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Scripture reading – 2 Corinthians 5; 2 Corinthians 6
Our study of the Second Epistle to Corinth continues with a reminder, this earthly life is temporal, while the spirit of man springs eternal after the likeness of his Creator. The closing verses of 2 Corinthians 4 reminds us our physical bodies fail as they grow old, but believers have the hope and promise of eternal life (John 3:16). Though Paul had suffered persecutions and afflictions, he was not without hope. With confidence in the promises of the Lord, the apostle wrote, “we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (4:16).
In light of eternity, the troubles Paul suffered were, in his words, “our light affliction…but for a moment” (4:17). In fact, as he considered the rejections and persecutions he suffered, he believed the eternal reward far outweighed that which he experienced (4:17). He looked past the temporal (“the things which are seen”), and set his focus on “the things which are not seen” (4:18).
2 Corinthians 5 – An Eternal Home
After reminding his readers this life is temporal, he challenged the congregation with the hope of a heavenly, eternal home: “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” (5:1).
The “earthly house of this tabernacle” was an analogy to our physical bodies. The word tabernacle, is essentially a tent, a temporal dwelling. So, while our bodies are being dissolved (growing older and frail), Paul promised God will give His people a glorified body, “a building of God [a spiritual body], an house not made with hands” (5:1b). Unlike our “tabernacle” of flesh, God has promised us an “eternal in the heavens” (5:1c). No wonder Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Paul acknowledged, as long as we are clothed in a body of flesh, we will “groan, being burdened” with many cares and sorrows (5:2-4). Nevertheless, we should not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We must pass through the veil of this mortal life, until the day our “mortality might be swallowed up of life” (5:4b). Finding himself in the midst of trials and afflictions, Paul confessed he longed for the day when he would lay aside his frail body, and be clothed in his eternal, resurrected body.
Confident Faith (5:6-8)
The apostle found himself in a dilemma. On one hand, he longed for heaven and to be in the presence of the Lord; but on the other, he was “at home in the body…[and] absent from the Lord” (5:6). He took solace, writing, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (5:7). Though facing persecution, rejection, and threats, Paul assured believers: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (5:8).
The word “confident” means full of hope, and courage; in fact, it might be defined as a “courageous hope.” There are some who claim to believe there is no hope, and no life after death. The lives of those poor souls are defined by a fatalism, that believes in soul-annihilation. That is, there is no hope, nor life, beyond this mortal world. What a tragic concept! Paul, however, assured believers, “to be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord” (5:8). Believer, death is not the end, it’s the beginning!
Closing thoughts (5:9-17) – Paul challenged believers in Corinth to live and labor for the Lord with an eternal focus (5:9). He warned, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (5:10).
God’s judgment is certain, and His justice is sure. Knowing the promise of God’s judgment and the “terror of the Lord,” should motivate us to share the Gospel, and “persuade men” (5:11). We are “constrained,” and compelled by “the love of Christ” who “died for all…and rose again” (5:14-15). Not only does His death and resurrection promise eternal life, it gives us an assurance of a transformation that is promised and possible only in Christ:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (5:17).
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