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“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” ~Phil 1:20-26

The verse “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” could be understood as Paul’s view towards life and death. Paul lived a life of Christ-likeness and had manifested Christ in his life on earth. Death to him meant a time of rewarding, a time to enjoy the fruits of his labour. Death was great gain for Paul. A similar statement was made in 2 Timothy Chapter 4:6-8:

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Therefore “to die is gain” could be understood as the consequence of “to live is Christ.” Paul had lived a Christ-like life therefore when he died, he would be rewarded abundantly in heaven.

For most people, death means loss and not gain. No amount of wealth accumulated, the high status attained in society or the extravagant way of living that have been enjoyed on earth would carry on after death; the moment the heart stops beating, all that have been achieved on earth would come to nothing. There is nothing that can be taken from this world into death. Besides losing everything, the person is subjected to another greater loss — the judgement of eternal condemnation in hell. In this light, how can death ever be considered as gain?

Yet in the passage, we saw how the Lord had changed Paul’s perception of death, what was thought to be a loss, became gain. Although not every Christian could be as bold as Paul in facing death and say “to die is gain,” yet each and every believer is assured of a place in heaven upon death – a worthy gain indeed.