For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil 1:21 NKJV
What happens when a believer dies? For years I was taught the theological concept of ‘soul sleep’, that dead believers were sleeping somewhere, and that they would be awakened at the return of Christ for the Church. And that, somehow, this verse above pertained to the rapture of the Church. But…that’s not what it says!
Let’s read the context…
…but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. Phil 1:20-25 NKJV
Remember that in the context he is writing to born again ones. He contrasts very clearly the consequences of his living or dying. He says, if I live on in the flesh, I shall have fruit from my labor, which is more needful for you younger born-again ones. Paul was their teacher in whom the Holy Spirit had invested the great bulk of New Covenant doctrine and teaching. If he lived, he could keep teaching and training which would have been a huge benefit to the young Philippian church.
If he died, he didn’t say he would ‘fall asleep’ but rather depart and be with Christ, which is far better than living in even the most gracious circumstances here on earth. It’s real interesting that he said that living or dying was his choice, but that is something we will examine later.
How could Phil. 1:21 pertain to the rapture of the Church if the Philippian believers were still on earth with the death of the Apostle Paul?
Now, lets contrast this section with 1 Thessalonians 4…
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 1 Thess 4:13-14 NKJV
Both sections refer to born again ones, both Paul and those who sleep in Jesus. Philippians very clearly says that Paul would depart and consciously be with Christ, which is far better than the best he could have on earth. Then Thessalonians talks about those asleep in Christ – you can assume from the analogy that those who are asleep are also not conscious – being awakened with the return of Christ. How do you reconcile the two?
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Eccl 12:7 NKJV
It’s simple! Every man is a three-fold being of spirit, soul and body. Every man is a spirit being that possesses a soul and lives in a body. For the unsaved man, after death there is judgment. But the born again one has already been judged in the person and work of the Son of God, and thus stands upon holy ground, clothed in the righteousness of Christ Jesus. The born again ones spirit, which is the real you – the body is merely a house, has been regenerated and indwelt by the Godhead, giving them eternal life, which begins at the moment of salvation. The believers body remains asleep, so to speak, until Christ returns. Death becomes merely a transition from the earth conscious realm to the heaven conscious realm, bless God forever!
The question becomes, why, if I’m in Heaven as a spirit being, would I need to have a body resurrected? Simple! In the ages to come you are going to be in Heaven and on earth, and on earth you are going to need a physical body, limitless in scope and potential like His resurrected body. Think about it…what you will be able to do! Heaven is going to be fun…
HOW DO WE LIVE, IN LIGHT OF HEAVEN?
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory… 2 Cor 4:17 NKJV
From a man who was beaten and shipwrecked comes the description of our lives as a ‘light affliction, which is but for a moment.’ He says that as he stays faithful to God that it is working for him and us ‘a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ Then he lays out the key to living this lifestyle…
…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. 2 Cor 4:18 NKJV
Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him, the vision He had of His Father’s will and all that would be accomplished by His patient endurance.
The Lord reminded me recently that ‘great victories require great sacrifices.’ As long as I am willing to pay the price, we can see great accomplishments, reap great results, and enjoy great rewards in the future. The greatest results always seem to come in future generations. Livingstone only recorded one convert in all of his years of exploration and missionary travel, yet his work and his writing paved the way for thousands of missionaries who won millions in Africa!
How do we live in light of Heaven?
…while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor 4:18 NKJV
We keep our eyes on eternal glory, and we become radiant by what we behold! The vision of the Christ burns in us as we anticipate being with Him forever, which is far better than anything this temporary world can offer. Hang in there, dear one…Heaven is worth it!
Remember dear ones, we must be about out Father’s business…