To Die Is Gain?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Paul said, “To die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 NKJV). That kind of talk is absolutely foreign to our modern spiritual vocabularies. We have become such life-worshippers that we have very little desire to depart to be with the Lord.

Paul was torn. He honestly wrote, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). That said, he thought it best to stay here and “live in the flesh,” knowing the new church needed more teaching and encouragement.

In saying “to die is gain,” was Paul being morbid? Did he have an unhealthy fixation with death? Did he not respect the life God had blessed him with? Absolutely not! Paul lived life to the fullest. To him, life was a gift, and he had used it well to fight a good fight. He had simply overcome the fear of the “sting of death” and could now say, “It’s better to die and be with the Lord than to stay in the flesh.”

Those who die in the Lord are the winners because resurrection is the ultimate healing where we are ushered into our Father’s presence! The passage of death can be painful, but it cannot compare to the unspeakable glory that awaits those who endure the passage.

Talking about death bothers us. We try to ignore it, avoiding even thinking about it. Occasionally we will talk about what heaven must be like, but most of the time the subject of death is taboo. Instead, we hear messages on how to use our faith to acquire more things. Death is considered an intruder that cuts us off from the good life we have become accustomed to. We think, “I love the Lord, but I need more time to enjoy my life.” What a stunted concept of God’s eternal purposes. No wonder so many Christians are frightened by the thought of death.

How different the first Christians were! Paul spoke frequently about death. In fact, our resurrection from the dead is referred to in the New Testament as our “blessed hope.” Christ calls us to die without worrying about how we should be remembered. Jesus left no autobiography, no headquarters complex, no university or Bible college. He left nothing to perpetuate his memory but the bread and wine. By his death, though, we gained everything.