There are a few contentious verses which Christians use to say that we go to heaven when we die, and the majority of those Bible verses were penned by the apostle Paul, and yet we have already shown above that Paul knew the truth that we ‘sleep’ in the grave until the resurrection. So do we have a contradiction in the Bible? No, it’s just that the few ‘difficult’ verses are misunderstood by the majority. Let’s take a look:
In 2 Corinthians 5 and Philippians 1, he makes a statement that goes like this … “we rather be absent from the body and present with the Lord” and also “to live is Christ and to die is gain, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better”.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talks about three ‘houses’ (bodies). He talks about the earthly body (house) we have now, the heavenly body (house), which we will have in Heaven and an unclothed body, which is death. Paul is saying that he does not want to be ‘unclothed’, which is death, confirming that he actually knows the truth that the dead sleep in their graves, awaiting the resurrection. And he confirms this in 2 Corinthians 4:14 …’Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.’
Can you see Paul is looking to the resurrection here? He knows that those who die, have the resurrection to hope for, which would be pointless if we went straight to heaven when we die. And this is confirmed all throughout the New Testament. All the disciples and followers of Jesus looked forward to and pointed to the resurrection, NOT dying and going straight to heaven.
So what is Paul talking about when he says about being ‘absent from the body and be present with the Lord’? He is simply speaking about the desire to be present with the Lord. He is not saying that we go to be with Jesus when we die, but that all of us should have this desire to be with the Lord, and this should be our daily focus. Of course we would rather be absent from this body and present with the Lord. I wish this everyday! But I know it’s not going to happen until the resurrection. Also, remember that Paul knew about Elijah and Enoch, who were translated to heaven without seeing death. This would also have been on Paul’s mind.
So what about Paul saying that to ‘die is gain’? Well, if you look at the context of what he is saying in Philippians and other letters, you will see that his ‘bonds for Christ’, his imprisonment and punishment for the sake of the gospel actually furthers the gospel, by making others bold for Christ (Philippians 1:12-14). Therefore, through the suffering and martyring of Christians, the kingdom of God GAINS other Christians. So the gain Paul is referring to here is the gain of the gospel through his ‘bonds’ and death.
But what about Paul saying he would rather ‘depart and be with Christ’ in Philippians 1:23? Again, we refer to what he said in 2 Corinthians 5. Of course it is much better for any Christian to be translated and be with the Lord, just like Elijah and Enoch. To be with the Lord should be a desire for us all, just like it was with Paul. But in no way was Paul talking about dying and departing to heaven as a ‘spirit being’, especially when Paul confirmed, as we have shown above, that the dead ‘sleep’ in the grave awaiting the resurrection.
Spiritualism is a fast growing form of religion, and the only reason for that is because of this false teaching of when you die you live on as a ‘spirit being’. Friend this is a false teaching and the Bible shows it to be false. We can find out the truth about death and what happens when we die by opening our hearts to the truth of God’s clear Word in the Bible. I believe Satan is going to use this false teaching of the immortal soul to deceive many people during the end times. But we can escape all deceptions if we will be grounded on the Rock of Truth in the Bible.
James 5:7 …’Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord.’