I don’t know if this is still done, but when I was in school attendance was often taken verbally in class. The teacher would read through the list of students, pausing after each name to listen for the word, “Present!” We might answer “Here!” instead of “Present!” if we didn’t want to sound so formal. If the teacher did not hear anything after calling the student’s name, she would repeat that name just in case the student was present but not listening. However, if no one said anything, she would mark “Absent” in her attendance record by that student’s name.
Absent. Present. The Apostle Paul uses both of those terms in one verse. The King James Version translation of 2 Corinthians 5:8 reads this way: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” I have often heard that verse condensed into this phrase: Absent from the body, present with the Lord.
In this Bible passage God reveals what happens to believers in Jesus when they die. The immaterial part of us—we often refer to this as our soul or our spirit—leaves our body and is instantly present with the Lord Jesus. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord!” What a source of comfort this truth is when we face the death of a loved one who knows Jesus!
Now there are many other details about this passage from “here” to “there” that we would like to know! Although God has limited what He has chosen to reveal to us, there are some other wonderful insights He has given us in His Word.
- It is much better there than here! In the last half of Philippians 1:23, the Apostle Paul says, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Far better!
- When the believer in Christ passes from here to there, he or she experiences gain! (Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”)
- Shortly before He died, Jesus spoke with His disciples, giving them a wonderful promise. In John 14:1-2 He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” “My Father’s house …” I find that very warm and inviting!
- As Jesus was dying, He spoke to the criminal hanging on the cross next to Him. After that man asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom, Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paradise! It doesn’t get any better than that!
Absent from the body, present with the Lord in Paradise! Present with Jesus in the Father’s house! Better by far!