There are many who ask if the text in 2 Corinthians 5:8 does not say that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. One does not equal the other, so what is the answer. Here is the text in question:
"1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 King James Version (KJV)
Paul appears to many people to be saying that something better than our current lives, namely being in the presence of God, awaits us after death. The language he uses seems to imply that life after death exists apart from our bodies and will continue on in spiritual form. To understand what Paul is saying, we must look at the comparison of being clothed as we go through the verses.
Paul introduces an earthly house and a heavenly house in verse 1, and in verse 2 states our condition while in the earthly house. He tells us in verse 2 and 3 what we desire in that state, to be "clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:" and "If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked". Paul in verse 4 then states the result of being clothed with the house from heaven. Now in verse 5 he says God "hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit", with "earnest" meaning a assurance or pledge. So the Spirit is pledge that mortality shall eventually be swallowed up of life. Verse 6, Paul states the grounds of his confidence, and verse 7 how a Christian should live. In verse 8, Paul just repeats a willingness to be absent from the body and to be with the Lord.
Paul uses clothing metaphors, and likens our existing mortal bodies with an “earthly house" or tent, and says we should not worry if it is destroyed because we have a “building from God” that awaits us. It doesn't say we will be in God’s presence without a body; rather, Paul simply says we will not have this body. As we read in verse 4, Paul specifically says he does not want to be "unclothed" (without a body), but rather further clothed (or different body). We currently wear a mortal body, but in God’s presence after the resurrection we “must put on” an immortal one.
So Paul is saying he prefers to be absent from the body (or corrupted mortal one) and present with the Lord (clothed in his changed one) which we find is after the resurrection. When we stand in God’s presence, we will not be in the same body we have now. The house from heaven is “eternal” or immortal and represents the state of immortality that awaits the redeemed beyond the resurrection.
"51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 King James Version (KJV)