Could you explain to me what Paul meant by 'Absent from the Lord' and 'Present with the Lord'?

The phrases 'Absent from the Lord [Master]' and 'Present with the Lord [Master]' are found in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8:

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Master: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Master.

These verses have led many to wrongly conclude that at death part of the Christian (soul) will immediately go to be 'present with the Master.' And that his was the ardent desire of Paul as expressed in verse 2, when he stated: 'For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.'

Did Paul truly teach that at death the Christian's soul will gain immediate access to the Master? Let us follow Paul's words as in verses 3 and 4, for they shed light on what he meant.

If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in the this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

Here Paul expresses a strong desire to be translated without seeing death. He is stating it clearly in verses 3 and 4 that he does not desire this intermediate state of 'nakedness' (death to Paul was a state of nakedness) and would like to avoid it if at all possible, by being 'clothed' with the 'house which is from heaven.' Therefore, the desire to be 'absent from the body' and 'present with the Master' does not mean being in the disembodied ('naked' or 'unclothed'). For Paul to have 'life' and to be present with the Master required possessing the 'house which is from heaven.'

In all his writings Paul was emphatic that men are not 'clothed' with immortality at death, but that every one will simultaneously possess this 'house which is from heaven' at the resurrection of the righteous. Let us review the evidence for this clear teaching of Paul.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:51-55

For this we say unto you by the word of the Master, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Master shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Master himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of Yahuwah: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Master in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Master. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Master, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

It is impossible to conclude from any thing that Paul wrote that there is an intermediate state between death and the resurrection in which part of the dead person is released to be 'present with the Master.'

The Bible teaches that death is an unconscious sleep from which all the faithful believers will be awakened at the first resurrection. And it is not until then that both the living and the resurrected will be with the Master. Neither of the two groups will get to be 'present with the Master' before the other.

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