Paul said death means to GAIN!

by sacolton 16 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • sacolton

    Jehovah's Witnesses teach that at death you completely cease to exist. You become nothing (and gain nothing) and are conscience of nothing, but what does Paul reveal to us about the mystery of death? Is the Watchtower in harmony with the scriptures? Let's look at Philippians 1:19-25 ...

    19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For [ c ] I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

    From reflection on the present, which is a cause for joy, Paul now turns to assess the future, which is also cause for joy. The passage comes in three parts, held together by the anticipation of his soon-expected trial (vv. 19-20). Verses 19-20 offer the reason for his continuing joy--his earnest expectation that Christ will be magnified whatever the outcome (life [ released] ordeath [ executed]). Even though he has no real choice in the matter, in verses 21-24 he ponders the options of life and death. Paul's clear preference is death, since that means to gain the final prize--Christ himself (cf. 3:12-14). But he expects the outcome to be life--since that is what is best for the Philippians. Verses 25-26 then offer the end result of his being given life--your progress and joy in the faith.

    Although this reflection is far more personal than verses 12-18, even here the focus is still on Christ and the gospel. By a fresh supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ Paul expects his hope to be fulfilled, that Christ will be exalted whether Paul lives or dies; for to live means Christ and to die means to gain Christ. If he had a choice, he would choose death, because that would mean to be with Christ; but since he has no choice, life is the expected outcome, leading to his return to Philippi and their overflow of joy in Christ Jesus.

    The striking words "to live, Christ [Christos]; to die, gain [kerdos]" epitomize Paul's life since Damascus. Once Paul was apprehended by Christ Jesus (3:12), Christ became the singular pursuit of his life. Christ--crucified, exalted Lord, present by the Spirit, coming King; Christ, the name that sums up for Paul the whole range of his new relationship to God: personal devotion, commitment, service, the gospel, ministry, communion, inspiration, everything. Much of what this means will be spelled out in his story in 3:4-14. Such singular focus does not make Paul otherworldly; rather, it gives heart and meaning to everything he is and does as a citizen of two worlds, his heavenly citizenship determining his earthly.

    Thus if Paul is released as he expects, he will continue (now as always) in full pursuit of knowing Christ and making him known. Likewise, if he is executed, the goal of living has thus been reached: he will finally have gained Christ. The reason for this unusual way of putting it--the word kerdosordinarily denotes "profit"--lies in the assonance (Christos/kerdos); the sense lies in Paul's understanding death to be the ultimate "gaining" of his lifelong passion. This expresses not a death wish, nor dissatisfaction with life, nor desire to be done with troubles and trials; it is the forthright assessment of one whose immediate future is somewhat uncertain but whose ultimate future is both certain and to be desired. Death, after all, because it is "ours" in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 3:22), has lost its sting (1 Cor 15:55). Such a statement, of course, has meaning only for one to whom the first clause is a vibrant, living reality. Otherwise death is loss, or "gain" only in the sense of escape. Paul will pick up the metaphor of gain/profit again in 3:7-8 and there play it for all its worth.Death Would Be to Paul's Advantage (1:22-23) Paul now begins a personal reflection on these two alternatives, whose point seems easy enough. If he had a real choice between the two, he would choose execution, for clear christological and eschatological reasons. But he gets there by a somewhat circuitous route.

    Verse 22 is a clear follow-up to verse 21. Picking up on the first clause (to live is Christ), Paul assesses what its outcome will mean for him in the body (literally "flesh"), namely, fruitful labor.But rather than follow that up with a similar sentence ("if it means death"), he jumps ahead to reflect on what he might do if he in fact had a real choice in the matter. "I simply cannot say," he says; indeed, I am torn between the two, since it means Christ in either case.

    The tension arises between Paul's "on earth" passion of serving Christ on behalf of others ( fruitful labor) and his personal desire finally to be with Christ "in heaven." After all, all of present life is given to "knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (3:8) while at the same time pressing "toward the goal of winning the prize" of knowing him finally and completely.

  • PSacramento

    While I agree, ther eis nothing that says that Paul expected to be with Christ IMMEDIATELY upon hi sdeath, only that death = to be with Christ.

    This is the issue with interpretive doctrine, it is subject to interpretation.

  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney

    Plus the WT spin is that this scripture applies only to the 144k (10,857 alive and growing) of Revelation chapter 14.

  • sacolton

    ... then the Watchtower needs to make it clear that the bible was written specifically for the anointed.

  • PSacramento

    I never like debating interpretive doctrine with JW's because not only is it based on the NWT, which was custom made for JW's but they only believe in the interpretations that are arrpoved by the WT, so why even bother?

  • sir82
    the Watchtower needs to make it clear that the bible was written specifically for the anointed.

    They already do! That is official doctrine.

    It doesn't appear too much in print anymore, but it is in there. A search of the WT-CD should reveal where that is stated.

    Of course, their policy is that the "Great Crowd" also benefits from reading the Bible, and its principles apply "by extension" to them.

    Actually, that would probably be a good key to search the WT-CD on, to find that official doctrine - "by extension".

  • carla

    "They already do! That is official doctrine."- That may be however the r & f have not gotten that memo yet!

