2 Corinthians 5:8
ESV - 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
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Great question, with an even greater answer. We've got all these verses which says our departed friends are with the Lord, and other verses say they are lying there in their graves, waiting for resurrection day. So our theologians splice these two together, leaving them wandering around Heaven as disembodied spirits until the Lord gets around to resurrecting their bodies from moldering graveyards. His Word gives us a better answer: Isaiah 57:15 says that in addition to the hearts of millions of His people, He "inhabits eternity." Now if your human brain arbitrarily draws a timeline with you at "now", the line stretching back into "eternity past" and forward into "eternity future" with God stuck in time at the same point you are, this issue will remain insoluble. But if you place The Lord OUTSIDE your time line, you get instant clarity. The Lord can now be seen as able to communicate simultaneously with John in the future (Rev 7:9), you now, and Adam and Eve, and even able to answer before called ("Before they call, I will answer.") and even give us a Bible which is as much as one-fourth prophetic. So, from my human point of view here on my timeline, the Apostle Paul is still in his grave, waiting for Resurrection Day. From Paul's point of view, being dead body, soul, and spirit, he went straight from the instant of his death to Resurrection Day with no consciousness of any time interval. If you start digging into it, Peter's statement that WITH THE LORD, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, you will find explanations for many, many Bible mysteries. One of them is this very question, and Jesus used it in proving the Resurrection to the Sadducees: He used the verse quoting God as being The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then affirmed: "He is NOT the God of the dead, but of the living. Because you have not only been made alive in Christ through His death and resurrection and have been seated with Him in the Heavenly Places per Ephesians 2:6, He can enable you to see, from HIS viewpoint, all of Eternity from a point of view OUTSIDE your earthly timeline. From there, all the Scriptures are floodlighted, helping us, collectively, to start seeing how everything He said fits together better than a fine Swiss watch.
The question poses a dilemma. The usual explanation is that the believer’s soul departs to be with Christ, while the body is interred into the grave awaiting the resurrection. But that is not the case. When Paul wrote II Corinthians 5:8, he was not talking about the separation of the soul from the body. Instead, he was talking about an exchange of the physical for the spiritual, II Corinthians 5:1. This transition does not happen immediately at death, but at the resurrection, which is a future event, Daniel 12:13, John 6:40, I Corinthians 15:50-53, I Thessalonians 4:13-14, II Timothy 4:1. In the meantime, the believer is in the grave (Hebrew “Sheol,” Greek “Hades”), as one asleep. Often Biblically, death is presented in the metaphor of sleep, Psalm 13:3, Daniel 12:2, Matthew 27:52, John 11:11-14, Acts 7:60, I Corinthians 15:18, 20, 51, I Thessalonians 4:13-14, Revelation 14:13. After resting in the grave, which will likely seem brief, all believers will experience the resurrection, when they receive a new spiritual body, John 5:28-29, I Corinthians 15:52. There will be a shout, the sound of the trumpet, as if to wake up the dead! Then, the hope of every believer to be with Jesus will be gloriously realized. Christ is the firstfruits of them who died, Acts 26:23, I Corinthians 15:20-23, Colossians 1:8, Revelation 1:5. No one was resurrected before Him. No one has yet gone into heaven except Jesus, as John 3:13 states, and likely those in Matthew 27:52-53. Enoch and Elijah are considered exceptions, Genesis 5:24, Hebrews 11:5, II Kings 2:11. But as the physical cannot inherit the kingdom of God, I Corinthians 15:50, they could not have gone alive into heaven. Enoch was “translated” which could mean moved or transferred to another place as Acts 7:16, 8:39-40. Yet, he “was not” can also mean death as Genesis 42:13 compared to 44:20, and Jeremiah 31:15 compared to Matthew 2:18. When it says “that he would not see death” and “was not found,” it could possibly mean he was in imminent danger and God removed him from the evil of the world, Isaiah 57:1. Also, Hebrews 11:13 suggests Enoch, with others, died in faith. Enoch could not have received the promise before the rest of the faithful, Hebrews 11:39-40. And Enoch’s walk with God ends after 300 years which means, somehow, he was not with God in heaven after that. Elijah departed by way of the sky in a whirlwind to an unknown place. Elijah’s letter to Jehoram a few years after he was taken up, II Chronicles 21:12-14, proves he was still on earth, not in heaven. The thief whom Jesus addressed, Luke 23:43, is also considered to have gone to heaven. But Jesus did not promise him he would be in Paradise that day. Instead, He assured him on that day, that he would be with Him in Paradise (later). For “today,” see Deuteronomy 30:18, Acts 20:26. Scripturally, at death, man goes to the grave to await his resurrected body.
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). "Then the seventh angel sounded, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15). The book of Revelation is a 'concentrated' expression of the entire Bible and all of the collective works of GOD among human beings. It is truly bewildering at first glance because it swirls between visions that cover vast eons and events that will culminate during a single human lifespan. Unless we are well versed in GOD's unique 'story language' (known as the 'analogies of faith,' [Biblical Greek: 'analogia pistis']), this can be very disorienting. However, the simple language GOD has given to people of all human tribes, cultures and levels of intelligence can clarify everything for us. We just need to know what these 'trumpets' are, for example, and how GOD is viewing them. When the Holy Spirit speaks of 'the last trumpet' sounding, He is speaking of the seventh trumpet in a series of 'divine visitation' events occurring throughout all of human history. These are briefly summarized for us between Revelation 8 and Revelation 11. To give you an idea of the scale of even one of these events, Revelation 11 speaks of the 'two witnesses' also referred to as the 'two olive trees' and the 'two lamp stands' standing before the Lord of the earth, (Revelation 11:4). This refers to the Holy Church made up of the 'two folds' of the One Flock, (John 10:16): the Jewish Christian Church founded at Pentecost, (Acts 2); and the Gentile Christian Church later 'grafted in' and recognized with the same anointing, (Acts 10), like a 'wild olive tree' (Romans 11:24). So the 'sixth trumpet' mentioned there in Revelation 11 includes the entire era of the Holy Church as one 'divine visitation' meant to reveal the Existence and power of GOD to human beings of every human tribe. You should note that it includes a type of 'death' of our overall authority on earth after a great display of world power, (Revelation 11:7-10), then a sudden 'resurrection' of that same power, restoring reverence to the Church and culminating in the event described as us being 'called up' to GOD in full view of the world, (Revelation 11:11-12). That is when the 'seventh trumpet' (or final act of divine visitation), will occur, which is what the Holy Spirit is describing through Paul when the 'dead in Christ' will rise along with the unrighteous dead for personal judgment by GOD Himself, (Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29). The other five 'trumpet blasts' describe divine events dating back to the beginning of mankind's adventures here on earth, each one meant to powerfully remind us that we are 'not alone' and that we were Created by an all-powerful GOD. Included are great natural cataclysms temporarily obscuring the sun and moon, plagues nearly wiping us off the earth, all the way up to modern environmental poisonings, and global mechanized warfare. So intense, broadly encompassing and yet super concentrated was the vision, that the Lord's angel took a break to refresh and reorient the apostle John and said: “You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings.” (Revelation 10:11). We are living in the era when our authority over the earth has been temporarily 'taken out of the way,' by GOD (2 Thessalonians 2:7), and we are left with structures and institutions operating like 'lifeless bodies' being mocked and celebrated over by the world which viewed us as 'tormentors' (Revelation 11:10), Yet, Christ is ultimately replaying His own 'resurrection' on a grand scale through His Church, suddenly and unexpectedly restoring our global power, followed by a final judgment.
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