IN STUDYING THE ENGLISH BIBLE on the subject of the state of the dead,
one is often perplexed by the contradictions which are found. For example, there are those
passages which state: The dead know not anything (Eccl. 9:5) ; There is no
work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol whither thou goest (Eccl. 9:10
R.V.); Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death (Psa. 13:3);
The . . . dead lived not until [resurrection] (Rev. 20:4-6, 11-15 R.V.).
On the other hand there are passages which seem to indicate an
intermediate state between death and resurrection during which the dead still live. One
such passage reads as follows:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (22) But if to live in
the flesh,--if this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I shall choose I know not.
(23) But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ;
for it is very far better: (24) yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake
(Phil. 1:21-24 R.V.).
What is the Apostle referring to in the words to depart and be
with Christ? The answer depends on whether he said, I am in a strait betwixt
the two or I am being pressed OUT OF the two. The two things
being,--to live in the flesh, or to die.
If he said, I am in a strait BETWIXT the two, then to
depart and be with Christ could refer to death. But if he said, I am being pressed
OUT OF the two then to depart and be with Christ must refer to a third thing.
Something which is not one of the two. Something desirable because it is very far
better than either of the two. What could this be? The answer is, the return of Jesus
Christ. That this is what Paul is referring to is proven by the following: (1) The
context; (2) An accurate translation of the Greek; (3) The direct statements of the
Scriptures as to when and how believers get to be with Christ; (4) The direct statements
of the Scriptures as to where believers go when they die.
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil.
1:21). Gain to whom? This statement is part of one that is very definitely speaking about
gain to Christ. Gain to Christ in Pauls BODY by life, and gain to Christ in
Pauls BODY BY DEATH. The complete statement is:
According to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I
be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also CHRIST shall be
MAGNIFIED IN MY BODY, whether by life, OR BY DEAITH. FOR to me to live is Christ, and to
die is gain (Phil. 1:20,21 R.V.).
Notice the close connection between Christ magnified in my body
by death and to die is gain. The Greek brings this out very forcefully.
The presence of the articles in the to live
and the to die points back to the words life and death
in the preceding verse. It is as though he were to say, the life of which I have spoken is
Christ, and the death of which I have spoken is gain to Him. Paul is speaking definitely
of his own life and death not of Christians in general.
But someone will ask, How would it be gain to Christ for Paul to
die? Again the context is most enlightening:
Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened
unto *me have fallen out rather unto the PROGRESS OF THE GOSPEL; so that MY BONDS became
manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest; and that
most of the Brethren in the Lord, BEING CONFIDENT THROUGH MY BONDS, ARE MORE ABUNDANTLY
BOLD TO SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD WITHOUT FEAR (Phil. 1:12-14 R.V.).
If Pauls faith in Christ, evidenced by his willingness to be
imprisoned for Him, gave the brethren confidence and magnified Christ by making them more
abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear, how much more would Pauls
death for Christ confirm the genuineness of his faith and embolden them. There is not one
word in the entire context that suggests gain to Paul in dying. Everything is speaking
about gain to Christ. Those who cannot see how Christ would gain in Pauls death,
must explain how Christ could be magnified in Pauls BODY through death.
The Greek with a literal interlinear is as follows:
An accurate translation is as follows:
Yet I am being pressed out of the two, having the desire unto the return and together
with Christ to be, for it rather is much better (Phil, 1:23).
Three corrections of importance have .been made:
1. I am being pressed instead of I am in a strait,
2. Out of the two instead of betwixt the two.
3. Desire unto the return instead of desire to depart.
Let us consider each one carefully.
(1). The words, I am in a strait, are translated from the
Greek verb sunechomai which is the present middle form of the verb sunecho.
Sunecho means to hold together, to press and is
translated as follows:
|| The multitudes throng thee
(press in R.V.)
|| They cried out . . . and stopped
|| Paul was pressed in spirit.
|| The love of Christ constraineth
|| How am I straitened (Same
as in Phil. 1:23).
Since the present middle form is used in Phil. 1:23 it
should be translated, I am being pressed. This preserves the grammar of the
Greek, and agrees with the preposition ek out of which follows.
(2). The word betwixt is a mistranslation of ek
which occurs hundreds of times in the Greek Scriptures. This is the only place in which it
has been translated betwixt. The Lexicons and Concordances are in complete
agreement that ek means out of or from and that it
denotes motion from a place. It is the exact opposite of eis into. In
the Authorized Version it has been translated out of 131 times,
from 182 times, of 402 times. A few examples are:
|| Judas begat Phhares and Zara of
|| Of whom was born Jesus.
|| out of Egypt have I called
|| Out of the abundance of the
|| Lo a voice from heaven.
|| Christ was raised up from
(3) . The word translated depart is unalusai,
the aorist infinitive of analuo, from. ana back again and luo
"to loose. As a verbal noun it is better translated
return. This verb occurs only once again in the New Testament and there it is
And be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord, when he
shall return from the marriage feast; that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may
straightway open unto him (Luke 12:36 R. V.).
There are two very strong reasons why Paul would not speak of death as
a departure to be with Christ. First, because the Scriptures plainly teach that the only
way believers get to be with the Lord is by His coming for them:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the
voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE
first; then WE THAT ARE ALIVE, that are left, shall TOGETHER WITH THEM be caught up in the
clouds, TO MEET THE LORD in the air: AND SO shall we EVER BE WITH THE LORD. Wherefore
COMFORT one another WITH THESE WORDS (1 Thes. 4:16-18 R.V.).
In my Fathers house are many mansions: if it were not so I would
have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (How did He get there, by dying? or by
resurrection and ascension?) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN
AND REGEIVE YOU UNTO MYSELF: THAT WHERE I AM, THERE YE MAY BE ALSO (John 14:2,3 A.V.).
The second reason Paul would not speak of death as a departure to be
with Christ is: The Scriptures plainly teach that the dead are in their graves until
Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which ALL THAT ARE IN THE
TOMBS shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the
resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment
(John 5:28,29 R.V.). See also Dan. 12:2; John 11:17; 12:17; Acts 2:29; 5:5-10; 8:2; 1 Cor.
15:4,35, etc. Notice when reading the Scriptures how the person is always represented as
being where the body is. Death, burial and resurrection are of the person, not just of
some part of the person.
To sum up then: Paul expresses his earnest expectation and hope that he
shall be put to shame in nothing but that with all boldness Christ shall be magnified in
his body whether through life or through death. Then he is pressed out of the
two by the thought of the return of Christ. If Christ should return it would not be
necessary for him to die. Neither would it be necessary for him to continue in the flesh
for the sake of the Philippian believers, for they too would be caught away (Phil. 1:6;
3:20,21). Philippians 1:23 is a parenthetical digression or an aside. Verse 24 picks up
where verse 22 left off.
Notwithstanding the traditional teaching that death is a departure to
be with Christ, believers prefer to remain here, and cling to this life as long as
possible. Instinct refuses to accept error no matter how attractive it is made to the
flesh. Paul, like every true believer, longed not for death, but for the return of
 Four times in Phil. 1:21123 we have a verb in the
infinitive with an article. A. T. Robertson says, The infinitive is always a
substantive and like other substantives may or may not use the article according to the
circumstances. What the article does do with the infinitive is to make clear that it is