“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NIV)
I have always found the above verse to be confusing, because I always felt Paul mixed up the order of importance–namely that to live should be gain and to die be Christ, as the goal in the end is heaven when we die, isn’t it? Well, over the past year or two I have come to a deeper understanding of many things, including what this verse is actually saying: that it is Jesus’ will for us to be alive, but that even IF we die that there are benefits to be had as well. Yes, I said “if” we die, because to live is Christ. In other words, it is Jesus’ will, purchased by the breaking of his body on the cross and the shedding of his blood, and through his death then resurrection, that we can live in a new life that is no longer bound to the law of sin and death, making it so we can now live forever, on earth, in human bodies that will be transformed, without ever dying and going to heaven for that to occur.
I think Paul actually knew a bit more than he let on about this subject, as he said something else to the Philippians that is a real head-scratcher if we look at it a little deeper. Philippians 3:10-14 says “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Paul freely acknowledges that he wants to be like Jesus — who died and then rose again three days later to live in a newer, better, everlasting body and was walking around here on the earth! Paul says that he does not believe he has already obtained everlasting life here-and-now-on-earth, but that he is pressing on toward the goal to win that prize. Paul knew what the goal was and he knew what the prize was — living forever. Jesus said it to his disciples in John 6 and a bunch of them stopped following him after that. Is it really that hard to believe that God doesn’t want us to die? In 2 Timothy 1:9b-11 Paul states “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.” What? Has brought life and immortality to light? Paul flat-out states in this passage that God made him an apostle and teacher of the gospel of life and immortality.
Friends, I want to encourage you that the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a whole lot better than we have been taught. You don’t have to die anymore! Death has been defeated, which is why death no longer has any sting–it is powerless! If this has tagged your interest, I encourage you to read through the gospel of John and see how many times and how many places Jesus told his disciples that they would never die and would live forever if they believed in him. It’s there–go see for yourself!