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…
Taking the apostle's words in a general way, and not confining them to the precise topic which he has under consideration, we are taught by them that, regarding all our present things as but shadows and symbols, we need not trouble ourselves overmuch about their changing forms, or even about their passing away. All our heart and all our efforts should go out in the endeavour to bring nearer, and make clearer and fuller, the sense of our dwelling in, breathing in, working in, the unseen, the spiritual, the eternal. Our sphere is God. "In him we live, and move, and have our being." The real is the unseen. The stable and lasting is the eternal. And this view of things alone can put us in right relations with the body, and set us upon the right use of things seen and temporal. Whenever we are brought lace to face with any passing, dissolving, removing, earthly thing, then God seems to call us, saying, "Remember the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Take for illustration -
I. THE TENT AND THE HOUSE. No figure could be more appropriate than this for the apostle, who gained his living as a tentmaker, and was familiar with its material, its construction, and its use. We can well imagine how, as he wrought, either at weaving the rough Cilician cloth, or at sewing together the various lengths, and the holes for the poles and ropes, he would meditate on the frailty of the tent which he was thus making, contrasting it with the stable marble and stone mansions found in such cities as Corinth. In his day tents were chiefly made for travellers; for those who journeyed from place to place, either for business or for pleasure, in districts where accommodation at inns could not be found. They had their settled homes in the great cities, and they went forth on their travels with quiet hearts, because of the cherished feeling that they had a home. They used the tent awhile, camping out in the open country; but if the wild storm did come, and even lift and carry away the tent; if the midnight robber did overthrow it, and seize the spoil, - the traveller might bear the hardship and the loss, in pleasant confidence that he had a home. If the worst came, it could be but the shadow of his home passing away; in yonder city stood his secure dwelling.
II. THE DOCTRINE AND THE TRUTH. For doctrine is like the frail tent, and truth is like the granite mansion that outlasts the passing ages. We cannot be too thankful for the forms in which sacred truth is conveyed to us, unfolded before us, or impressed upon us. We bless God for all holy and helpful words, full of tender and dear associations; words of simple catechism for our childhood's weakness; words of formal doctrine fashioned to help us when, in our youth time, we tried to get personal hold of mysterious and many-sided truth. Let no man despise the doctrines which, like tents, have often given us their shelter and their help. And yet they are only like "earthly houses of this tabernacle." Truth is the "building of God, the house not made with hands," wherein alone human souls may find quietness from controversy or from fears. Doctrines are only symbols and shadows, the human representations of the Divine and eternal things, the unspeakable realities which yet our souls may apprehend. Within, behind, above, around, the doctrine ever dwells the truth; and, at first, we are very dependent on the forms which it gains for mortal eyes and ears and minds; but, as the soul grows, and gains its vision, its hearing, and its touch, we get loosened from our dependence on the forms, we can calmly see them change and pass. Resting in the stable house of truth, we calmly look on all transitory forms, even of doctrine, and say, "We have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
III. NATURE AND GOD. Nature, the world of things seen - the firmament, golden-glowing, cloud-shaded, and star-sprinkled; earth, with its vales, and hills, and flowers, and trees; the great and wide sea - is in a very serious sense God. It is God manifest to our senses. Behind what is called pantheism there is a deeply poetical and spiritual truth, Nature is God seen; God in toned picture for mortal eyes to see; God, if we may so say, in photograph. Earth is the plate which has caught all that human eyes may see of the figure of God. Nature is the tent symbol of the eternal house. The Jew called his mountains "the hills of God," because they brought to him the sense of the highness and almightiness of God. He called the splendid trees "the cedars of Jehovah," because they brought to him a sense of the stately beauty of God. Yet nature is not really God himself, only God in expression for our apprehending, only the veil that he shines through. Therefore we turn from the shadow to the substance which throws it; from the form to the reality which it does but exhibit. And if all nature passed away, we should lose nothing. It would be but dropping the veil that we might see the face.
IV. OUR EARTHLY AND OUR HEAVENLY BODIES. St. Paul was plainly thinking of his body, the vehicle by means of which our souls come into contact with the world of created things. But he cherished the idea of a spiritual body, which could be the clothing and vehicle of his soul through the long, the eternal ages. Thinking of it he could say, "What matter if my tent body be destroyed? I have a building of God, a house not made with hands." - R.T.
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.