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Present with the Lord or Raised on the Last Day?

I thought that when followers of Jesus died they were absent from the body and present with the Lord. But the Bible also says we are raised on the last day. Which is it?

The Bible states that those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection will be with the Lord immediately upon death. The Lord told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (a first-century Jewish word for Heaven; Luke 23:43). Paul states that when he died he would be with Jesus immediately (Phil. 1:21). He said he “would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). When followers of Jesus die, their immaterial spirit or soul goes to be with the Lord immediately.

The confusion arises from 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 which describes believers who died as being asleep. The word “asleep” is a euphemism for death. Upon physical death, the immaterial person goes to be with the Lord. Our bodies become empty vessels, separated from our spirits. At the resurrection of the dead, our bodies and spirits will reunite. Then, we will have glorified bodies, like the resurrected body of Jesus (see 1 Cor. 15:42–49). We need not fear death. We can have the confident expectation that at the moment of physical death, our spirit will live in the presence of the Lord. Then, at the end of days resurrection, our body will reunite with our spirit, and we will serve the Lord forever.

BY Dr. Michael Rydelnik

Dr. Michael Rydelnik is professor of Jewish Studies at Moody Bible Institute and the host of Moody Radio’s Open Line. He is the author of Understanding the Arab Israeli Conflict and The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? He is also the co-editor of the Moody Bible Commentary. Michael served on the translation team of the Holman CSB Bible and contributed to several other books and study Bibles. Michael also appeared in the Lee Stroebel video The Case for Christ. Michael and his wife, Eva, have two adult sons. The Rydelniks live in Chicago, Ill.

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