“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21 NIV)
The Greek word translated “gain” in this verse means “advantage.” Departing from this life actually benefits followers of Christ. It means we trade the tattered tents of our earthly bodies for indestructible and incorruptible heavenly bodies (2Cor. 5:1-8). It means release from the trials and burdens of this life into an eternal joy, an eternal inheritance, and eternal fellowship with God (1Pt. 1:3-9).
Heaven really is eternal gain for the believer. But this doesn’t mean we have to be in a big hurry to get there. This is because knowing we’re going to heaven gives us an advantage in this life as well.
To begin with, we have the advantage of perspective. Living with an eye toward eternity helps us renew our inner selves despite outward suffering (2Cor. 4:16-18). In light of eternity, we rejoice that our problems aren’t really problems at all. They’re preparation. They prepare us for heaven by perfecting us in Christlikeness (1Pt. 1:3-9). We know that no matter how bad it gets for us down here, it’s only as bad as it will ever get. Glory awaits us!
We also have the advantage of purpose. Thoreau observed that, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” This is because most people aren’t living on purpose. They’re just trying to get by. But, believers never need to lack purpose. God saved us on purpose for a purpose (Eph. 2:10). We have the privilege of being ambassadors for Christ (2Cor. 5:20).
As Christ’s ambassadors, we represent Him on earth. We re-present Him and His Kingdom to others so they might be saved and filled with purpose, too. Since we’re on our way to heaven, we’re uniquely qualified to show others the way. And, since we only have this momentary life to do so, we might as well take full advantage of every opportunity. By doing so, we experience the joy of fulfilling our purpose and being filled with purpose.
Perspective and purpose are great advantages in this life for the followers of Christ. We have these advantages because we know this life is not all there is. We know Christ died for us that we may live forever with Him. He rose again and ascended to the Father to prepare a place for us. We know He’s coming again to bring us to that place (Jn. 14:2-4). Until then we joyfully live for Him. For to us, to live is Christ, to die is gain.