Second Corinthians 5:1–10 . . .
Yearning for the Next Life
One of the great questions, which all of us has to face, even though it may be in the privacy of our own thoughts, is, "What's waiting for me when I die?" There's new interest in that subject today when one focusses on today's encouraging passage.
In the first five verses of chapter 5, we find discussion about the nature of our hope. We learn a little more detail about last week's "weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:17). Apostle Paul describes it this way (Read 5:1–4 now) . . . What marvelous words! Obviously, that description of the present body of flesh and bones that we live in is contrasted with the same body, risen and glorified by the power of the Spirit of God. Apostle Paul says that this new body, the resurrected body, is an experience of not being disembodied but being further embodied. He changes last week's idiom — "the building" — to "the body," saying that it's like being fully clothed, more than we are presently.
Verse 5 is very reassuring, for Paul goes on to say in v. 5a, "Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God." No one wants to float around in bodiless existence; the human spirit rejects and resists that idea. Paul says that your actual experience will be this: "As believers, you'll be fully clothed with a heavenly dwelling; you'll have a new body. That is a weight of glory beyond all description that will come instantly, for the one who has prepared us for this divine eventuality is God." We learn in v. 5b that we've already tasted this in our spirit, although not yet in the body, because the body is locked into time; it's unredeemed and unresurrected. But in the spirit, in the inner life, we've already tasted the conditions. That's why Paul says: "[God] has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." Amen, that's the taste of glory!
It's a great hope, isn't it? When we go through struggles, we must remember always that every struggle, though it's part of God's plan for us, is part of an immense privilege that we have sharing his sufferings, that we may also "reign with him" forever. What a hope, indeed!
The next five verses help answer the question "What is there to live for?" Hopefully, many of you reading and appreciating vv. 6–10 will be helped by Paul's answer. The world of the 1st century looked very bleak; there was no more reason for hope in the apostles' days than in our own times. When you read the New Testament, you never find people in despair; instead, there's often a cry of triumph and a feeling of hope running through its pages, although their circumstances didn't look any more hopeful than ours.
Notice how Paul puts it as he introduces this passage to us. Verses 6 and 8 declare, "We are confident." He's already encouraged us in 4:16 writing, "Therefore we do not lose heart." Such proclamations are repeated throughout today's passage.
There are two reasons for such confidence (vv. 6–8). The first reason is that we're in touch with the Lord by faith, not by sight. We don't see him; he doesn't come and sit down beside us and talk to us and put his arm around our shoulders and encourage us; but, nevertheless, he is and will remain present with us. That's the first great reason for our renewed vigor and courage as we await our next life.
Paul sees another reason for our hope, encouragement, faith, and confidence. He says, "We . . . would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord" He's looking toward the future and summing up what we saw in the first five verses of this chapter: the great weight of glory that awaits us, and for which our present circumstances and trials are preparing us. Paul's looking ahead. We too should look forward to being at home with the Lord, in his very presence, seeing him no longer only through the Spirit's inner power, but face to face.
That's the first result. In the next two verses, the apostle sees another outcome of our faith. He puts it very clearly in v. 9: "So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." That's an eternal principle; it's not something that's going to change when we leave this earth. We're on earth to please God, to be a delight to him. That's the sole purpose for living, and that's what Paul's saying here.
In connection with pleasing God, Paul introduces to his readers the matter of the "judgment seat of Christ," which is oftentimes a very frightening and misunderstood concept to many people. But this isn't a judgment to settle destiny; it's a personal evaluation made by the Lord, given to each individual, of what his life has really been like. It's as though you and the Lord walked together back through all the scenes of your life as he pointed out to you the real nature of what you did and didn't do and say. So it's a time of disclosure; but it's also a time of evaluation when we learn for the first time who was right and what attitudes we should or shouldn't have had. The judgment seat is a helpful time of seeing the truth about ourselves.
That's what Paul means when he speaks of: "running the race" (1 Cor. 9:24) and "pressing on toward the mark for the prize" (Philippians 3:14). Then, if a man succeeds, "he will receive a reward" (1 Cor. 3:14) or "he will suffer loss" (1 Cor. 3:15). That's what the judgment seat of Christ determines. So, remain faithful and confident; don't hesitate to continue yearning for the next life.
- Q. 1 How does Paul's confidence in his future relate to 2 Cor. 4:16—18? To John 14:1–3?
- Q. 2 What role does your faith play in your future confidence?
- Q. 3 Is Paul motivated more by his desire to be with Christ, or by fear of God's judgment of him? Which motivates you?
2 Corinthians 5:1–10
New International Version (NIV)
[You can view it in a different version by clicking here; you can also listen to chapter 5.]
Awaiting the New Body
5 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7For we live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.