Talking with Little Ones about Death
I have a very sensitive 6 year-old boy. Recently we watched a movie where one of the lead actors died. It really scared him and led to a lot of tears. I started to try to reason with him by telling him that the movie wasn’t real and that the person was just pretending to die. While that answer seemed to help in the moment, it didn’t take care of the larger question about death, which he knows is very real. How should we prepare our children for facing the reality of death? Grandparents, friends and loved ones may die while your children are young. How should you talk with them about this from a biblical worldview? I will only be addressing some questions that may come up related to Christians who have died.
Talk about where death originated
God warned Adam and Eve, didn’t he? Tell your children the details of this story. “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” When Adam and Eve sinned, they became spiritually separated from God and also began to die physically. Death is a punishment for sin. Not only did Adam and Eve pay for their sin, but all of creation was cursed (Gen. 3:14-19, Rom. 8:20-21). The famous passage in Romans 6:23a tells us “for the wages of sin is death……” Romans 5 takes it even further and clearly teaches that all human beings are sinners and therefore under the judgement of death. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12). Sin in the garden of Eden gave birth to death. Layout for your children carefully that the consequences of sin are devastating to man before a Holy God. We are separated from our Creator because of sin.
Talk about where death was destroyed
In the very same chapter that talks about the curses from sin leading to death in Genesis 3, there comes a great promise that you must tell them to remember. In Genesis chapter 3:15 we see a promise that “the seed of the woman” will crush the head of the serpent. Women don’t have seed. In this very famous passage of scripture called the protoevangelium, meaning “the first good news,” we see a hint of the virgin birth. God, from the beginning had a miraculous plan to destroy both sin and death! The “virgin” Mary gave birth to God’s Son who came to rescue us (Mt. 1:18). God’s miraculous son died for our sins by paying the price of those sins on the cross. Before He died he said “it is finished” meaning “paid in full.” Sins were paid for and three days later, Jesus came back to life. His resurrection crushed death! He destroyed both sin and death thus crushing the head of the serpent. When we trust in Jesus we receive the forgiveness for sin and the promise of everlasting life. The curses of Genesis 3 are turned upside down through the cross and resurrection.
Talk about death that we see today
For those who die now, but have trusted in Jesus, “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:8) As soon as somebody dies who is a Christian they are with the Lord Jesus. In Jesus parable of the rich man and Lazarus we see that Lazarus was carried away to God when he died by the angels (Lk. 16:22). For those who are gospel believers, there should be no fear of death. The thief on the cross was told by Jesus in Luke 23:43, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” The same day that the thief went through the agonizing torture of the cross and died, he was in heaven. Encourage your children to realize that those Christians whose bodies have died are instantly with their Savior, Jesus. There is no need to fear death for those who are in Christ. Because this is true, Paul could say, “For me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” Also, remind your children that the body of Christians will not always be in the grave. God has promised that when Christ returns, the souls of those who are in heaven will reunite with their bodies and make their dead bodies new, (I Thess. 4:13-18) in the twinkling of an eye (I Cor. 15:52). The Christian will have a spiritual body to serve God in the future. So, remember that no dead body of a Christian will stay dead. It will be resurrected like their savior Jesus and made new. I John 3:2 says, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
Talk about the future of death and the future of life
The bible teaches that death will be totally destroyed in the last time. Death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15). For those who have been found in Christ, their bodies will have been raised and made new. Their souls will have reunited with their bodies and they will enjoy eternal life with God. The bible says that there will be a new heavens and new earth that believers will enjoy forever eternally. So, while death may seem to have the upper hand in some ways now, we must remember that it only has claim over our bodies (for now) not our souls. But, in the last time, it won’t have claim over our bodies either as they will be made new. Let these words of the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul encourage you and your little ones today:
“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:54-57)
All Scriptures taken from the NASB bible