For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21
“…and to die is gain.”
I haven’t heard anyone speak that kind of language lately. It appears that, today, the world has so much to offer!
But, again, the early apostles were men who saw in the Spirit. They were men who were ready for another world. They had leavin’ (this world) on their minds. In the Spirit, they saw and desired another world, God’s spiritual Kingdom. The Apostle Paul says,
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (v. 23)
For Paul and the other apostles, being with Christ was “far better”!
But then, apparently, today, many believers cannot see as much into the Spirit. The reason for this is that other gospels have come in and blinded them to the heavenly vision. The churches with the biggest numbers today are those that preach on materialism. But the gospel of materialism is not taking anyone anywhere near heaven. On the contrary, it will most likely take many to hell.
Most people think that if they can throw in an “In the name of Jesus” to anything they say or do, then that thing becomes spiritual. But that’s not true. Jesus Himself said many would even do miracles in His Name and still not enter heaven (Mat. 7:22).
How can someone say, “to die is gain”?
It all depends on the gospel that one is hearing. There is only one gospel that has the power to make someone say such words. It is the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. Today there are many gospels that abound, but they do not bring a revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. And yet… “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” is the only true message for the church today.
THE CHURCH NEEDS TO HEAR THE TRUE GOSPEL, THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED! THE REVELATION OF THE CROSS IN A MAN’S HEART IS THE POWER OF GOD THAT BRINGS THE TRANSFORMATION NEEDED TO MAKE A MAN WORTHY OF HEAVEN.
Upon reading the epistles, we find that many in the early church were men and women who did not count their lives dear to themselves (Acts 20:24), on account of the gospel that they heard. Through this gospel, they had a true heavenly vision. That means they saw the glories of heaven. They saw into the Spirit, and what they saw made them willing to trade in their worldly lives for the heavenly one. That is why they were willing to die. For them, death for the sake of the gospel was the Golden Gate to heaven.
But, pray, how can one be so willing to leave this world? And how can one be so unafraid of death?
It is because they had met with the resurrected Christ.
The classic example of this are the apostles. Many died for their faith. They were killed. We recall the Apostle James, who died at the hands of King Herod. But before the revelation of the cross in his heart, this man had so much of the world in him that Jesus nicknamed him and his brother John “the sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17).
These were the men who were so chagrined that a particular village would not line up and obediently clap for Jesus as He passed through, so much so that they asked Jesus whether they could not be allowed to call down fire upon that little village as Elijah did.
James and John were they also who wanted each to be sat on either side of Jesus in His kingdom, thinking His was an earthly kingdom.
In every instance, Jesus rebuked them vehemently. It is safe to say that with the kind of outlook that they had in life, these were earthly, carnal men. They could hardly expect to go and live with Christ in His heavenly Kingdom.
But after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we find a new attitude in James. It is clear now that in the Spirit, he had seen something different. He had seen “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” – and he had been transformed. He was willing to trade in his life for Christ.
In Acts 12:1-2 we read,
“1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”
I am sure that, now, James welcomed death. In his spirit he must have been saying, “Hurry! Take me to my Lord!”
I can imagine if they had tried to kill James before the revelation of the crucified Christ had come into his heart. He would have died cursing and kicking. Not a spot of heavenly light in his life. Just seeing the dark world he was leaving behind, nothing else.
That is why the church needs the revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) today more than ever. This is the only gospel that can make us to consider dying as gain. The words of the Apostle Paul need to be heard more and more in church today:
“… to die is gain”
In another place, the Apostle John says,
“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).
We must leave the spirit of the world behind if we are to have confidence at Christ’s coming. We must be found abiding “in him” – in His sufferings, and in His death. Having this mind in us, we shall not fear physical death; on the contrary, we will welcome it, for it alone will usher us triumphantly into Christ’s presence.
[Below: The approach to Iguguno, a small town just outside Singida]