Philippians 1:23 MEANING

Philippians 1:23
(23) Having a desire . . .--Properly, having my own desire for departure. The verb "depart" corresponds exactly to the substantive used in 2 Timothy 4:6, "The time of my departure is at hand." It is itself used only here and in Luke 12:36, "When he shall return (break up) from the wedding." The metaphor is drawn either from "loosing" from the shore of life, or (perhaps better) from striking tents and breaking up a camp. The body (as in 2 Corinthians 5:1) is looked upon as a mere tabernacle. Each day is a march nearer home, and death is the last striking of the tent on arrival.

To be with Christ.--This is contemplated by St. Paul as the immediate consequence of death, even while still "out of the body," and before the great day. The state of the faithful departed is usually spoken of as one of "rest" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16; Revelation 14:13), although not without expectation and longing for the consummation of all things (Revelation 6:10-11). Such a condition of rest, and suspension of conscious exercise of spiritual energy, is, indeed, that which human reason and analogy would suggest, so far as they can suggest anything on this mysterious subject. But such passages as this seem certainly to imply that this rest is emphatically a "rest in the Lord," having an inner consciousness of communion with Christ. His "descent unto Hades," not only brings out the reality of the unseen world of souls, but also claims it as His. As on earth and in heaven, so also in the intermediate state, we are "ever with the Lord;" and that state, though not yet made perfect, is spiritually far higher than this earthly life. The original here is an emphatic double comparative, "far, far better."

Verse 23. - For I am in a strait betwixt two; rather, but (so the best manuscripts) I am straitened, hemmed in (Bishop Lightfoot) betwixt the two alternatives, life and death, pressing upon me, constraining me on either side. Having a desire to depart; having my desire set towards departing εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι). The word occurs again in 2 Timothy 4:6, Ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως It is used of a ship, to loose from its moorings; or a camp, to break up; comp. 2 Corinthians 5:1, "If our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved (καταλυθῇ)." Probably here the metaphor is taken from tent life; to loosen, to remove the tent, the temporary abode, in the journey to the heavenly city. And to be with Christ. The holy dead are with Christ, they rest from their labors; they live unto God (Luke 20:38); they do not sleep idly without consciousness, for they are described in Holy Scripture as witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) of the race set before living Christians (comp. also 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8 and Acts 7:59). Yet they are elsewhere described as sleeping (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 15); for the rest of the spirits of just men in Paradise is as a sleep compared with the perfect consummation and bliss of God's elect, both in body and soul, in his everlasting glory. Which is far better; read and translate, for it is by much very far better. He piles up comparatives, as if unable to find words capable of expressing the glory of his hope.

1:21-26 Death is a great loss to a carnal, worldly man, for he loses all his earthly comforts and all his hopes; but to a true believer it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery. It delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to possess the chief good. The apostle's difficulty was not between living in this world and living in heaven; between these two there is no comparison; but between serving Christ in this world and enjoying him in another. Not between two evil things, but between two good things; living to Christ and being with him. See the power of faith and of Divine grace; it can make us willing to die. In this world we are compassed with sin; but when with Christ, we shall escape sin and temptation, sorrow and death, for ever. But those who have most reason to desire to depart, should be willing to remain in the world as long as God has any work for them to do. And the more unexpected mercies are before they come, the more of God will be seen in them.For I am in a strait betwixt two,.... Life and death; or between these "two counsels", as the Arabic version reads; two thoughts and desires of the mind, a desire to live for the reasons above, and a desire to die for a reason following. The apostle was pressed with a difficulty in his mind about this, as David was when he was bid to choose which he would, either seven years' famine, or three months' flight before his enemies, or three days' pestilence; upon which he said, I am in a great strait, 2 Samuel 24:14; to which passage it is thought the apostle alludes; the same word as here is used by Christ, Luke 12:50,

having a desire to depart; to die, a way of speaking much in use with the Jews, as expressive of death; thus Abraham is represented by them speaking after this manner on account of his two sons Isaac and Ishmael, the one being righteous and the other wicked (c),

"says he, if I bless Isaac, lo, Ishmael will seek to be blessed, and he is wicked; but a servant am I, flesh and blood am I, and tomorrow , "I shall depart out of the world", or "die"; and what pleases the holy blessed God himself in his own world, let him do: "when Abraham was dismissed" or "departed", the holy blessed God appeared to Isaac and blessed him:

and again it is said (d),

"iniquities are not atoned for, until , "a man is dismissed", or "departs out of the world";

and once more (e),

"when a man , "departs out of this world"; according to his merit he ascends above;

