Friday, January 20, 2017

Philippians 1:21-23: Did Paul Expect to Not Sleep in Death?

According to Walter Martin, "Paul never expected to 'sleep' in his grave until the resurrection." According to Martin, Philippians 1:21-23 and 2 Corinthians 5:8 utterly destroys the "Russellite teaching that the soul becomes extinct at the death of the body." In reality, we do not know of any place that Russell ever claimed that the soul becomes extinct at the death of the body. Russell did claim that the soul was in the oblivious condition of death while the soul is dead, but that the soul is to be raised from the dead with a resurrection body in the day of resurrection. Martin, however, seems to be claiming that the dead do not sleep (in spite of the scriptures: Job 14:12; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52; John 11:11,12; 1 Corinthians 15:6,18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14,15), and evidently that the soul is really alive and conscious while the soul is dead.
In truth, neither Philippians 1:21-23 nor 2 Corinthians 5:28 say anything about an immortal soul nor immortal spirit; nor does it say that the the soul or spirit is actually conscious while the body is dead. The idea has to be placed upon and read into the verses. The idea of an immortal soul or spirit is not inherent in anything that Paul or any other Bible writer wrote.
Paul certainly believed that his fellow believers who had died were asleep in death. Paul spoke of some who had seen the risen Christ as having "fallen asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:6) Paul shows that the only hope of their being delivered from this condition of having fallen asleep was the resurrection, and that, if there is no resurrection, then "they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." (1 Corinthians 15:18) Paul's whole argument in 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 is that the believer's only hope of returning from the sleep of death, of life beyond "this life," is in the resurrection. So do we have any reason to believe that Paul somehow was an exception, so that he would not expect to sleep in the grave if he died before Christ's return? We see no reason for thinking such, nor is there anything that Paul wrote that says that he, if he died before the return of Christ, did not expect to sleep in his grave until the resurrection.
However, Walter Martin's argument would seem to preclude not just Paul, but he appears to be defending the heathen mythology that the soul or spirit is immortal and does not die, and thus he would deny that anyone would be asleep in the grave.
Martin's effort regarding Philippians 1:21-23 is to address the translation of the these verses by the "New World Translation." (Hereafter referred to as the NWT) This translation, however, is not a product of Russell, but of the Jehovah's Witnesses. We are not with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but we do highly esteem Charles Taze Russell as a Bible Student.
Nevertheless, the NWT rendering of these verses is:
For in my case to live is Christ, and to die, gain. Now if it be to live on in the flesh, this is a fruitage of my work—and yet which thing to select I do not know. I am under pressure from these two things; but what I do desire is the releasing and the being with Christ, for this, to be sure, is far better.
Martin objects to the rendering "releasing" since this is a rendering of the Greek infinitive as a substantive. It appears obvious that the NWT does somewhat provide a interpretive paraphrasing of the word into English, similar to the way that many translations do the same thing in many verses of the Bible. In reality, the raising of this as an issue seems to be more of an attempt to sidetrack the reader. It appears that Martin's attack in this manner is mostly an effort to salvage this scripture as an alleged basis for the idea that the soul or spirit is immortal, for he states that this scripture utterly destroys the "Russellite teaching that the soul becomes extinct at the death of the body," and that "this text is a great 'proof' passage for the expectation of every true Christian who after death goes to be with the Lord." Please note that Russell did indeed believe that this verse does teach that after death, in the day of the resurrection, every true Christian will be with the Lord. In accordance with the scriptures, however, Russell did not believe that this happens at the moment of death, but rather in the "last day" (John 5:28,29; 6:39,40,44,54) when Christ returns. -- John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 9:28.
The meanings of the word in question as given by Thayer and Smith:
analuo
Transliterated Word
Analuo
Phonetic SpellingParts of Speech
an-al-oo'-oVerb
Definition
  
