One needs only to look at Paul's frequent reference to his very difficult life as missionary or apostle of Christ to see why he would be happy to have his life ended. See appendix 1 below.
It is no surprise that Paul in 2 Cor 5:8 and Phil 2:23 was happy to die. The reason is simple - if he died, he would be spared more trials and difficulties, and after an unconscious "sleep" of death (Ps 6:5, Eccl 9:5, John 11:11, etc) the next thing he would know would be at Christ's side.
Now, Paul and David had very different lives: David was a powerful oriental king; Paul was an itinerant, penniless preacher/apostle. However, the two had some things in common:
- Both committed great sins for which they were always repentant. David in Ps 32 and 51, etc; Paul in Gal 1:13, Acts 22:4, Gal 1:23, 1 Cor 15:9, etc.
- Both suffered great difficulties in their lives to the point that they both appeared to be almost suicidal at times. Indeed, Paul even admits to such extreme pressure from his trials and difficulties, that he despaired of life itself:
2 Cor 1:8, 9 - We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the
hardships we encountered in the province of Asia.a We were under a
burden far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of
life. Indeed, we felt we were under the sentence of death, in order
that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead.
Note that in Paul's life involving despair and impending death, Paul hoped in the resurrection which he repeats in Titus 2:13. Similarly David was very tried and hard pressed because of the persecution of his enemies, 2 Sam 4:9, Ps 4:1, 1 Sam 30:6, Ps 132:1, etc.
Thus, both had much to confess. However near the end of each of their lives, both were content to die:
- Paul in 2 Tim 1:12 - For this reason, even though I suffer as I do, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.
- David in 1 Kings 2:2 - “I am about to go the way of all the earth. So be strong and prove yourself a man.
Lastly, note that while Paul had no hesitation about dying and escaping the troubles of this world, he did not expect anything until "that day" - a technical term for the second coming of Jesus (Matt 24:36, Mark 13:32, Luke 10:12, 2 Tim 1:12, 4:8), or, “the day of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:10-13). Further, Paul wanted to "be with the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8 and Phil 2:23) this would occur in the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:3, 4, 12), see also 2 Tim 4:8 -
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only
to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Thus, for Paul, dying would be a release from the troubles of this world (and the prison life he endured) and following the unconscious sleep of death, he would awake to seer the Lord's return at the great resurrection.
As to Paul's teaching about death, and the resurrection, see appendix 2
APPENDIX 1 - Paul's Difficulties
Paul often referred to his trails and persecutions. Here is a sample:
- 2 Tim 3:11 - my persecutions, and the sufferings that came upon me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.
- Gal 5:11 - Now, brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished.
- 2 Cor 12:10 - That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Cor 11:23-28 - ... in harder labor, in more imprisonments, in worse beatings, in frequent danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. In my frequent journeys, I have been in danger from rivers and from bandits, in danger from my countrymen and from the Gentiles, in danger in the city and in the country, in danger on the sea and among false brothers, in labor and toil and often without sleep, in hunger and thirst and often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from these external trials, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
APPENDIX 2 - Paul's View of Death and Resurrection
The following summarizes Paul's theology of death:
- Paul likened death to an unconscious sleep until the Lord returns: 1 Thess 4:15-17, 5:10, 1 Cor 11:30, 15:6, 18, 20, 51
- humans become immortal at the resurrection and not before, 1 Cor 15:51-54
- humans only have life in Christ; man does not have life in himself, Rom 2:7, 1 Cor 15:12-49. That is, man cannot have eternal life in hell, Rom 6:23.
- The wicked will be destroyed and perish, Phil 3:19, 2 Thess 1:9
This is entirely consistent with David's theology on the same subjects.