Supplement to Lesson 9
1 - Being Absent from the Body (2 Corinthians 5:8)
2 - Paul’s Desire to Depart and Be with Christ (Philippians 1:20-25)
3 - The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3)
4 - The Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:42, 43)
5 - Jesus Preaching to Dead People (1 Peter 3:18-20)
6 - Stephen’s Spirit (Acts 7:59, 60)
7 - Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29)
Back to Lesson 9
#1: Being Absent From the Body
In 2 Corinthians 5:8 Paul speaks of “being absent from the body” and “present with the
Lord”. Does this mean that when a person dies, he leaves his body and goes to be with the Lord?
Let’s read the whole context to see what the apostle is saying.
In 2 Corinthians chapter 4 Paul discusses the trouble and affliction which come to us in this
life. Yet, he says, this trouble is nothing when compared to the “far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory” (4:17) which we will receive in the future life. We don’t need to worry about what
happens to this body. We are now but “earthen vessels” (4:7). Yet the Lord will one day give us new
bodies which will never deteriorate.
In Chapter 5 Paul discusses the two bodies, the earthly, and the eternal. He metaphorically
refers to them as “houses”. “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved,
we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1).
Next, the apostle speaks of his longing to be clothed with the immortal body. “For in this we
groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (verse 2). To be
clothed here means to be living in a body. In this life we are clothed in a mortal body. In the next life
we will be clothed in an immortal body.
Now notice Paul’s emphasis in verse 3: “If so be that being clothed we shall not be found
naked.” If clothed means to be in a body, to be naked is to be without a body. Notice that Paul makes
it very clear that the future life is a clothed state and not a naked state! He gives absolutely no
support to the teaching of life without a body. Speaking of the future life, he says, “Being clothed
we shall not be found naked”.
In verse 4 Paul re-emphasizes the same idea: “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan,
being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon.” It was not an unclothed,
bodiless state which Paul anticipated, but a clothed state in a body.
The next question is: When will we receive the immortal body? When will “mortality be
swallowed up of life” (verse 4)? To the Corinthians this was no question. Paul had already told them
in his first letter. He had devoted the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 to the subject of the resurrection.
There Paul had clearly told them when mortality is swallowed up in immortality: “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 15:52-54).
When does it happen? At the last trump, at the resurrection, at the coming of Jesus. Then it
will be said, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own
order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming.” 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23.
So far we have learned that: (1) There is no life in the unclothed, bodiless state; and (2) It is
at the time of Christ’s coming that we will be made alive.
Let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 5. At this point in our passage Paul begins an evaluation of
the two bodies – the mortal body which we have now, and the immortal body which we will receive
at the resurrection. Keep in mind that the setting of this whole discussion is Paul’s encouragement
to his readers not to become discouraged with present afflictions. Not only will the resurrected body
be incorruptible and eternal, there is another factor which will make it far more to be desired than
the present life. That factor is the presence of the Lord.
This theme of being with the Lord is found also in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians:
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and
with the trump of God: 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 Lord in the air: and so shall we ever
be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
As Paul considered the two bodies, the present and the future life, he longed for the privilege
available only in the future life, of being bodily with the Lord. Therefore, he continues in 2
Corinthians 5:6-8, “we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the [present]
body, we are absent from the Lord: (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 Lord.”
Keep in mind that Paul is not describing an unclothed, bodiless state. He is referring to the
time when he will receive the immortal body. The body from which he will then be absent is his
present earthly body, but he will not be bodiless (naked) at that time. He has made that very clear in
the preceding verses.
Notice again in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, how Paul expected to get present with the Lord.
He describes the glorious coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the translation of the
living saints. Then he says, “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” That word “so” means, “thus,
in this way, or by this means”. Hence Paul is saying, “This is how we will get to be with the Lord.”
Since it is by means of the coming of Christ and the resurrection that we will get to be with
the Lord, then it is obvious that we will not be with the Lord before that time.
So it is clear from the above facts that when Paul spoke of being absent from the body and
present with the Lord, he was not thinking of the time when he would be dead. He was not earnestly
desiring death. He was looking beyond the grave, beyond the resurrection, to that glorious moment
when he would greet Jesus face to face, and live with him for ever.