We . . . prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
–2 Corinthians 5:8
John said in Revelation 21:2, “I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” The New Jerusalem that Jesus is preparing for us will descend out of the current Heaven and reside on a recreated Earth. That is our ultimate destination as believers. But the moment Christians die, we immediately depart from this world into the presence of God. How do I know that?
Look at what the Scripture says about the immediacy of our entrance into God’s presence. There is no soul sleep. A Christian goes immediately into the presence of God. In Luke 23:43, Jesus said to the thief on the cross who had just exercised faith, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Acts 7:59 says, “Stephen . . . called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’” But the seminal passage in the Bible that describes what happens to Christians when they die is 2 Corinthians 5:1. Paul said in this passage that if our earthly body is torn down, then we have a body from God that is eternal. Paul said our bodies are like a tent. Who wants to live in a tent for eternity? Our bodies are a temporary dwelling, a tent that will be put away one day.
Then Paul said in verse 6, “While we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” We cannot be in two locations at once. As long as we are here, we cannot also be in Heaven with God. That is what Paul was saying. We think this world is our home, but it is not. It is a temporary location. Yes, we have people we love here. Yes, God has given us an assignment here. But it is temporary. As long as we are here, we are not at home with the Lord. Paul went on to say in verse 8, “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” He was saying, “I prefer to be once for all absent from the body so that I can be once for all at home with the Lord.” That is what happens to Christians when we die. The moment we leave this body, we are forever at home with the Lord.
When you die, your spirit goes to be with the Lord awaiting the final resurrection body you will receive at the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Paul said, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Who are the dead in Christ? They are Christians who have already died. Their spirits are in Heaven, their bodies are in the ground, but at the Rapture their bodies will be raised and then that generation of believers who are alive at that time will also be caught up, and together they will meet the Lord in the air. The Lord will descend, you and I who are in Heaven with God will descend, and 1 Corinthians 15:52 says at that moment, “in the twinkling of an eye, . . . the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” At the Rapture we will receive a brand-new body that is forever free from suffering and death.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Do Christians Immediately Go To Heaven When They Die?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)