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The Apostle Paul's Thoughts About the
We try to understand the apostles' minds because their thoughts were established by Jesus' teachings. The apostles understood that our flesh is merely the house of our spirit.
2 Cor. 5:1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed [if our flesh dies], we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Our spirit lives in a temporary earthly tent—our flesh—now, but it will live in an eternal house that God has built for us.
2 Cor. 5:6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord....We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
In this letter, the Apostle Paul says that the Lord [Jesus] dwells in the world of spirit and that we dwell in the world of flesh. Thus we are away from the Lord as long as we are in the body. The Apostle Paul also reveals that he, and the rest of the saints, would prefer to be away from their bodies and at home with the Lord.
In the above verses, what is the entity that dwells in the body and then leaves the body? Paul's spirit, the very essence of Paul, is the one who wants to leave the body. The body he wore was not the essence of his life, but instead, Paul's spirit—dwelling within his body—was his true self. To say it again, the Apostle Paul lived not for the temporary life in his earthly tent [his flesh], but he longed for the life that he would live in the eternal house. God would give him this everlasting home only after his spirit left its earthly tent.
The Apostle Paul wrote similarly in a letter to the saints in Philippi.
Phil. 1:21-24 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain....I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Paul's words, "We...would prefer to be away from the body," in the book of 2 Corinthians 5:6 and the words, "I desire to depart," in the book of Philippians chapter one, have the same meanings. "To be away," or "to depart," means to leave the body. What is the entity that dwells in the body or leaves it? It is Paul's spirit, the true essence of Paul.
Paul revealed that it was more necessary for the saints that he remained in his body. If Paul were to leave his body [if he were to die], he would go to Christ; thus it was good for him to leave the body. If he remained in the body, however, it was good for the saints because then he could teach them the truth of God and guide them down the right path.
Paul also uttered a revelation that God had shown him in another letter to the Church in Corinth.
2 Cor. 12:1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows.
When Paul saw this revelation, he said twice, "...whether I [my spirit] was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows."
According to this verse, did the Apostle Paul think that the spirit existed as a separate entity from the body, or did he believe that the spirit did not exist?
If the Apostle Paul believed that the spirit did not exist, could he have said, "Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows"...? When Paul saw this revelation—describing himself as "a man" he knew (speaking in the third person)—he didn't know whether his spirit had traveled out of the body, or if he had gone to such a paradise in his flesh.