Tuesday, 20 December 2016
For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Philippians 1:23
This verse is referring to Paul’s internal conflict concerning living on in the flesh or dying and going to be with Christ. He now gives highly emphatic words – “For I am hard pressed between the two.” The two options were both straining at him. To him, he was hemmed in by both as they called out to his soul.
It is as if he were a miner working in a camp. His tent is tied down and there was safety and much productive work to be done which would bear fruit. His work there would be profitable and a great help to the other miners. And yet, there was the finest gold awaiting him in the mountains, calling to him. The wealth there was more than could ever be imagined or realized while staying in the camp. And so he was being pressed heavily by both options, only one of which he could pursue.
Understanding this dilemma, he continues by saying, “…having a desire to depart and be with Christ.” The word “depart” here means, “to unloose for departure.” His desire was to head to the place of the most precious riches of all. In so doing, he would have to unloose his tent and strike off towards his destination. In this, he is equating life as the movement of a tent where there is the pulling up of the restraining cords in order to move. In order to go to the mountain of riches, he would have to pull up the cords for the last time. This move is equated with his death, but he says that this option is “far better.”
Some scholars see the unloosing for the departure to be a nautical one. He was equating himself with a ship being drawn out to sea. No matter what analogy one makes, Paul faced a decision which truly pressed on him from both sides. The two called out to him and vexed him in his soul.
Among other things, this verse shows us quite clearly that the person who dies in Christ is immediately transported to be with Him, even if it is without a body. It will be a place of great gain. People may argue over the details of what occurs, but the simple surety that we will be with Christ in a far better place is made completely clear to us.
Life application: There should be no fear for the believer in Christ concerning death. This world is a temporary one, and our lives here are to be productive for His kingdom, but the unloosing of our tent cords is to be a happy occasion. The move we will make is one which will take us to the place of highest joy and eternal riches. Let us not fear death as the world does. Instead, we should be in the greatest anticipation that we will be in the presence of Christ; the most wonderful place of all.
Heavenly Father, the Bible tells us that the one who has trusted Christ should never be worried about his death. Whether in this life or whether in our death, we belong to Christ and are safe and secure in His grasp. We are even told that to be absent from the body is to be with Him; the most marvelous place of all. Help us to be fixed in our faith that this is true, and to never fear what lies ahead. Your word is true; Your promises are sure; and our hope is not in vain. Thank You for such surety. Amen.