Death, the Believer's Gain!
William Nicholson, 1862
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!" Philippians 1:21
Though the Christian may sometimes be influenced by the glittering things of earth — yet nothing appears so valuable to his mind, as religion and its ultimate consequences.
The blessedness of the place to which he is journeying — the grand disclosure of light and glory which he is to realize there; to say nothing about the cessation of his conflicts with sin and Satan, and all his trials in this world — make him sometimes say with the Apostle, "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far!" verse 23.
While Paul delighted in the service of Christ on earth, and was willing to continue in it as long as God should permit — he longed to be with Christ, to behold his glory, and to be with the Captain of his salvation.
OBSERVE: "To die is gain."
How can death be gain, when it is styled an enemy, and "the king of terrors"? Do not all wish to avoid death? Is it not the aim of everyone to prolong life to its utmost extent? Would not everyone permanently abide in this world?
No! Those who have the life of God in them, say, "We would not live always!" "To die is gain!"
The black river of death, in which we are to be "unclothed" of our mortal dress, terrifies us; but Christ will bear us through its dark surges, and make us more than conquerors. Standing on the brink of eternity, surveying the King in his beauty, and the glorious realities of the land that is afar off, we hope to triumph: "O Death, where is your sting!" etc.
John Foster beautifully observes: "What a superlatively grand and consoling idea is that of death! Without this radiant idea, this delightful morning-star, indicating that the luminary of eternity is going to rise — life would, to my view, darken into midnight melancholy. Oh! the expectation of living here on earth, and living thus always — would indeed be a prospect of overwhelming despair. But thanks to that decree that dooms us to die — thanks to that Gospel which opens the vision of an endless life — and thanks above all, to that Savior-friend who has promised to conduct all the faithful through the sacred trance of death into scenes of paradise and everlasting delight!"
I. At death, the Christian gains an infinitely superior place of residence. He enters Heaven — the palace of the great King. This world is a desert — a wilderness — a valley of tears — an aceldama, or field of blood — a land of death. But heaven — O that is the New Jerusalem, the better, heavenly country, where God the Mediator, angels pure and bright, saints perfect and glorified, forever dwell.
Pure is its atmosphere,
fragrant are its flowers,
melodious is its music,
ever verdant are its trees,
pellucid are its fountains,
and golden are its streets!
But who can conceive, who can declare its glory? To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed! Revelation 21, 22, etc.
II. At death, the Christian gains vision of Christ without obscurity. Christ's residence is in the highest heavens, where God reveals his glory, and manifests himself to all who are around him. As the reward of his sufferings and death, "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth!" Philippians 2:9-10
It is there that his Divinity shines through the humanity with ineffable brightness, and there he is beheld in all the moral grandeur of the only begotten Son of God. There he is seen as the great Mediator — the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, etc. There, are the riches of his infinite love — the treasures of his grace, etc., etc., are developed.
Believers shall . . .
see him there,
walk with him in white,
sit on his throne,
hear his voice,
and see his glory!
How transporting will be the sight! Isaiah 6:1-6; Daniel 7:9; Revelation 1:13, etc.; 14:1.
They are sure to see it — if children, then heirs, etc., 1 John 3:2. For this the Savior prayed, "Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world!" John 17:24. No longer see him dimly by the eye of faith — but clearly, without a veil between. 1 Corinthians 13:9, 10, 12; Revelation 22:4. To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
III. At death, the Christian gains holiness without sin. The very existence of sin will be destroyed, "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life!" Revelation 21:27
Sin here is the ruin of man — the ruin of his immortal soul. It has blighted and blasted the world, and filled it with impurity, misery, and death.
The Christian has here to struggle with sin in his members — to wrestle with a depraved heart, Romans 7:18 — with sin in his family — in his neighbors — in his business transactions — in society at large. He feels its operations, and laments its effects.
But in Heaven the Christian shall gain purity without sin. All the remains of sin, and the dregs of corruption are left forever behind.
No condemning conscience is found there.
No unhallowed appetites are found there.
No disordered affections exist there.
No appearance or vestige of evil is found there.
Every child of God is as pure as Christ is pure — as perfect as his Father in Heaven is perfect.
Child of mortality, heir of corruption! Look forward to your sinless and perfect home, and learn that to die will be gain.
IV. At death, the Christian gains employment without weariness. The employment there will be adoration and praise, like that of angels, Revelation 5:11, 12; 7:9-12.
It will be the service of love — of holy converse with each other. It will be a service of delight and ever-increasing interest. A service in which there will be no weakness, and no coldness. It will be with the strength and vigor of immortal youth, and performed under the influence of burning love. A service without weariness.
Here on earth, we are soon fatigued and weary in God's service. But the cause of such lassitude will there be forever ended. We will serve him day and night, Revelation 7:15.
The themes of interest will be undying — the study of them will ever be intense. Love will ever burn ardently — the zeal will ever flame. A wearied seraph will never be found there. To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
V. At death, the Christian gains society without temptation. Society in this present world is not perfect. Everyone possesses a depraved heart — deceitful and desperately wicked. The influence which some exert by their example, their erroneous principles, and their seductive arts, is frequently ruinous. "Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33.
