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Tuesday: To Depart and Be With Christ — 10 Comments

  1. When Carmel and I were engaged we were separated by circumstances. I remained in Australia, completing my BSc studies and Carmel was sent to New Zealand to work as a primary teacher. It was a heart-rending situation and I still cannot fathom the minds of the Church Administrators who heartlessly made the decision to separate us by such a great distance for so long a time. There was nothing that either of us wanted to do more than to be together again. I wish that both of us had kept our correspondence from that period so that I could quote some of it now. But, I remember that we often told one another that we would like to be with one another. Getting back together again was uppermost in our minds and we wrote that to one another passionately as often and in as many ways as we could.

    Read Paul's epistles, not just as a basis of doctrine but as a person passionately in love with Christ. He uses metaphors of life and death to describe the relationship. He goes beyond reason and argues passionately about the relationship.

    Parenthetically, sometimes I think that our lesson studies are far too clinical. We are focused on the analysis and detail and sometimes miss out the joy and depth of emotion involved in our Christian experience. Reread Paul's epistles to see how emotional he is about Jesus.

    • Yes, Maurice, I very much agree that "we are sometimes far too clinical, focusing on the analyses and detail and sometimes miss out on the joy and depth of emotion involved in our Christian experience."

      When writing my comments, I attempt to express this emotional aspect of loving our Redeemer by always keeping the big picture in mind, which tells us that He loved us first.

      If we forget that we maintain an ongoing relationship when living by faith, we become like a forensic scientist establishing a relationship with a corpse by dissecting its body.

  2. Particularly in hard times, who hasn’t thought about how nice it would be to close your eyes in death and, the next thing you know, “be with Christ”? How does this thought help us understand what Paul was saying in Philippians?

    I want to refer back to my comment on Lesson 3 from Wednesday’s question. to help us understand what Paul was saying in Philippians about the dead asleep in Christ. Also, how they have it better than the righteous living.

    Yes, the righteous dead have it better than the living because their next conscious thought is seeing their Redeemer (hallelujah). I’ve experienced funeral services in my life and there were a few where I know the Lord will resurrect. Certainly, I’m jealous of this person because the next time this person awakens is meeting the Lord in the air. So, there are 3 arguments of why the dead in Christ have it better than the living. (1) They have no consciousness of time, (2) the hardship of life no longer burdens them, and (3) their salvation is secured. Argument 1 helps us understand the word sleep when Jesus uses the word to describe death. Death is a dreamless sleep with no consciousness or awareness because you’re simply dead. It doesn't matter if you were dead back in 4000 B.C., 14th century, or this 21st century, because we will all wake up at the same time as if it was the next morning since the time of death. Last August, I had a gastroscopy and I was put under to sleep, through general anaesthetic. When I woke up, I thought nothing happened, but the procedure was all done. I was unconscious of time. Argument 2, we no longer have to carry the hardship of being alive in a sinful world and experiencing various crucibles in this lifetime. We fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) and now we are finally resting in Jesus. Argument 3 helps us not fear death, and much more the second death, because our salvation is assured by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior through the fruits of our works. In James 2:26 (KJV), “For as the body without the spirit (God’s breath, the gift of life) is dead, so faith without works is dead also”. So, in a way, the righteous dead have it better than the living because the next they know is to be with Christ.

    Let me talk about the contrary passage of Philippians 1:23 in which many readers believe Paul will immediately be with Jesus when he dies, to support the claim of a natural immortality of the soul. We must understand that, at this point of Paul’s journey, the Jewish leadership and some Christians were after him to stop preaching about Jesus. Paul had to carry a heavy cross, to speak in spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles and the world. Similar to Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) when he was running away from Jezebel, Paul wanted to finally rest from his work of service. Theologians who use this verse to support their claim of immediately going up to heaven or hell contradicts Paul’s message of constantly preaching about the resurrection as the only hope for the dead to be awake. Also, Paul references Jesus a lot in describing death as a dreamless unconscious sleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Furthermore, Paul summarizes the state of the dead in 2 Timothy 4:8 where he will finally receive his crown (reward) on the last day of earth (2nd coming of Christ). Paul emphasizes that life and death cannot separate us from the love of God who has the power to translate the living and resurrect the dead (Romans 8:38-39).

  3. We are not alone. Jesus offers His presence to us right now. There is no need to wait for some extraordinary event, through prayer we can talk to Him directly. What a privilege to speak with the King of the Universe! We were also left with His Word which is a fountain of communication. The more we practice His company here, the more we desire His company then! Thanks also be to Jesus Who left us with a Comforter!

  4. A similar passage is in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, willing to be absent from the body, present with the Lord. Paul was probably dealing with numerous pains and health issues. After all, he had suffered severe beatings, stoning, being left for dead, shipwrecks, probably often sleeping on the ground in his travels, poor eyesight. He knew what it was like to groan with pain just trying to get around to do whatever needed doing. He was also longing for that new heavenly body he knew he would receive in heaven.

    That is a comfort for thousands who are similarly groaning as they try to get their bodies to function. Yes, Jesus has a new glorious body for them without pain.

    And once Jesus comes, and this corruptible body is exchanged with an incorruptible one, Paul and all others who have accepted Christ will be physically with the Lord forever!!

    • Hi Ulrike - Thank you for pointing out 2 Cor. 5:1-10 to speak to the lesson’s topic of ‘departing and being with Christ’ as well. I am not as familiar with Scripture as others, and therefore appreciate when a helpful passage is being shared.

  5. Like Ulrike, I also found Paul’s statement to come from a place of utter physical and spiritual exhaustion as he contemplated where and how to find rest. It is more than assuring, it is lifesaving, to remember that when longing to “be with Christ”, we are already sheltered “in Him”.

    When pressures become seemingly unbearable, I remember that my heavenly Father loves me, and how He expressed His love toward me –

    My GRACE is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9.

    I found 2 Cor. 5:4-5 bringing light to how Paul was able to find a way to balance this dilemma:

    ”For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed [die], but we would be clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”

    His conclusion was that: v.9

    ”Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”

    I very much appreciate to find spiritual truths expressed in practical terms. Our labor is to remain faithful, humble, willing to endure the suffering.

  6. Paul knew the glory of dying with and in Christ not necessarily dying and being with Christ right away. The contradiction comes with understanding misunderstandings and these complications are what churches are teaching out there concerning death.

  7. Today at our church as l was teaching Tuesday topic ..To depart and be with Christ ....we had a debate around the question asked in the last paragraph at page 139. Why Paul preferred to die than live....The question clearly indicates that Paul preferred to die than live .....some people from my class said... No Paul didn't prefer death than life as ...they said the witer got it wrong ...What do you say ....Did Paul prefer death as indicated in the quarterly?

    • My thought is that Paul in the Roman justice system was like Jesus in Gethsemane. The Lord had given him a commission and he had struggled to fulfill it with all the strength that God had given him. But he knew that at the end of that commission, he would at last be united with the one who loved him dearly and have rest from the battle.

      One can come to a point in life where the struggle to live on weighs against relief of peace and rest. I believe Paul in that Roman prison was at one of those points—the desire to finally have peace from a tumultuous life versus the duty owed to the commission of his Lord. But either way, he left it in the Lord’s will.


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