Have you ever thought what it would be like if you could not die? How terrible it would be if your body had wasted away with a terrible disease and you could not die. I have conducted many funerals when loved ones have reluctantly said the deceased was better off because he was no longer suffering.
On the other hand, Francis Bacon echoed the attitude of many when he said, “men fear death as children fear the dark.” Apart from an intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ no man is prepared for his encounter with death.
Moreover, death for the believer in Christ is presented in the Bible as an improvement over the very best in this life. How wonderful it would be if Jesus came for us on the very best day this life could offer when everything is going great. It would not be a terrible tragedy. The Apostle Paul’s life was full and he could write, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Philippians 2:21 NET).
Paul did not say his death would be “better by far” because he wanted to escape this life. The death of the Christian is never portrayed as an escape or improvement on the worst of life.
The heartbeat of Paul’s life was Christ. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is better yet.” Christ was everything to Him.
H. C. G. Moule with keen insight said, “Life and death . . . look to him like two immense blessings, of which he knows not which is the better. On either side of the veil, Jesus Christ is all things to him.” The only difference will be that “on the other side” everything Paul longed for in this life “in Christ” will be more perfectly realized there.
The apostle’s desire was to “depart” and be with Christ. He had tasted the delights of God’s righteousness and longed for freedom from evil that he would never have in this life on the earth. He would know perfect freedom.
For the Christian death will be freedom from all sin, pain, suffering, persecution, cares, etc.
I am sure the apostle Paul had in mind that this freedom would mean that finally he would be like Christ in His perfect righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8). Crowned with His righteousness! It is not our self-righteousness, but our being clothed in righteousness that Christ imputes to us (2 Cor. 5:21).
We will know him as he is known. Every spiritual truth that has puzzled us in this life will be clearly revealed to us in Christ. In that day we will know as he knows (1 Cor. 13:12).
But the blessed thought, most precious of all is we will be with him. Every born again believer will be with Christ. Yes, we know him and he is with us in our present life, but oh the fullness of our knowledge of him and his wonderful, glorious presence when we are with him clothed and crowned with his righteousness!
The Psalmist said, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15 NASB).
For the unbeliever death is an eternal separation from a righteous, loving God. It is something to be feared and dreaded. However, for the believer death is just the opposite; it is also precious to the believer just as it is to God. There will be no separation from him.
Moule says it well. For Paul it was a dilemma “between Christ and Christ, Christ much and Christ more, Christ by faith and Christ by sight.” And that is our dilemma, too.
As you read these words is it true of you? Do you long to be like Christ? Do you long to see Him in all His gory? Do you earnestly desire to be perfect as he is perfect?
The apostle John said, “And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure” (1 John 3:3 NET).
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006
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