“Present” with the Lord

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.”
—II Corinthians 5:8,9

IN VERSES 1 TO 4 of this fifth chapter of II Corinthians, Paul contrasts the Christian’s body of flesh with the future heavenly body received in the resurrection. He speaks of the fleshly body as a ‘tabernacle’ in which a Christian lives. In this tabernacle, he says, “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” “Not for that we would be unclothed,” he adds, “but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”

Paul knew that in his day, and throughout the age until the ‘harvest,’ for a Christian’s earthly tabernacle to be “dissolved” (vs. 1) meant being ‘unclothed,’ or naked, until the resurrection. He would be, to use the language of I Corinthians 15:37, a “bare grain” sown in death, there to remain until given his new spiritual body in the resurrection.

To be clothed ultimately with a heavenly body has been the hope of many Christians. Paul says, “He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” (II Cor. 5:5) This ‘earnest of the Spirit’ is a small token of the joy and blessing faithful Christians will have when, in the resurrection, their hope matures into reality.

In several instances Paul uses the reality of the future reward to such faithful Christians to illustrate the blessings which in a small way we now enjoy by faith. He says that “as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4) This does not mean that our resurrection has actually taken place, but merely that we should walk as though it had—in ‘newness of life.’ When Jesus was resurrected, all his former environment and experiences were left behind. By faith, we should endeavor to live as completely apart from the world and from all the “old things” of life as possible.—II Cor. 5:17

In Ephesians 1:3 Paul employs this same method of illustrating the new life of the Christian. Here he speaks of our being blessed “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” These ‘heavenly places,’ indicate the high position of glory to which Jesus was exalted in his resurrection (vs. 20), and by faith we are now dwelling with him in these heavenly places.

In the language of our text Paul is employing the same method of illustrating our present heritage as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. As we have seen, he first speaks of our earthly tabernacle in which we ‘groan,’ contrasting it with our ‘house which is from heaven.’ Thus he reminds us of the unsatisfactory conditions which we must now endure, and holds before us that great ecstasy of joy which we will experience when in the resurrection we receive our new heavenly bodies.

Then the apostle explains that even now we have a ‘down payment’ on this future reward, for by faith we can be ‘present with the Lord’ while actually dwelling in our earthly tabernacles. In verse 9 he says that “We labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of ” the Lord. Here he is speaking symbolically, using our present sojourn in the flesh and also our glorious future home in heaven as illustrations of that which we experience as Christians while actually still in ‘this tabernacle.’

How apt the illustration is! Just as the one great hope of every faithful Christian is to be in the actual presence of the Lord and to experience the fullness of joy which this will mean, so now, while still this side the veil, we find our greatest joy in being ‘present’ with the Lord. We experience this by faith. Through our study of the Word, meditation upon the Truth, fellowship with his people, our activity in his service, and through prayer, we can even now be present with the Lord.

On the other hand, there is a certain amount of time in every Christian’s life which must be devoted to material things. It is necessary to make a living, and to give a proper amount of time and consideration to those who are near and dear to us according to the flesh. The Scriptures enjoin this upon us, and we accept these privileges with thanksgiving, and endeavor to use them to the glory of God.

While we are engaged in these earthly pursuits, it is not always possible to be present with the Lord in the sense of meditating upon his Word, fellowshipping with his people, or working directly in his vineyard. However, as Paul says, we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of the Lord. It is the earnest desire of every Christian to be pleasing to the Lord in everything he does, whether it is providing for his own, or enjoying more directly the spiritual blessing implied in the thought of being present with him.


Great are the joys of faith which we now experience while in this symbolic manner we are ‘absent from the body’ and present with the Lord. It is such a true delight for the New Creature that we earnestly endeavor to manage every possible moment of the day that is not rightfully devoted to other things in order that we may have more time to spend with our Lord.

Immediately after using this meaningful illustration of our present privileges as New Creatures, Paul adds, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body.” This is a reference to our present trial period while in the flesh. It is what we do while still in the flesh, the ‘body,’ that will determine our fitness for our home in heaven.

It is a practical test to which the Lord is putting us. If we are genuinely longing to be actually with him in heavenly glory, where we will experience fullness of joy throughout eternity, it will be natural to seek every possible opportunity we can to be near him now.

By using this as a guide we can in large measure determine for ourselves how genuinely we are longing to be in the actual presence of the Lord. If we are content now to be “at home” in the body (vs. 6), and do not experience a sense of great loss when we are not by faith present with the Lord, it might well indicate that we are not earnestly setting our affections on things above.


If we prove faithful, and in the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5) are exalted to heavenly glory, it will mean not only being ushered into the actual presence of our Heavenly Father, but meeting also all the faithful saints of the entire age face to face. There we will see Paul, John, Peter, James, Jude—in fact all the apostles; also those other faithful souls mentioned in the Bible in connection with the experiences of the Early Church.

