Q&A Forum: Temporary Body

“Does 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 teach that there is a temporary body for believers between death and the Rapture?”

In a word, no. There have been some theologians who have taught that there is an intermediate state, with a temporary body provided for Christians between their death and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul teaches just a few verses later that when believers die, they are “absent from the body, and … present with the Lord” (2Cor 5:8).

The clue to understanding Paul’s teaching here is to keep in context the last verses of chapter 4. Paul is clearly teaching the great difference between what is temporal (for time) and what is eternal (forever). He had referred to his own mortal body as “wasting away” (4:16), and then in chapter 5 he begins by comparing his body to an “earthly house,” a tent, or a tabernacle. These pictures are of a temporary home – one that will be dissolved, and that will not last.

He then states that his longing desire, the actual groaning of his heart, is that he will be “clothed upon” by his new heavenly body, “the house we will have in heaven.” This earthly, temporal tent causes us to sigh; we are distressed in our own mortality. Scripture teaches that “all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Ecc 3:20).

But what of those who have died in faith, or “fallen asleep in Jesus”? In what form are they in the presence of the Lord? There are a number of scriptural references teaching that those already in heaven are there, before the throne of God, as spirits (Heb 12:23). God Himself is a spirit, and He has placed His Holy Spirit within us at salvation, making us spiritual beings. So it would seem that once believers pass away, they are safely in Heaven, as spirit-beings, before the throne of God.

The bodies have been placed in caskets, or cremated, or buried at sea. Many have been dissolved in a moment of time. But as the God of creation performed a miracle when He created Adam from dust and breathed life into him, so will He perform millions of other miracles at the moment of the Rapture. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-16 that when the Lord returns, those believers who have died will rise to meet the Lord Jesus in the air. Some bodies will be lifted as dust from burial plots; others will be re-assembled from the corners of the earth. The reconstitution of untold millions of human bodies will be one of the great miracles of the Rapture. But it will not end there. Deceased mortal bodies will be reunited with the spirits of the believers from heaven, and saints alive when He returns will be raised to meet Him in the air. Then, we will all be “clothed upon” with eternal glorified bodies. For the first time, we will see Him. But best of all, we will be like Him – perhaps the greatest miracle of all! (1John 3:2-3)