“Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”
The second half of Paul’s dilemma appears in verse 24. The first part of his dilemma was to go to be with Christ. “Where Jesus is, ’tis heaven there.’”
Verse 24 deals with the first half of verse 21: “To live is Christ.”
This is the contrast to verse 23: “to depart and be with Christ.”
“to remain in the flesh”
This means to continue to live physically. A corollary verse is 2 Corinthians 5:6, “. . . while we are at home in the body we are absent from Him.” There are other verses that indicate death is a separation of the soul from the body. When Rachel was dying, it was said that “her soul was departing (for she died)” (Gen. 35:18). Elijah prayed to raise a young boy from the dead: “‘Let this child’s soul come back to him.’ Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kg 17:21-22).
“is more needful for you.”
Paul said in effect, “For me to go to be with the Lord Jesus is good for me, but not for you. You people in Philippi would then not benefit from my ministry.” There is no scriptural evidence that any believer in heaven can help us down here. The only help they can give is while they are here in time on earth. The word “needful” simply means “necessary.” There is a need for our being alive at this time on earth.
As long as we are alive on earth, God has a purpose for our being here.
Why does God have you here on earth?