We Understand That We Cannot Save Ourselves, With God All Things Are Possible, Our Hope Lies Only In Jesus




The fear of death is something which has plagued humanity since time immemorial. In fact, over the millennia, fear of death -- and more importantly, the question regarding exactly what happens after death -- has so occupied the minds of men, that a wide variety of laws, procedures, traditions, rituals and customs have been put into place, in order to ease one's transition to death, and in some cultures, through death and beyond as well. From the ancient Egyptians, to the Jews, to modern funeral homes, we find different approaches regarding how to deal with death. On one hand, this fear of death -- at least on the part of unbelievers -- is justified. After all, the Scriptures do not paint a very pleasant picture for those people who continue to resist the conviction of God's Spirit until their moment of death. Consider the following verses and be warned:

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Matthew 10:28, KJV


"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."
John 3:36, KJV


"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God . . . For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 10:31, 12:29, KJV


"But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men."
2 Peter 3:7, KJV


"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Revelation 20:15, KJV


"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."
Revelation 21:8, KJV


However, it may surprise you to know that even today, despite our rich Christian heritage, and the truth of God's Word which has been passed down to us, there are likewise some Christians who not only fear death, but who also fear what will happen to them after they have passed out of their current life in the flesh. Why is this? Why would any Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior be so fearful of death? What is the root of this fear? This bondage to fear and death was most certainly known to the ancient Jews. It is made quite plain in the Scriptures. For example, the Apostle Paul notes the following:

"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he [Jesus] also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
Hebrews 2:14-15, KJV


"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
Romans 8:15, KJV


The previous two verses form a central part of the primary message which the Apostle Paul delivered to his unbelieving Jewish brethren. Notice that Paul clearly states that as a result of their fear of death, these people -- meaning the Jews -- "were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Wow! Imagine; a lifetime subject to bondage! But the question is this: Subject to what bondage? Taking into consideration the many other things which Paul wrote regarding this subject, I am quite convinced that he is referring to nothing less than bondage to the Mosaic Law; that is, the Laws of Moses of the Old Testament era.

As I amply explain in other articles, the self-righteous, unbelieving Jews -- particularly the primary religious sects of the Scribes and the Pharisees -- were totally beholden to the Mosaic Law. In fact, they proudly wore their adherence to the Mosaic Law -- or at least their claims of adhering to the Mosaic Law -- like a badge. They walked about in their long robes, with their broad phylacteries -- a small leather box they wore on their foreheads which contained snippets of the Scriptures -- and just loved to receive the praises of common Jews, who looked up to them as if they were "sinless saints". How much this sounds like certain modern religious leaders who act in the very same shameful manner.

However, as you may know, the Gospels plainly reveal that these religious Jews were in fact self-righteous hypocrites. Consider what Jesus had to say concerning them in Matthew chapter twenty-three. It is such an all-encompassing exposé of their hypocrisy that I am motivated to share the entire chapter with you:

"Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Matthew 23:1-39, KJV


There are a number of other verses which are found in the New Testament which likewise reveal the depth of the hypocrisy, and the level of falsity, of these self-righteous, religious men who pompously and erroneously claimed to be true Jews. Consider the following verses of Scripture and learn the real truth; not as misguided men teach it today, but as God's true unadulterated Word teaches it:

"Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you [from the unbelieving Jews], and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
Matthew 21:43, KJV


". . . Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it . . . He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."
John 8:39-44, 47, KJV


"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Romans 2:28-29, KJV


"Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."
Romans 9:6-8, KJV


"I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
Revelation 2:9, KJV


"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."
Revelation 3:9, KJV


Even though Jesus told His unbelieving Jewish enemies that they could be free from the bondage of the Law through faith in Him, those blind guides knowingly rejected the freedom He offered to them. As a result, they continued to remain under the bondage of the Law, and its harsh mandate of death to the sinner. In fact, Jesus outright told them that as a result of their unbelief, and their rejection of Him, they would die in their sins, as we see by these verses:

"Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."
John 8:21-24, KJV


Not only did the self-righteous Jewish religious leaders and their followers remain in bondage to the Mosaic Law, but as Jesus also mentions in the previous verses, they used the Mosaic Law as a bludgeon to manipulate, control and oppress the common man, as well as to enrich themselves. Tragically, does this not sound like organized religion today as well?

