5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-10
How we die will reveal how alive we really are in Christ. There are few certain things in this life, but one thing we can all count on is that we will not remain on this earth in this fashion forever. Either we are going to die or Jesus is going to return. The “end”, however, is not something anyone will escape.
With that said, it astonishes me how thoroughly our society, myself included, seeks to erase the very idea about death. Nobody talks about death and we are all utterly shocked when it happens. We mourn and say nice things when death reaches someone we know, but then we move on and try to forget as quickly as possible that our life is one breath closer to our end on earth with every inhale and exhale we take.
And yet when you read Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, he seems so comfortable conversing about death. It seems he almost yearns for it at times because he really believes to be away from this body means to be with the Lord. In Philippians 1:23 he says, “I desire to depart, and be with Christ . . . .” Paul not only could face death, he could actually look forward to it due to his passionate belief in the promise of God that to die is to gain because to die is to leave this earth and be fully at home with Christ.
To be clear, Paul did not seek out his own death. In fact he sought to stay alive so he could produce fruitful labor for the Lord and so he could love and help the people in his life while he was able (Philippians 1:20-26).
But your personal reaction to death says something about how alive you are to the truth. Mourning is right when those you love pass, fear of the unknown is normal, but terror to our own death is a reaction unfit for the Christian. The Christian has a hope in death that should far surpass a hope that is found in this current life, and our reaction to our own deaths will make clear how deeply we believe the great promises of God.
It’s certainly not wrong to want to stay alive, but something is wrong if you cling to this life as if it is your only chance to live. Let us not seek out death. Let us labor and strive to serve the Lord with the little time we have. But let us not cling to the cold, metal rails of our hospital beds when it comes to be our time, grasping in fear and avoidance because our faith was found lacking in the love of God.
To die with amazing joy and eager expectation of being with the Lord perfectly should be our last and greatest witness to the world for Christ.