Have you ever seen a verse that confused you about everything you’ve learned? Today’s scripture almost did that for me. (And a majority of Bible scholars out there.) There are verses in the Bible that are unclear because of their translation. Those verses are fodder for this blog and when I find them it gives me joy to find out the truth because I was willing to study. Let’s look at today’s scripture.
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:” Philippians 1:23
What does that mean?
First, we must hold to some cardinal rules in our studying. The one I am thinking of now is; Never allow one unclear verse to hold precedence against the dozens, even hundreds, of clear verses on a subject.
In my first cursory read of this verse, it seems like we go straight to heaven when we die and that dying is a far better choice. This contradicts hundreds of verses all over the Word of God, so immediately I wave the red flag and ask what is wrong here?
Here, it’s in the translation of one little word, “depart.” This word in the Greek language is analyō which means; to depart or to return to a place where one was. It is used twice in the Bible. It is translated depart once in Phil. 1:23, and to return once in Luke 12:36.
“And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return (analyō) from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately…..(and vs. 40) Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” Luke 12:36 & 40
Wow. How could one translated word be so far apart in its definitions. Departing and returning are two totally different things. We only have two uses of analyō to go by and the second is in the context of our Lord Jesus Christ’s return. So what else could we use to clear up any private interpretation on our part.
We could look up “depart” in a good concordance. It is used 130 times in the New Testament and translated from 22 different Greek words. That’s not going to help us much. So, we should go to the next cardinal rule.
What is the context of the verse?
Last week, as you read through verses 1:12-20, Paul talked about the furtherance of the Gospel. He says the believers are HIS reward because of all the hard work he did with them. He talks about boldly fighting for the furtherance of the gospel whether he is out of prison and with them physically or whether he dies in prison physically, let the work continue. Here’s my question. What are our choices if we are not living or dying? It seems to me that those are the only two. Unless of course…Jesus Christ returns. Here, there or in the air, right! When Jesus Christ returns the dead in Christ shall rise first and those that are alive will be caught up with them to meet them in the air. (1 Thess. 4:13-17) Paul does have a third choice, just like the rest of us. If Jesus Christ returned as I typed this next word, my new life in eternity would begin. NOW! Hmmm….guess I’m still living here with you. 🙂 How great! I’m not dead and waiting for the return, and I’m not in the air with Jesus Christ. Those being my choices, I’m blessed…really blessed.
I think it’s time to read the literal translation of verse 23 through 25 according to usages.
“(I am pressed between two [choices: dying in prison or living free from bonds], although I have a great desire for the return and to be with Christ which is far, far better [than living or dying]), vs. 24) yet to stay alive is necessary for you. 25) And I confidently know that I shall absolutely continue to remain with all of you for your own joy and for the increase of your believing 26) so that when I come to you again, your boasting in the Christ Jesus in me may abound.”
WOW!!! Isn’t that exciting! I couldn’t stop at just 25 I had to go to 26. Paul is focused on the furtherance of the gospel not his own death and giving up. I’ve heard some say that Paul was suicidal. REALLY? After reading that in the literal translation you can’t see anything but his joy and pride in these wonderful believers walks. If Paul was released from prison to travel freely around and speak the Word of God, that would be a miracle. Miracles always follow believing. Paul knew that the Philippians were believing for his freedom, which would be a miracle, thus, he could be button popping proud of them for their walks. Or in his case, he could strap on his sandals and cruise on outta there. That would be huge! Especially when the devil did everything in his power to shut Paul down.
He could depart prison, and return to Philippi to continue the furtherance of the gospel. How great!
What if we took this motto in our life?
I guess I’m still here, so I might as well fight for God and kick some @$#!
(Whoops. Sorry about that. Got a little fired up there. :))
We could really get some things done, couldn’t we?
For those of you who read my last post, I feel like this is my “come back”. Thank you for all your encouraging words and prayers. YOU were believing for a miracle and boom…we got one. I’m sandal strappin’ proud.
Love you all.
God bless you today.