Incidentally, it was in this very same environment that Saul of Tarsus -- later to be known as the Apostle Paul -- was raised. This is why he became such a zealous persecutor of the First Century Church prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus. As Paul himself informs us in the Book of Acts, as well as in one of his Epistles, he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and the perfect picture of self-righteous pride and false religiosity. Consider the following verses:

"But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question."
Acts 23:6, KJV


"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless."
Philippians 3:4-6, KJV


In short, Saul of Tarsus was the perfect picture of what we might term a "perfect Pharisee"; that is, if it were really true that one existed. Because the self-righteous religious Jews were enslaved to the Mosaic Law, they were likewise in bondage to fear and death. Please note, however, that this did not include the Sadducees who didn't believe in spirits, or in the Resurrection of the dead. But aside from them, why were the other religious Jews in bondage to fear and death? In a word, while they never admitted it, I suspect that it was probably because they were worried about what was going to happen to them when they died. As Jesus and Paul both inform us, the Scribes and the Pharisees went about trying to establish their own kind of righteousness. Consider the following verses:

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Romans 10:1-4, KJV


What does Paul mean when he says they "have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God"? Quite simply, he is referring to the righteousness which is achieved through faith in the Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone, which the unbelieving Jews did not embrace. You see, even though the Jews presented a very pompous picture of self-righteous sanctimoniousness -- and confidence -- to the Jewish public, I would not be surprised if in their wicked hearts, they were never sure if they were good enough, and holy enough, to merit Salvation. This could be the reason why they feared death. Maybe they were not sure if they had kept enough laws -- or at least all of the right ones -- so that God would grant them Salvation and Eternal Life. This may be why we are told in Hebrews that "through fear of death [they] were all their lifetime subject to bondage."

Perhaps because of this uncertainty of not knowing their eternal fate, these religious Jews spent their entire lives living in fear, and trying to keep every aspect of the Laws of Moses that they possibly could. Through their supposed "good works", as Paul writes, they were trying "to establish their own righteousness". In other words, they were basically trying to work their way to Heaven, because they ignored the fact that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." But the question is, if a person chooses the former route -- that is, "good works" -- how will he ever know when he has done enough of them in order to gain Salvation? This is the dilemma which the unbelieving Jews may have faced. So again, this may be why Paul wrote that they "were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Not only were they enslaved by fear, but they were in bondage to the Mosaic Law as well.

At any rate, as I will be explaining in more detail in the second half of this article, it can't be both. Either we are saved and made righteous through our faith in Jesus, or else we trust in our adherence to the Mosaic Law -- which means self-righteous works -- to save us.

As we have now seen, while the Apostle Paul explains that we Christian believers have received the Spirit of adoption, the unbelieving Jews "received the spirit of bondage again to fear." If the Spirit of adoption proceeds from the Father, it seems rather obvious that the spirit of bondage and fear must proceed from Satan. Furthermore, as we saw earlier, Jesus did in fact say that His Jewish critics were the children of the Devil. As the following verses also reveal, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of peace, because we have made peace with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ:

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
2 Timothy 1:7, KJV


"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27, KJV


"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:"
Romans 5:1, KJV


"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:7, KJV


"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love."
1 John 4:18, KJV


Concerning this fact that we literally become the adopted children of God through our faith in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, allow me to share with you the following verses for your consideration:

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"
John 1:12, KJV


"And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection."
Luke 20:34-36, KJV


"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together."
Romans 8:15-17, KJV


