Read Philippians 1:21-24
21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. (NLT)
For many people, dying is about the worst thing that can ever happen. Staying alive sure beats the alternative. And our social commentators encourage us by reminding us that we are all living longer. Some of us have mixed feelings about that. I may not want to live longer if it means mere existence rather than true life. Sheer longevity doesn’t appeal to me.
Perhaps Paul’s perspective is the best. Christians certainly want to be with Jesus, and grimly hanging on to a few more days on earth hooked up to hospital tubes doesn’t seem an attractive alternative. Then again, while we have the opportunity, we can make the most of life here and now in the service of Jesus. Longing to be with Jesus in perfection is not meant to be a sort of pious escapism from life on earth.
Those who trust in Jesus can both embrace what life has to offer now and also look forward to embracing the perfect life forever. We are neither to assume this life is all there is and so desperately fight mortality, or give up on this life in order to get some peace and quiet in heaven. We seek to live life to the full now, while recognising the fuller life is yet to come.
As the old saying goes, we live as people who are prepared to die, and die as people who are prepared to live.