"To Depart and to Be with Christ"
by John N. Andrews (1829-1883)
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in
the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor; yet what I shall choose I wot
not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to
be with Christ; which is far better; nevertheless to abide in the flesh is
more needful for you." Phil.1:21-24.
WHAT did Paul mean by departing?
It is fair to answer this by his words to Timothy: "The time of my
departure is at hand." 2Tim.4:6. It was his death.
Could he be with Christ by dying?
That depends upon the place to which the dead go.
Where do the dead go?
To sheol or hades, the one of these names being the Hebrew, and the
other the Greek, term to designate the place of the dead.
How do you know that the dead go to sheol or
The psalmist asks
what man there is that can deliver his soul from death and sheol.
Ps.89:48. Jacob, at death, entered sheol. Gen.37:35; 43:38; 44:29,31.
Korah and his company went down into sheol. Num.16:30,33. Job was to be
hid in sheol, and wait there till the resurrection. Job14:13; 17:13. All
the wicked go into sheol. Ps.9:17; 31:17; 49:14. All mankind go there.
Ps.89:48; Ecc.9:10. (N.B. These words in our English version are sometimes
translated "grave," and sometimes "hell.")
Have you any other proof that the dead are in hades?
Yes. When the
resurrection occurs, all [p. 2] the righteous being rescued from death and the place of the dead,
triumph over both in most exultant language. 1Cor.15:51-55. And at the
second resurrection, both death and hades give up the wicked dead.
Rev.20:11-15. Paul did, therefore, enter hades by departing this life.
Did Paul find Christ in hades?
No, indeed. Christ had been there before Paul, but was not there when
Paul entered the silent abode of the dead. We have express statements on
this point. Peter says that David spoke of Christís resurrection when he
said, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell." (Greek, hades.) And
he informs us that at the resurrection of Christ, "his soul was not
left in hell," or hades. Observe, this is not spoken of his death
that his soul was not left in hades; for then it might be evaded as
meaning that his soul should not be suffered to enter hades at all. But it
is spoken of his resurrection that his soul was not left there. And this
proves, beyond dispute, that his soul did enter this abode of the dead,
but remained there only till the morning of the third day. Compare
But was not Paul grievously disappointed, on entering the place of the
dead, not to meet Jesus there?
There is no reason to believe that he expected to meet him in hades. In
fact, there is excellent testimony to show that he looked to a very
different occasion for the meeting with Christ. But there was no sadness,
gloom, nor disappointment, to Paul in hades. It is a place where there is
no knowledge. Ecc.9:10. Those who enter there have no thoughts. Ps.146:4.
All is silence, darkness, sleep, rest. The [p. 3] wicked therein are silent in death. Ps.31:17. The righteous in
not praise God, and do not even remember him to whom they have given their
lives to honor. Ps.6:5; Is.37:10-19; Ps.115:17.
But how sad and gloomy such a prison-house to Paul, and how long and
dreary his confinement therein?
To the living the grave may be dark and cold, and the period of waiting
may seem long and tedious. But not so to the silent sleeper in his quiet
rest. There is no lapse of time to those whose thoughts have perished.
There is no gloom to those who "know not anything." Ecc.9:5.
There can be nothing tedious, nor distressing, nor unpleasant, to those in
hades. In fact, there can be no time to them at all. It is an atom of
time, as the twinkling of an eye. Rather, it is simply a blank. This is
proved by facts of frequent occurrence. Men receive blows upon the brain
which destroy the power of thought. They remain in this condition
sometimes for months. When consciousness is restored, thought begins at
the very point where it was suspended.
