OceanSide church of Christ

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Immediate Judgement, Philippians 1:23

Victor M. Eskew


          In Philippians 1, Paul describes a unique predicament he was facing.  At the time, he was in a Roman prison.  At any time, he could be sentenced to death.  This end did not cause the apostle any trepidation.  It was his need to stay alive that concerned him.  Listen to his words:  “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. 1:23-24).

            There have been some who have taken Paul’s words to mean that at death one is immediately judged and proceeds either to heaven or hell.  They believe that after the resurrection of Christ, the Hadean realm consisting of Paradise and torments was done away.  Thus, the account of the rich man and Lazarus found in Luke 16:19-31 is no longer applicable to man.  All of this is based upon Paul words that he had “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.”

            This writer believes that this view is a mistaken one for several reasons.  First, Jesus told His disciples that upon His return He would take them to the place that He had prepared for them (John 14:1-3).  Since Jesus has not returned, Jesus has not given anyone his/her mansion.

            Second, the Bible speaks of the “day” of the Lord’s return and the “day” of judgment.  Acts 17:31 is one reference that confirms our point.  “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained…”  If each person is judged immediately at his death, then there are many days of judgment and not just one single day. 

            Third, Jesus taught several parables concerning judgment in Matthew 25.  The last one opens with these words:  “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and with all of his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  and before him shall be gathered all nations:  and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (vs. 31-32).  Jesus teaches us that judgment will involve the gathering of all men together before Him.  He did not teach an individual judgment of each man at his death.

            Fourth, in this same parable Jesus reveals that it will be at the final judgment that man receives either reward or punishment.  “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…Then shall he say also unto them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:34, 41).

            When Paul said that he could depart and be with Christ, did he mean immediately?  Or, did Paul realize that this would eventually take place after death?  Surely he knew that if he made it to Paradise, he would also be blessed to eventually see his precious Lord and Savior.