(Article for publication week of 8-27- AD 2015)
"We are confident , I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord" ( II Corinthians 5:8).
Believers may face death with joy and anticipation because the very moment we close our eyes in death on earth we open them in heaven to behold Christ. Though our bodies will sleep in the grave until the morning of the resurrection, our happy spirits shall go directly to heaven. Our text plainly declares this to be the truth. Our souls shall not die, nor sleep, but go immediately to be with our Dear Saviour. Nor do the Lord's people have to dread spending time in "purgatory" before they go to heaven. (There is no such place as purgatory; it is a popish lie.) When our spirits leave our bodies we shall be with Christ that very moment.
We know this to be true, not because somebody claimed they died and went to heaven and came back to earth. We know this to be a fact not because we had some dream, vision or extraordinary revelation. We know this not because grandma said so. Nor do we know this because of "church tradition." But we know this to be true because God's word says so, and that is a more sure word of prophecy (II Peter 1:19). The very moment we are "absent from the body," we shall be "present with the Lord." Nor is our text an obscure or single text declaring the truth that the Lord's people go immediately to be with Christ at death. The scriptures abound with proofs. I will not try to cite any, but rather encourage the reader to examine for himself Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43; Luke 16:22; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Hebrews 12:23; and II Samuel 12:23.
Note well, our text teaches us that we are comprised of body and spirit. (We shall not quibble as to whether man is three-part, or two part, but simply emphasize that our text says that we are both physical and spiritual.) We have an outward man and an inner man (II Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 3:16). The inner man, that is our souls, are of the chief concern. Not that the body is to be neglected. The neglect of the body is neither healthy nor holy as some have wrongly supposed. But no matter how well we care for these bodies, they will eventually die (unless we are still alive at our Lord's Second Coming). But our souls shall never die, nor shall they sleep in the dust. Our Lord put the value of the soul in its proper place in Mark 8:37, when He asked "what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" And again in Matthew 10:28 saying, "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."
Further, we see also in our text that the body cannot live separated from the soul, but the soul can and does live separated from the body. We know not how the body and soul are joined together, but God Who made us does, and when that cord is broken, we shall most certainly die.
Our text proclaims a greater joy for Christians-- to be present with Christ! If communion with Him is sweet by faith through the Holy Spirit, how much sweeter will be our joy when we see Him face to face! We do not long for heaven for its streets of gold, nor gates of pearl, but we long for heaven because we long to be with Christ! We pine not for kinfolks gone before, but for the real presence of Christ the Redeemer! One of the Puritans remarked he would rather be in hell with Christ, than to be heaven without Him! Indeed heaven would be hell without Christ, and hell would be heaven with Him! Well, we do not have to make such a choice for the Bible declares that the moment we die we shall be in heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ, and all the saints who have gone before, and all the holy angels. The presence of Christ is heaven indeed. But this is not the final and best joy for the Lord's people. The final and best joy shall be when our Lord raises our dust and our happy spirits are clothed with our glorified bodies. And (DV) that shall be our message next week.