The Christian’s Gain at Death
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)
Strange way to talk is it not—“death is gain”? One could be offended by this seemingly cavalier statement. It is inappropriate in light of the awful reality of death. Death—it is loss, separation, the end, a step into the unknown. But for the follower of Christ, baptized in his name, a participant and member of his church, death is gain.
To be sure, others have view death as gain. The ancients viewed death as the spirit’s release from the prison of the body into a spiritual realm. But that is not what Paul is talking about here. More commonly death is a gain because it ends the painful suffering one is going through, especially when the body and mind are failing. But for Paul death is gain even when it happens in the prime of one’s life. It not so much about release from a prison or from a painful disease; it is about what one gains. But even here false conceptions can loom in our minds. For instance, there is the sentimental statement “He is in a better place” referring to a vague amorphous heaven. While a little closer to the truth, it is not enough to capture what Paul has in mind. The one united to Christ by faith gains Christ.
But what does it mean to go be with the Lord? Here are a few thoughts.
At death the believer has gained sight of the Lord
“We shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). It is not merely that we will know him more as the result of further study, nor merely gain clearer ideas of what he is like. But see him. On earth, the believer sees Christ by faith, from a distance, dimly and partially. But in heaven he will see Him fully, clearly, and closely. The believer here knows by faith that Christ is the radiance of the glory of God (Hebrews 1:3). But there he beholds Christ’s radiance in full splendor and beaming bright whiteness (Matt. 17:1-8).
One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple (Psalm 27:4).
In death the believers gains the presence of the Lord
We all aware of the joy and happiness we feel when family and friends are present. This is just a hint at the joy of being in the presence of the Lord. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Sin has brought estrangement between God and men. But through Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross, his people are forgiven and cleansed, so that they may have the full presence of God restored to them. When a believer dies he or she goes to be with the Lord in his holy glorious joyful physical presence. God will once again walk with man (Gen. 3:8).
Paul says “To be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.”
At Death the believer gains eternal life
The believer begins to know eternal life in his life with Christ while here, but will know it vividly and poignantly then. This means that he will know God in Christ. For Jesus portrays eternal life as knowing God And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3). Whether we realize it or not eternal knowing God is the deepest yearning of the human heart. Sin distorts this yearning so that we exchange the glory of God for a lie. But regeneration reverses this. We now see that Christ is fairer and sweeter and more joyful and more satisfying than all the pleasures and joys of this world. Indeed, Paul speaks of the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ my Lord.
The Christian is a person whose thoughts and desires have been reoriented to God in Christ. We have put of faith in him. We love and obey him. We pray for his kingdom and love his church and teach our children his words. He is our all in all. So when he finally bring us to death’s door, we know this–we will go to be with Christ, a scenario, Paul says, that is better by far.