2 Cor. 5:8
2 Cor. 12:2-4
1 Thess. 4:17
2 Peter 3:10
- 2 Corinthians 5:8
- "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."
- This passage is a standard proof text, used by Evangelicals to prove that Paul's desire was to leave behind his mortal body and depart in the soul or spirit to be with Christ in heaven. The inference is drawn that all the saved will go to be with their Lord in heaven.
- This passage is usually mis-quoted to read "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." The Apostle says he is "willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." The former reading assumes an instantaneous transition from death to be with Christ, the latter allows for the interval of "sleep" in the grave, resurrection and judgment. The following passages indicate the teaching of the Apostle Paul:
- Sleep of death - 1 Cor. 15:6,18,20,51 (cf. Dan: 12:2); 1 Thess. 4:13,14.
- Resurrection and judgment - 2 Tim. 4:1,8; 2 Cor. 4:14 cf. 5:10.
- To be "unclothed" does not mean to leave behind the mortal body and depart as an immortal soul or spirit. If it did, Paul would have desired to be "unclothed". But he says, "not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon that mortality might be swallowed up of life." (vs. 4).
- Verse 10 needs forthright emphasis: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (vs. 10). Appropriate questions can be advanced on the basis of this verse. For example:
- When does Scripture teach that believers must appear before the Judgment Seat?
- What will faithful believers receive after judgment?
- It requires stressing that an exposition of this passage must be in line with other expositions of the Apostle in his Epistles. This is a safe guide to follow since the Apostle Paul speaks of "things in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Pet. 3:16).
- Verse 1 provides the contrasts between "our earthly house of this tabernacle" which can be dissolved (temporary mortality) and "a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (the permanent immortality reserved with Christ, but to be brought at his return).1
- Verses 2-4 indicate that the interpretation of verse 1 is the correct one. Note the following:
- "For we that are in this tabernacle do groan." (vs 4). Paul groaned for the redemption of the body. "Even we ourselves groan with ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." (Rom. 8:23 cf. 2 Cor. 4:14). But when does the redemption of the body take place? Not at death for at death the body undergoes the very opposite of the process of "redemption". Not until the resurrection is the body raised to incorruption. (1 Cor. 15:53-55).
- "Not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." (vs 4). The Apostle Paul contrasts two states, mortality and life, (in 1 Cor. 15:44 he calls the two states "a natural body and a spiritual body") but he never desires disembodiment. "Mortality . . . swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. 5:4) is synonymous with his earlier words, "We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. . . for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (1 Cor. 15: 51-53).
- The Apostle's manifest desire to be "absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" was a desire to be free from the imperfections of mortality, (e.g. 2 Cor. 4:16-18) and to be with Christ in an immortal nature. The Apostle expresses this hope elsewhere. For example:
- "But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body . . . " (Phil. 3:20,21 R.S.V.).
- "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood [i.e., mortality] cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." (1 Cor. 15:50 cf. 1 Cor. 15:19-22).
- See, for example, 1 Pet. 1:4,5; 2 Tim. 4:8 cf. 4:1, Col. 3:3. Return