Are the Dead Really Dead?
(Adapted from a sermon by Elder Voy Wilks)
In Philippians 1:21-23, the Apostle Paul stated: "For me to live is (the) Messiah,
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 (the) Messiah; which is far better…"
Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had arrested the Apostle Paul because he preached that Yahshua is the Messiah.
Because of circumstances, he was forced to appeal to Caesar. The letter to the Philippians was written about
64 C. E. while he was a prisoner in Rome (Phil. 1:7, 12-24; 2 Tim. 1:16-17).
At his first trial before Caesar in C.E. 66, no one stood with Paul. All deserted him (2 Tim. 4:16-18). While
writing this letter to the Philippians, Paul debated with himself whether he would (1) gain his freedom, or (2)
be executed. In either case, he belonged to Yahshua the Messiah. Should he live, he would live for the Messiah.
Should he be executed, he would die as a martyr for the Messiah. There was "gain" for him in doing
so (Phil. 1:21).
What is the gain Paul expected? Immediate entrance into Yahshua's presence in heaven, as most people believe?
No. The gain was a "better resurrection" (Heb. 11:35). This is made clear in his continuing comments
to the Philippians:
Phil 3:8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yahshua
my Savior. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may
Phil 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes
through faith in Messiah, the righteousness from Yahweh based on faith.
Phil 3:10 I want to know Messiah and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming
like him in his death,
Phil 3:11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Phil 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my
own, because Messiah Yahshua has made me his own.
Phil 3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies
behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
Phil. 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of Yahweh in Messiah Yahshua.
We see, then that the Apostle Paul's hope was not immediate entrance into heaven at death. Instead his hope was
in the resurrection from the dead - release from the grave - release from decay and death. In his letter to the
Romans Paul again spoke of "the hope" as a future event.
In Romans 8:18-25, Paul reported that we wait for the redemption of our bodies. When does this occur? Our hope
is in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:42-56); the resurrection of the just (Acts 24:15); Heb. 11:35; Rev. 20:4-6).
Now back to Phil. 1:23. Our English versions imply that if Paul departed this life by being executed, he would
have been immediately ushered into the presence of Yahshua, who is in heaven. As noted above, Paul did not expect
this. If executed, he expected to lay in the grave and await the resurrection. Paul himself wrote that the resurrection
occurs at the Messiah's return, and only then will the Saints be with Him.
"…the dead in the Messiah will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together
with them in the clouds to meet Yahshua in the air; and so we shall always be with Yahshua" (I Thes. 4:16-17,
What, then, did Paul mean in Phil. 1:23? The key to understanding is in the word translated "depart."
The Greek word is "analuo." This word appears in the New Testament only one other time, and there it
is translated "return."
But "return" is the very opposite of "depart," so let's look at the other Scripture, found
in Luke 12:35-37:
Luke 12:35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait
for their lord, when he will return (analuo) from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open
unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say
unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
We see plainly from the context that "analuo" is definitely related to the Messiah's return, and not
His departure, or his going away. There is other evidence in Phil. 1:23 indicating that analuo should not be translated
"depart," but "return."
First, if Paul really spoke of his "departure," the Greek word should have been "anachoreo."
This word is translated "depart" eight times, according to Young's Concordance. However, as we have
seen, in Phil. 1:23, it is translated "analuo," and means "come back," Mastering Greek Vocabulary,
2nd Ed. By Thomas A. Robinson; Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, p. 150.
Second, there are two words in the Greek manuscripts of Phil. 1:23 that were not translated and brought over into
the English versions. This is according to the Diaglott, the George Ricker Berry Greek/English Interlinear New
Testament, and the NIV Greek/English Interlinear New Testament.
These two words are "for the." Why were they omitted? Possibly to conform to a preconceived doctrinal
When we bring these two words over into English, the correct message in Phil. 1:23 seems to be as follows:
"For I am in a strait between two, having a desire for the return, and to be with the Messiah; which is far
better:…" (Phil. 1:23)
Please be aware that I have not added these two words (for the). No, the Greek text does indeed contain these
words, but English translations omit them. This could have happened in all sincerity, as most Bible scholars believe
the soul of the righteous man goes to heaven immediately after death.
In Phil. 1:21-23, Paul speaks of three things in particular:
Paul might be executed (v. 21).
Paul might be acquitted and go free (v. 21).
Paul longed for the return, so he could be with the Messiah, "which is far better" than either of the
other options (v. 23).
In the Ben Wilson Version (Diaglott), Phil. 1:23 reads as follows:
"I am indeed hard pressed between the two things; I have an earnest desire for the returning, and being with
the Messiah, since it is very much to be preferred,…"
This should finalize Paul's statement: He did not expect to die and immediately be with the Messiah. Instead,
whether he lived or died, he looked forward to the Messiah's return.
The view that man has within him an immortal soul that flits off to heaven or to hell at the moment of death is
not a biblical doctrine. It has been adopted from pagan religions. Believing in the immortality of the soul is
one step toward believing in reincarnation, a pernicious doctrine. Let us drop all paganism and believe the Sacred
Writings which were inspired by Yahweh, the Most High El (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
Other Scriptures that confirm this conclusion are found throughout the Bible. Here are a few:
Psa 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Psa 115:17 The dead praise not Yahweh, neither any that go down into silence.
Psa 146:4 (when a person dies) His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts
Eccl 9:5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing,…
Eccl 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge,
nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
The Apostle Paul, being a doctor of the Law, knew and understood these Scriptures. Once dead, that is the end
of man's thoughts and activities - until the resurrection.
Acts 24:14-15 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the El of
my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward Yah, which
they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (Paul
believed the Old Testament)
Luke 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection
of the just. (Not at the moment of death. Yahshua's report).
Do we have immortality now? If not, when?
Romans 2:7, To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal
life: Paul: We seek for immortality. We don't have it yet.
1 Cor 15:16-18 For if the dead rise not, then is not the Messiah raised: And if the Messiah be not raised, your
faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in the Messiah are perished.
Paul says if there is no resurrection, then the righteous are perished (dead, as in Rom. 6:23).
1 Cor. 15:53, Paul says we are now mortal, and must put on immortality. When? At the resurrection.
Titus 1:2, Paul says we hope for immortality (eternal life.
Titus 2:13, Paul writes, we await our blessed hope, the appearing of our great El, and Yahshua the Messiah.
Titus 3:7, Paul writes, we are heirs in hope of eternal life.
1 John 3:15 All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life
abiding in them. (NRSV)
So we see from many witnesses that we do not have immortality yet, but rather it is something to seek for, to hope
for, to strive for. That is an integral part of Yahweh's plan of salvation for mankind - to grant His redeemed
ones eternal life at the resurrection of the just.
Paul was not contradicting himself and the rest of Scripture in Phil. 1:23. The difficulty was caused by the way
it was interpreted and translated into English. ~ VW