There, too, we will meet the holy angels, and become acquainted with those who were our “ministering spirits” while we walked in the narrow way. (Heb. 1:14) What a joy that will be, and how wonderful it will be to learn of the many times they miraculously protected us from harm as New Creatures, keeping us from falling!

From beyond the veil we will also have contact with the Ancient Worthies, who will then be princes in all the earth. True, they will be human beings, while the church will be on the Divine plane; nevertheless, the faithful overcomers who make up the church in glory will have full knowledge of the Ancient Worthies, and will be directing their ministry.

The ‘great company,’ is referred to by Paul as being in “the general assembly and church of the firstborn.” (Heb. 12:23) Indeed, Paul mentions all those with whom it will be our privilege to be associated, and says that we are “come unto,” or, in a better translation, are “approaching unto” them.

We are approaching unto “mount Sion,” he says, “and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect [the Ancient Worthies], And to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant.”—Heb. 12:22-24

What a glorious prospect! It surely is transporting, and how can we help longing for the day when the ‘earthly house of this tabernacle’ will be ‘dissolved,’ and in the “twinkling of an eye” (I Cor. 15:52)—now that we are in the harvest period at the end of the age—we are clothed upon with our house which is from heaven. The poet has well said, “How can I keep the longing back, and how suppress the groan.”

Let us remember the ‘down payment’ which is ours to enjoy even now. Do we earnestly look forward to cooperation with Abraham, Moses, David, and with all the prophets, in the work of the kingdom? Do we anticipate the joy of meeting Jesus, the apostles, and other faithful ones portrayed in the New Testament? Of course we do! Even now we can meet them in the Word, for it is through the Word that the Spirit gives us the earnest of our future inheritance.

Have you ever thought of the Word of God as a place where you can meet, not only the Lord, but his faithful servants of both the Old and New Testaments? Every hour we spend in its pages, in addition to learning the Truth, we can be enjoying the inspirational company of those faithful patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, as well as Jesus himself and our guardian angels.

We can stand beside Noah, for example, as he preached righteousness and prepared for the coming flood. We can enter into the feelings of Abraham and be inspired by his faith. We can go with him on that three days’ journey to the land of Moriah, ascend the mountain with him, and watch while he prepares an altar on which to sacrifice his beloved Isaac. We can hear the angel speaking to him not to slay Isaac.

Through the Word we can also enjoy a wonderful association with Moses—at the burning bush, before Pharoah, leading the Israelites across the Red Sea, and receiving the Law from God. To quote Paul, “What shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.”—Heb. 11:32

In the Bible, we meet these faithful servants of God, these saints of old, who “through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in faith,” and “turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Heb. 11:33,34) While through the Word we commune with various ones in this “cloud of witnesses,” (Heb. 12:1) we can rejoice the more in the thought of their “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35) and their future high position in the plan of God as “princes in all the earth.”—Ps. 45:16


In the same manner we can enjoy the fellowship of Jesus, the apostles, and all of the Early Church whose names are mentioned in the New Testament. We can, at will, spend an hour with the Master, or with any of his faithful apostles, or with all of them together. We can stand beside Jesus as he heals the sick and raises the dead. We can hear the gracious words which fell from his lips, the lips of him who spoke as never man had spoken before, or has spoken since.

We can be with the Master as Mary anointed him with the precious ointment, and can smell the sweet odors that filled the room, betokening the outpouring of her heart devotion to him whom she loved. We can seat ourselves at the table in the “upper room” (Luke 22:12) on that last night before he was crucified, and hear him impart those wonderful words of life recorded in John, chapters 13 to 17. Then we can go with him to Gethsemane, to the judgment hall, to Pilate, to Golgotha. We can hear him in his dying moments summon sufficient strength to give a witness of the kingdom to the thief who was dying beside him.

We can read the opening chapters of Acts, and in our minds take our place with the disciples upon whom the power of God fell that day, and in some measure experience with them the joys of a reaffirmed faith, and the certain knowledge of what the Lord now wanted them to do.

Time fails to mention all the wonderful experiences of the Lord’s people which are recorded in the book of Acts. But they are all there for us to enter into, and from which to receive inspiration to continue our journey toward the heavenly Canaan. What a wonderful down payment of the future joys of fellowship with Jesus and the Early Church we can now enjoy if we will.

Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude wrote letters to churches and to individuals of their day, and some general epistles. Actually they wrote those letters to us also. And how much closer it brings us to them, and to our Lord, to think of it in this way! The next time we feel that we would very much like to receive an encouraging letter from a fellow Christian in the narrow way, let us go to the Word, and read the letters which are there recorded for our admonition and joy.

