To be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord, 2 Cor 5:8. What does this mean?
What does it mean to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord?
You've probably heard this passage used time and again at funerals and on talk shows to comfort people who have lost loved ones that their beloved is now in the presence of the Lord. This position puts this text at odds with the rest of the Bible which clearly teaches that when a person dies they are asleep, awaiting the resurrection when Christ comes (1 Thess. 4:16; 1Cor 15:50-58). Admittedly,2 Corinthians 5:8 is a difficult passage to understand, especially when not read carefully, and read isolated from the other passages that speaks on the topic. Let's begin by reading the verse carefully:
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. The text DOES NOT say that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Paul simply expressed a desire for it to be thus. This verse has nothing to do with going into the presence of Christ when you die. As a matter of fact, the entire passage does not mention anything about death! Paul speaks of the pains suffered in this earthly body, and longs for the time when this mortal body will put on, or be clothed upon, with immortality (2 Corinthians 5:4), a mystery that occurs when Christ returns (1Cor 15:51-53).
That is the Christian's hope, that whether we live or die we shall receive a new body at Christ's second coming, and live continually in His presence. In the mean time our loved ones sleep peacefully, awaiting the time when Christ will have a desire towards the fruit of His hands, and call them. Then will they, along with Job, David, and the myriad who died in Christ be raised to live with Christ forever.