1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. -2 Corinthians 5:1-4 NKJV
Does the Christian have a body in the time period between his death, and his resurrection (or Rapture)?
At death a believer’s spirit / soul goes immediately to Heaven to be with the Lord. His / her body is buried. At the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), believers will return with Jesus Christ, and they will be reunited with their resurrected bodies. But are they simply disembodied spirits between death and the resurrection? No, they will receive, “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” An interim body, if you please.
When a church is without a pastor, they often call an interim pastor to serve in the meantime, until a permanent pastor is called. When a company CEO (Chief Executive Officer) resigns, they often elect an interim CEO. A university may elect an interim president. Some auto repair shops offer you an loan car to drive until your own car is repaired. In a similar way, it seems God will have an interim body immediately ready for us upon our death.
The witch of En Dor and King Saul (1 Samuel 28) saw and immediately recognized, the recently deceased Samuel (this seems to be an unusual, one-time event, when God allowed a dead saint to actually appear on earth with a message for Saul).
Moses and Elijah were seen and recognized, apparently in bodily form, on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke 9).
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, after their deaths, their physical bodies are referred to: eyes, tongue, finger (Luke 16).
In Revelation 6:9; 20:4 the Apostle John uses the phrase, “I saw the souls,” of those who had died.
While these instances may not spell it out, they seem to imply a physical body after death, but before resurrection.
The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4, seems to more strongly point out upon our death, “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands.” While many scholars claim this is speaking of the resurrection, Paul does not say so. It also uses the present tense, immediately upon death, we “have” this building from God. The word “house” is used to refer to our bodies on this earth, and “house” is used to refer to those bodies we will receive in Heaven. Why not take the simple meaning of this passage rather than saying it does not mean what it seems to mean? Paul spoke of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4), and here he speaks of our receiving a body during what is often called the “intermediate state,” the time between death and the resurrection.
To sum up, when a Christian dies, his soul / spirit leaves the body and goes to Heaven to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; John 14:3). At the resurrection (or rapture) we will return with Christ and be reunited with our resurrected bodies (1 Thessalonians 4; 1 Corinthians 15). But in the meantime (intermediate state), the Bible implies we will have an interim body (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
John R. Rice (AD 1895-1980) was an independent Baptist pastor, evangelist, author, and founding editor of the Sword of the Lord. Of this passage he said,
“Does Paul mean here that before the resurrection there will be some heavenly body prepared for us? It seems so. He expects to be clothed and ‘not be found naked’ (vs. 3). He says ‘Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon’ (vs. 4).
When the departed Samuel appeared to the Witch of Endor, did he not have some kind of a body, although he had died and was not yet resurrected? Moses and Elijah appeared to the Lord Jesus and the three apostles on the Mount of Transfiguration. Did they not have some bodies – visible and definite bodies? Elisha [Elijah?] had been changed and had been taken to Heaven without dying, but Moses died and God had buried him.
So whatever that heavenly mystery shall prove to be, those who die now are not left as wandering spirits, without form, without recognition by other loved ones, without physical senses. The Lord Jesus in Heaven has a physical body, a resurrected, glorified body. Do you think the saints in Heaven that rejoice with Him when a soul is saved do not have some form of body also, or the equivalent of a body, while they wait? Oh, Paul rejoiced that he would not be unclothed.”
-John R. Rice, The Church of God at Corinth, Sword of the Lord Publishers; 1973.
John Phillips (AD 1927-2010) was a graduate of Luther Rice Seminary (D.Min.) and served as director of Moody Correspondence School and Emmaus Correspondence School. He taught on the Moody Broadcasting radio network and was the author of a number of Bible commentaries. John Phillips on 2 Corinthians 5:1-8:
“Down through the ages, saved and lost alike have described things they have seen and heard at the hour of death. D. L. Moody, for instance, while awaiting the moment of his death, clearly saw his two deceased grandchildren in heaven. Moreover, he was able to tell his son Will, their father, that he could see them. The evidence seems to be that when we die we receive some kind of a body suited for life on the other side. D. L. Moody saw children. The witch of Endor saw an old man. What they saw they could describe. In the case of Samuel both the psychic and King Saul saw him…
“Let us gather these various ideas together. The believer’s present body is like a tent suited well enough for our present, earthly pilgrimage, but something temporary and transient. It can be taken down at any moment. It is a very fragile affair at best. When the ‘tent’ is taken down we shall find that God has already made provision for the believer’s soul to be housed in a suitable, God-made dwelling pending the resurrection and transformation of his present body. This intermediary home for the soul is eternal not temporal. Nor is it natural but spiritual. It cannot be affected by the things that assail the believers present body. At the same time it is not his resurrection body although it may well be related to it just as his present natural body will be related to it.
“Paul is so confident about these things that he says, ‘We have it.’ It is already awaiting us in heaven…
“Paul mentions our dread: ‘If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked’ (5:3). The human body is an essential part of us. The soul shrinks in horror from the thought of being bereft of it. Paul here agrees that one reason why we long for our heavenly covering is because the idea of being a naked soul is both humiliating and horrifying. We recoil from the thought. As F. F. Bruce points out, a person’s body is essential to him as ‘a means of communication with his environment.’ Therefore, to be deprived of it would be a dreadful experience, it would be ‘to experience fearful isolation.’
“It comes as a great relief to know that God has provided for us so that no such dread eventuality is allowed to overtake us. ‘We shall not be found naked.’ More, since the new body is to be put on like a new robe, we shall not miss the old body. We cannot imagine the restored prodigal lamenting that ruin of rags he discarded when he donned ‘the best robe’ provided for him by his father (Luke 15:22). It seems likely, too, that the changeover will be as instantaneous as the changeover from the natural body to the spiritual resurrection body at the Rapture. Paul has already told the Corinthians that that metamorphosis will take place ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52)…
“Paul himself evidently thought that there was something to look forward to in death. He anticipated being ‘with the Lord,’ in conscious enjoyment, the moment he died (Philippians 1:20-23) – and this, in clear distinction from the transformation to take place at the Rapture (Philippians 3:20-21).”
-John Phillips, Exploring 2 Corinthians, Kregel Publications; 2002.
Randy Alcorn has served as pastor, author, and taught at Multnomah Bible College and Western Seminary.
“Unlike God and the angels, who are in essence spirits (John 4:24; Hebrews 1:14), human beings are by nature both spiritual and physical (Genesis 2:7). God did not create Adam as a spirit and place it inside a body. Rather, he first created a body, then breathed into it a spirit. There never was a moment when a human being existed without a body… It appears that we are not essentially spirits who inhabit bodies, but we are essentially as much physical as we are spiritual. We cannot be fully human without both a spirit and a body.
“Given the consistent physical descriptions of the present Heaven and those who dwell there, it seems possible – though this is certainly debatable – that between our earthly life and our bodily resurrection, God may grant us some physical form that will allow us to function as human beings while in that unnatural state ‘between bodies,’ awaiting our resurrection. Just as the intermediate state is a bridge between life on the old Earth and the New Earth, perhaps intermediate bodies, or at least a physical form of some sort, serve as bridges between our present bodies and our resurrected bodies…
“If we know there is physical substance in Heaven (namely, Christ’s body), can we not also assume that other references to physical objects in Heaven, including physical forms and clothing, are literal rather than figurative?”
-Randy Alcorn, Heaven, Tyndale; 2004.
-David R. Brumbelow, gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com, October 23, AD 2019.
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