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Volume 6 - Page 130 of 151 Index | Zoom | |
The Hope and the Prize.
#1. Phil. 1: 21-25.
What is the right interpretation?*
pp. 120 - 127
[NOTE: * - We would particularly draw attention to the fact that the interpretation given in this article was
formulated by the writer early in 1914. The present article has been held over for a convenient opportunity,
and its appearance now must not be connected with any modern contribution to the subject.]
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh this is the fruit
of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which
is far better.
Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
And having this confidence I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for
your furtherance and joy of faith" (A.V.).
The passage of Scripture quoted above has been interpreted in a variety of ways, the
original being confessedly difficult to fully express. Most interpretations can be placed
under one of two heads. The one given by those whose orthodox views led them to this
passage as a proof text to show that "we may infer that he had no knowledge nor
expectation of a middle state of insensibility between death and the resurrection"
(Dr. Macknight). In other words, that upon the death of the believer he is at once taken to
be "with Christ" apart from resurrection. The other group of interpretations are put
forward by those who do not believe that "sudden death is sudden glory," but who
believe that the scriptural term "sleep" aptly describes the state between death and
resurrection, and that there is no "hope" of being "with Christ" until the resurrection
The crux of the controversy is the meaning of the word translated "depart," the
orthodox seeing in it the death of Paul, the other interpreters the return of the Lord.
In this article we are going to approach the passage from neither standpoint. We
believe that such methods of interpretation are (unconsciously, no doubt) biased. The
second set of interpreters which look upon "depart" as meaning the second coming of the
Lord were inspired not so much by an independent examination of the passage, but by an
endeavour to prove the other school of teaching to be wrong. Words have been
mistranslated, renderings have been adopted which under other circumstances would
have been very much questioned, and parallels have been ignored. In ordinary reasoning
all inferences which reach beyond their data are purely hypothetical, and proceed on the
assumption that new events will conform to the conditions detected in our observations of
past events. Even supposing the Universe as a whole to proceed unchanged, we do not
really know the Universe as a whole." Students of Scripture will readily admit that what
is true of our limited knowledge of the works of God, is equally true of our knowledge of
the Word of God. To limit ourselves by the alternatives, that (1) either believers when
they die go straight to be with Christ, or (2) they fall asleep and are unconscious until the