In Phils 1:21, it is explained to us that Paul believed that ….
“For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.”
Solomon and Paul seem to contradict each other. Solomon seems to say that the possession of physical life is far better than departing into eternity. However, Paul seems to place our eternal existence ahead of our temporal existence here on earth. Which view is correct? Is the Bible contradicting itself? How can these two verses be reconciled?
Let’s take a few moments to study these two Scriptures, in their proper context and see what we can learn from each statement…
4) For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
5) For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6) Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun.
13) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.
14) For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.
21) For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.
22) But if I live in the flesh, this [is] the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23) For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24) Nevertheless to abide in the flesh [is] more needful for you.
Solomon’s message included the truths that for all mankind, our physical life that is given to us is of great value that should never be downgraded nor ignored….
“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope:”
It is during our life on earth that we possess HOPE. The hope of salvation, and the hope to be faithful in our opportunities of service for Him.
“for a living dog is better than a dead lion.”
The hope we possess as the result of the physical life that is given to us is so great that it outweighs all the wealth, power and fame this world has to offer. Far better for us to possess life as a poverty stricken servant, than to be a dead king, millionaire or movie star that has wasted their life by ignoring their need of salvation and their opportunities to serve Him.
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.”
Dying is a universal event that touches every person. Everyone knows death is coming.
With physical life comes the opportunity to prepare for the certainty of death and entrance into the afterlife….
1. When death comes we will enter into a conscious eternity in the presence of our Great Judge. We will no longer experience life on earth, nor will we know about anything that is taking place on earth. All of our interaction on earth will be over.
2. Our opportunity to use it to prepare for eternity has passed. We will no longer have the opportunity to lay up eternal rewards through faithful service to Him.
3. When death takes us, we will no longer be able to influence men, and in many cases, we will not even be remembered by men.
“Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun.”
4. When our life on earth is over, our interaction with other men is brought to an end. We will no longer be able to react to the needs, desires and actions of others with the emotions of love, hatred or envy.
5. No longer will we have allotted to us any type of role in the land of the living.
Based on Solomon’s previous message, later in Ecclesiastes, he tells us….
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.
Our most important responsibility is to use our life on earth wisely by submitting to the True God through faith in His Son and then living lives of obedience to Him.
“For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.”
We must always be thinking about the permanent separation from this earthly life that death brings to us and the need to prepare NOW for the judgment that is to come upon us.
Based on the above verses, Solomon’s message is thus….
1. Our life on earth gives us the hope of salvation, and the hope to be used by Him in service.
2. These hopes we possess in life outweigh all the wealth, power and fame this world has to offer.
3. Once our life on earth is ended…. IT IS TRULY ENDED. We will be TOTALLY CUT OFF from any type of intervention in this world.
4. We will be in God’s presence and will stand before Him to answer for what we have done on earth.
Paul’s message reiterates and supports Solomon’s message fully….
“For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.”
Paul is reminding those of us who are saved and serving Him that, in spite of the great importance of our physical life on earth, we will be gaining when we enter into eternity.
“But if I live in the flesh, this [is] the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.”
As we live our life on earth… we should always remember that our upcoming eternity with Christ, and the rewards it will contain, will be the direct result of using our earthly life wisely. Although, we would rather be home with the Lord, we should continue on preparing for eternity with faithful service to Him.
“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.”
Paul desired to go home and be with Christ NOW, he recognized it would be of great benefit to him. However, he also understood that as long as he was on the earth, the Lord had work for him to do. He also recognized that Christ’s work for Paul was to glorify Him in all things. Through Paul’s teachings and example others were receiving spiritual benefit.
This is perhaps the greatest sacrifice a Christian can give to others around him. To be willingly to use their physical life wisely, by living a life that honors the Lord in word and deed, being a living sacrifice of His grace, and choosing to continue on in service on earth… all the while knowing that there is a far greater eternity awaiting Him.
Based on the above verses, Paul’s message is thus….
1. Our life on earth, for the faithful saint is an opportunity to affect the lives of others for the glory of His Lord and Savior. Although, times may get tough and the saint may feel like quitting…
2. He knows that a far greater blessed eternity is awaiting Him.
3. He knows that he is being used of God to be a blessing to others. This is a part of the Christians being a “living sacrifice” for Christ.
4. He knows that his continued faithfulness on earth will reap spiritual blessings in eternity
THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION:
In spite of the seeming differences in their writings, the three texts listed above clearly show us that these men shared much in common. They shared the same faith in the Messiah as their Savior, they both recognized the need to trust Christ and serve Him in this life and they both understood that the afterlife would include recompense for their service.
So why did they make seemingly contradictory statements? Although had held much in common concerning their beliefs, the audience and therefore the purpose of their writings are different and key to reconciling their two statements….
1. Ecclesiastes – Solomon is addressing mankind in general.
In his writing of Ecclesiastes, Solomon is explaining the true purpose and meaning behind our physical life on earth. He has come to learn, through a lifetime of investigation that to “fear God and keep His commandments” (see Eccl 12:13-14) is the purpose of our existence and the key to living a joyous, fruitful, satisfying life on earth.
He is trying to emphasize to us all that we should never take the importance of our physical life for granted. It is during our physical life on earth that we possess the opportunity of salvation and service to our Lord and Savior.
Solomon’s desire is to share the importance of using our physical life to glorify God by trusting in Him and serving Him here on earth.
2. Philippians – Paul is writing to saved church members at Philippi who are faithful in their service to Christ.
Unlike those to whom Solomon writes, the faithfulness of Paul’s readers has proven that their salvation is genuine and that they possess an understanding of the need to serve Christ while on earth. Therefore, the issue of the importance, and purpose, of their physical life is not needed to be emphasized to them.
What did they need to hear? They needed emphasized to them the need to be remaining faithful amidst affliction in this world and the wonderful blessings awaiting them in eternity to come.
Paul’s intent was to share with his readers that, compared to this earthly life filled with trials and heartaches, THE BEST IS YET TO COME. They should continue on in the faith knowing that someday they would go home and be with their Lord and Savior for an eternity.
So folks, there is no contradiction in these two passages. Both texts, while complimenting and building upon each other, hold many truths to encourage, comfort and strengthen us as we live our life on earth…
For those who know Christ as their Savior, may we never take the blessing, privilege, and opportunity of our physical life on earth for granted, while yet understanding that we have a far better life in heaven to come!
For those who have never come to know Christ as their Savior, please take advantage of the wonderful blessing of physical life that the Lord has given to you. Turn from your sins, trust in Him as your Savior and know that your life was given to you as a gift. This gift is to be given back to Him by living your life in service to Him.
For all of us…. always remember… it is far better to be a living dog than a dead lion.
May the Lord bless you as you seek His truth.
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May the Lord bless your study of His Word. Like God’s Word… may your soul’s salvation and your life’s faithfulness be “Settled in Heaven.”