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2 Corinthians 5:4–5

“While we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”

Looking to future realities sustains our hope as we suffer for Christ. The eternal weight of glory that awaits us when the Lord’s plan is fully consummated makes all the pain we endure rather than forsaking Jesus a “light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17–18). We understand that we belong to the age to come and that our present existence in the fallen creation is only a sojourn in a tent that will be destroyed, giving way to the heavenly dwelling of resurrected life in the new heaven and earth (5:1–3). This age to come arrived in seed form with the coming of Christ, is slowly becoming ever more present as the gospel goes to the ends of the earth, and will finally arrive in all its fullness at Christ’s return (Matt. 13:31–33; 25:14–30). Believers live in the overlap of the ages, in the period wherein the old order of death and sin is slowly passing away and the new order of life and righteousness is slowly becoming more and more a reality. Though belonging to the new order, we retain a connection to the old until we are glorified.

Consequently, our life in the current age is characterized by burdens and a groaning for the age to come, for the final consummation of Christ’s kingdom. Paul tells us as much in 2 Corinthians 5:4–5, where his thought parallels his teaching in Romans 8:18–25. In Romans, the Apostle stresses that all creation longs to be released from the burden of decay and death that is associated with the presence of sin. How much more, then, do believers long to be free of that burden and experience the fullness of resurrected life in a completely renewed and restored creation? Indeed, we do long for that. Ultimately, Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:4, we do not long to be merely unclothed, to experience a purely spiritual existence. Instead, we long to be further clothed, for what is mortal within us to be “swallowed up by life” (v. 4). In other words, we long for the life given to us by Christ to be consummated in the removal of mortality from our flesh. We hope for the day not when we will lose our physical bodies but when our physical bodies will no longer be susceptible to death.

In 2 Corinthians 5:5, Paul states that God Himself has prepared us to look forward to this final day and to set our hope on it. Moreover, it is a sure hope because we have already received the Holy Spirit as a “guarantee.” The Spirit is the down payment, the first installment of the thoroughly transformed life to come.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

We do not have to wonder whether the Lord is going to bring a new, transformed creation. It will certainly happen, and the sign that we will participate in it is the gift of the Holy Spirit. His presence is only the beginning of the inheritance God is giving us. He has renewed our hearts and minds to trust in Jesus, which means He will finally renew our bodies as well. If we trust in Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit and will enjoy life in the new creation.

For Further Study
  • Isaiah 44:1–5
  • Ezekiel 36:22–38
  • 2 Corinthians 1:21–22
  • Ephesians 1:3–14

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From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue