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.