What Neil Oliver wrote was in relation to being unable to visit and be close to elderly relatives during the COVID-19 lockdown. His argument was that some people would find it preferable to forsake years of life if it meant being close to those they loved. Yet the underpinning thought “we must stay alive because there is nothing else” has implications for how we think and live during this life.
We must be thankful for the medical advances that enable the alleviation of suffering and prolong life. The oft-repeated advice about keeping physically fit and eating a balanced diet is given with the intention of improving the quality, and increasing the longevity, of life. Yet all the advances and advice cannot prevent death.
To have an overwhelming fear of death and a belief that life must be sustained whatever the cost is not in alignment with biblical thought.
There is something else and it is better.
Although Paul was not a young man when he wrote the letter to Philippian believers, he had not lost his mental or physical capacity. However, he could look at this earthly life and discern that there was something far better.
“For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).
As he saw it, there were two options, each with its own advantage. One was to remain on earth and benefit the Philippians in their spiritual growth; the other was to depart this life in death and be immediately with Christ. Paul had no hesitation in proclaiming that the latter option was the one that he would prefer.
Paul’s thinking was in harmony with God’s Word. For believers in Christ, there is an immense improvement in the life they will live after death.
Paul did not journey through life with a fear of dying and avoiding all risks that might result in death. He sets every believer an example that a life of faith will involve “taking risks” for God because there is trust in God, who controls all things and whose omniscience rules out the very possibility of Him taking risks. This means we can take risks for Him, knowing that we have something far better if what we do results in death.
There is something else and you need to be ready for it.
The thought that there is “nothing else” can be the cause of “live for the day” culture, a life without reference to what is beyond the here and now.
The Lord Jesus warned against adopting this mindset, which has disastrous eternal consequences. He told a particularly striking parable, that is recorded in Luke 12. In it He pictures a man who is wealthy and able to take early retirement, a man who would be admired by many in the western world, but one who God calls a “fool” (Luke 12:20).
Someone has defined a fool as one whose plans end at the grave. The ‘reality’ that, according to Neil Oliver, has been constructed by the western world, is false and deadly. A wake-up call is needed. God’s Word speaks words of truth and grace to everyone who will listen.
The Lord Jesus Christ has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Although death is still present, it has been "rendered inoperative". Physical death still exists, but it is no longer a threat or an enemy for Christians.
The gospel is a message of salvation and hope for now and for eternity in a world that believes “staying alive is everything, because there is nothing else”.