"To Die Is Gain"
"For to me, to live is Christ, and to die
is gain...having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much
better" (Philip. 1:21-23). In these words we see the entire substance of
the apostle's life and what he looked to beyond this life. Everything that Paul
did revolved around his Lord whom he served. He knew that his Lord promises
salvation that cannot be hindered by death, but is only brought closer by it.
Thus, death was viewed as a valuable thing.
It is so hard for many to look at death in this way-- to see death as a gain and not a loss. No one is able to view death in this way unless they live for Christ. Without Christ, death is an enemy of man. Those of the world fear death. Most people don't like to even talk about death and dying. Most shun the subject or make jokes about it as if it isn't real. But death is real. We can't hide from it or avoid it. No one escapes death. For those who are without the Lord, having never rendered obedience to His gospel and thus not striving to live for Him, death is a terrifying thought. For these there is nothing but a terrifying expectation of judgment to look forward to after death (see 2Thess. 1:7-ff).
However, we do not have to view death in this manner. We must come to view death as God views it and not as the world. How does God view death? "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones" (Ps. 116:15). The world may view death as a terrible enemy, but God views death as a precious thing for those who are righteous. The only way to be righteous before God is through Jesus-- living for Him. Without Christ, death is a terrible, fearful, thing. To live with the constant fear of death is a pitiful slavery. Yet Jesus came, suffered, and died that He might set men free from the fear of death. "Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives" (Heb. 2:14-15). The only way we can view death as God views it, is through Jesus. For the Christian, death is gain not loss, because through the blood of Christ we are made righteous, free from sin (Ac. 2:38; 22:16).
Some men, because they are so overwhelmed with trials, heartaches, and pain that come from living an aimless life, desire to die. Many even commit suicide. But these have a perverted view of death. These view death as an empty escape. But this is wrong. Death is not an empty escape, it is a new beginning. For the unrighteous it is the beginning of a eternity of torment. But what a wonderful new beginning for those right with God (cf. Lk. 16:19-26; Jn. 5:28-29). "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on! Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them" (Rev. 14:13).
For the Christian, "to die is gain." They can be assured of this fact through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Having lived for His Father, He died, was raised from the dead, and glorified. This is the very thing God promises us if we live for Him. Jesus is proof in that He has already received it and tells us, "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Rev. 1:17-18). Just as Jesus was raised, in the last day we will be raised. "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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" (1Cor. 15:50-55). Death has no sting for the child of God, for it is simply the ticket home. It is the means to great gain beyond this realm. All of the saints whose bodies were once subject to disease and deformities, burdened with pain, will be given a glorious spiritual body that only heaven can give. For in that day we will be made like Jesus. "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" (1Jn. 3:2).
The only way we can say that to die is gain is if we are living for Christ. Are you?
By Paul Smithson
From Expository Files 6.12; December 1999