An officer wounded in battle, and remaining months without a thought,
when relieved by surgical operation has arisen in bed and finished the
order he was giving when struck down. This shows that to those who have no
power of thought time is annihilated. To Stephen, who fell asleep while
gazing upon the glory of Heaven, it will ever be the same as though,
without one momentís delay, he had entered it. Acts7:55-60. And so of
many Christians who have had rapturous views of Heaven in the hour of
their death. It will never seem to them as though Heaven had [p. 4] even disappeared from their view. In winking, we cease to gaze upon
that which is before us. It disappears from our view, yet we do not even
notice the disappearance of the object. Such is the sleep of death. To the
sleeper, it is an imperceptible atom of time, of which he can take no
Have you any evidence that Paul did not expect to be with Christ till
Judge for yourself in the light of such words as the following:
"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus,
what advantageth it me IF THE DEAD RISE NOT? let us eat and drink, for
TO-MORROW WE DIE." 1Cor.15:32. If Paul entered Heaven by dying, and
by that event was taken to be with Christ, where there is fullness of joy,
was not this of some advantage to him? Suppose there never should be a
resurrection, would not Paulís immortal soul - if he had one - in the
felicity of Heaven find something to compensate his cross-bearing life?
Indeed, he would, were he to enter Christís presence at death, even
though there were no resurrection. But he plainly indicates that if there
was to be no resurrection, there would be no reward; a decisive proof that
he knew nothing of the entrance into the heavenly city by the gate of
death. In fact, had he entertained such an idea, instead of speaking of
immediate death as a sad thing if there were no resurrection beyond it, he
would have said, "Courage, brethren, to-morrow we die, and that will
usher us into our Lordís presence." His words convey, in every
respect, the opposite idea.
Was there not some point of time to which Paul looked for deliverance
and reward? Was this the day of death, or of the coming of Jesus?
[p. 5] There is a certain day which he has emphasized very remarkably. It
bears the designation in his epistles of "THAT DAY." It is thus
1Thess.5:2,4: "For yourselves know perfectly that THE DAY OF THE
LORD so cometh as a thief in the night.... But ye, brethren, are not in
darkness that THAT DAY should overtake you as a thief."
2Thess.1:10: "When he shall come to be glorified in his saints,
and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among
you was believed) in THAT DAY."
2Thess.2:1-3: "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not
soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor
by letter, as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man
deceive you by any means; for THAT DAY shall not come, except there come a
falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of
2Tim.1:12: "For the which cause I also suffer these things;
nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am
persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him
against THAT DAY."
2Tim.1:18: "The Lord grant unto him [Onesiphorus] that he may find
mercy of the Lord in THAT DAY; and in how many things he ministered unto
me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."
2Tim.4:6-8: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my
departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a
of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at
[p. 6] THAT DAY; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his
These scriptures do plainly teach the fact that the advent of Jesus was
the time to which Paul looked for the deliverance of the saints, for the
gathering of himself and all the others to Christís presence, and for
the placing of the crown upon his own head, and upon the heads of all that
really love the appearing of Jesus. He refers to the time of this great
reward as "THAT DAY." But he marks it over and over in such a
manner that we cannot mistake the point of time. It is not the day of his
death, but it is the day of the Lord Jesus.
But can you give a text from Paulís writings in which both the time
and the manner of the taking of the saints to be with Christ are
The following text is exactly to the point:
1Thess.4:16,17: "For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven
with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God; and
the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and SO
shall we ever be with the Lord."
The word "so" (Greek, houtos) signifies "in this
manner," or "thus." This text shows with distinctness the
time and the manner of meeting the Lord, and being received into his
presence. It is indeed a testimony of the same character as that in
2Thess.2:1, where the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is made the point
for the gathering together of Paul and his brethren to him.
There can be no doubt that this was Paulís hope, but can you confirm
it by the words of the Lord Jesus?
[p. 7] If a direct statement of the Saviour will answer, here it is:
John14:2,3: "In my Fatherís house are many mansions; if it were
not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go
and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto
myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
Now observe, 1. Jesus was going away personally. 2. While absent, he
was to prepare a place for his people. 3. Then he was to come back and
receive them. 4. That thus they might be where he was. Then it follows
that they cannot be with him till he comes after them. He will not come
after them till he has completed the preparation of the place for them.
