What does it mean to be absent from the body and present with the Lord?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:8
In second Corinthians chapter 5, Paul seems to indicate that as soon as we die we are in the presence of God. Is this an accurate understanding of the verse?
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Caller: I've got a question tonight about the state of the dead. And it seems there's a lot of debate lately about a verse in 2nd Corinthians 5:8: 'We are confident I say and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.' The debate I hear, it seems like a lot of people want to, instead of saying 'and', they want to say 'is' to be present with the Lord and I wonder if that makes a whole lot of difference between the 'and' and 'is' to be present with the Lord.

Pastor Doug: Alright. Well I don't know that the truth will be affected one way or the other by that word. Very simply, when a Christian dies, their next conscious thought is the resurrection of the dead - the dead in Christ rising which we find mentioned several times in Scripture. That hasn't happened yet. It is so exceedingly clear from the words of Jesus. He said they will be raised up the last day and again Paul says that at the Lord's coming, the dead in Christ will rise. And again Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15, the dead in Christ will rise at His coming. And so, obviously, they haven't risen yet but for those who are sleeping in the Lord, their next conscious thought is the Presence of the Lord.

The dead sleep is a totally unconscious experience - it's a dreamless sleep - so that, the next, it's a twinkling of an eye so as far as our loved ones are concerned, when they die their next conscious thought is the Presence of the Lord. What messes us up, if I can word it that way Paul, we live in a dimension of time that God is not confined to. I think you agree that God can go into the future and see it perfectly. He can take Prophets into the future and show them with great detail exactly what's going to happen. God can take a Prophet back in time, which might be easier, and show them exactly what's going to happen. And so what we need to understand is that the Judgment, as far as the time we live in, the Judgment and the Resurrection has not happened yet. It doesn't make sense to give people their rewards before they're raised and before they're judged. So Paul I think is just saying if I am absent from the body my next conscious thought is the Presence of the Lord.

Caller: Ok. You know there's another question another word in that same verse that has me puzzled - that's the word Absent. The Greek definition of that word Absent seems to say more of an absence in the form of the waiting absence rather than it would be an absence from, like being absent from school. Have you ever found out anything about that?

Pastor Doug: Well you're ahead of me there. I've never looked into that specific word. Um, we do have you know a Bible Study Guide that deals specifically with this. Have you ever read that?

Caller: Uh Yes I have.

Pastor Doug: Are The Dead Really Dead?

Caller: Yes.

Pastor Doug: Ok. And there's a lot more information there than you'll find in just the uh few thoughts I'm able to give over the phone in the radio program. We always encourage people to look into the Bible Study Guides and the Sermon Booklets we offer because there's a lot more information and we try and cover as many as we can. Hope that helps a little bit.

Caller: It does thank you Doug.

Pastor Doug: Ok thank you.

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