Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To Die May Be Gain, but It Hurts

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21)

If you pay attention at a visitation or funeral following a Christian’s death, the above verse gets used regularly—and for good reason. Death, for the believer, does not end at the grave. For a time, the spirit departs and is with Christ in heaven (Phil 1:23) until the time when the body is resurrected on the last day, and even then, there remains the promise that we will ever be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17).

While this promise is a glorious truth, there remains another facet of that same believer’s death. Someone is left behind who grieves. That’s right—Christians grieve. Death hurts everyone involved. Consider what was going through Paul as he wrote of Epaphroditus who did nothing but be the deliverer of what the church in Philippi had sent:
Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. (Phil 2:27)
“Sorrow upon sorrow”—that’s pain; that’s anguish. The one who dies has his spirit unnaturally removed from his body. Spouses, family, and friends suffer the unnatural separation of their relationships. There is pain that must be endured in order to move forward with life. Paul fully expected the worst but was overjoyed that the Lord reversed what seemed to be the inevitable.

While we are not like those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13) and are able to rejoice in the present state of the believer before Jesus, we long for death to be thrown into the lake of fire at the last judgment. There will be a final reconciliation of all things in Christ, but until then, we move forward longing for our own final existence with Jesus.

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