“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
THIS WORLD IS NOT ALL THERE IS. In addition to the world that we can see, there is also an unseen realm of spiritual reality (2 Corinthians 4:16–18). This spiritual world is no less real than the one we live in; if anything, it is more real. The Christian expects that the end of his or her life in this world will be the beginning of life in that other one. Paul, for example, wrote of these two separate worlds, or lives, when he said, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
The Scriptures describe the “life which is to come” in a number of different ways. It is “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5), “the age to come” (Mark 10:30), the “everlasting kingdom” (2 Peter 1:11), etc. Often it is simply called “heaven” (Philippians 3:20).
That world exists even now, but we do not have direct contact with it. We live in this world for the time being, but at death, we will move from this one into that one. The death of our physical bodies, which is a consequence of sin having entered the world, will terminate our sojourn in this world, but it will not terminate our existence. Death will be a transition from one life to another.
Now here is the point: if we are faithful Christians, we ought not to be reluctant to move out of this life and into the next one. Yes, there are some very delightful things about life in this world, and these enjoyments will be hard to say goodbye to. But that which awaits us, in Christ, is so much greater in its joy that we would be fools not to look forward to it eagerly. Here, we have the good and the better. But at that time, we will have the very best.
For the Christian, then, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. In Christ, the conclusion of a faithful, joyous earthly life is not to be regretted, because it ushers us into the very presence of our Father. What this means is that the Christian has the best of both worlds. By keeping this world in proper perspective, he gets the most out of it that can be gotten. And when the goodness of this temporal world has been experienced and used to the Father’s glory, the Father Himself waits for us in eternity with His arms open wide.
“Death is but a sharp corner near the beginning of life’s procession down eternity” (John Ayscough).