''Absent from the body and present with the Lord''

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absent from the body present with the lord

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8, KJV). This phrase is commonly used to teach that at death a Christian transcends this world to be with Yahushua in a bodiless state. But a bodiless state is definitely not what Paul desires. Paul points instead to the new body, an immortal body, a pneumatic body which we “will be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (v. 2). An immortal disembodied soul or spirit that survives the body as the living, functioning, essential person reflects the poisonous Greek influence that entered the church centuries ago and has had devastating influence on the gospel message.

Paul uses the same expression of being “clothed” in 1 Corinthians 15:54 (NIV) and he explains the sequence of future events for believers. Christians will obtain their new pneumatic immortal body not at the time of death, but at the resurrection when Yahushua returns. The context both in this popular passage (2 Cor. 5:1-9) and in 1 Corinthians 15 along with many Bible texts gives us “the rest of the story.” As they say, a text without a context is often a pretext. Our reward (2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 22:12) is to be raised from death at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:23). Our entrance into the eternal kingdom of Yahuwah and His Christ (2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Pet. 1:11) must also await his return.

However this single phrase in 2 Corinthians 5:8 is often quoted to prove that at death Christians immediately go to their reward in heaven in a disembodied state without benefit of Yahushua’ return or the resurrection. Paul begins simply by explaining his desire to be absent from this present body, this frail, mortal, dying body in which we “groan” (v. 4). (“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Rom.7:24). Paul longs to be “clothed with our heavenly dwelling...because we do not wish to be unclothed [disembodied] but clothed” with our resurrected body (v. 2-4; 1 Cor. 15:21-23).

To represent this temporal body, he uses figures such as “earthly tent” and “tent.” To represent our resurrected, undying body he uses more substantial figures such as “building,” “eternal house in heaven” and “heavenly dwelling” (twice). Indeed, when we die this present earthly (mortal) body is “destroyed” (v. 1). That in itself is not what Paul desires. That condition is likened to being “unclothed” and “naked” (having nothing). To the contrary, Paul desires the opposite of “unclothed” and “naked” (dead, literally). He desires to be “clothed,” “dressed up,” so to speak, in our “heavenly dwelling.” “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked” (v. 2-3).

The great resurrection chapter (1 Cor. 15) explains this further. “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Compare this with our text: “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4). Our hope is precisely not to become a disembodied spirit. Our hope is to have a new body, a substantial body, a “glorious body.”

For that we must wait for Yahushua to come from heaven: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Yahushua Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).

Considering the total picture, it is reasonable to conclude that Paul was expressing his desire to be absent only from this present “body of death.” He looked forward to the time when he will be present with the Lord at the resurrection (and not before), because to be present with the Lord is to be in possession of a body like his. “We know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (l John 3:2). “Behold my hands and feet, that it I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Lk. 24:39).

If the desired state is simply to be bodiless in order to be with Yahushua, then the resurrection of the body is retrogressive and an anticlimax. No, the desired state is to be raised from death when the Lord returns. Then the grave must give up its prey. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out” (John 5:28-29).

This is a non-WLC article written by David Burge.

We have taken out from the original article all pagan names and titles of the Father and Son, and have replaced them with the original given names. Furthermore, we have restored in the Scriptures quoted the names of the Father and Son, as they were originally written by the inspired authors of the Bible. -WLC Team