Assurance of the Resurrection Body
2 Cor. 5:1-8
We have an assurance of eternal life in heaven. We look forward for a glorious future with an immortal body. In this chapter, Paul uses figures of speeches particularly metaphors to make a comparison. Metaphor is a comparison in which one thing represents another. I would try to explain verse by verse the metaphors used by the Apostle Paul here to clarify and to explain its meaning.
Illustration 1: A Transformed Body
The raising and transformation of a person who has died. Resuscitation means the bringing back of people to this life after they have left it, for example, the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-15) or of Lazarus (John 11). Resurrection is more than that. Jesus rose on the third day after he died, but his new body was transformed. It was not subject to the limitations of his former earthly life (Luke 24:16, 31; John 20:19). Jesus’ resurrection, following his atoning death, is central to the Christian faith (1 Cor. 15:14-19). Believers, too, will be resurrected (1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:42- 57).
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton, IL; 1984), p. 356
I. Tabernacle (2 Cor 5:1-5)
A. A tabernacle is a temporary dwelling, generally of canvass cloth, which men make for shelter by night, where they expect to stay only for a short time. It is very similar to the tents used by the Jews in the wilderness.
B. Our present bodies are called “tabernacles” or “tents” because they are only
temporary. Here it is used by Paul as a metaphor for our physical body. (2 Pet. 1:13- 14). Like a temporary tent, our life here on earth is fragile, short lived, and lowly.
C. “a building of God” is Paul’s metaphor for the believer’s resurrected, glorified body (1 Cor. 15:35-50). Building pictures, a solid, durable, permanent structure in contrast to the frail, temporary, weak tent.
D. “an house not made with hands”. This glorified and resurrection body was like the resurrection body of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a heavenly eternal body and it is not made by hands.
E. “We groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed” (2 Cor. 5:2). At present, we groan, that is the body is subjected to so many pains, and to so much suffering, that it makes us earnestly desire to have a heavenly body. Indeed, life here on earth is full of trials and troubles (Job. 14:1, Jn. 16:33, Eccl. 2:22-23). Praise the Lord life here on earth is only temporary.
F. “We shall not be found naked” (2 Cor. 5:3). Paul reiterates that the believer’s hope for the next life is to have a real eternal resurrection body. The period between believer’s death and resurrection, even though a time of blessed fellowship with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8) is compared to a state of “nakedness” since the spirit/soul without its body or “spiritual clothing” is awaiting Christ’s return to earth.
G. “Do groan”. This is a further explanation of what is said in 2 Cor. 5:2. It implies an ardent and earnest desire to leave a world of labour and pain, and to enter into a world of rest and glory.
H. “unclothed…further clothed”. Paul again tells that he could hardly wait to get his glorified body (Phil. 1:21). “mortality might be swallowed up of life”. Paul wanted the fullness of all that God had planned for him in eternal life, when all that is earthly and human will cease.
Illustration 2: Eternal Life
Thinking of the fullness and duration of this wonderful life, W. B. Hinson, a great preacher of a past generation, spoke from his own experience just before he died. He said, “I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ‘You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul.
Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ‘ I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I
shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’” Source unknown
II. A new assurance (2 Cor. 5:5).
A. “God… hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 5:5): The Christian’s assurance and hope that “mortality might be swallowed up of life” is something we live for and live by. God guarantees it to us by the “earnest”, “deposit” or surety or pledge of the Person of the Holy Spirit. In Bible times when a man bought a piece of land, he would be given a handful of soil as the assurance of its ultimate possession. In return he would deposit a sum of money. Someone has said that the prepayment of a mere penny would legally hind a contract.
B. The Holy Spirit is a pledge or preview or foretaste of what is to come. “The Holy Spirit is God come to His temple” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20). He is a pledge already given. If we the gospel, the Holy Spirit is in us. (Acts 5:32; 2:38).
C. Equally encouraging is the realization that in the life of each Christian God has begun the transforming process that will one day culminate in possessing a heavenly body and perfect Christlikeness. The surety of that consummation is the Holy Spirit, whose presence and transforming work (3:18) forms the beginning and is guaranteeing the completion of God’s gracious salvation (Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30).
III. A new home (2 Cor. 5:6-8).
A. With this perspective Paul could be confident and encouraged, even in his period of mortality. To be at home in the body means to dwell in “tabernacle or tent” (2 Cor. 5:1), to be outwardly “perishing” (4:16), to be in a state of mortality away from the immediate presence of the Lord (1 Cor 13:12).
B. What sustained Paul was the realization that this was a temporary and transitory state (2 Cor. 4:18). He focused not on present but on future conditions, not on the seen but the unseen. To live this way is to live by faith, not by sight. It is to live in light of ultimate rather than immediate realities (Rom. 8:24-25), to be obedient to God’s commands despite the hardships that obedience produces (2 Cor. 11:23-29).
Such was Paul’s life. If the choice were his, he would have seized the opportunity to depart this pilgrimage life and take up residence (be at home) with the Lord (Phil. 1:21-23). But the constraints of his commission caused him to press on (Phil. 1:24; Eph. 3:1-13).
Illustration3: Who Will Be There?
The abode of God (1 Kings 8:30)
The abode of the angels (Mark 13:32)
Believers will be there in due course (1 Pet. 1:4).
The New Testament uses striking imagery to bring out the wonder and loveliness of heaven (gates of pearl and a street of gold— Rev. 21:21).
Heaven means eternal joy in the presence of God.
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook,
Illustration 4: Hearts Set on Heaven
In his classic devotional book titled The Saint’s Everlasting Rest, English Puritan pastor and author
Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote:
“Why are not our hearts continually set on heaven? Why dwell we not there in constant
contemplation? Bend thy soul to study eternity, busy thyself about the life to come, habituate
thyself to such contemplations, and let not those thoughts be seldom and cursory, but bathe thyself
in heaven’s delights.” Our Daily Bread, July 28, 1997
The “building” Paul is talking about here is not the home Christ is preparing for believers (John 14:1); it is the glorified body that will be ours when Christ returns (Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:50). Our earthly house is but a tent (tabernacle) that will one day be taken down (dissolved). But God has a glorified body for us! However, our desire as Christians is not to have this earthly body taken down in death, but to have it “clothed upon” and transformed when Jesus comes. How do we know we have this glorious future? We have the earnest of the Spirit (v. 5), that “eternal down payment” that assures us the rest of
the promised blessing will be ours. We are today “at home in the body but absent from the Lord.” Our yearning is to be “at home with the Lord” and living in glorified bodies that will never change. (Phil. 1:19-24).