“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there.” So said Steve Jobs, a Zen Buddhist and the co-founder of Apple, on June 2005 at a time in his life when the prospect of death was very uncomfortably real. He died six years later. No one wants to die because death is an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26) and human beings have been gifted with an instinctive enemy-avoidance mechanism called self-preservation. From the time of our birth we spend our lives dodging death and we have made it into a multi-million dollar industry—from health food, medical technology, and pharmaceuticals, all the way to fitness and exercise.
It is indeed true that death is an enemy, but like all enemies to the Christian life death has been defeated. So, while we must go through the passage of physical death, no harm can come to us and so faith is the victory that overcomes our fear of death. The Lord will give us dying grace.
Paul dealt with the fear of death by looking beyond death to the gain of glory, which meant to be in the presence of the glorious One (Philippians 1:23). It appears from these verses that Paul’s anticipation of being eternally in the presence of the Lord smothered any fear of the process of death. His language used in verse 23 is strong and definite. He did not simply say he desired to be with Christ and ignore the process of death—which he knew would be at the pleasure of the Roman Caesar. Paul said he had a “craving to depart” in order “to be with Christ.” The emphasis of course is being with Christ, but the departure was necessary. The word that he used is used of a ship loosing from it moorings or of a camp “breaking up.” Whatever pulls up the tent pegs of this terrestrial life or loosens our moorings on earth can be only good if we are promised grace in Christ and the end is gain with Christ.
Reading: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”—Philippians 1:21