Our hearts tell us that death is loss. A body buried can no longer taste a ripe tomato, smell the rain, entwine someone’s dear fingers in their own. The dead are deprived of speech and motion, of future hopes. Those measuring their last breaths and those standing at a grave both know: Death is loss.
And yet the Bible contradicts our hearts! In prison the apostle Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He’d done some suffering. He’d thought about life and death. And he concluded they are both blessings.
To live is Christ. Christ is to a believer what oxygen is to lungs. Empty of air, lungs are useless. They can’t do the work for which they were designed. Empty of Christ, we’re no good either—we’re unforgiven enemies of God, of no benefit to anyone. Our Savior animates us with his love and fills us with his power. He enables us to serve each other with joy. Even when we stumble under sorrow and trip over trials, nothing can separate us from his love.
To die is gain. In this world we’re born to trouble. The blessings we enjoy exist side by side with sin, temptation, sorrow, death. And death is hard. But in Christ, it isn’t loss. Dying doesn’t end our hope or our future—it achieves them. In crossing death’s threshold, we gain a perfect life in heaven—the end of weakness, deliverance from evil, a joyous reunion of saints, and the fulfillment of our chief hope: to be with Christ.