For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
(Philippians 1:21-26 ESV)
Most people would say that the worst thing in the world is to die. People greatly fear death. But for the Christian, death is nothing to be feared. It is the beginning of a new adventure – one we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Death is deliverance from this dreary, sin-filled life into a permanent existence in the presence of our Lord.
This is precisely the attitude Paul expresses in today’s passage in his letter to the Philippians. Paul was facing a possible death sentence at the hands of the Roman authorities. If he lived he would remain on this earth to teach others about Him. On the other hand, if he died he would be in his eternal home, in the presence of Jesus. For Paul, it was a win-win situation.
Whether he lived or died Paul would be honoring God. If he continued to live then he would continue to serve Him on this earth. If he died, then he would have died for the purpose of promoting Christ and teaching people the truth. When people die for their beliefs, it sends a strong message to those who remain.
Paul did not know whether he would live or die. That decision was up to God. If he could choose he would have chosen to go on to be with Jesus, as that was the far better thing for him personally. But he knew that there were still people on this earth who needed him. So he was torn between the two. This is in stark contrast to our modern world in which people are so afraid to die that they tenaciously cling to this life.
The only ones who have a reason to fear death are those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus. At the time a person comes face-to-face with Him after death the relationship is the only thing that will matter. Any so-called “good deeds” will account for nothing, although many will attempt to bargain their way in on this criteria. Sadly, Jesus will have to tell people who attempt this to depart from Him [Matthew 7:21-23]. Even more sadly, the only other place to go is hell.
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