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giving at least the sense of the original. 'The pressing out of the two into
a third'; the rendering of a word which means return in the sense of the
returning of a body to its elements (the Scriptural idea of death) as though
it could fitly be used of the return of the Lord are figments, merely the
zeal of those who, while holding the general truth regarding the intermediate
state, have intruded this into a passage which does not require it.
There are several words which the apostle uses when speaking of the
Coming of the Lord; there is parousia, meaning personal presence, epiphaneia,
a manifestation, apokalupsis, a revelation, but there is no passage where the
Lord is said to have an analysis, a 'return'. Had such an expression been
common, some excuse may have been found for reading it in Philippians 1:23,
whereas the reading itself is isolated and unsupported by any other
Scripture. Luke 19:12 is the only passage that can be brought forward, and
this is of itself enough to condemn the application of Philippians 1:23, for
the context speaks of going away to receive a kingdom and to return, whereas
the apostle's hopes were not connected with the kingdom to which the Lord
could return, but with a position where the Lord then was and still is -- at
the right hand of God.
There is need for us all to pray that we may 'know what is the hope of
His calling'; when we do we shall cease from speaking of the Lord's 'return',
for the Church which is His Body, and think more of 'things above' where we
shall be 'manifested with Him in glory'. The Second Coming is associated
with the Three Spheres of Blessing4, which see.
We would call attention in closing to the structure of the passage
already given. Notice how 'living in the flesh' is balanced by 'abiding in
the flesh', the 'fruit of my labour' being connected with need of the
Philippians. Notice Paul's desire 'to be with Christ' and compare it with
what he actually experienced 'to be with you all':
'For to me the living (is) Christ and the dying (is) gain. But if the
living in the flesh (is Christ) this to me is fruit of (my) work, and
what I shall choose I do not make known. But (i.e. instead of making
known) I am held in constraint (colloquially "I am in a fix", more
refined as A.V. "I am in a strait") by reason of two (here are "the
Having a strong desire to the return (dissolution, departure,
death), and to be with Christ, for it were far better, but
The abiding in the flesh is more needful for you, and having this
confidence, I perceive that I shall abide and continue beside you
all for your progress and joy of faith'.
The question as to what the apostle really had before him which was
'far better' still remains a matter for earnest inquiry. We believe that we
have been able to show that it is directly connected with the out -
resurrection and prize of Philippians 3. (See Prize3; also Absent, p. 1;
Absent1; and Out -Resurrection3).
See Wages of Sin7.