This Saturday I will be preaching the memorial service for my grandmother Shirley who passed away last month. The text I have chosen to preach on is Philippians 1:21 where Paul say, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” But how can dying be gain? Death is not a good thing. The Bible describes death as an enemy, not a friend to be embraced (1 Cor 15:26). We put off thinking about death because it reminds us that we will one day die as well. Funerals are one of the rare occasions when we are forced to stare it in the face and admit our own mortality. The deaths of others remind us that our life is a vapor that is here one moment and gone the next (Jas 4:14). The puritans were unsure whether to call this life a dying life or living death. Every day we inch closer to our own demise and we feel the evidence of this as our bodies deteriorate and decay.
Death exists because of man’s fall into sin and rebellion against God. Because of sin, we live in fear of death. The wages of sin is death and therefore the only way death could be defeated is by defeating sin, the power of death (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56). Only Christianity has a savior who has come back from the dead and that is why Christ is the only way to God. And because Shirley trusted in Christ who defeated death, even though she is dead, she has gained everything. We can only have confidence in the face of death because we believe in one who has returned from death. He is on the other side waiting for the day when we will be with him forever as his bride.
Death is gain for believers because it will put an end to their sins. At death, they enter into never-ending service and worship. Death puts an end to our temptations. We are tempted and tried all our days. After death, we will never again be troubled by Satan’s fiery darts. Death puts an end to the believer’s fears. We do not need to live in fear of death because Christ has conquered death through his own death and resurrection.
Death drys up the believers tears. We enter the world crying and leave it the same way if we die without Christ. But we can leave it in joy if we are in Christ when we die. Death puts an end to our cares and worries. A life lived by faith is the dawn of heaven and a preparation for eternity. Death puts an end to our spiritual desertion. God will no longer hide his face from us. Death puts an end to our weary pilgrimage. This life is a journey and the end of it is the celestial city in the new heavens and new earth where our bodies will be resurrected and glorified.
It is not wrong for Christians to grieve when their loved ones die. We each grieve in different ways. But the grief of Christians is not like the grief of those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). We should not grieve excessively for those who have had every tear wiped from their eyes. We should not mourn immoderately for those who are now rejoicing in the presence of Christ. Rather, let us weep for ourselves that we are not yet free from the burden of sin.