    Salcoton, while I agree with you and to me it seems so simple, how as a jw did you view this? privately? I understand that because the word 'immediate' is not there they assume his being with Christ would take place at a later date. If that is the case, would that really be something to look forward to? wouldn't you want to keep living (on earth as you do now) as long as possible in order to preach to more people?

  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney

    Yup, that's the policy. The Bible is written to, and for, the anointed. Only the parts of it that the GB/FDS decide apply to the other sheep, apply to the rest of mankind.

  • Mary

    While I'm not sure what I believe about God at present, from a biblical point of view, there are far more scriptures that support the idea that when you die, your spirit or soul goes on, than any scriptures supporting the idea that you have no soul and simply become bird food when you die. How does the Society deal with the problem of numerous scriptures that indicates an afterlife? Simple: they claim that those scriptures are talking ONLY about the 144,000. Here's a quote from the WT study article a couple of months ago on the matter:

    Mankind's hope of everlasting life on earth was undermined by an idea that prevailed in ancient Babylon and spread worldwide--the idea that man has an immortal soul or spirit that merely inhabits a physical body. When Christendom adopted that idea, theologians twisted the Scriptures to make texts that describe the heavenly hope appear to teach that all good people go to heaven. According to this view, a person's life on earth is intended to be transitory--a test to determine if he is worthy of life in heaven. Something similar happened to the early Jewish hope of everlasting life on earth. As the Jews gradually adopted the Greek idea of inherent immortality, their original hope of life on earth faded. How different this is from the way man is presented in the Bible! Man is a physical creature, not a spirit. Jehovah said to the first man: "Dust you are."

    I think the last sentence is particularly interesting, because Genesis specifically tells us that until God breathed the "spirit" into the body, the man was not alive. The scriptures also state that "the body without spirit is dead", indicating that the nature of man is dual: physical and spiritual. For the WT to completely ignore the numerous scriptures both in the OT and NT that says that man is more than just "a physical creature", is not surprising. They have absolutely no rational explanation for the Rich Man and Lazarus parable, other than to say "it was just a parable". Since when did Jesus use a "false doctrine" as the basis for a story? The idea of "living forever in a paradise on earth" was completely foreign to both the Israelites of old, as well as the first century Christians. The usage of Psalms 37 cannot be used without twisting it into something it was never meant to say. In actuality, the WTS acknowledges that it is not talking about a future "paradise earth", but is talking about the Israelites inheriting the land:

    *** w74 6/15 p. 377 par. 13 Serve with Eternity in View ***

    In Psalm 37:11, 29 David wrote: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, . . . The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” In saying this he evidently drew upon what should have been the case with regard to the Promised Land in his days and in the following generations. According to God’s covenant with Abraham, the wicked pagans who had lived in the land should be cleared out. (Gen. 15:18-21; 17:8; Deut. 7:22; Josh. 21:43-45) Thus each successive generation of righteous worshipers making up the nation of Israel could have resided on the land, the portion of the earth that God gave to them. (Deut. 30:20) We know, however, that the majority of the Israelites proved unfaithful, and so they did not carry out God’s purpose in that regard. In fact, finally God let the Assyrians and Babylonians conquer and depopulate the land temporarily.

    *** w86 1/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers ***

    So Psalm 37:11, 29 might indicate that the Israelites could have been and should have been permanent occupants of the Promised Land. In accord with God’s covenant with Abraham, they could have remained in that territory that God gave them, with generation after generation enjoying his blessings there. However, it did not work out that way, for the Israelites became unfaithful to God.—Genesis 15:18-21; 17:8; Deuteronomy 7:12-16, 22; 28:7-14; 31:7; Joshua 21:43-45.

    Isaiah's Prophecy - Light for all Mankind - I pp.163-164 "Picture an Israelite who has just learned of Cyrus' decree that the Jews return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Will he leave the security of Babylon to make the long trip home? During Israel's 70-year absence, the deserted fields have become overgrown with weeds. Wolves, leopards, lions, and bears now freely prowl those fields. Cobras too make their home there. The returning Jews will have to depend on domestic animals for survival-flocks and herds will provide milk, wool, and meat, and oxen will pull the plow. Will these fall victim to predators? Will small children be bitten by snakes? What about the danger of being ambushed on the journey? Isaiah now paints a heartwarming picture of the conditions that God will bring about in the land. He says: "The wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; … The knowledge of Jehovah will not change animals, but it will affect people. Neither on the way home nor in their restored land will the Israelites need to fear wild beasts or beastlike men.-Ezra 8:21, 22; Isaiah 35:8-10; 65:25. This prophecy, however, has a larger fulfillment. In 1914, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah......."

    As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm not sure what to believe anymore. I truly hope there is something past this life. But going strictly on bible passages, I'd say there's more of an indication that your spirit goes on after death, rather than a "paradise earth".

  • Chalam

    PS: While I agree, ther eis nothing that says that Paul expected to be with Christ IMMEDIATELY upon hi sdeath, only that death = to be with Christ.

    I disagree. See here for example.

    2 Corinthians 5 (New International Version)

    Our Heavenly Dwelling
    1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

    6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

    Paul is clear, believers are in one of two places, either in the body and away from Jesus or else away from the body and present with Him James 2:26

    We know where Jesus is Hebrews 1:3 Hebrews 8:1 Hebrews 10:12 and we will be there too where we die, no delay.

    Paul should know, he went there and thus was confident what he was talking about 2 Corinthians 12



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