2 Corinthians 5:6 So we are always confident, knowing that while 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, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (NKJV)
On his third missionary journey, after ministering in Ephesus for two years and three months, the Apostle Paul left for Macedonia in May, A.D. 56. Paul was in Macedonia from June to November of that year. It was there that he wrote the letter of 2nd Corinthians, likely in September and October of A.D. 56.
In this passage, “We are always confident” (v. 6a) means that we can be confident in the knowledge that Christians will go to Heaven. If we are truly a Christian the Holy Spirit lives in us and He is a deposit guaranteeing our eternity in Heaven.
We do not get to Heaven by doing good works, but by the presence of the Holy Spirit living within us, which comes through our faith and by the grace of God. We get to Heaven not on our ticket but on Jesus’ ticket, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
While we are still in these bodies “we are absent from the Lord” (v. 6b). The Lord Jesus is in Heaven, sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
We are either here, in these bodies, or there, in Heaven. There is no in between state. When we die, we are instantly with the Lord in Heaven.
While we are in these bodies “we walk by faith, not by sight” (v. 7). We cannot see God but we know of His existence by the master design of His creation, the Bible, and how He works in our lives. Once we pass from this life we are in the presence of God and we can then live by sight.
Paul then links verses eight, nine, and ten together. He writes we would “rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (v. 8), “therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (v.9), “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (v. 10).
Linking these three verses together tells us that there is a relationship between the three statements. They are linked by the words “therefore” and “for”. You cannot take each verse separately. They are a complete thought. One leads to the other.
So the rendering should be “we would rather be in Heaven so we should please God, whether here or in Heaven, because we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and will receive our due for the things done, whether good or bad.” Heaven will be much better for us if we please God while on earth.
The Greek word translated ”judgment-seat” is bematos, from the Greek word bema. The bema was the judge’s seat that those participating in the Greek games, like our Olympics, would stand before to receive their rewards. The bema is also mentioned in Romans 14:10.
So, before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ is where we Christians will receive rewards, or not, for the good, or bad (not pleasing God), we have done on earth. It is not where we will receive judgment of Heaven or Hell, for that has already been decided by Christ on the cross. We all receive Heaven the moment we accept Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross to pay the penalty, Hell, for our sins.
So, we receive rewards in Heaven by pleasing God here on earth. We please God by obeying Him. We obey Him by obeying His word, the Bible. We know what to obey by reading the Bible. When we sin, or support others in their sin we are not pleasing God.
Pleasing God should be our goal in life. It is obeying the Bible. It determines our rewards in Heaven. Those rewards will far surpass any rewards on earth. Not only that, those rewards will last much longer than any earthly rewards. After all, eternity is a very, very long time.
Online Bible Commentary