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2 Corinthians 5:6–8

“We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v. 8).

Knowing that we have the sure hope of eternal resurrected life in a transformed body and soul enables us to persevere in faith (2 Cor. 4:16–5:5). Paul reiterates this point in today’s passage when he says, “So we are always of good courage” (v. 6). He is looking back to what he has said about the surety of resurrected life, for in being convinced of the life to come, we can serve Jesus courageously in the face of even the most difficult circumstances.

Although our ultimate hope is in resurrected life in the new heaven and earth, we have hope in the meantime for those who die before the return of Jesus. There does exist an intermediate state in which believers who have died enjoy life in the presence of the Lord. Paul alludes to this intermediate state in today’s passage when he speaks of being at home in the body and away from the Lord and away from the body and at home with the Lord (vv. 6–8). As Christians have recognized throughout the ages, the Apostle refers here to our continuing spiritual existence while our physical bodies lie in the grave. Other biblical texts such as Luke 16:19–31 and Philippians 1:21–24 also assume the reality of the intermediate state.

This intermediate state is not the ideal for which we hope, as Paul implies in 2 Corinthians 5:3 when he speaks of being without a physical body as being naked. Nevertheless, life in the intermediate state is better than embodied life in the present fallen creation, which is why Paul says he would rather be “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (v. 8). There is nothing that the redeemed man or woman longs for more than to be with the Savior in a more direct way, so to experience Him face-to-face is superior to the best this life has to offer, especially since the best of this life is still tainted by sin.

Of course, that we are away from the Lord while in the body should not be taken in an absolute sense. Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20), so there is a sense in which He is with us even though He is physically absent. John Calvin offers some insightful comments on what the presence and absence of Christ mean for us now: “He is present with his believing people by the energy of his Spirit; he lives in them, resides in the midst of them, nay more, within them. But in the meantime he is absent from us, inasmuch as he does not present himself to be seen face to face, because we are as yet in a state of exile from his kingdom, and have not as yet attained that blessed immortality, which the angels that are with him enjoy.”

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Our ultimate hope is the final resurrection, but the superiority of the intermediate state means that we can also have hope for heavenly life before the Lord returns. As we look forward to seeing the Lord in heaven, we are encouraged to serve Christ faithfully now, knowing that He will not fail to reward His servants. Are you looking forward to heaven and finally to the resurrection?

For Further Study
  • 2 Samuel 12:15b–23
  • Luke 23:39–43

Longing to Put Off Mortality

Saved from Our Enemies

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From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue