Present With the Lord

Present With the Lord

 

Cal Poulsen

Scripture Insights

10-09-2015

Many believe that when you die you are dead and that is the end of it. Others believe that when you die you go into a condition termed “Soul Sleep.”

Soul sleep is a view held by Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as others. They believe that the soul rests in unconsciousness or oblivion until the resurrection. This is the resurrection of the dead after the tribulation and not the Rapture. They base this view on verses where death is referred to as “sleep.” Some have modified this view to say that believers are “with Christ,” but not in a conscious state. However, Scripture teaches the believer’s immediate presence is with the Lord at death.

If we allow scripture to interpret scripture and shy away from any man made assumptions we find the real truth.

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.

While Paul lived in intimate communion with Christ during his service on earth, being with Christ in heaven would be even closer and more intimate than any human could imagine. These words reveal Paul’s understanding of death. That believers will be immediately present with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:6 

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

2 Corinthians 5:7 

(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

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.

2 Corinthians 5:9 

Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

Christians can only affirm exactly what the Bible says. When a believer dies, he or she will be with Jesus. Believers will not float in a limbo state. Instead, they will have a personal encounter with their Savior. Then, when Jesus returns in all his glory, all believers will be given heavenly bodies that will be perfect and will last forever (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). A believer’s life in eternity will involve a glorified bodily existence. We have the example of our Lord’s resurrected body as he appeared on earth.

The Spirit imparted to believers in this life not only guarantees that they will be resurrected to eternal glory but also begins that transformation within believers’ souls (2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 5:5).

Philippians 1:22 

But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

Philippians 1:23 

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Philippians 1:24 

Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Again the apostle Paul emphasizes that being with Christ is a far better condition. Here he feels caught in the middle between being with Christ and abiding in the flesh and supporting the people of God.

Christ himself said that we would be with him upon death.

Luke 23:43 

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

The dying criminal had more faith than all the rest of Jesus’ followers put together. By all appearances, the Kingdom was finished. How awe-inspiring is the faith of this man who alone saw beyond his present shame to the coming glory!

 

Pauls’ Heavenly Experience

2 Corinthians 12:2 

I (Paul), knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.

2 Corinthians 12:3 

And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)

2 Corinthians 12:4 

How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Although Paul didn’t give many details about this experience, he did write that he was caught up into the third heaven. In Paul’s day, the notion of multiple heavens, from three to seven heavens, was common. Scholars who have systematically analyzed the use of the words “heaven” and “heavens” in the Old and New Testament believe that the Scriptures use the word “heaven” to refer to three separate places.

The first heaven is the earth’s atmosphere (Acts 1:9-10); the second heaven is the entire universe, which contains all the stars (Genesis 1:14). The third heaven, beyond these two heavens, is where God himself lives (1Peter 3:22). This is the “heaven of heavens” (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:33). Whether or not Paul had this three-fold division of the heavens in mind, it is clear that he considered the third heaven as the highest heaven. Paul saw his revelation as an extraordinary and unique revelation (2 Corinthians 12:7).

It was fourteen years ago that Paul experienced this revelation. Although Luke records a number of visions and trances Paul received (Acts 9:3-7; Acts 16:9; Acts 22:17-21), including the one Paul experienced while visiting Corinth (Acts 18:9-10), none of those visions fit the description here. Paul described this revelation as such a rapturous experience that he heard words he could not repeat (2 Corinthians 12:4). The fact that Paul couldn’t express what he heard might explain the silence about this revelation in the book of Acts.

Fourteen years before the writing of 2 Corinthians would be around A.D. 40, close to the beginning of Paul’s ministry. Paul may have experienced this revelation when he was in Arabia (Galatians1:17; Galatians 2:2), or when he was in Antioch (Acts 13:1-3), or when he was stoned outside of Lystra and assumed dead (Acts 14:19-20).

We can be assured that when we die our soul does not sleep. It unites with God as he draws our spirit to Him. This is a promise that he has made to all of these who believe.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 

Then shall the dust (body) return to the earth as it was: and the spirit (soul) shall return unto God who gave it.

 

Your questions and comments are always appreciated.

Scripture Insights

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