For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
What is physical death? Traditionally a person is considered dead if the heart stops beating and breathing ceases. Today death is generally determined when the brain appears dead through the use of an EEG. From the biblical perspective, though the body dies, the person as spirit continues after death. Physical death is not the end of life for believers. It is only a transition to eternal life beyond the grave. The spirit of the person continues to live on. And our hope is in the promises of God.
The Bible indicates that the spirits of all believers in Jesus Christ are immediately transported into the presence of the Lord. They do not go to an intermediate place (purgatory). The Bible never speaks about such a place. Nor do they lie in the grave unconscious (sleeping) until the resurrection.
When Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the first time, he did not know whether he would be released or die at the hands of his captors. But he faced the unknown, the possibility of death, with great joy and hope, saying “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). For the apostle Paul, his whole life was centred on and motivated by Jesus Christ – to love him, serve him, worship him, trust him, and obey him. Life was Christ for the apostle. And what of death? It was gain because he would be with Christ.
No doubt this faith was based in part on Christ’s words on the cross. On both sides of Jesus hung two thieves. When one thief mocked Jesus, the other thief rebuked him and said: “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Immediately upon the death of this thief, he was in the presence of Jesus. That was Paul’s hope and is ours today.
Rejoice that your life in Christ will continue in his presence after your body dies. As you go about your day, remember that to live is Christ and ask his help to live in a way that pleases him today.