We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord – 2 Corinthians 5:8
In the verse before, Paul affirms that “we walk by faith, not by sight.” This is certainly true when we speak of life after death.
“What happens when we die?” is perhaps the biggest and most important question that humans face, and yet we have no way of finding out the answer for ourselves until the time of death comes. Every one of us, regardless of our religion or worldview, has to answer that question by faith. We all live by faith in some unproven idea of the afterlife.
But, Paul reminds us in the very next verse, this does not mean that we cannot be confident as Christians. We can look confidently forward to a definite and specific reality when we die — to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
There is no soul-sleep, or purgatory, or in-between world. At the instant of our death we will be ushered into the presence of the Lord.
This is encouraging and heartening, but it is also sobering. On the one hand, death is little more than a doorway into God’s presence. If we are trusting in Jesus Christ for our salvation, then that faith will be instantly rewarded and confirmed at the moment of our death. On the other hand, Paul warns us, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (10) to give an account of our lives. It is a serious thing to stand before an all-knowing and holy judge!
And so Paul says, “we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him” (9).
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