The aged tempt the young — the parent his child, the male the female, and the female the male. So long as man inhabits this globe, he has various excitements to sin, many enemies, external and internal, both plotting his ruin, and instigating him to throw off his allegiance to the living God. The great Agent producing the temptations surrounding us is Satan, "the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:2
But there will be no Satan in Heaven; for he "shall be cast into the bottomless pit," Revelation 20:3. None of his emissaries will be there; for the wicked will be driven away in his wickedness to his own place. There the infidel, the atheist, and the false teacher, will never disseminate their poisonous and soul-destroying principles. There the libertine will never spread his snares to seduce the amiable and unsuspecting. There the extortioner and unjust will never trespass on the rights of others.
In that blessed society there will be no insincerity of profession to create distrust — no misunderstandings to alienate esteem — no fickleness of disposition to produce a change of principle. The individuals who compose the aggregate body of God's redeemed people will be of one heart. In the whole range of Heaven, from its center to its circumference, each inhabitant shall ever find himself surrounded by kindred minds, judicious associates, and faithful friends.
There will be no strife between Abraham and Lot — no contention between Paul and Barnabas. Among the innumerable throng, there will not be one jarring interest to disquiet their repose — not one selfish passion to interrupt the spontaneous feeling of pure beneficence — nor one sordid spirit to lower the moral elevation of the general body. Society will be perfect. All will breathe the spirit of perfect love which casts out all fear. To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
VI. At death, the Christian gains union without separation. Here on earth, Christian fellowship is frequently sweet and delightful. "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" Psalm 133:1. What tender endearments exist in family association! Sweet and strong is the bond of human friendship.
But that bond must be dissolved. Misunderstandings may break it. Change of residence, length of absence may injure it, but death is sure to dissolve it. The Church must surrender to death its choicest members — it must part with its ministers, however faithful and devoted. The patriarch Jacob must part with his beloved Rachel. David must be distressed for his beloved Jonathan, and mourn the decease of his rebellious Absalom. A voice is frequently heard in Rama, Rachel weeping for her children, etc. The widow of Nain must carry her son to the silent tomb. The sisters of Bethany, Martha and Mary, must consign their brother Lazarus to the dust. A husband dies, and the heart of his wife is well-near broken. A wife breathes her last, and the husband bows his head in anguish. Children gather around the corpse of their parent, and with bursting hearts exclaim, "Our earthly stay has perished!" How many can say, "You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend!" Psalm 88:18.
Friend after friend departs,
Who has not lost a friend?
There is no union here of hearts,
That finds not here an end!
Were this frail world our final rest,
Living or dying, none were blessed.
But "blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," for Heaven is the place of reunion and mutual recognition.
The hope of reunion in a better state is transporting. It was so to some of the ancients. Paul expected to meet and unite with the Christians at Thessalonica at the great day of judgment. See 2 Corinthians 4:14. Christians shall be "gathered together unto Christ," 2 Thessalonians 2:2. See also 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20. It is evident the Apostles expected to meet in glory, and to recognize those whom they had been instrumental in bringing to Christ, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
VII. At death, the Christian gains pleasure without pain. "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand!" Psalm 16:11. Hence pain will never follow pleasure; it will never be experienced at all. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!" Revelation 21:4
In this poor world, there is no perfect enjoyment. The sweetest cup of earthly bliss has always more or less of the drops of the ocean of bitterness mingled with it. The brightest day of joy, is invariably succeeded by the dark night of sorrow. This world is a barren wilderness, and contains neither the fruit of the garden of Eden, nor the milk and honey of the land of promise. Here the pleasures of sin are but for a season — and they always leave a sting!
But in Heaven, pleasures will be pure, holy, exquisite, and eternal — ever yielding satisfaction and joy. To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
VIII. At death, the Christian gains triumph without conflict. The glorified bear the palms of victory. Revelation 7:7, 9. For they have "fought a good fight, finished their course, and have kept the faith." They have been "faithful unto death," and have received "the crown of life." They have overcome, and therefore they have sat down with Christ on his throne! Revelation 3:21. The Captain of their salvation led them on from conquering to conquer, until every enemy was completely subdued! Their triumph was honored with the acclamations of angels and the shouts of perfected spirits. Their triumph is complete — final — and everlasting. No foe will ever attack them again. To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
IX. At death, the Christian gains satisfaction without end. "As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake!" Psalm 17:15. It may be truly said of the New Jerusalem, "They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights!" Psalm 36:8.
In this poor world nothing satisfies long. But in Heaven an infinite God possesses an infinite good, by which he can satisfy the boundless desires of all his people. "In Your presence is fullness of joy! In Your right hand there are eternal pleasures!" Delightful thought, Eternal pleasures!
What is the great end of faith? "Everlasting life." John 3:16. See also 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18.
Then we enter into the saints everlasting rest — its services shall never tire. Communion shall never cease. The Sun of righteousness shall never be clouded. "So shall we ever be with the Lord." To die and enter Heaven, will be gain indeed!
1. This gain can only be secured by faith in Christ and devotedness to him, "To me to live is Christ." Without such a disposition, we cannot enter Heaven.
2. See the difference in the states of the righteous and the wicked at death. The one gains immense and eternal bliss — the other sustains an incalculable loss!
3. Pray for Divine influence, that the life of Christ may be formed in you.