  • to unloose, undo again
  • to depart, break up, to depart from life, to return

NAS Word Usage - Total: 2
depart 1, returns 1
Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Analuo". "The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon". 1999.
Martin derides the thought that Paul is referring to being with Christ at Christ's return, using the sidetrack argument that Paul is not discussing Christ's return. While it may be true that Paul's topic was not Christ's return, it does not preclude that he could refer to the time of Christ's return when he will be with Christ -- the resurrection day -- in his contemplation of the completion of "this life". (1 Corinthians 15:19) Paul's topic is certainly not regarding an immortal soul, or the condition of such an alleged immortal soul while the soul is dead, and he certainly was not saying that a dead soul is conscious and alive with Christ while the soul is dead. Later on in this letter, Paul argues that without the resurrection, those how have died in faith have all perished, thus the only hope of life after death is in the resurrection which is to be in the "last day," "the age to come" (Mark 10:30;  Luke 18:30; John 5:28,29; 6:39, 40,44,54; 11:24; 12:47,48;  Acts 24:15; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 20:6,12), not in imagining and adding to the scriptures the heathen ideas that the dead are not really dead. -- 1 Corinthians 15:3-22.
Martin refers to Philippians 1:21, which states: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Martin claims: "There would be no gain in dying if men slept till the resurrection." However, as already shown, Paul had elsewhere shown that if there is no resurrection, then the Christian's hope is in vain, if it is only in "this life" that the Christian has hoped in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:12-22) By this, Paul shows "this life" as compared to life received in the resurrection, and states that if there is no resurrection, our hope has only been in this life. Thus, no resurrection, no life but "this life."
Of course, in the sight of God, all the justified are counted, reckoned, imputed, as alive, even though they may be sleeping in the grave, for God calls things that are not as though they were. (Matthew 22:31,32; Luke 20:37,38; Romans 4:7) It is concerning to the resurrection in the last day (John 5:28,29; 6:39,40,44,54) that they counted as living, and thus they are living to Him, even while they in the oblivious condition of death waiting to be raised. -- Galatians 3:6; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 22:31,32; Mark 12:26,27; Luke 20:37,38; Romans 4:3,17; Galatians 3:6.
However, since after death the next thing that Paul would know would be the day of resurrection, and of his glorification with Christ, then to die would be great gain to him. He did not say to be dead would be great gain to him, but his death would signify the end of the present fiery trial (1 Peter 4:12; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Romans 8:18,19) and the next thing he would know would be his being raised to glory in the last day. Thus, in this sense, to die would bring to him great gain; however, the condition of being dead, he explains elsewhere, would be like being unclothed -- as though without a body (2 Corinthians 5:4); thus it was not the condition of being dead that Paul spoke of as being great gain.
Nevertheless, Martin's tangent on the NWT's rendering of Philippians 1:21-23 does not matter in the long run, since it really does not matter how the verse is translated in English. In reality, there is nothing in the Greek to support the idea that dead are conscious. At most, that thought could be added to and read into the text as related the apostle Paul, although scripturally, there are no grounds for added such a thought to what Paul wrote.
The word “depart” in Philippians 1:23 is probably not the best translation of the Greek word analusai. (Strong’s Number 360) In Luke 12:36, the same Greek word is rendered “return” in the King James Version. Applying this rendering also Philippians 1:23 would have Paul stating that he was having a desire to return, and to be with the Lord. This rendering would fit perfectly with Paul’s belief that he would be with Jesus when he returns from the sleep of death. Some, however, claim that “return” may not fully accurately express the meaning of analusai; the word can also be understood to mean “to be loosed again.” This meaning actually embodies the thought of returning to a former condition. Paul expected to sleep unconsciously in the sleep of death, but his desire was not for death, but to return from the unconscious condition to be again conscious. Paul was in a “strait betwixt two” things — whether to live or to die. Both had advantages, and he did not know which he would rather choose; but he presented the third option: "to return” or “to be loosed again” from the prison-house of death by the Lord at His second coming, was indeed far better than either of these other two things, and this is what the apostle earnestly desired above all else. Nevertheless, if one insists that Paul meant “depart,” this rendering still does not mean that he would immediately be with the Lord in death, and certainly would not support the inherent immortal soul/spirit theories. It would simply mean that he would depart from this life and that the next thing he would know he would be with the Lord in the last day when Christ returns (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 9:28), the day of the resurrection (John 5:28,29; 6:39,40,44,54), in harmony with the rest of the scriptures. There is no indication at all that Paul thought he, if he died before Christ's return, was not going to sleep in death.
Regarding 2 Corinthians 5:8, we refer one to the following studies:
Updated: January 31, 2010.

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