Whatever the reason, I feel compelled to declare, “When I die, don’t cry for me.” If you wish to mourn because you will miss me – that is fine. If you wish to mourn to comfort others who are feeling loss over my departure from this earth – yes that will also be fine. However, don’t say things like, “He had so much life to live; “or, “it is so sad how he died, or any such thing. That would be inappropriate considering the state of my affairs at that time. Consider how absurd it would be if I won the lottery, move out of the neighborhood and into a mansion of my dreams. If a neighbor was crying saying, “The poor guy – he had to move out of the neighborhood.” Wouldn’t you think this person was crazy?
My friends and my loved ones, when I die I will be in a far better place than any mansion here on earth. I know this discussion is a little morbid, because of our feelings towards death. We don’t like to speak about it. We don’t like to think about it. But it is part of life. This one thing is always true – everything that has ever lived will someday die. Now this is also very true – how you view death will determine how you live life. C.S. Lewis has said no Christian should fear death. The bible confirms this saying, “Perfect love cast out fear.” (1John 4:18)
We all want to continue to live. Darwinist call this the survival instinct. But Christians understand this as primarily a metaphysical desire, agreeing with Solomon that, “He [God] has placed eternity in our hearts.” (Ecc 3:11)
Comprehending this splendid, euphoric future state of being in the presence of our gracious King of Glory, compelled the Apostle Paulto proclaim:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Phil 1:21-23, ESV)
I believe Paul could say this because he comprehended “…the unsearchable riches in Christ” (Eph 3:8) intellectually through the Holy Scriptures. However, I think Paul also could say this with the utmost confidence having tasted the heavenly gift (Heb 6:4) experientially on the road to Damascus and having been brought into the third heaven. Speaking of his experience in the third person, he testified:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise-whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows- and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:2-10, ESV)
These experiences, along with the promises from scriptures are the reasons Paul could assert with his whole heart, mind and soul, “…to die is gain.”
I also have had a couple of spiritual experiences. Not to the level of Paul’s experiences. The two experiences I am speaking of lasted about 15 seconds. In the first, I was in the presence of the holy angels singing and in the second, I was in the presence of the Lord. My friends, I came to faith in the Lord through God reasoning with me through the scriptures, but having these spiritual experiences causes me to trust even greater in the divine gift that is our in the future. Every Christian in some way has tasted of the heavenly gift. Because of this ours is not a wishful hope of a future state, but rather, an earnest expectation of being in the presence of the Glory of God.
I can only imagine being in His presence. Because of this, I also believe, “…to die is gain.” However, the Lord has determined that I should remain, which means for the time-being I should declare the riches of His Glory.
I can only imagine what it will be like, When I walk by Your side. I can only imagine what my eyes will see, When Your face is before me: I can only imagine.
Surrounded by Your glory, What will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus? Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence? Or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine.
I can only imagine when that day comes, And I find myself standing in the sun. I can only imagine when all I would do, Is forever, forever worship You. I can only imagine.
D. G. Lett
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