Do we joyfully anticipate meeting those guardian angels who so faithfully serve us from day to day? We can also enjoy an earnest of this future experience because the Spirit of God has put in the Word many revealing accounts of the services of these angels. If we go with the women to the tomb of Jesus, we will there see the angel that announced to them that “he is risen.”—Matt. 28:6

Then, as we know, angels served to release the apostles from prison. We can visit those prisons, place ourselves in the position of those who were incarcerated, and get some idea of what the ministry of the angels must have meant to them. We can turn backward and forward almost anywhere we will in the Bible, and come in contact with angels and their faithful ministry. While in this tabernacle we are approaching unto this ‘innumerable company of angels.’

We can enjoy sweet fellowship with the Lord by meeting him in his Word, for we are present with him when we are present with his people, and with his holy angels. Nor should we overlook the many direct and personal messages the Lord has constantly waiting for us in his Word. How reassuringly he talks to us when we meet him there—“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”; “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”—Heb. 13:5; Exod. 33:14


We can also be present with the Lord while still dwelling in our earthly tabernacle through fellowship with others of like precious faith. When we go to any of the meetings, when we attend a Berean study or a testimony meeting, it is more than gathering with our brethren in Christ, for we are meeting also with the Lord. Jesus said that where even two or three were gathered in his name he would be present. And in spirit the Heavenly Father is also present.

Through weariness or other difficulties we might be tempted to give up meetings which we could attend with a little greater effort. We might feel that we can afford to miss the fellowship of the brethren, or that they do not particularly need us. But would we feel this way if we remembered that by failing to attend a meeting we lose an opportunity to be in this special way present with the Lord?

There are many of the Lord’s people who are not situated so they can enjoy the fellowship of their brethren. This may be due to isolation through distance or sickness, or other circumstances over which they have no control. Each saint of God yearns for the fellowship of his brethren, and through them with the Lord, but if circumstances are such that this is frequently or always impossible, he can still be present with the Lord through personal communion with him, and through the study of his Word. Every isolated brother or sister in the Truth can testify how wonderfully the Lord has made up the great loss of not being able to meet with his people, when his Word and Spirit have been sought.


When we are directly active in the service of the Lord we are also enjoying the blessedness of being present with him. This is because we are coworkers with him, partners in his glorious plan for the reconciling of the world. It is wrong to think that we are taking time from fellowshipping with the Lord when we are serving in his vineyard.

Paul wrote that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” Now, he explained further, he has given this “ministry of reconciliation” to us, and thus we are made “ambassadors for Christ.” (II Cor. 5:18-21) Surely Christ was very close to his Heavenly Father when Paul could say that God was ‘in’ him. And he is in us in the same manner and for the same purpose.

Besides, as colaborers with the Lord it is essential, through his Word, to acquaint ourselves with his plans and purposes. This brings us into close contact and fellowship with the Divine architect. As we view the grandeur and harmony of his plan, our enraptured vision sees him ‘high and lifted up,’ and we rejoice in his glory as we endeavor to tell the whole world the blessed tidings of his kingdom.

How wonderful it is that in this way also we can be present with the Lord, and have the assurance that he is present with us! This should make every witness we give a sacred, blessed experience. It should add dignity and importance to every tract that we distribute. Let us try to realize that whatever we do in the Lord’s service, or wherever he asks us to go, we are not alone, for we serve in his presence, and by his grace and strength.


Equally precious is the time we spend in the Lord’s presence through meditation and prayer. We all have our regular time for prayer, such as morning and evening. But in addition to these, it is our privilege to lift our hearts in prayer to God at any time, and under any circumstances. It may be in the factory, on a busy street, in the kitchen, or in the office—it matters not where—when, through meditation on the Lord’s goodness, peace and joy wells up within us; and then and there we can look up to him and say, Thank you, Lord, for taking me into your confidence and giving me a glimpse of your glory.

Problems may arise and the difficulties of the day might be bearing heavily upon us. The way ahead may not be clear, or some earthborn cloud may have hidden the Lord’s face. Whatever need we may have, we can go to him for help right at the time. His ear is ever open to the cries of our hearts, and his eyes “run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”—II Chron. 16:9

During the times when it is essential to be at home in the body we can in our hearts rejoice in the Lord. There are usually moments with all of us, even during the rush of our everyday work, when thoughts of the Lord, of his Word and Truth, of his people, and of his work, can be enjoyed. Perhaps in a moment of great need a thought expressed in a testimony, or a reassuring text of scripture, will come to mind to help us remember that the Lord is near, that his “angel … encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.”—Ps. 34:7

Truly the present heritage of the saints is rich and blessed! And may an ever deepening realization of our present privilege of being ‘present with the Lord’ give us increasing strength and courage to press forward toward the “fulness of joy” unto which we are now approaching, the joy of his actual presence—“pleasures for evermore”—as we dwell in our ‘house’ from heaven.—Ps. 16:11

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |