Source: The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources distributed by Steve Amato
References is from Philippians 1:21-24
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(The Apostle Paul speaking to the Church in Phillipa) For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Thus it was both gain for Paul and for the Church if he died. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24 But then again, if he lived he could also be fruitful as he had been in his ministry. This is the problem that those who try to destroy the church face. If they leave it alone, it grows. And if they try to kill it, it grows. There is no stopping people of faith.
Paul is speaking of his preference here. If he dies, then he is with Christ in paradise, just as Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 But this idea has caused some problems with those who believe in soul sleep, in which we do not meet Jesus until the resurrection on the last day. These verses disprove the idea of “soul-sleep”.
If Paul wasn’t going to be with Christ right after his death, but rather thousands of years later, then why not stick around and do some more fruitful ministry. If he’s just going to be sleeping in a grave and not doing anything else, why not work? But rather Paul says that it would be better by far, at least for himself, if he died. For then he would be with Christ immediately. This also indicates that he was not presently with Christ in the same manner in which he would be with Christ if he died.
This also indicates that he is not speaking of if it merely appearing to be instantaneous between his death and meeting Christ. For some say that in soul sleep, one may lose any sense of time. But remember that Paul is comparing it against real time ministry.
Also there is the story of Lazarus and rich man in Luke 16, in which Jesus portrays people as having conscious awareness after death. And though some say that this is merely a parable, all of Jesus’ parables are true to life.
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources