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“…simple though the words be—to be with Christ, have all heaven condensed in them.”
“Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ,
which is far better.”
1. The apostle’s description of death – 4:45
2. His desire for it – 24:33
3. Reasons which justified such a desire – 29:49
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Possibly there may be but few here who have attained to the position of the apostle, when he could say, that he had a desire to depart and to be with Christ. I take it that our view of our own death is one of the readiest tokens by which we may judge of our own spiritual condition. When men fear death it is not certain that they are wicked, but it is quite certain that if they have faith it is in a very weak and sickly condition. When men desire death we may not rest assured that they are therefore righteous, for they may desire it for wrong reasons; but if for right reasons they are panting to enter into another state, we may gather from this, not only that their minds are right with God, but that their faith is sanctified and that their love is fervent.
They depart, and they are with Christ; the selfsame instant they have closed their eyes on earth they have opened them in heaven. And what is this invisible part of death? “To be with Christ.” Who can comprehend this but the Christian? It is a heaven which the worldling cares not for; if he could have it, he would not pawn his meanest lust to gain it. To be with Christ is to him a thing of nought, as gold and silver are of no more value to little children than the pieces of platter with which they will amuse themselves. So heaven and being with Christ is of no value to the childish sons of earthly mirth. They know not what a mass of glory is crowded into that one sentence. “To be with Christ.”
Faith is precious, but what must sight be? To view Jesus as the Lamb of God through the glass of faith makes the soul rejoice with joy unspeakable; but oh! to see him face to face, to look into those dear eyes; to be embraced by those divine arms, rapture begins at the very mention of it!
the apostle felt a desire to depart because he knew that in departing and being with Christ he should be clean rid of sin. Paul hated sin; every true believer does the same.
As to the trials and troubles of this world, they are nothing at all to the believer, compared with the annoyance of sin. Could he get rid of his unbelief, of his murmuring disposition, of his hasty temper—could he get rid of the various temptations of Satan, could he be clean, and pure, and perfect, he would be thoroughly satisfied.
The dog of hell shall follow us to the very edge of Jordan, but he cannot swim that stream. The arrows of temptation will be shot at us as long as we are here, but on the other side of Jordan these darts can never wound us more. Rejoice, then, believer, in the prospect of death, because in dying thou art once for all clean rid of sin. When I lay down this body I have laid down every infirmity, and every lust, and every temptation, and when clothed upon with that house which is from heaven, I have girt about my loins perfection and unsullied purity.
Paul’s grand reason for desiring to depart was to be with Christ. Again I say, simple though the words be—to be with Christ, have all heaven condensed in them.
Shout for joy, ye blood-washed, but your loudest strains cannot excel the thundering glory of this magnificent but brief sentence, “to be with Christ, which is far better.” This, my beloved—this shall well repay the tiresome pilgrimage of life. This reward shall be sufficient for all our contests with temptation, for all the shame we have endured in following Christ, in the midst of a wicked generation. This, this shall be all the heaven that our largest desires shall crave. This immensity of bliss shall stretch across eternity.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon