Please Support the Bible Translation Work of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Philippians 1:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
23 I am hard pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.
When we look at the situation Paul found himself in, and we find that Paul was “hard-pressed” as to the possibility of living or dying. (Phil. 1:21) He did not go on to inform his readers what his choice would be; however, he made his desires known when he wrote of “having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” (Phil. 1:23; 3:20, 21; 1 Thess. 4:16) This ‘departing to be with Christ’ would be his ‘receiving the inheritance as his reward’ that had been prepared for him. – Colossians 3:24.
I am hard pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better. (1:23)
Paul saw this as a problem. He is torn between two ideals. He is comparing the good and the best: to be with Christ to remain to be useful. He understood that it was up to God’s will; as long as he was alive, he was called to spread the gospel, to see fruit brought forth for God’s honor and glory. But he had the desire to go and be with his Savior.
Paul may be speaking of a better choice than just the two mentioned (live or die). That would be the return of Christ for His saints. The wording in the Greek carries with it the idea of one departing as Paul had described to the Thessalonian believers in answer to their concern over their loved ones who had died before the coming of the Lord. “Then we who are alive, who remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Departing and being with Christ pictures the return of the Lord.
Living is good, dying better, and being with Christ would be the best when he returns. Paul says that it is much (πολύς polus); more (μᾶλλον mallon); better (κρείττων kreittōn or κρείσσων kreissōn).
More in-depth Insights
The word “rapture” occurs nowhere in the Bible. But those who believe in the resurrection of believers to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ cite the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to support their belief. The Bible shows that before the start of the millennium (thousand-year reign of Christ), there will be a period called the “great tribulation.” Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 20:6) The rapture ahead of the great tribulation.
The Rapture takes place just before the millennium (thousand-year reign of Christ), where Christ will begin the resurrection of those asleep in death. Christ’s resurrection of these holy ones from death will occur at the start of the great tribulation and continue as other holy ones died throughout up until just before the start of Armageddon. Some within the church in Thessalonica had died. So, we find the apostle Paul comforting and encouraging the living members with the resurrection hope. He wrote, “But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who are sleeping in death, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13) He then reminds them, “Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those fallen asleep in death through Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:14) Paul then informs them, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thess. 4:15) In other words, at the start of the great tribulation, Christ will resurrect those who have been asleep in death first. He explains this in 1 Thess. 4:16, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Thus, those faithful Christians among the Thessalonians and all up unto just before the great tribulation who have died would be resurrected first to be with Christ. Following this, just before Armageddon, “Then we who are alive, who remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17) Who are the ones “who are alive”? Those “who are alive” would be those alive during the great tribulation. They are to be “caught away” “to meet the Lord.”
“Caught away,” how? Who are these ones “caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord”? These are the holy ones with a heavenly hope who are alive just before Armageddon. If we look at Romans 6:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:35, 36, 44, these holy ones must die before they can be resurrected to heaven. However, unlike the Thessalonians and many other Christians who had been asleep in death for 2,000 years or less, these holy ones do not need to remain dead awaiting the second coming of Christ. Paul says of such ones, “Look, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep in death, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye …” – 1 Cor. 15:51-52; See Revelation 14:13.
Therefore, the term “rapture” should not be used here because it sends the wrong message as to what the Bible says. Yes, those who are alive at the time who will be serving with Christ as kings, priests, and judges, ruling over the earth for a thousand years (Rev. 5:9-10), will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. – 1 Thessalonians 4:7
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology says,
New Heavens and New Earth. The biblical doctrine of the created universe includes the certainty of its final redemption from the domination of sin. The finally redeemed universe is called “the new heavens and new earth.”
In the OT the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22). The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by the OT authors, but they did express the belief that a human’s ultimate destiny is an earthly one. This vision is clarified in the NT. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt. 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18–21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as characterized by righteousness and as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and of the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and of the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1–8).
The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).
The fact that the universe will be created anew shows that God’s goal for humans is not an ethereal and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation.
God created the earth to be inhabited, to be filled with perfect humans, who are over the animals, and under the sovereignty of God. (Gen 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps 104:5; 115:16; Eccl 1:4) Sin did not dissuade God from his plans (Isa. 45:18); hence, he has saved redeemable humankind by Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. It seems that the Bible offers two hopes to humans who have been redeemed, (1) a heavenly hope or (2) an earthly hope. It also seems that those with the heavenly hope are limited in number and are going to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges either on the earth or over the earth from heaven. The latter, over the earth, fits better with the context and the Greek. It seems that those with the earthly hope are going to receive eternal life here on a paradise earth as it was originally intended.
For almost all faithful Christians, what is the true resurrection hope? It is not a rapture. Instead, they have an earthly hope of eternal life on earth under Jesus Christ as king of God’s Kingdom.
 In both the Hebrew and the Greek, there are no superlatives, as we have in the English language. We can say good, better, best. To emphasize a superlative in these languages, you would compound words to make your point. Another way would be to describe something as lord of lords, or king of kings to make the superlative. Thus, referring to Jesus as Lord of Lords does not admit to there being other lords, it is just the grammatical way of creating the superlative.
 Or uninformed
 Lit (κοιμωμένων koimōmenōn) ones sleeping, i.e., falls asleep in death
 Presence; Coming: (παρουσία parousia) The Greek word which is rendered as “presence” is derived from para, meaning “with,” and ousia, meaning “being.” It denotes both an “arrival” and a consequent “presence with.” Depending on the context, it can mean “presence,” “arrival,” “appearance,” or “coming.” In some contexts, this word is describing the presence of Jesus Christ in the last days, i.e., from his ascension in 33 C.E. up unto his second coming, with the emphasis being on his second coming, the end of the age of Satan’s reign of terror over the earth. We do not know the day nor the hours of this second coming. (Matt 24:36) It covers a marked period of time, with the focus on the end of that period. – Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6-7; 10:10; Php 1:26; 2:12; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:2.
 lit (koimēthēsometha) sleep, i.e., sleep in death
 Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 828–829.