Paul said it, but do we believe it?
One of the most quoted New Testament verses within the evangelical church.
As Paul wrestled with his imprisonment, considering life and death, he wrote to the Philippians church:
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
Much has been written and said on living for Christ (and in turn, dying to self). By all means, I completely agree with this teaching and strive to bring this about in my life, as well as my teaching as a pastor.
But one question is often left out…
Why Is Death Gain?
Our culture often connects life after death with the pearly gates and golden streets of heaven. Personally, I’d take a mountain stream and over streets of gold. But are either of these descriptions really heaven?
Sadly, many Christians have also bought into a self-gratifying picture of Heaven, looking at eternity as a pleasurable retirement that never ends. Heavenly pool-side condos with lounge chairs, basking in the warmth of God’s presence.
Culture has duped us.
After this life fades, what will I really care about? What should I really be looking forward to? What evidence can Scripture offer?
Paul gives us a great answer in Philippians 1:23:
“My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (1:23b)
For a more detailed description, check out Paul’s writing to the Thessalonian church:
“15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thes. 4:15-17)
Don’t Miss That Last Verse!
“…we will always be with the Lord.” (4:17)
That’s where our Western culture (and many within the church) have it all wrong. It’s not about the place and the comforts we’ll experience. The eternal focus isn’t placed on our self-fulfilment or self-enjoyment.
It’s all about spending eternity with Jesus!
Our Lord, our Saviour, our Friend! The King of Kings and Lord of Lords! To walk with him, talk to him, physically lean into him like John at the Last Supper. (Jn. 13:23)
This Is Why Christianity Is Different.
Consider Islam. Paradise equates to a place of pleasure for each individual. In radical sects, male-centred perverse teaching, a harem of virgins for eternal pleasure. So sex is the end goal?
Consider Buddhism or Sikhism. Eternity means reincarnation over and over again. In the physical realm, eternity as a cow is the preferred option (unless you’re landed in Alberta). In the spiritual realm, you could become pure energy, floating around the planet…
Now consider Christianity. Jesus teaches us an eternity of relationship. Followers of Jesus as the Bride called to communion with their Groom, Jesus Christ.
Humans designed for relationship, eternally existing in relationship.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
What will Heaven hold? What do you believe eternity to look like?