And observe this fact, if they could go to him before he comes after them,
they would find the place unprepared for their reception. Heaven is a
prepared place for a prepared people. Our Lord has fixed the time and the
manner of the saintsí being received to be with Christ. It is at his
Then how do you reconcile all these testimonies with the language of
Paul, quoted at the head of this article, in which he says, "Having a
desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better?"
reconciliation is not a matter of difficulty. The departure is by death;
the being with Christ is by the resurrection. These are two events, and
not one and the same thing. "To depart, AND to be with Christ, which
is far better." We may illustrate this by a supposition. We will say
that Paul, when at Miletus, being very anxious to see the brethren in
Jerusalem, and to find rest from the severe labors of the field he had, in
the face of bitter opposition, so long cultivated, used this language: [p.
8] "Having a desire to depart, and to be with James at
Jerusalem." No one would misunderstand that language. The departing
was one thing; the being with James, another thing at some distance in the
Can you illustrate this out of Paulís language relative to the death
and appearing of Jesus?
I can give an illustration that meets the point exactly, and that uses
one of the very terms of the disputed text. Here is the passage:
2Tim.4:6,8: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my
departure is at hand.... Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that
day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his
Paulís "departure" was at hand. This was his violent death
by the ax of the executioner. But his reward was laid up for him till the
day of Christís appearing. The word "henceforth" covers the
period between his departure and his being with Christ.
But might not Paul be with Christ before the appearing of Jesus, though
he received not his crown till that time?
No. If being with Christ would be any "advantage" to Paul, it
follows from his own words that he could not be with him till the
resurrection. 1Cor.15:32. He could not be with Christ on his own showing,
as we have seen, until Christ comes after him. "So shall we ever be
with the Lord." Besides, this text relative to the crown must not be
set aside too summarily. A crown implies a throne, a kingdom, and a reign.
Paul will not have these things withheld after entering [p. 9] his Lordís presence. But the time to reward the saints, small and
great, does not come till after the sounding of the seventh angel.
Rev.11:15,18. We say, therefore, that 2Tim.4:6-8, is a good illustration
But why should Paul speak of these two events, death, and the entrance
into Christís presence, in so closely connected a manner if they are
really separated by a long space of time?
Several reasons may be assigned:
- The Scriptures often speak of events widely separated in such a
manner that the careless reader would suppose them one and the same thing;
or at least that they were both to transpire at the same point, or very
near to each other.
Heb.9:27: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after
this the Judgment." But with most men there is a very long space
Rev.2:10: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a
crown of life."
Jam.1:12: "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when
he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath
promised to them that love him." But we do know from plain testimony
that the crown is not given as soon as man falls in death, but when he
rises in the resurrection of the just. 2Tim.4:8; 1Pet.5:4. As a further
illustration of the fact that there is need of care in reading the Bible,
that we may give everything its proper place, take this text:
Luke2:39: "And when they had performed all things according to the
law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city
Nazareth." Now who would suppose that between this performance of all
things required by the law when our Lord was eight days of age (see verse
21), and [p. 10] their return into Nazareth, occurred the flight into Egypt? Yet such
was the case. Matt.2. It appears that they returned unto Bethlehem, and
were there found of the wise men. Then, at the warning of God, Joseph fled
into Egypt, and stayed till Herodís death, then returning out of Egypt he
was afraid to stop in Bethlehem, and so retired to his old home in
Nazareth. But all these things Luke passes over.
- A second reason for Paulís manner of expression is found in the
fact that his death would close his probation, and make it certain that he
should be with Christ when Christ comes after his saints.
- A third reason is that to him it would be the same thing as though
death did usher him into Christís presence. For there would not be even
a moment to him between departing and being with Christ.
Paul was in a strait betwixt two. He was now an aged man, and a
prisoner of Jesus Christ. He had borne the burden in the heat of the day.
Being bowed to the earth with burdens, cares, toils, labors, and
sufferings, he felt that for himself it was better to die; but when he saw
the flock of God contending with Satan, and wrestling for life, he felt
that it was needful that he should live yet for a season for their
furtherance and joy of faith.
Paul rests in the silence of hades. He is not yet with Christ. But
Christ has been in hades, and when he left it, took away the key.