See Gill on John 13:1; the same word is used in the Syriac version here; death is departing out of this life, a going out of the body, a removal out of this world; it is like moving from one place to another, from the world below to the world above; with the saints it is no other than a removing from one house to another, from the earthly house of their tabernacle, the body, to their Father's house, and the mansions of glory in it, preparing for them. Death is not an annihilation of men, neither of soul nor body; it is a separation of them, but not a destruction of either; it is a dissolution of the union between them for a while, when both remain in a separate state till the resurrection: now this the apostle had a desire unto, which was not a new and sudden motion of mind; it was a thought that had long dwelt with him, and still continued; and this desire after death was not for the sake of death, for death in itself is a king of terrors, very formidable and terrible, and not desirable; it is an enemy, the last enemy that shall be destroyed; it is contrary to nature, and to desire it is contrary to a first principle in nature, self-preservation; but death is desired for some other end; wicked men desire it, and desire others to put an end to their lives, or do it themselves to free them from some trouble they are in; or because they are not able to support under a disappointment of what their ambition or lust have prompted them to: good men desire death, though always when right, with a submission to the will of God, that they may be rid of sin, which so much dishonours God as well as distresses themselves; and that they may be clothed upon with the shining robes of immortality and glory; and as the apostle here,

to be with Christ: for the former clause is to be strictly connected with this; he did not desire merely to depart this life, but chiefly to be with Christ, and the former only in order to the latter; the saints are in Christ now, chosen in him, set upon his heart, and put into his hands, are created in him, and brought to believe in him, and are in him as branches in the vine; and he is in them, formed in their hearts, lives and dwells in them by faith, and they have sometimes communion with him in private duties and public worship; he comes into them and sups with them, and they with him: but this is only at times, he is as a wayfaring man that continues but for a night; hence the present state of the saints is a state of absence from Christ; while they are at home in the body, they are absent from the Lord, especially as to his bodily presence; but after death they are immediately with him, where he is in his human nature; and their souls in their separate state continue with him till the resurrection morn, when their bodies will be raised and reunited to their souls, and be both for ever with him, beholding his glory, and enjoying uninterrupted communion with him; which will be the completion and full end of Christ's preparations and prayers: hence it appears that there is a future being and state after death: the apostle desires to depart this life, and "be", exist, be somewhere, "with Christ"; for the only happy being after death is with him; if souls are not with him, they are with devils and damned spirits, in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: and it is also manifest that souls do not sleep with the body in the grave until the resurrection; the souls of the saints are immediately with Christ, in the enjoyment of his presence, in happiness and glory, hoping, believing, and waiting for the resurrection of their bodies; had the apostle known that he must have remained after death in a state of inactivity and uselessness, deprived of the communion of Christ and of his church, it would have been no difficulty with him to determine which was most eligible, to live or die; and it would have been much better for him, and more to the advantage of the churches, if he had continued upon earth to this day, than to be sleeping in his grave, senseless and inactive; whereas he adds,

which is far better: to depart and be with Christ is better than to live in the flesh in this sinful world, in the midst of a variety of sorrows and troubles, and in which communion with Christ is but now and then enjoyed, though such a life is better than sleeping in the grave; but upon a soul's departure and being with Christ, it is free from sin and sorrow, and in the utmost pleasure, enjoying communion with him without interruption; and this is better than labouring in the ministry: for though no man took more pleasure in the work of the ministry than the apostle did, and no man's ministry was more profitable and useful; yet it was toilsome, laborious, and wearisome to the flesh; wherefore dying and being with Jesus could not but be desirable, since he should then rest from his labours, and his works would follow him; at least it was better for him, and so the Syriac version adds, "to me", far better for me; and so the Arabic: to live longer might be better and more to the advantage of Christ, the glory of his name, the good of his churches, it might be better for others; but leaving the world and being with Christ were better for him; and this was an argument swaying on the side of death, and inclining him to desire that, and made it so difficult with him what to choose,

(c) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 11. fol. 202. 3.((d) Zohar in Numb. fol. 51. 3.((e) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 2. 1.

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