“ABSENT FROM THE BODY…”
2 CORINTHIANS 5:1-8
Is there anyone, Christian or non-Christian, who doesn’t wonder what will happen when they die? While we may not dwell on such thoughts, they’ve certainly crossed our minds, haven’t they? What will happen the moment after your last heart beat? Is it the end of something or is it the beginning of something? The Bible tells us it’s both!
Back in 1968 the rock group Blood, Sweat & Tears, recorded a song that spoke volumes about the way this world views dying and death. Some of you may remember it. It was called, “And When I Die.” Listen to these words…
I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’ s peace you find in dying, well then, let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying and when dying time is near.
Just bundle up my coffin ‘cause it’s cold way down there.
I hear that it’s cold way down there, yeah crazy cold, way down there.
And when I die, and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
There’ll be, one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on.
Now troubles are many, they’re as deep as a well.
I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell.
Swear there ain’t no heaven and I pray there ain’t no hell,
But I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell, yes only my
Dying will tell, oh yeah, only my dying will tell.
And when I die, and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
There’ll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on.
Give me my freedom for as long as I be.
And all I ask of living is to have no chains on me
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me
And all I ask of dying is to go naturally, only wanna go naturally.
Here I go!
Here comes the devil right behind. Look out children, here he comes.
Don’t wanna go by the devil, don’t wanna go by a demon,
Don’t wanna go by Satan, don’t wanna die uneasy.
Just let me go naturally.
And when I die, and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
There’ll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on.
What’s this song about? It’s a mixture of a lot of things, isn’t it? There’s false bravado, fear, hopelessness, and resignation. Listen, Christian, when your heart stops beating, something will be ending. And “this world will carry on” to its inevitable destruction.
But you won’t care because something else will be starting – something infinitely better.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears’ words, “I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell,” expose the innermost thoughts of countless people who do not know Christ – hopelessness, despair, and despite the false bravado, great fear.
“But I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell.” That’s not true, is it? God has told us the truth, and by faith we cling to it. We already know. There is a heaven and there is a hell, but the world knows next to nothing about either one.
Worse still, much of the professing church today doesn’t seem to know much about them either. Neither heaven nor hell are popular subjects in most churches. As a result, God’s very own people know precious little about their eternal home.
As Christians, one of our greatest problems is that we tend to get ourselves wrapped up in this world. To some degree that is probably normal. As the old cliché goes, “We are in this world, but we are not of this world.” That’s why we struggle so with the world’s ways and the world’s systems. That’s why the world hates Christians. Listen to Jesus…
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
It may be the natural state of things for us to be wrapped up in this world, but God has told His children to shift their focus, to look up, as it were.
1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Look again at v. 2. Paul says, “Set your mind on the things above.” That’s not a suggestion; that’s a command. Why wouldn’t you want to obey that command? The world laughs and says, “Ha, Ha, pie in the sky by and by.” But is that what it is?
But Paul tells us that our citizenship is there above.
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (We’re waiting for Him to take us home.)
Jesus tells us that our names are written there.
20b “…rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
David tells us that our Father is there.
4a The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven…
Mark tells us that our Savior is there.
19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that those who have gone on before us – our loved ones in Christ – are there.
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Peter tells us that our inheritance is there.
1 Peter 1:3-4
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…
Jesus tells us that our reward is there.
11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
12a Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great…”
Jesus later tells us that our treasures are there.
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Finally, King David tells us that our eternal joy is there.
Psalm 16:11 (addressing God)
11 You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
So let’s recap… Your citizenship, your name, your heavenly Father, your Lord and Savior, your loved ones in Christ who have gone on before you, your inheritance, your reward, your treasure, and your eternal joy are all in heaven awaiting your arrival. Ask yourself, why would it be difficult to focus your thoughts on things like that?
And that brings me right back to what Paul said to the church at Colossae. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory (Colossians 3:2-4).” Can you have confidence in that? Turn with me to Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth.
*2 Corinthians 5:1-8
1 For we know that if (when) the earthly tent which is our house is torn down,
we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (B, S&T – “I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell.” Really?)
2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,
3 Inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.
4 For indeed while we are in this tent (this body), we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the (Holy) Spirit as a pledge.
6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body (in this earthly tent) we are absent from the Lord –
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight –
8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body (this earthly tent) and to be at home with the Lord.
Sooner or later every true Christian is going to be absent from this body and “be at home with the Lord.” How much better will that be? Paul will tell us. Listen to him…
21 For to me, to live (in this life and in this tent) is Christ, and to die is gain.
22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better…
The world wallows directionless in unbelief and the fear of the unknown. But we are called to set our minds on heaven because heaven is where we are going to be when this life is complete and we are glorified with Christ.
1 Peter 1:13
13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
While our salvation has begun, it is not yet complete. All Christians have been justified by faith. All Christians are in the process of being sanctified, being made ready to meet God. But no living Christian has yet been glorified. Yet we need to be clear about this. Our glorification is as sure as if it has already happened, but it will only come about when we are resurrected with new eternal bodies at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
*1 John 3:2
2 Beloved, now we are children of God (justified and sanctified), and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears we shall be like Him (glorified), because we shall see Him just as He is.
That’s why no living Christian has yet been glorified. Our glorification – the third and final aspect of our salvation – requires something of us. It requires our physical death! We have to die! But the death of the Christian is not what it is for the non-Christian. There is no “sting” in the death of the Christian.
1 Corinthians 15:55
55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
You know where the sting is. It’s in Jesus. What a marvelous analogy this is. What happens when a bee stings? It stings the victim, but it only does so once. It can’t sting again because its stinger remains in the one stung. Then the bee goes off and dies. Jesus took the sting for us. Satan, the bee in this analogy, has nothing left. He’s as good as dead, isn’t he? You see? For the Christian there is no sting in death. So, while it may not be unreasonable to fear the way we might die, it is unreasonable to fear death itself.
When anyone dies they go immediately into eternity in the spiritual state in which they lived. The saved remain saved and the lost remain lost. There is no change after death. Some who deny the existence of heaven and hell think they are annihilated, that they just cease to exist, but annihilation is not biblical. All those to whom God has given physical life will exist forever. This is true of all people, men and women alike, both saved and unsaved, and all angels, both holy and fallen.
With regard to people, there is no middle ground, there is no limbo, there is no “holding tank,” no purgatory, no place from which you can be baptized or prayed out of hell into heaven. All of those things are the inventions of men.
Again, what you are when you die is what you will be for eternity. There will be no changes after death. The Lord made that crystal-clear to me shortly after I was saved. I had come to saving faith on January 9, 1973. My grandfather had died a little over a year earlier and I decided I would visit his grave and pray for him.
But when I got there, and when I stood over his grave, and when I tried to pray for him, I had nothing to say. At first, I was upset with myself because I thought…
“What’s the matter with me? I can’t even pray for my own grandfather’s soul? What kind of a Christian am I?”
But as I lingered there the Lord taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. It was as if God said to me…
“Listen Jim, if your grandfather is with Me, he doesn’t need your prayers. What could you possibly say that could make it better for him? But if he is not with Me, neither your prayers nor the prayers of the whole world can help him.”
Dying without Christ is dying without hope. What awaits those who die without Christ
is God’s eternal wrath, eternal punishment, eternal destruction, eternal darkness (spiritual darkness), and the lake of fire. These are horrors beyond human comprehension. Thus, the death of the unrighteous is eternal loss, but the death of the righteous is eternal gain. The Apostle Paul was convinced beyond any doubt of the eternal gain that awaited him. He longed for it. “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21).”
And a few verses later the apostle said that he “…(had) the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better (v. 23).” Think for a moment about that which is so much better. When the Christian dies his or her soul is released from this degenerating and dying physical body of corruption.
With that comes release from…
• temptation and sin
• lust and pride
• pain and fear
• worry and sorrow
• care and anxiety
Conversely, when the Christian dies, he or she is released to…
• perfect satisfaction and dignity
• perfect fellowship and freedom
• perfect purity and holiness
But there is something more. There will be perfect love from all who are there and to all who are there – all the saints, all the holy angels, the Holy Spirit Himself, Jesus Christ Himself, and the One who sits on the throne, God the Father Himself. Can you imagine?
That’s what Paul wanted! That’s why he could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21).”
And that’s why he could say, “…(I have) the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.” Someone hears that and says, “But Paul, you have to die first. Everybody has to die first.” Well, not everybody.
In the past there have been two people have not died. In the OT, neither Enoch (in the seventh generation from Adam) nor Elijah, ever died.
24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
2 Kings 2:11
11 Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Mary was translated alive into heaven as well, but there is no such claim to be found in Scripture. However, the NT does clearly teach that, in the future, there will be many who will not pass through physical death. The Rapture of the church will see every living Christian translated alive into heaven.
*1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel (Michael), and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Earlier in this passage (v. 13) Paul refers to the dead in Christ as “those who are asleep.”
I want to say something about that term. Misunderstood, and thus misused, it has led to the false teaching that there is such a thing as “soul sleep” wherein the Christian dies and goes into a Rip Van Winkle kind of existence that will last until the Second Coming.
One of the most common Greek words for “asleep” is “kŏimaō.” Depending on the context in which it is used, it can either mean literal sleep, or it can refer to Christians in
a state of physical death. In the following passage it is used both ways.
11b “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep (kŏimaō); but I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.
12 The disciples therefore said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep (kŏimaō), he will recover (wake up).”
