S2EP1 To Be Absent

Hello and welcome to season 2 episode 1 of The Berean Manifesto, brought to you by The Ekklesian House.  This is Pastor Bill, and today we’re going to look at one of Paul’s most popular statements, and it’s really a paraphrase; actually, less of a paraphrase and more of a rephrase, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

This statement comes from 2 Corinthians 5:8, I’ll read it in the King James so you can see it’s not just the translation I’m using, it says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  Just as a side note, that “I say,” in that verse is not in the manuscripts they translated the KJV from, they added that because they felt like it made the phrase more palatable to the tongue in the modern English of 1769. In other words, they added it to the verse to make it sound better.


Now let’s go through 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 one phrase at a time in the CSB, if you prefer the KJV feel free to follow along, this passage isn’t that different between the two translations.  Starting with verse 1, “For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.” Remember, Paul was a tentmaker by trade, this is an analogy that he is very comfortable with.  A tent is a temporary dwelling subject to every gust of wind and it’s downright fragile when compared to a building of stone built with a foundation. In this verse Paul is referencing our mortal, flesh bodies. If these tents, these flesh bodies that we live in are destroyed then we have the hope of the promise of a building from God, permanent eternal bodies.


Moving on to the next phrase, in verses 2 - 4 we read, “Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we have taken it off, we will not be found naked.  Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life.” Paul says we groan in this tent.  As usual, Paul’s word choice is so telling. The word groan there is the word:

G4727 στενάζω stenazō sten-ad'-zo From G4728; to make (intransitively be) in straits, that is, (by implication) to sigh, murmur, pray inaudibly: - with grief, groan, grudge, sigh

This tent we live in, this body is too tight for what’s dwelling in it, we are in straits.  It’s not a perfect analogy, so bear with me, but it’s similar to a baby in the womb during the ninth month of pregnancy.  That baby is pressed in on all sides and pushes back against that wall. You’re spirit is like that, it groans in this body.  It’s pressed in on every side and pushes back against those walls. Your spirit is in grief longing not for release to nowhere, to nothingness, but to release to a better home.  To swap out this mortal flesh for one of the heavenlies.


In verse 5 Paul says, “Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment.”  The King James phrases it as, “Now the one who has wrought us…” Either way, prepared or wrought the original word there is:

G2716 κατεργάζομαι katergazomai kat-er-gad'-zom-ahee From G2596 and G2038; to work fully, that is, accomplish; by implication to finish, fashion: - cause, do (deed), perform, work (out).

It’s reminiscent of Hebrews 12:1b-2, “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  And indeed this does seem to be what Paul is referencing here, but he goes on to say that the Holy Spirit is in the KJV called an earnest, and the CSB a down payment. I love this idea of the Holy Spirit with all of its promise of comforting us, teaching us, and guiding us is just the first payment and promise of something much better to come.


Now, this is where it gets a little dicey.  In verse 6 Paul says, “So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”  In context with the vein of what Paul has been teaching here we see that by “at home in the body” Paul is referencing being comfortable in your flesh body, like you’re at home leaned back on the couch with your shoes kicked off and your feet up.  Maybe you’ve got a beer in one hand and a bowl of chips in the other. He’s talking about your spirit NOT groaning in this tent, but wanting to stay in it. It is in that place that you are “absent” or “away” from the Lord. Or more specifically:

G1553 ἐκδημέω ekdēmeō ek-day-meh'-o From a compound of G1537 and G1218; to emigrate, that is, (figuratively) vacate or quit: - be absent.

If you’re moving out of your country to a new one you are emigrating.  In this instance you have chosen to leave the kingdom of God and make your home in the kingdom of self.


In verse 7 we find Paul explaining this conflict between what we see, which is clearly that our home is in this tent, and what we believe, that our home is a better body fashioned by God for eternity.  He says, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Continuing in verse 8 we get to the statement that is rephrased so often, “In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  In context of what we’ve read so far, we know Paul to be saying that we would prefer to see our body as the kingdom that we are emigrating from and that we are comfortable in the presence of the Lord. We are immigrating into His kingdom as it were.


In verse 9 we get to the lynchpin statement that what Paul is talking about isn’t leaving our bodies at death, “Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.”  “Whether we are at home or away…” Either Paul is saying that you can be displeasing to the Lord even in death, or he’s saying that both these states of “home” and “away” occur while you are living. And even if you can please or displease the Lord in some way after death the next sentence brings the focus of this sentence into one of only being about life.  Verse 10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” It’s a fundamental belief that the judgment seat of Christ is to judge whether you did good or evil before your death while in the body. Verses 9 and 10 here close that door on this theological belief of immediate heaven or hell at the point of death pretty well all by themselves.


This is Pastor Bill saying, “Until next time…”

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