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2 Corinthians 5:1–3

“We know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.”

Throughout the last few verses of 2 Corinthians 4, Paul has been focusing on the truths that sustain believers as they suffer for Christ. He has shifted from truths about what occurs in the present—the renewal of our inner selves as our outer selves are wasting away—to truths about the future, that coming glories will make the pain we feel now worth it (vv. 16–18). In today’s passage, the Apostle continues to look at truths about future realities that will keep alive our hope during present suffering.

Paul notes that if our “earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (5:1). Some have argued that the house in the heavens here refers to heaven itself as our future home, to the place where our spirits go between death and the resurrection of the body, which Jesus also talks about in John 14:1–3. However, the Apostle most likely speaks of our future resurrected bodies that we will receive at the last day when Jesus returns (see Dan. 12:1–2; Rev. 21:1–22:4). In light of the context, “earthly home” must refer to our present earthly existence, which makes the heavenly home Paul speaks of our resurrected existence. It is called a “house not made with hands” and a “heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:1–2) not because it is entirely nonphysical but because it comes directly from God and does not participate in the present fallen creation. Our resurrected bodies will exist in continuity with our present bodies, but they will be so renewed and transformed by the Holy Spirit that they, despite having physicality, can be called spiritual bodies (1 Cor. 15:44). They will fully partake of the Holy Spirit’s glorifying power. Paul says that we have them in the present not because they are a reality in our experience now but because the certainty of the resurrection means that we in effect have them already. In other words, since these spiritual bodies will no doubt be ours then, it is as if we have them already. They are surely ours now, though we have not taken full possession of them yet.

At present, we long to put on this spiritually vivified flesh, and when we put it on we shall no longer be naked (2 Cor. 5:2–3). Paul seems to mean that the intermediate state, which he will refer to more clearly in the verses ahead, is not the ideal. It will be better when our spirits are with Christ in heaven and we are no longer suffering on earth (v. 8). But even better will be when our spirits are joined to our resurrected bodies to live forever in the new creation.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments, “A new robe will be prepared for believers after death, since they have been clothed in this life also.” Because we have put on the robe of the perfect righteousness of Christ in the present, we will put on the robe of a purified, immortal body in the resurrection. We should not fear death because it destroys only that which is temporary and fallen. It cannot destroy our eternal existence if we are in Christ by faith alone.

For Further Study
  • Job 19:25–27
  • John 11:25
  • 1 Corinthians 15:35–49
  • Hebrews 2:5–18

An Eternal Weight of Glory

Longing to Put Off Mortality

Keep Reading The Christian Way

From the September 2021 Issue
Sep 2021 Issue