"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
Galatians 3:26, KJV


"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"
Ephesians 1:5, KJV


"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;"
Ephesians 2:19, KJV


It is because Jesus preached a message of Salvation which did not rely upon strict adherence to the Mosaic Law -- which was from where the Scribes and the Pharisees derived their power over the common people -- that His Jewish enemies hated Him so. Furthermore, it is for the same reason that the Jews also hated and persecuted the Apostle Paul as he traveled around the Mediterranean region preaching the Gospel of Salvation. Both Jesus and Paul -- as well as the other Apostles -- posed a direct challenge to their entire oppressive belief system -- that is, Pharisaism -- which later evolved into modern Judaism. While Jesus and the Apostles preached freedom from the bondage of the Law, the Scribes and the Pharisees did everything they could to keep people enslaved to the same. Paul again mentions this devilish bondage in the following verses:

"Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children."
Galatians 4:24-25, KJV


In fact, as some of you may realize, this very same hatred towards Jesus, and this same animosity towards the writings of the Apostle Paul, continues unabated today two thousand years later. There are many Jews, Christian Judaizers, and other legalists, who heavily criticize the writings of the Apostle Paul, because these same Scriptural truths expose their hypocrisy today as well. These truths show us that we cannot possibly establish our own righteousness -- or merit Salvation -- no matter how many laws we keep, no matter how many Jewish feasts we observe, no matter how many hospitals we build, no matter how much we give to different charities, etc. Doing such things just won't work, and it is not good enough. It will never meet God's standard of righteousness, and it will never remove the stain of sin from our lives.

These self-righteous religionists -- Jewish and otherwise -- actually despise the freedom that we have in Jesus Christ, because it exposes their own bondage to the Law, as well as their futile endeavors to establish their own goodness and holiness. As we have already seen, Jesus was acutely aware of this self-righteous, deceptive spirit and attitude that pervaded the environment of First Century Israel. Not only did He repeatedly expose it, but through His teachings and sermons, He went about setting the record straight. Jesus wanted everyone to know that they simply could not be saved through any endeavors of their own. He wanted everyone to know that despite everything that they did, and every good work that they performed, they were still unsaved sinners. He purposely set the bar high so that they would learn this lesson. Consider the following sample verses:

"Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:19-20, KJV


"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Matthew 5:27-28, KJV


Imagine how the Lord's audience must have reacted in their hearts upon hearing such difficult words as these. As we have seen, they looked up to the Scribes and the Pharisees as being the epitome of holiness and righteous living, just as some people look up to the modern priesthood as well. But you see, Jesus is not saying what He appears to be saying on the surface. As we learned earlier, the Lord new full well that there was absolutely nothing righteous, or holy, about the Scribes and the Pharisees. He in fact very forcefully accused them of being murderers, liars, hypocrites, scheming opportunists who filled their own pockets at the expense of the poor, the children of hell, and false Jews.

If this is the case -- which it most certainly is -- why did Jesus use these hypocrites as an example before His audience? Why did the Lord place such an insurmountable obstacle before the people by saying that their righteousness had to exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees? It seems to me that it is because He knew that the common people had become deceived by those snakes; so He was using the alleged righteousness of their religious leaders to emphasize the futility of trying to establish their own righteousness and holiness. He had to point out the problem to them first, before He could offer them His own Father's solution to sin and death.

This same point holds true regarding adultery. Knowing the evil, lustful hearts of men, Jesus no doubt realized that there was probably not a single person standing there who had not committed adultery in their hearts. Maybe they hadn't committed the physical act of adultery, but that was beside the point. By making this statement, Jesus was in essence saying "You are all sinners."

These two incidents are not the only times that Jesus strived to emphasize this point. On another occasion, following His encounter with the rich man, Jesus again said something which even troubled His Disciples, and which revealed the futility of trying to establish our own righteousness, as well as the impossibility of human endeavors to reach the Kingdom of God. However, once again, the Lord's intention was obviously not to remove all hope of ever being able to receive Salvation and Everlasting Life; it was simply to point them in the right direction, and show them that hope could only be found in Himself alone, because He alone is the way to the Father. It is for this reason that He says the following:

"And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
Mark 10:23-27, KJV


Please go to part two for the conclusion of this article.

⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .


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