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To Live is Christ -- To Die is Gain

As I write this article, we are on a quick trip to visit my step-grandpa in Arizona. Grandpa Frank is 88 years old and dealing with a rare form of cancer that spreads through the sweat glands. After two procedures on the face, the doctor says he can't do any more surgery. Now, Frank is bracing for his first round of radiation therapy. 

Frank's prognosis is still up in the air, but we know this for sure: Frank has trusted in Jesus and is safe in God's arms. We are praying that Frank will recover and enjoy many more years on this earth, but we have a peace that no matter what happens, God will take care of him.

I reminded Grandpa Frank this afternoon of how the Apostle Paul viewed life and death. "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Paul felt caught in a tug-of-war, torn between two worlds. He wanted to stay on the earth and be a blessing to others, yet he was eager to go home to Jesus. "If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better" (vv. 22-23). As I shared this with Frank, he looked me in the eye, and said, “I know exactly how that feels.”

How could the Apostle Paul say that death is "gain" and "far better" than life? Because heaven is on the other side. Death is not the end of life. It is only the beginning. And here are three reasons that death is "gain" for every Christian.

First, death is gain because heaven is instant. The Bible does not teach that our soul falls asleep or goes to purgatory. For believers, "to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Second, death is gain because heaven is familiar. It will be filled with family and friends who trusted in Christ while on this earth. We will be “meet up together in the clouds” (1 Thess. 4:17). It will be the best family reunion ever!

Third and most important, death is gain because Jesus awaits us. Christians pass from this life and immediately awaken in their Savior's loving arms. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise," Jesus promised to the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). At the moment of death, our faith becomes sight.

Heaven is a wonderful place that removes the sharp sting of death. Will you be there? John 3:16 teaches that "whoever believes in Jesus Christ will not perish, but have eternal life." As I visit with Grandpa Frank this week, I’ve enjoyed reflecting on these rich promises together.

This article first appeared in today's edition of our local newspaper, the Hi-Desert Star.

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