These mortal bodies of ours are but mere shells, and the life is not in the shell. The shell is not for keeping, but a temporary confine that enshrouds an ever-growing, ever-maturing life force. The body is a shell that acts as a transient guardian of the life inside. The shell is synthetic in comparison to the eternal life it clothes.
Every true Christian has been imbued with eternal life. It is planted as a seed in our mortal bodies and is constantly maturing. It is within us an ever-growing, ever-expanding process of development—and it must eventually break out of the shell to become a new form of life.
This glorious life of God in us exerts pressure on the shell, and at the very moment resurrection life is mature, the shell breaks. The artificial bounds are broken and, like a newborn baby chick, the soul is freed from its prison. Praise the Lord!
Death is but a mere breaking of the fragile shell. At the very precise moment our Lord decides our shell has fulfilled its function, so must God’s people abandon their old, corrupt bodies back to the dust from which they came.
Who would think of picking up the fragmented pieces of shell and forcing the newborn chick back into its original state? And who would think of asking a departed loved one to give up his new, glorified body—made in Christ’s own image—and return to the decaying shell from which he or she broke free?
Paul said it: “To die is gain!” (Philippians 1:21). That kind of talk is absolutely foreign to our modern, spiritual vocabularies. We have become such life worshippers, we have very little desire to depart to be with the Lord.
Paul said, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23-24). Yet, for the sake of edifying the converts, he thought it best to “stay in the shell.” Or, as he put it, “abide in the flesh.”
Was Paul morbid? Did he have an unhealthy fixation on death? Did Paul show a lack of respect for the life God had blessed him with? Absolutely not! Paul lived life to the fullest. To him, life was a gift, and he had used it well to fight a good fight. He had overcome the fear of the “sting of death” and could now say, “It’s better to die and be with the Lord than to stay in the flesh.”