For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
I. TO WHOM THE STARTLING EXPRESSION APPLIES. To Christians and no others. The text is limited in its application by the previous clause. Character and privilege are unseparably connected. To all but Christians death is everlasting ruin.
II. THE MEANING OF THY EXPRESSION.
1. There are few words that have a more powerful influence over human affairs than gain. It is the folly and the sin of men that they do not extend the application of it to moral subjects. Blessed the man who in reckoning up his gains can enter death as one of the items.
2. How wonderful does this appear when we consider what death is — the most fearful thing in the universe next to hell and sin. Yet it is gain to the believer. True, he loses all that is most precious to him in life upon earth; but all that he loses here compared with what he gains in heaven is as the surrender of a little homestead and a contracted farm to gain a kingdom and a crown, or parting with a single farthing for the acquisition of a princely revenue. Death is gain.
(1) By delivering the Christian from all evils; labour and weariness, pain and weakness, care and fear, danger and disappointment. There will be no mortification of sin, for there will be no sin to mortify. No ignorance will becloud the judgment; no rebellion enslave the will, no depravity taint the heart, no disorder misguide the passions. And as there will be no evil in ourselves so there will be none in our companions. Hence there will be no envies nor strifes.
(2) Because it brings us to the possession and enjoyment of all desirable, great, and glorious things.
(a) In heaven there will be all things really desirable. Here many of our desires are unreasonable and their objects unattainable, or if attained injurious, but in heaven there is no improper desire. We shall wish only for what is right and shall never be disappointed.
(b) All things great and glorious. Here the things we desire are not great, and there is a disproportion between the object we covet and the intensity of our longings. There we shall have put away childish things.Two words are descriptive of the heavenly state.
(a) Life — Eternal life. We know now only imperfectly what it is to live. There our intellectual, spiritual, and social being will be in full and everlasting development.
(b) Glory. We shall not merely behold its infinite glories, but shall say, "All these are mine." Here possession and enjoyment are often separated; but in heaven the objective source of happiness and the subjective condition of the soul will be in harmony.
III. Leaving these general remarks we may notice THE RESIDENCE OF THE RIGHTEOUS. Consider —
1. The agreeable and happy associates of all who reach that blessed world.
2. Their employments. True, we shall rest from our labours, but activity and glory will not be labour.
3. Their condition. They have the light of perfect knowledge irradiating their understanding, the glow of perfect love warming their hearts, the purity of perfect holiness diffused through their character forever. This gain accrues to all who live to Christ. We may advance a step further, and say that the death of a believer is, in a sense, gain to Christ. He is magnified by the death of His saints, in the support He administers, the consolation He imparts, the triumphant joys He inspires.Conclusion:
1. What a proof we have in this subject of the truth, excellence, and sustaining power of Christianity.
2. What a powerful means to overcome the undue love of life and fear of death.
3. How this subject should reconcile us to the death of our pious friends.
(J. A. James.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.