2 Corinthians 5:1-10
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…
Death intervenes between the present state of affliction and the glory of heaven, but death is only the destruction of the body now existing. It is not an end to bodily form and life. This is no speculation of the apostle's; it is an assurance, "for we know that if this earthly tent be destroyed, it will be followed by an enduring habitation - a mansion, not a tabernacle. In the earthly body he groans, not because it is a body, but because it is flesh and blood suffering under the effects of sin, and hence he longs for the house which is from heaven." It is a heaven for body as well as soul that he so ardently desires. To be bodiless even in glory is repulsive to his nature, since it would be nakedness. Death is repugnant. The separation of soul and body, however, is only temporary; it is not for unclothing, but for a better clothing, one suited to the capacities of spirit. If the fourth verse repeats the second verse, it enlarges the idea and qualifies it by stating the reason why he would be "clothed upon," viz. "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." And this longing is no mere instinct or natural desire, but a feeling inspired of God, who "hath wrought us for the selfsame thing." A Divine preparation was going on in this provisional tabernacle - a training of the spirit for the vision of Christ and a training of the body for the immortal companionship of the spirit. An "earnest" or pledge of this was already in possession. The sufferings sanctified by the Spirit, the longing, the animation of hope, were so many proofs and tokens of awaiting blessedness. How could he be otherwise than confident? Yea; he is "always confident." Though now confined to the body, yet it is a home that admits of affections and loving fellowships; and though it necessitates absence from the Lord and the house of "many mansions," nevertheless it is a home illumined by faith. "For we walk by faith, not by sight." The home is in the midst of visible objects that exercise our sense of sight, but our Christian walk, or movement from one world to another, is not directed by the eye, but by faith, the sense of the invisible. We know what are the functions of the eye. If we did not, the antithesis would convey no meaning. The eye receives impressions from external things, communicates them to the soul, is a main organ in developing thought and feeling, acts on the imagination and the will, and is continually adding something to the contents of the inward nature. Faith is like it as a medium of reception, unlike it in all else. Faith is not conversant with appearances. We do not see Christ in his glory; we see him (using the term figuratively) in his Word by means of the Spirit; and this seeing is faith. How do we know when we have faith? It attests itself in our capacity to see the path leading to eternal glory, and it enables us to walk therein. The path is from one home to another - from the home on the footstool to the home by the throne of Christ, and faith has the reality and vigour of a home sentiment. So strong and assuring is St. Paul's confidence that he prefers to depart and be with Christ. "At home in the body;" yes, but it is a sad home at best, and trial and affliction had begun to make it dreary to him. To die is to be with the Lord, and he was "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." Whether absent or present, at home or away from home, we labour that we "may be accepted of him." To make himself and his life acceptable to Christ was paramount to every other desire; to labour was his absorbing thought. Such an energetic soul as his must have felt that its energies were immortal. There was no selfishness in his hope of heaven, no longing to be freed from work, no yearning for the luxury of mere rest. It was to be with Christ, for Christ was his heaven. If this was his confidence, if he was labouring untiringly to be acceptable to the Lord Jesus, was he understood and appreciated as Christ's apostle and servant among men? The burden of life was not the work he did, but the obstacles thrown in his way - the slanders he had to bear, the persecutions open and secret that followed him everywhere. He thinks of the "judgment seat of Christ." It will be a judicial inquiry into works done and "every one" shall "receive ['receive back'] the things done in his body." Measure for measure, whatsoever has been done here shall return to every one. The individuality of the judgment, the complete unveiling of personal character, the correspondence between the reward and the good done on earth and between the retribution and the evil done here, he brings out distinctly. This was with him a fixed habit of thought. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." How near the two worlds are - the growing field here, the harvest in another existence hereafter! But observe another idea. "We must all appear," we must be made manifest, every one shown in his true character. Not only will there be recompense as a judicial procedure, but a revelation "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." St. Paul had vindicated himself again and again from the charges made against him; but the battle was now going on, nor was there any sign of its speedy abatement. It was natural that he should have the idea of manifestation prominent in his mind, since we all think of the future world very much according to some peculiarity in our experience on earth. How engrossed, heart and soul, in his apostleship is beautifully indicated by the fact that heaven itself was the heaven of St. Paul as the apostle of Christ. The sufferings of the man are never mentioned. First and last, we have the autobiography of an apostle, and hence, looking forward to the glory to be revealed, the supreme felicity is that he will appear in his true character as the Lord's servant. - L.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.