Acts2:31; Rev.1:18. If the dead should not rise, Paul would have no
advantage from all his labor. But Christ shall call, and Paul shall
answer. He shall stand up an immortal being. He shall ascend [p. 11] to meet the Lord in the air. The crown shall be placed on his head. And
"so" shall he "ever be with the Lord."
The Return of the Spirit of God
"Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit
shall return unto God who gave it." Ecc.12:7.
This text is the exact counterpart of Gen.2:7: "And the Lord God
formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life; and man became a living soul."
One text teaches how man was first formed. The other text makes known
the process of his dissolution. What God did in creating, death undoes by
dissolving. How did death get the power to step in and undo the Creatorís
work? Man forfeited his right to live by sinning against God. Death
entered by sin. Rom.5:12. Death, then, has an evil parentage. In fact, it
has a bad character in the book of God; it is not a friend, but an enemy;
and so serious and formidable a foe is it that its destruction is made the
subject of special promise to the people of God. 1Cor.15:26. The power of
death Satan himself has controlled. Heb.2:14. Death came from the devil,
just as life came from God.
God gave to man life, and instructed him that if he would obey him, he
should continue to live. Gen.2. The devil, telling Eve that she should, by
sinning, be introduced to a higher life, brought death upon our race.
Miltonís idea that death is the child of sin and Satan, is strictly
But many at the present time believe death to be the gate to endless
joys! Death, as they imagine, is the door whereby the Christian enters
Heaven! By what means was this door created? [p. 12] By manís rebellion against God. Who was the chief agent in promoting
this transaction? The devil! What does Jesus call him because of this
work? A murderer. John 8:44. If death is the door of Heaven, Satan has
acted the part of door-keeper of Heaven, for he has had the power of
One of the principal proofs that men reach Heaven by dying, is found in
our text which is so often quoted: "The spirit shall return unto God
who gave it." Does this prove that death ushers men into Heaven?
Please consider before you answer. If so, please observe that this text is
not descriptive of the case of the righteous only; it is spoken of death
as the common lot of man. Then we get all men into Heaven by dying,
whatever may become of them afterward. Can it be true that every wicked
man is to enter the gates of the holy city when he dies? See Rev.21:27;
But does not this text really teach the entrance of the righteous into
Heaven at death? Not unless it does that of the wicked also; for the text
is descriptive of the common portion of mankind. The infirmities of old
age are first described, and then the dissolution of man in death. The
fact is, Solomon is admonishing the young men to attend to the service of
God before these infirmities come on which lead to final dissolution. If
it were only one class spoken of, it would be rather the wicked than the
righteous, for Solomon would not have a young man grow up to these
infirmities and consequent dissolution unprepared.
It is the unbuilding of the man after the infirmities of old age have
worn out all his strength, that Solomon describes; it is not his
translation [p. 13] to Heaven. The Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground.
Death causes that dust to return to the earth as it was before it formed
the man. If God does the first work, it is not God that destroys it. No;
indeed. An enemy is the doer of all this.
"The spirit shall return unto God who gave it." There is a
record of the giving of the spirit by God. When he had formed the man from
the dust, he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became
a living soul. Now when death dissolves the man, this very thing which God
gave to man, returns. What comes from God returns to God, just as what
comes from earth returns to earth. Then what better proof can we have that
men are happy with God when they die? Who can deny a blissful existence to
the spirits of men in the presence of God? And what will you do now with
all the texts that you adduce to show that in death there is no
remembrance of God; that the thoughts of men perish in death; that they
sleep in silence till the heavens pass away; that they are to be satisfied
when they wake in Christís likeness; and that if there were no
resurrection, there would be no advantage obtained, even by faithful Paul?
Do not set these ideas aside too hastily; they are all ideas of men
inspired of God. See Ps.6:5; Isa.38:18,19; Ps.146:4; Job14:12,13;
But if the spirit goes back to God, must it not be happy in his
presence? And must it not know infinitely more than while the man lived?
