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Enjoying God Blog


How could the apostle Paul say, without the slightest tinge of sarcasm or doubt, that physical death for the Christian is “far better” than remaining alive on the earth (Phil. 1:23)?

The older I get, the more I think about death. That may strike some as overly morbid and depressing, but I regard it as biblical realism. Death awaits us all, unless we remain alive until Christ returns. My guess is that Tim Keller, J. I. Packer, John Stott, Billy Graham, R. C. Sproul, Charles Stanley, Jack Hayford, and Pat Robertson, just to name a few well-known Christians who have died in the past 15 years or so, all believed, or at least hoped that they would live until the second coming of Jesus. That they have died is, says Paul, “far better” than if they had remained alive on earth.

Why? When I think of all that life on earth affords me, it’s a stretch to think that dying is far better. Notwithstanding the physical pain and emotional distress that living can inflict on us, life is a remarkable blessing. The beauty of God’s creative design in nature, the joy of watching the birth and growth of one’s grandchildren, the encouragement from fellowship with other believers, the intellectual thrill of fresh insights into God’s Word, baseball, books, marital sex, medium rare filet mignon, the spiritual euphoria of corporate worship with other believers on a Sunday morning, and the list could go on seemingly without end, are all reasons to be thankful for life on earth.

But dying and being with Jesus is “far better”! “My desire,” said Paul, “is to depart [i.e., die] and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:23) than remaining on earth, notwithstanding the blessings of ministering to others and watching the body of Christ mature and expand to the glory of God.

So, why is it “far better”? The first thing Paul explicitly mentions is that to “depart” this world is to “be with Christ” (v. 23). No more will the Son of God merely be a name in a book or a distant friend. To be “with Christ” is the consummation of a relationship that moves from faith to sight. Our enjoyment of all that he is and has done for us will immeasurably exceed whatever delight we experience now. We will think more clearly, feel more passionately, see with greater clarity, rejoice with deeper intensity, sing with more zeal (and never again off key!), and give expression to our gratitude endlessly, without so much as an iota of boredom or repetition.

To be “with Christ” will surely entail new and previously unforeseen blessings beyond description. But there is yet another dimension to life “with Christ” that makes it “far better” than life in the here and now. I have in mind what will be absent from the experience of those who are present with Jesus. No more uncomfortably hot summers or bitterly cold winters, chronic physical pain, the distress of miscarriage, political corruption, economic stress, sexual perversion, tears of regret and remorse, funerals, arguments, broken relationships, crippling anxiety, loneliness, disability, divorce, or any of the countless causes for sadness and depression.

Few things eat away at my soul quite like the absence of answers to probing and complex questions. Why is there evil? Why do precious children die young and wicked men live to a ripe old age? Why are some healed of cancer and others die in agony? Why are some prayers quickly answered and others delayed? But when I depart this life and find myself in the presence of Jesus, it will be “far better” because all doubt will vanish in the pure light of rock solid confidence, all unbelief will be replaced by unshakable faith, all mysteries will make sense and enigmas explained and puzzles solved and confusion replaced by the clear sight of the knowledge of eternal truth.

This past week a longtime member of our local church died from a variety of causes. Several years ago, he woke up from surgery blind. For whatever reason, blood flow to his optic nerves was cut off. He was permanently and irreparably blind. Yes, we prayed incessantly for his healing, but it never came. That is, until last week, when the first thing he saw after years of utter darkness was the blazing and loving light of his Savior’s glorious face! I lament his death, but envy his new life “with Christ.”

I could go on seemingly without end listing the many reasons why being with Christ is far better than the mass of blessings and benefits of life on earth, far better because of the absence of the countless curses and disappointments this life brings, but I’m sure by now you get my point.

To see Jesus, to be assured of never again having to live a single, solitary second distant from his glorified physical presence, is far better than anything and everything this life can offer. I’m thankful for all that God has done, is doing, and will do for me now. But my gratitude cannot be measured for the assurance I have that one day I will “depart” and be “with Christ.”

Oh, how much greater, more satisfying, and infinitely better it will be to see him face to face, never to depart.

1 Comment

Thanks Sam. The encouragement is much appreciated.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I have been thinking recently about those who perish and the severity of the punishment for the impenitent, who die in their sins.

I am confident that those who are forgiven and enter into the heavenly joy of their Lord, will immediately upon entering, understand why there must be a hell. It can be hard to grasp from our view on earth but heaven will not be spoiled by the absence of those who proudly rejected the Truth.

I wonder if our pastors and preachers were more faithful in consistently and compassionately teaching on the reality of final judgment, would iniquity abound the way it does today. ?

I understand that we prefer to be motivated by God’s love and grace but the fear is God has not stopped being the beginning of wisdom.

If we truly love… we must warn.

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