Series: 2 Corinthians
Our usual custom in our large gatherings and small groups is to preach or teach through an entire book of the Bible. Presently, we are listening to God’s message in 2 Corinthians. This method has the advantage of making sure that we cover all the subjects that God presents in his word. This also has the benefit of letting everyone know that we are not running after the latest popular ideas or going “head hunting” because of some problem that we suppose someone is in.
This whole study arose from my own repeated reading of this letter almost two years ago. I mention this because of the subject of this passage, and in doing so to admire God’s providence. Recently, we have had a number of folks lose close family members. So, in the normal course of affairs, I would probably be drawn to teach from this passage or another like it. But the Lord has so worked matters out that we come to this passage at this time. Some might dismiss this as coincidence, but I see the hand of God. Christ rules over all things for the good of his church, and I hope that in your grief, or as you feel the decline of your physical body, that your heart might be refreshed with our confident expectation in Jesus Christ.
II Corinthians 5:1-5
For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
I. An important truth that Christians know (5:1) – notice that the connecting word “for” refers back to the confident hope already expressed (4:10-18) – Two realities are presented:
A. Our mortality in this present age
1. The reason that Paul uses the “if” is that some believers will still be alive when Jesus Christ returns at the end of this age (cf. 1 Th 4:14-17). Otherwise, the mortality rate is 100%. Your condition is terminal, and you are wise to prepare for it.
2. Paul likens the present earthly body to a tent. (Since he was a tentmaker by trade, this was an easy illustration. By the way, Spurgeon used to say that you could tell what a preacher did before he preached by the way he gestured.) A tent is a temporary dwelling that offers covering for a time but it wears out quickly. After it is out in the elements, the fabric fades, mildews, thins, and tears. So the older you get, the more often you visit the “tent repair shops” to take care of your earthly tent. But a tent can easily be pulled down or destroyed.
B. A better dwelling in heaven
1. The body we will receive when Christ returns is compared, not to a tent, but to a building, to an eternal house. This illustrates both its endurance and more excellent nature. Having lived in both tents and houses, I would choose a house. Paul reaffirms the superiority of the resurrection body in this way. Yes, you’re living in a tent now, but what you will receive is far better, a building from God.
2. The house that we will receive at Christ’s return is from God and made by God. Our bodies will be raised, and in the process God will change them to be like our Lord’s resurrection body. This is totally God’s action—a work of great grace and power.
3. The apostle uses the present tense (“we have”) here to express the vivid certainty of our reception of the eternal house in heaven. Yet it is still a hope, however certain. We still live in our mortal bodies, and not our resurrection bodies. And so we live in this tension of being new, redeemed people in Christ that still have old, not yet redeemed (Rm 8:23; cf. Eph 4:30) bodies, and we want our new bodies. Everything is not yet “all right”. It is going to be, but not yet.
Apply: While you’re living in this earthly tent, profit from the experience. Don’t obsess about your present tent. Yes, take care of it, since God gave it to you for your earthly journey, but realize that it’s just a tent. Glamour, fitness, and fashion only go so far. Set your thoughts and ambitions on a better home, a building from God.
II. Our present experience (5:2-4)
A. It is a time of groaning.
1. We groan because we do not want to be unclothed. Here, Paul seems to be thinking of the experience of we who believe in Jesus after death. From the spiritual side, it is better by far (Ph 1:23), since we are forever freed from sin and sorrow and live where Christ rules in love, peace, and joy. But from the spiritual side, it is unpleasant. It is like being unclothed, and as he says, we do not wish to be unclothed.
2. We groan because we want something better. We know that we are new in Christ. We know that we are joint heirs with him of glory. But in these bodies we cannot have what is ours in Christ. They are not fit to receive our full inheritance. They have been marred by sin, so much so that Paul elsewhere calls it the body of sin (Rm 6:6). And so we are groaned and burdened because we want to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. (Compare the hymn, “Praise the Savior, You Who Know Him”, stanza #5, Hymns for the Living Church, #78.)
B. It is a time of anticipation or longing.
1. Paul mixes two metaphors here, the architectural and the sartorial. He says that we want to be “clothed” with a “heavenly house”. The company I used to work for built homes, sometimes on speculation and others on order. People would see a new development begin, and some would inquire if they could have certain custom features. We were glad to oblige, being far more certain of a sale and closing. But usually those having custom homes called or visited the construction site often, since they were anxious for their new home.
2. This reception of the heavenly dwelling means the end of our mortality, because it will be, changing the metaphor again, swallowed up by life. The big fish of eternal life will swallow the old fish of mortality. This can be a hard concept to understand, because we experience in this fallen and cursed world much change, decay, and death. Our thoughts are bound by the few short years of our lives. What will it mean to be alive, fully alive forever? How often we fill tired, worn out, and thoroughly spent. Though physically alive, we long to feel alive. But what will it be when our new, finally redeemed bodies pulse with resurrection life? How we long for that experience!
Apply: Part of our conversation with one another should constantly drift to the topic of eternal life. We get so dull in these mortal bodies that we need to stir each other by reminding ourselves of the life we long for.
III. The certain purpose of God (5:5)
A. This course of events is put in motion by God.
1. Paul wants us to see the Father’s good plan in all this. He does not explain it all, but he tells us that God has his hand in all this.
2. This means that our lives are not accidental but purposeful. We are people of God’s chosen destiny. The Lord will bring us through mortality to the life he has eternally planned for his chosen people.
B. This course of events is guaranteed by God.
1. Paul builds on what he said back in chapter one. He uses another illustration; this one from the realm of finance. The deposit was the first payment that guaranteed the final purchase.
2. The deposit is the Holy Spirit. God himself is with us as the guarantee. Once again we see the glory of the Spirit of God in our Christian experience. We are not simply longing and groaning in the tension between the already and the not yet, between redemption applied and redemption completed. The Spirit is with us by God’s gift. As we groan, he intercedes for us with inexpressible groans (Rm 8:26). Listen my brothers and sisters, you are not alone. The divine, all-powerful, ever-present Holy Spirit is with you.
Apply: This is a cause of confident hope and joy for all believers. Are you living in it?
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/frampton-dave.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Pastor Dave Frampton: When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church[/author_info] [/author]