Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8
“So then, being always filled with good courage and confident hope, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord…. we are [as I was saying] of good courage and confident hope, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:6,8 Amplified Bible]
There has been a lot of talk in Christian circles about what exactly happens when we die. Some have insisted that our soul and spirit go to a place where we sleep and await the day of resurrection. The people who hold this view quote the story of Jesus raising Lazarus and saying that he was asleep when he was actually dead. On various occasions Paul refers to death as sleep.
The Bible speaks of the Old Testament believers, who looked forward to the cross, as going to a place at death called paradise, which was part of Hades – the place of the departed dead. In the Jewish understanding, Abraham’s side [Luke 16:22] and paradise were the same place. When Jesus spoke to the dying thief on the cross He said to him, “Today you will be with me in paradise” [Luke 23:43]. The word paradise comes from a Greek word ‘paradeisos” and means “garden.” We know that Jesus went down to Hades after His death
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Bible says that He led captivity captive [Ephesians 4:8-10]. Those righteous Old Testament believers who died were awaiting Christ’s work on the cross, His resurrection and ascension. He set them free and brought them to heaven. Paradise has been transferred to heaven. When we die we will join them in heaven, and be with Jesus, awaiting the resurrection of the body. We will be conscious and aware of the presence of Jesus. If this were not the case then why would Paul say, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord”. When a believer dies his spirit and soul leave him and return to the Lord and are in the presence of Jesus.
Elsewhere Paul speaking to the Philippians said, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labour; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” [Philippians 1:21-23]. If we don’t go into the immediate presence of Christ, then what is the gain that Paul speaks of, and why does he say that to be with Christ is far better?
How would you describe in a few words the Christian’s hope?
Why do you think Paul would say that to be with the Lord is far better?
Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Would you affirm afresh today the Lordship of Jesus in your life? What changes might have to take place in your life if you do this?