2 Cor. 5:8
2 Cor. 12:2-4
1 Thess. 4:17
2 Peter 3:10
- Philippians 1:21-23
- "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain . . . I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better."
- This passage is a stock proof text of Evangelicals. It is argued that since death for Paul would be gain, he was not thinking of sleep in the grave but rather of departure in the soul or spirit to be with his Lord. It is inferred that all the saved have the same expectation of being with the Lord at the instant of death.
- It is mistakenly assumed by such expositors that "to depart" means to be immediately with Christ. Evangelicals should be pressed hard for justification of this assumption. Elsewhere in the same letter the Apostle Paul indicated where his hope lay for being in the presence of the Lord. This was in the return of Christ and the resurrection. Note the following passages:
- "Until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:6,10; 2:16).
- "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead." (Phil. 3:11).
- "We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. . . " (Phil. 3:20-21).
- Peter referring to the letters of the Apostle Paul said that there were "some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Pet. 3:16). It is a wise guide to follow therefore, in interpreting a disputed pasage to consult the other writings of the Apostle Paul. When did the Apostle expect to be with Christ? At the return of Christ following resurrection and judgment. Consider the following evidence:
- "Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you." (2 Cor. 4:14).
- "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." (2 Cor. 5:10).
- "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:8 cf. 4:1).
- The time sequence must be capable of Scriptural verification. Paul did not look for an instantaneous arrival into the presence of Christ. The Apostle knew he would "sleep" as other saints until the Resurrection Day,1 (1 Cor. 15:51-53), unless his Master returned while he was still alive. (1 Cor. 15:6,18,20,51; 1 Thess. 4:13,14 cf. Dan 12:2,3).
- In what sense would "to depart" (to die) be gain? In the death state "the dead know not anything." (Ecc. 9:5 cf. 3:20). The Apostle would, therefore, have relief from his suffering. (2 Cor. 11:23-29). He realized, however, for the sake of the work he could do among the Philippians it would be better to "abide in the flesh" (i.e., to continue to live). (vs. 24-26).
- This explains the juxtapositioning of "depart", and "to be with Christ". From the point of view of the Apostle Paul, the next conscious moment after his departure would be the resurrection and judgment seat of Christ. After this he would "ever be with the Lord." (1 Thess. 4:17). Return