2 Corinthians 5:8 – We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. (NKJV)
Death. Funerals. They're both a part of what I experience as a full-time vocational minister. I don't enjoy either of them, but they come with the territory. Death comes to the young, the old, and all ages in between. Comforting those who have lost loved ones is challenging. Bible verses don't always do so. I've seen anger, frustration, bitterness, confusion, and relief. However and whenever death comes, an obvious separation takes place, and separations are never easy. In an attempt to comfort, I've said, "To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord," and I've heard it from many others. Still, knowing that a loved one is with the Lord doesn't erase the sense of loss felt by the one left behind.
Paul's life after trusting Christ was rough. As he panhandled the gospel over the known world, his enemies hounded his steps. Stonings, beatings, jailings, false accusations, desertions by friends — he faced them all. But comfort came through his belief that if they took his life, he would be at home with his Saviour.
The concept of an afterlife — as most Christians now understand it — developed slowly. In the Old Testament, the afterlife was viewed as a shadowy existence. Not until the New Testament was the concept fully developed: a blissful place called heaven for those who've accepted Christ as their Saviour, but a terrible place of torment called hell for those who reject Him.
Believing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord is a comforting thought when we lose loved ones — if they have a relationship with Christ. We may not have them anymore, but there will come a day when we'll see them again.
Death is not the end of our existence. Life continues in one of two places. Let us each do all that we can to strive to enter eternity secure with God in heaven.
Prayer: Father, we thank You for the hope of an eternity with You when we place our faith in Your Son. Amen.
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