Those who ask such questions overlook one point in the text, and that
point is the key to the whole subject. That which goes to God once came
from him. [p. 14] You infer that in returning to God the spirit enters upon a blissful
existence in his presence. Have you well considered the point? It exists
in Godís presence after it has returned, with just as conscious an
existence as it had before it came from him. No more goes back than came.
It is no more exalted when it leaves man to go back to God than when it
left God to come to man.
Did the spirits of the dead once live with God, then leave him and come
and live with men, and then return to live again with God? It would be
very absurd to affirm it. Somebody ought to remember something about
living once in the presence of God before living in this world of sorrows.
Why not someone recollect about this?
But if that be so, how much better off to have allowed us to stay in
Heaven when we were there, than to send us into this world of sorrow,
pollution, and crime. To be sure, if this text be rightly expounded by the
popular interpretation, everybody gets back to Heaven when they die; but
even then how much better is dissolution than creation? How much more
beneficent the work of Satan in introducing death, which returns us all to
Heaven, than the work of the Creator which took our happy spirits all out
of Heaven to live in sorrow, sin, and pain!
The reader will see that there is just as much of blissful existence
for the spirit after this life as before it. What came from God to enable
the man to live, returns to God when he ceases to live.
There has been one grand act of the Creator in which he bestowed that
upon man which at death he takes from him. God gave to Adam, when he
formed him, the breath of life, and man, thus formed, became a living
soul. It even says, God [p. 15] breathed this into manís nostrils. This was what gave Adam life.
Elihu tells us that "the breath of the Almighty" gave to him
"LIFE;" i.e., by giving it to the common father of mankind.
What God gave to Adam was not an angel of glory to dwell in his body
formed of dust. If it had been, what a misfortune to that heavenly being!
No; it was simply "LIFE." Having made the man, God gave him
life. When man had forfeited his right to live, God told him he must
return to the ground out of which he was taken. Gen.3. And so when Adam
closed his eyes in death, the great Creator took again to his own keeping
that life which Adam gave up. God designs that men shall live again. He
holds all in his hand till the hour shall arrive to give them life the
second time. Jesus said that he laid down his life that he might take it
up again. John10. And so when dying, commended his spirit, or life, to his
Adam had his life from God. We have ours from Adam. Adam forfeited his
right to live or God would never have taken from him that breath of life
by which he was made alive. That being taken from him, he had just as much
life as he had before it was given him, which was none at all. That which
God breathed into his nostrils being taken from him by the Author of his
existence, has just as much thought and knowledge as before being given to
Adam, which was no knowledge at all.
He did not put within Adam a living, conscious, organized being from
glory, but the man being organized out of dust, God put the principle of
life in him, i.e., he made him alive.
Our life is from Adam. It is not immortal life. [p. 16] The facts are too palpable to believe thus of ourselves. Life is
transmitted from parents to children. What vast multitudes of living
beings perish without ever seeing the light, i.e., without ever being
born. Yet they had life. And so life exists in that which precedes
embryotic existence. But in all this there is no immortality. We cannot
take from the first Adam what he had not to give. Nor can we find in
death, which is the fruit of sin, the door back into that Paradise from
which sin caused us to be expelled. But, thank God, the second Adam can
give us a life that shall never end. "For as the Father hath life in
himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself."
John5:26. Death cannot convey us to the presence of God; but the
resurrection shall show us the path of life, and "so shall we ever be
with the Lord."
Shall Our Earth Burn Eternally?
By no means. The fire shall melt it. Every part of it shall be subjected to the refining heat. The fire shall devour the earth; but its elements shall all remain. When it has answered the great purpose of furnishing the fiery oven, or furnace of fire where the wicked shall receive their dreadful doom, the second death, it shall, like Sodom, be reduced to ashes by the eternal fire, and cease longer to burn. Then, by the power of the great Author of its existence, it shall be re-created. New heavens and earth shall exist, formed out of the elements of the old thus purged of sin and sinners, and therein shall the righteous have the promise fulfilled that they shall be recompensed in the earth. 2Pet.3:10-13; Mal.5.