“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
In Philippians 1:21, Paul not only defined what life was to him, but he also defined what death was to him.
In the first part of the verse, Paul said that the ruling principle of his life was to live in fellowship with Christ. For him, the ruling principle was not money, fame, or pleasure. Life was synonymous with Christ. He could not conceive of living without fellowship with the Lord. He was gloriously alive by pervading everything with Christ. Now he gave his perspective on death.
“and to die is gain”
For Paul, life was a wonderful fellowship with the Lord Jesus, but death was a prospect for an even more intimate connection with Him.
Not only should we have a philosophy of life, but we should have a philosophy of death. If we do, we have a win-win situation. If we live, we win; if we die, we win. Now Paul gave his philosophy of death.
The word “gain” means profit or advantage. It was used for monetary profit to make money. “Gain” was also used in the sense of winning something. Death was a win for Paul. To die—a success; to die—a win.
Notice again, there is no verb. This phrase literally reads “to die . . . gain.” Death is a gain. The absence of “is” puts great emphasis in the Greek on the word “gain.” Paul was shouting that death is a gain for a person who will meet Jesus face to face.
“To die is gain” is a productive sequence to “to live is Christ.” If Christ is everything that makes life worthwhile, then meeting Him in death will be an even more valuable experience yet. It will make the person more alive. Death removes the veil of knowing Jesus from afar to meeting Him face to face. Death will usher us into His very presence. Death, therefore, should be computed as a friend.
For many, death is an enemy. It is destructive and a great loss; however, for the person who anticipates meeting Jesus face to face, it is a “gain.” If money consumes us as the object of our lives, we would have to place death on the debit side of our assessments. Death plunges us into a tragic end. For Paul, death was not a dark, bleak termination of the dynamics of life but the beginning of an even greater life.
Christians have a positive philosophy of death.
Do you have a philosophy of death? Death is a win because we will be more alive in eternity than we are now. We received “eternal life” at the moment of salvation. Death will release the shackles that keep us from full fellowship with the Lord.
Every believer will be victorious one day when he or she meets the Lord Jesus. Are you looking forward to this success? “To be absent from the body is to be face to face with the Lord Jesus” (2 Co. 5:8). Do you anticipate this eternal “win”?