Monday, September 6, 2010

"Far Better"

"It's better than the alternative."

We've likely all heard this quip about aging, and have perhaps expressed it ourselves. The Apostle Paul, however, had a completely different viewpoint.

"For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better" (Philippians 1:23).

Paul believed that physical departure from the present world is not only better, but "far better." Having seen the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, and having been caught up to the "third heaven" (where he witnessed glories too wondrous to describe), Paul knew that but a moment in the direct presence of God is infinitely greater than anything our earthly lives can offer. "In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Our flesh longs for longevity and even permanence in a world that itself "passeth away" (I John 2:17). It therefore resists and rebels against any notion of a "desire to depart, and to be with Christ." We do not naturally think in such terms, and even the most godly believer may feel great apprehension when considering "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4). It is therefore incumbent upon Christians to establish within our hearts the principled truth of "far better." We must choose to believe that in the twinkling moment of our passing from the earth to the aforementioned "valley," our Great Shepherd will Himself meet us for the journey - "Thou are with me." Paul declared of believers that "to be absent from the body" is synonymous with being "present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8). Physical death ushers us into the presence of "fullness of joy," and "pleasures forevermore" - yes, far better.

We rejoice in our present existence, and Paul's affirmation does not mean that we morbidly long for our earthly demise. We affirm the Psalmist's hope that "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Nevertheless we look with him for greater glories: "and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6). Remaining in this present world is not "better than the alternative." It is far worse actually, but for the glory of God and the blessing of others, it is necessary until our earthly mission is complete. This we must believe, and any notion or emotion to the contrary must be instantly and summarily dismissed from the sensibilities. Just one look into the face of the Lord Jesus, and the Apostle's "far better" will be our joyous and eternal song.

"Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(I Corinthians 15:51-57)

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