Where are the saints of this dispensation while awaiting the return of their Lord and their resurrection body?
This question is answered very plainly and explicitly in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8,
For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven; if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked, for indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened, not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life. Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord.
According to the teaching of these verses, there are three states in which the believers exist:
First, our present state, i.e. before death, when we are in the “earthly house of our tabernacle,” i.e. in our present body. In this state we groan longing for our resurrection body, “longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven,” i.e. longing for our perfect resurrection body (cf. Rom. 8:23).
Second, our state after death before the coming of the Lord: In this state we are “absent from the body,” “but at home with the Lord.” This is not our perfect state, or final state, but it is a happier state than our present state, so that the truly instructed believer as far as his own blessedness is concerned is “willing to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
Third, our final and perfect state: When we are not merely unclothed from this present imperfect tabernacle with all its limitations and weaknesses and sufferings and pains, but when we are “clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven,” i.e. with our resurrection body. This is that for which we long. The resurrection body we get at the return of our Lord (1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
While “unclothed,” “absent from the body,” we are “with the Lord,” “at home with the Lord.” The moment we leave our present earthly body, “the earthly house of our tabernacle,” we depart to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23) and, though this is not a perfect state until we get our resurrection body, it is “very far better” than our present state (Phil. 1:23 R.V.). The day that the penitent and forgiven thief departed from his body that hung upon the cross he was with Christ in Paradise (Luke 23: 40-43).
Seemingly Paradise was then in the subterranean world, but our Lord Jesus at His resurrection led a captivity captive (Eph. 4:8), i.e. emptied Hades of the redeemed and took Paradise up with Him on High into the eternal glory. So the man whom Paul mentions as entering Paradise did not go down into that part of Hades which before our Lord’s ascension was reserved for the righteous dead, i.e. Paradise but was “caught up into Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:4).
Originally from The King’s Business, “Questions and Answers” by R.A. Torrey, April 1914, pp. 228
When we die, do we not go immediately to be with the Lord? If so, how is it that when He comes those who have fallen asleep in Him shall rise? Won’t we be already with Him? Where are we in the meantime?
When the believer dies, the body is laid in the ground and crumbles into dust, the spirit departs to be with Christ in conscious blessedness, absent from the body but at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8, R.V.). To thus be with the Lord in conscious blessedness is far better than our present state in our present mortal body (Phil. 1:23). At His return, the bodies which “sleep in the dust of the earth” (Dan. 12:2) are raised and transformed into the likeness of His glorious body (Phil. 3:21) and the redeemed spirit now clothed upon with the redeemed body will forever be with Christ.
If He is to be and reign on earth for a thousand years, we will be here, too, but I thought we were going to the place that He has prepared for us?
We are going to the place which He has prepared for us, but during the thousand years we have access to both that heavenly place which He has prepared for us and to earth where He has set up His earthly throne. At the end of the thousand years there will be a new heaven and a new earth and the new Jerusalem our home will descend out of heaven (see Rev. 21: 10-27).
Originally from The King’s Business “Questions and Answers” by R.A. Torrey, May 1914, pp. 297