Contemplation of New Life. (5:1-10) - Page 1 of 6 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

May 27, 2014

Tom Lowe
The Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians



Lesson II.B.5.c: Contemplation of new life. (5:1-10)

2nd Corinthians 5:1-10 (NKJV)
1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
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.



Introduction

As a Christian evangelist in the first century, Paul was insulted, ridiculed and taunted. For the cause of the Gospel he faced angry mobs, irate local officials, and conceited philosophers. He spent many anxious nights in prayer and long hours working to support himself and studying the Scriptures. He received no applause, no reward, and no appreciation.


Why did he do this? Paul answered this question for the Corinthians. He measured all his troubles in the light of eternity. Paul knew that he would experience infinite happiness and unending joy in the next life. This confident hope was Paul’s motivation to never stop preaching the truth to all who would listen.


Few chapter breaks are more unfortunate than this one, since what follows in this lesson (5:1-10) details the thought in 4:16-18. Failure to appreciate this fact unduly complicates these already difficult verses by removing their contextual restraints.


Commentary

1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

The apostle knew the Corinthians were wondering how he could endure so many hardships and difficulties (4:8-10{15), so in this passage he outlined his hope: the resurrection of his body to heavenly glory.


The Corinthians, like many today, had difficulty understanding the resurrection and its place in the Christian worldview. Greeks did not believe in a bodily resurrection. That was made clear when the Greek philosophers in Athens mocked Paul when he spoke of a bodily resurrection. “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter” (Acts 17:32). Most Greeks thought that only the soul would survive death. They thought of the soul—the essence of a person—as imprisoned in a physical body, a body that was intrinsically evil. Upon death the soul would be released from its imprisonment. According to the Greeks, only the soul would enter an eternal state. Because of the strong Greek influence in the church, some believers in Corinth had begun teaching that there was no bodily resurrection from the dead (1 Co. 15:12, 35{25). Thus, Paul had thoroughly explained the doctrine of the resurrection to them (1 Co. 15:12-57). Paul underscored its significance and made it clear that denying the resurrection of believers was tantamount to denying the resurrection of Jesus Himself and, thus, the Christian faith (1 Co. 15:12-34). Paul did not mince words: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” (1 Co 15:17). Paul would not risk his life for a futile and meaningless message (1 Co. 15:30{26).


What Paul is saying here is very important. He says, “For we know not we hope or we expect or even that we believe that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not built with hands, eternal in the heavens.” This is

a positive “know.” He knows because of the fact the Spirit of God has made it real to him.


This “building from God” is not the believer’s heavenly home, promised in John 14:1-6. It is his glorified body. Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) and here he used a tent as a picture of our earthly bodies. A tent is a weak temporary structure without much beauty; but the glorified body which we shall receive, will be eternal, beautiful, and never show signs of weakness or decay (Phil. 3:20-21{18).Paul saw the human body as an earthen vessel (2 Co. 4:7{15) and a temporary tent; but he knew that believers would one day receive a wonderful glorified body, suited to the glorious environment in heaven.


The Greek word for tabernacle is skene, which means “tent.” That is the same word that was used for the wilderness tabernacle of the Old Testament in the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek. The Old Testament tabernacle, the Mosaic tabernacle, was a skene, a tent. It was a flimsy sort of thing. Paul had referred to his mortal “body” (4:10-11{2) as “wasting away” (4:16{3). Now he compared his body to a worn-out earthly (on the earth) tent soon to be destroyed. Paul is saying that this “earthly house,” our body, is temporary, like that wilderness tabernacle; but when it is “destroyed” (by death), we have a new “eternal house” (new body) in “heaven,” which “God” has provided for us.


When a believer dies, the body goes to the grave, but the spirit goes to be with Christ. That is what Paul meant when he told the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:21, 23). When Jesus Christ returns for His own, He will raise the dead bodies in glory, and body and spirit will be joined together for a glorious eternity in heaven (1 Co. 15:25-58; I Thess. 4:15-18{25).


We need to realize that there is an outward man and an inward man. Paul talked about that in the preceding chapter. The outward man perishes, but the inward man is renewed day by day. A great many people misunderstand that. The body is put in the grave, but the individual, the real person, has gone to be with Christ—if that individual is a believer. The outward man is a physical material being that you can see and touch. The inward man is spiritual, the part of man created in the image of God. You see, God is not a physical material being. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24).


I am seventy-two years old and my health is poor; I have many issues to deal with. I am so looking forward to my inward man moving to a new address. I don’t feel at home here anymore. Like the song says, “I must be traveling on.” But there is one aspect of my life that I really enjoy. I enjoy studying God’s Word and writing Bible commentaries—but I eagerly desire to be taught from the lips of Jesus and those great saints of God who experienced firsthand the teaching and works of God and Jesus Christ.


It is wonderful to know that each passing year brings me closer to being with Him. I am going to see Him someday; I am going to see the face of the Lord Jesus, the one who loved me and gave himself for me. I am thrilled by that prospect. To be very frank with you, I don’t have as much conflict with the world, the flesh, and the Devil as I used to have. I think they have given up on me. This old house is getting old.


Dear reader, I have an eternal house in the heavens. This body will be sown a natural body, but it will be raised a spiritual body. He is going to give us a new body that is suitable for heaven. Although these spiritual bodies will somehow be associated with our old physical bodies (Rom. 8:23{22), they will be of an entirely different nature. They will be imperishable, glorious, and eternal (1 Co. 15:42-44{23). They will be perfect bodies for our new eternal existence with Jesus Christ.


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