Longing for a heavenly body

by Mike Ratliff

13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 2 Peter 1:13-14 (NASB) 

Unlike Peter, the Lord has not made it clear to me the putting off of my body is imminent (see the passage above). However, I do not deny that my desire for the ending of this tabernacling in this earthly tent grows deeper with each skirmish or battle in the Truth War. I am not overly sad here. I am in very good shape for my age, but with each step in spiritual maturity, the natural byproduct of standing firm in the hot parts of the battle, I find that my joy is in the heavenly perspective rather than in anything in the temporal with the only exception being in my personal relationships and fellowship with family and friends and fellow warriors. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, the Apostle Paul declares to us the incredible utility that comes to true believers through the Cross of Christ. In this, he shows us how we should prepare ourselves unto it, by whom, and to what end. As we fight the good fight, stand firm in the face of the growing apostasy consuming the visible church, God is not unaware of what is going on. He knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts. He knows what our motives are. Therefore…

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (NASB) 

Here is v1 from the NA28 Greek text: Οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι ἐὰν ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους καταλυθῇ, οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ ἔχομεν, οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

The three words at the beginning of this passage, “For we know,” is the Greek verb οἴδαμεν (oidamen) the first plural, perfect active indicative case of οἶδα (oida). This is a very interesting word. It means, “to know intuitively.” Paul’s point here is that we know intuitively what he is sharing in this passage because of being a child of God. This knowledge accompanies the New Birth in Christ. This is something that applies across the board with God’s truth. The unregenerate simply cannot grasp it no matter how well we share it or what books they read. Nothing can open their heart to understand God’s truth unless it is by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit according the mercy of God (Titus 3:5).

In v1 Paul is telling believers that if their earthly home is destroyed that they have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. This is the truth that what is alive spiritually in us is our real person, not the body. This is why Paul used the Greek word for tent, σκήνους (skēnous), here to describe our bodies. This is the material portion of our person. In this age, in pop-culture especially, it is as if this σκήνους, is what it is all about and that it will go on forever. However, the truth is that this earthly (ἡ ἐπίγειος) home or tent (οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους) will be destroyed or dissolved (καταλυθῇ) in God’s timing. The word Paul used here that is translated as “torn down” in the NASB means “to demolish.” Yes, this is going to happen in due time, however, those in Christ have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

This is a description of death of the mortal body. However, unlike those who have no eternal hope, those of us in Christ should see this as an encouragement as the reality of our mortality comes to bear. The word translated as “building” in v1 is οἰκοδομὴν, which means, “the process of building something.” In other words, God is, as I am typing this, building a new house for my spirit, which will be disembodied at the point of my death, leaving my old body remaining on earth. My new body is completely new, “a house not made with hands,” οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον. This is the completion of my eternal body. My new body has two qualities that we must understand now. The first is that it will be similar to my current body and identifiable, however, it will not be identical because it is ἀχειροποίητον or unhandmade. Instead, it is produced by God. This is the same word used by Christ referring to the resurrection of His body after three days and nights in the tomb. The bodies we have now were born into this world, but those resurrected in Christ, the righteous dead (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), will be changed by God to new, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-57). The second quality of my new body is that it is going to be eternal, αἰώνιον.

Of what does this αἰώνιον quality consist? This is the idea of eternality focused on what characterizes God Himself. The life that is given at salvation to believers is the promise of ζωὴν αἰώνιον (life eternal), not denoting duration of a period of time, but to the quality of the life. This life can never be lost or taken away once a person is justified by faith, accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

On the other hand, αἰώνιον, is always related to time using the form αἰώνια as in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 translated below as “eternal.”

17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NASB) 

Therefore, what we see and experience in these bodies is temporal or transient, but what awaits us with God in our new bodies is αἰώνια or eternal, which is that which is not temporal, cannot be lost, nor destroyed. This life that awaits all those in Christ is ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, in the heavens. This is where God is and where the believer will find his or her ultimate rest.

6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (NASB) 

This should be an encouragement to all of us truly in Christ, but it should also be a point of reflection for those who should examine their motives for what they are doing attacking those who stand firm on God’s Word as the Truth and live and minister accordingly. Those who say they are Christians also, but who are following hard after every wind of human philosophy while ignoring what God’s Word clearly says should really stop what they are doing and do some serious self-examination. However, as we saw above, the truth is only intuitively apparent to those truly in Christ for they are born again. They are regenerate and can see the truth plainly while those who are unregenerate are spiritually blind and can only see the temporal while being consumed by the lies of our enemy.

My brethren, be encouraged in the Lord. No matter what your circumstances are now, what awaits those who are In Christ in eternity is going to be according to ζωὴν αἰώνιον in οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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