The Tent and the House
2 Corinthians 5:1
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…

I. THE CONTRAST EXPLAINED. The foundation of this passage is to be found in 2 Corinthians 4:18, where a contrast is drawn between "the things seen," viz. the toils and afflictions endured in the service of Christ, and "the things not yet seen," viz. the joys of resting in Christ from present labours and of receiving from him approval and reward. Pursuing this train of thought, St. Paul writes, "We are here in a tent upon the earth, surrounded, affected, and limited by the things which are seen. But this tent will be struck, to be set up no more. The things which are seen are temporal. The present conditions of our life of toil and suffering will cease, and we shall enter a house of everlasting habitation." The apostle mixes together the figures of a dwelling in which we reside and that of a garment with which we are clothed. It was not an unnatural combination of metaphors; for the haircloth tents with which Paul was familiar, and which his own hands had made, suggested almost equally the idea of a dwelling and that of a vesture. The tent is to be taken down, the clothing to be removed. The present condition of labour and trial will come to an end. What then? Things not yet seen; a building from God; a new condition of life and order of things which will be permanent. Hands of men have not provided it and cannot destroy it. It is a house where nothing fades, nothing falls to ruin, nothing decays or dies - a house eternal in the heavens.

II. THE CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE OF THE FUTURE. It was St. Paul's habit to regard the state after death and the state after resurrection as from one angle of vision, and to describe them together. Probably he had no idea of the long interval which was to extend through all the Christian centuries. In his first letter to the Corinthians he had said, "We shall not all sleep," as though some of that generation might not see death. But now the feebleness of his body was as "a sentence of death" in himself. He expected and even wished to die; and yet his thoughts never paused on death or even on the rest of the departed, but rushed past death to the coming of Christ and the glory to be revealed. There is a real and obvious distinction between the post-decease and the post-resurrection state; but let us not overdo distinctions between conditions of blessedness which to an apostle's eye were so intimately blended. If some of the things which belong to the ultimate state are supposed by any to belong to the proximate, no great harm is done. The future is not mapped out with the precision of a chart. It is not for definite knowledge, but for hope. St. Paul, as we have said, never paused on death, took no pleasure in the thought of being "unclothed." At the resurrection he would be clothed with a body of incorruption and immortality. Nay; before that great day of triumph over death, he knew that he would be well clothed or guarded. He would be in God's building, "clothed upon" with the house which is from heaven.

III. THE MOOD OF MIND THAT WISHES FOR DEATH. St. Paul wrote this in dejection of spirit. To his sickness, which had much enfeebled him, was added at that time much anxiety about the condition of the Churches in Greece and their feelings toward himself. So his heart, as tender and sensitive as it was ardent and brave, was bruised and weary; and he fell a-thinking of death as welcome. Let the outward man perish; let the earthen vessel break; let the weary spirit escape and be at rest. A mood this into which, at one time or other, many Christians tall; but it should not be elevated into a pattern or rule, as though it were the duty of every Christian to long and sigh for death. Our holy faith requires nothing so unnatural. They who are in health and well employed ought to make the most of life - to value and not despise it. Enough that they do not forget death; and they need not fear it if they live well. We must do Paul the justice to acknowledge that there was nothing peevish or impatient in his mood. So long as there was service for him to render to the Church on earth, he was willing to abide in the flesh and to endure any toil or suffering in order to finish his course. But the mood that was on him led him to long for the finish, when he might leave the little horsehair tent on earth and be at home in God's building in the heavens. - F.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: For we know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens.

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