CHRISTIANS NEED NOT FEAR DEATH
by J.I. Packer
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. PHILIPPIANS 1:21-24
We do not know how humans would have left this world had there been no Fall; some doubt whether they ever would have done so. But as it is, the separation of body and soul through bodily death, which is both sins fruit and Gods judgment (Gen. 2:17; 3:19, 22; Rom. 5:12; 8:10; 1 Cor. 15:21), is one of lifes certainties. This separating of the soul (person) from the body is a sign and emblem of the spiritual separation from God that first brought about physical death (Gen. 2:17; 5:5) and that will be deepened after death for those who leave this world without Christ. Naturally, therefore, death appears as an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26) and a terror (Heb. 2:15).
For Christians the terror of physical death is abolished, though the unpleasantness of dying remains. Jesus, their risen Savior, has himself passed through a more traumatic death than any Christian will ever have to face, and he now lives to support his servants as they move out of this world to the place he has prepared for them in the next world (John 14:2-3). Christians should view their own forthcoming death as an appointment in Jesus calendar, which he will faithfully keep. Paul could say, For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.... I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far (Phil. 1:21, 23), since away from the body will mean at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).
At death the souls of believers (i.e., the believers themselves, as ongoing persons) are made perfect in holiness and enter into the worshiping life of heaven (Heb. 12:22-24). In other words, they are glorified. Some, not believing this, posit a purgatorial discipline after death that is really a further stage of sanctification, progressively purifying the heart and refining the character in preparation for the vision of God. But this belief is neither scriptural nor rational, for if at Christs coming saints alive on earth will be perfected morally and spiritually in the moment of their bodily transformation (1 Cor. 15:51-54), it is only natural to suppose that the same is done for each believer in the moment of death, when the mortal body is left behind. Others posit unconsciousness (soul sleep) between death and resurrection, but Scripture speaks of conscious relationship, involvements, and enjoyments (Luke 16:22; 23:43; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13).
Death is decisive for destiny. After death there is no possibility of salvation for the lost (Luke 16:26)from then on both the godly and the ungodly reap what they sowed in this life (Gal. 6:7-8).
Death is gain for believers (Phil. 1:21) because after death they are closer to Christ. But disembodiment, as such, is not gain; bodies are for expression and experience, and to be without a body is to be limited, indeed impoverished. This is why Paul wants to be clothed with his resurrection body (i.e., re-embodied) rather than be unclothed (i.e., disembodied, 2 Cor. 5:1-4). To be resurrected for the life of heaven is the true Christian hope. As life in the intermediate or interim state between death and resurrection is better than the life in this world that preceded it, so the life of resurrection will be better still. It will, in fact, be best. And this is what God has in store for all his children (2 Cor. 5:4-5; Phil. 3:20-21). Hallelujah!
From: Concise Theology: A Guide To Historic Christian Beliefs