13 Now Jesus had spoken of his (Lazarus’) death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep.
In Paul’s instructions to the church at Corinth about how we should prepare our hearts for communion, he also uses kŏimaō to speak of dead Christians.
1 Corinthians 11:29-30
29 For he who eats and drinks (the communion elements), eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body (himself) rightly.
30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
Later he uses kŏimaō again when speaking of the Rapture and those Christians who will not pass through physical death.
1 Corinthians 15:51
51 …we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…
Luke uses the word kŏimaō in Acts 7:60, when he tells us of Stephan being stoned to death. He says that Stephan “fell asleep.” In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, again referring to the Rapture, Paul uses kŏimaō to tell us that living Christians will not precede those who have already “fallen asleep.” And in 2 Peter 3:4, Peter uses the very same word to refer to the OT saints who died believing in God’s promise of the coming Jewish Messiah.
Again and again the Bible makes it clear that the physical death of the Christian is not eternal. Dead people don’t wake up, but sleeping people do. Listen, and take comfort, the physical death of the Christian is not permanent in the same way that falling asleep every night is not permanent. Physical death is merely the separation of the soul and spirit (the immaterial) from the body (the material).
At physical death the material and immaterial parts of the Christian are separated until
the Rapture. Until then the righteous dead will remain in a separated state. There will be no physical body during that time. But the Christian’s soul and spirit will be with Christ where He is.
Your soul and your spirit, who you are and the life that God has given you, are the real you. You will be you. If you die before the Rapture you will exist in the place of spirits for a while, but you will no longer be “asleep” in any sense of the word. In fact, you will be more alive than you are now. But you will be awaiting a glorified body.
23b …we (are) waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
Paul is talking here about our resurrected and glorified bodies. They will be perfect and fit for eternity. So do we know exactly when God’s people receive their glorified bodies? Yes, we do! NT believers (us, the church) will receive our glorified bodies at the Rapture. God will recreate our bodies on the “way up” – literally.
*1 Corinthians 15:51-53
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
53 For this perishable (body) must put on the imperishable (body), and this mortal (body) must put on immortality.
(NOTE: OT saints will be raised at the Glorious Appearing at the end of the Great Tribulation just before the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom.)
But what about the unsaved? Just as the dead in Christ are in a state of bliss until their resurrection, so the unsaved are in a state of torment while they await the resurrection of their physical bodies.
28 “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice,
29 and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
The latter will come at the end of the Millennial Kingdom at the Great White Throne judgment. John tells us…
11 And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven (this present creation) fled away, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
14 And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This is the resurrection that awaits unbelief. While the righteous in Christ will have a body fit for eternal glory, the unrighteous will have a body fit for eternal punishment.
This is what we believe here at LIGHTHOUSE BIBLE CHURCH because this is what the Scriptures teach. Let me summarize it by reading from our Statement of Faith.
• We believe in the bodily resurrection of all men, the saved to eternal life, and the unsaved to judgment and everlasting punishment.
• We believe that the souls of the redeemed are, at death, absent from the body and present with the Lord, where in conscious bliss they await the first resurrection, when spirit, soul, and body are reunited to be glorified forever with the Lord.
• We believe that the souls of unbelievers remain, after death, in conscious misery until the second resurrection, when with soul and body reunited they shall appear at the Great White Throne Judgment, and shall be cast into the Lake of Fire, not to be annihilated, but to suffer everlasting conscious punishment.
Christian, your bodily resurrection to eternal life is absolutely sure. Even Job knew that.
25 “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
26 Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.
27a Whom I myself shall behold…”
Are you looking for the blessed hope of Christ’s return for us and eternity with Him? So set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. Look up! It’s where your hope is. If you live with genuine hope of heaven in your heart, it is evidence of true salvation. If you live with genuine hope of heaven in your heart, the world can never steal your joy.
That’s because you know that the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal. We will be resurrected to eternal life when Jesus comes for us.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
If you’re not a believer – if you’ve not repented of your sin and put your faith in Christ; if you, along with Blood, Sweat & Tears, are saying, “…I can swear there ain’t no heaven, but I pray there ain’t no hell,” – you have no hope. There is a hell and it awaits you.
Please come to Jesus. Confess your sin and trust Him and Him alone and you will have a glorious future.
And for those of you who do know Him, remember this: Jesus died but He isn’t dead now, is He? Listen, you belong to Him.
When you die, will you will be more alive than you are at this very moment. So when that moment comes, one millisecond after you heart beats its last, you will be absent from the body, but present with the Lord.
And the glorious adventure begins.
1 Thessalonians 4:18
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
~ Pray ~
Handout Today – “10 Concerns Francis Schaeffer Took to the Grave”
Pastor Jim Timms
Lighthouse Bible Church – Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – 262-949-1007 – www.lighthouselakegeneva.com