Our Heavenly Dwelling and the Ministry of Reconciliation

by Mike Ratliff

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. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 (NASB) 

As I shared in another post, I tested positive for Covid-19. I retested about a week later when my symptoms seemed to be abating and it was again positive. My symptoms worsened. Then last week I retested again and it still came up as positive. I contacted my son who is an M.D. He had recently gone through the same thing, but was back at work. He told me to quit retesting as I will continue to test positive for about 90 days. This caused me to look back at how long these “symptoms” had been plaguing me. It started the same day I retired which was Christmas Eve. It was also the day that all of our family members came in for the holidays. We had a houseful. That’s when it started. My symptoms have been bad, then almost went away only to come back again and again. So, counting back to Christmas Eve I think I have another month of this up and down stuff. When the symptoms are raging I feel awful. When they abate it is like nothing at all is wrong. While this was all going on my brother had to be hospitalized because he got Pneumonia from the Covid infection he had. That started in December and even though he is home now, he is still on oxygen. I am very thankful that I have not had to go through that. So, as believers we have to ask, “What is God doing through all this?”

We are mortals. Our spiritual side is immortal, but these bodies are nothing more than a tent that will eventually see corruption. Our bodies, like a tent, are temporary. They are fragile, insecure, and lowly.

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (NASB) 

Since we are simply sojourners in these bodies shouldn’t we take better care of what is eternal rather than the temporal. Oh sure, we should take care of our bodies, but never to the exclusion of our spiritual health. Those in Christ have a “building” from God awaiting them in eternity. This is our glorified, resurrected body. A tent is temporary and insecure. Compared to that, a building is solid, secure, certain, and permanent. Like Paul, if we have an eternal perspective, we long to be free from this earthly body that is so limited, weak, and prone to sickness. Our glorified bodies will be free from worldly corruption. We won’t be floating around in Heaven as disembodied spirits. We will have real bodies that are glorified, spiritual, immortal, perfect, qualitatively different, but nonetheless real body, like our Lord Jesus Christ.

5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
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. 2 Corinthians 5:5-8 (NASB) 

So God has prepared us for this purpose and has given us The Holy Spirit as a guarantee. God is sovereign. His purposes are never thwarted. He always accomplishes what He purposes and those whom He saves are guaranteed their glorified state with Him.

21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NASB) 

Therefore, no matter how “tent-like” our circumstances are, we are to always be of good courage. Why? We know that while we are in our tents we are away from the Lord, therefore, we are to walk by faith, not by sight. By living like that, we will be full of the Spirit and, therefore, will be of good courage. We die in Christ and He lives in and through us. In this state, we obey Him and walk through our trials and tribulations in Spirit-filled control. We can do this if our hope is away from our bodies and at home with the Lord. If our treasure is in Heaven then we can do this. We will live in such a way that the possessing of that treasure becomes more and more a reality to our hearts and we can bear whatever the Lord allows into our lives that would break asunder those who walk according to the flesh.

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.
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 (NASB) 

It is right and noble for the believer to strive for excellence. Having spiritual goals is honorable before God. (Romans 15:20; 1 Timothy 3:1) No matter what our circumstances those goals should still stand vibrant before our hearts. Immature believers often falter here. They pursue holiness and godliness and are actually making progress then their tent comes under some sort of stress. Most, unless they are being closely discipled, will interpret God’s cutting and pruning as signs that they are going the wrong way when, in fact, they are on the right track and need to simply humble themselves before their creator God even more.

We are all to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. I don’t personally know any believers who look forward to this. However, if we make it our aim, our goal, to walk before the face of God to be well pleasing to Him then we will be doing exactly the right thing to be prepared to stand before our Lord. When we do give our accounts they will include the things we have done in the body. Our lives now will have an impact on our eternity. Since we know this we should have a fear of the Lord that causes us to live our lives as acts of worship. Living this way, despite our circumstances, will persuade others of the veracity of our faith and point them to Christ. He is our source of spiritual integrity and strength.

12 We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. 2 Corinthians 5:12-15 (NASB) 

Those with discernment from God can easily spot false prophets and false teachers and those “Christian” leaders who lead the flock astray. How? They cannot “boast” as Paul did here in his spiritual integrity, but will boast about externals. For example, how many professions of faith they have, or how big their churches are, or how their own ministries have done such and such works. They are not humble. They point to their own works rather than own God’s work through them. The genuine Christian leader is controlled by the love of Christ.

What does it mean that “one died for all, therefore all died….?” Oswald Chambers wrote:

“The modern view of the death of Jesus is that He died for our sins out of sympathy. The New Testament view is that He bore our sin not by sympathy, but by identification. He was made to be sin. Our sins are removed because of the death of Jesus, and the explanation of His death is His obedience to His Father, not His sympathy with us. We are acceptable with God not because we have obeyed, or because we have promised to give up things, but because of the death of Christ, and in no other way. We say that Jesus Christ came to reveal the Fatherhood of God, the loving-kindness of God; the New Testament says He came to bear away the sin of the world. The revelation of His Father is to those to whom He has been introduced as Saviour. Jesus Christ never spoke of Himself to the world as one Who revealed the Father, but as a stumbling block (see John 15:22- 24). John 14:9 was spoken to His disciples.

That Christ died for me, therefore I go scot free, is never taught in the New Testament. What is taught in the New Testament is that “He died for all” (not – He died my death), and that by identification with His death I can be freed from sin, and have imparted to me His very righteousness. The substitution taught in the New Testament is twofold: “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” It is not Christ for me unless I am determined to have Christ formed in me.” – Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NASB) 

Christians must not judge people according to the flesh. All genuine believers are regenerate. That means that they are new creations. They are no longer dead in their sins. They are not perfect, but in God’s eyes they have Christ’s righteousness. Before this they were totally incapable of doing good works that were not sin. Now they can do good works empowered by the Holy Spirit and bring God glory. They now have the ability to flee lusts and not sin by putting their sin to death through mortification. All of that was impossible before. On top of that, all in Christ now have the spirit of reconciliation. That means that God can use them to draw others to Himself.

It’s not that now we are Christians that we had better become involved in some sort of outreach ministry, not that that is bad, but that we are to live our lives in our tents in such a way that God uses us to draw others into the light through our example of godliness while in the flames of tribulation. If our suffering can bring God glory then we should rejoice in our weakness and pray for Him to be glorified all the more.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “Our Heavenly Dwelling and the Ministry of Reconciliation

  1. Excellent post! As an aside, I am in the recovery period from Covid-19. I caught in January, and got worse and worse, and finally my family convinced me to go to the hospital. Once there they admitted me and put me on oxygen and I don’t know what all medications. I was so out of it, I barely remember the several days I was hospitalized. As it turns out, not only did I have Covid-19, but it somehow caused me to have fungal pneumonia. Nice stuff that Covid! But it didn’t plan on something, or rather someone that I had on my side: Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. He pulled me through it (which is a miracle in itself considering all my comorbidities), and taught me to simply trust Him for all things. What is the worst that can happen? Die? Then I go to be with the Lord, so if that is the worst, then bring it on! Please! I am so ready to go home!

    Hang in there Mike, and continue to trust the Lord like I know you do. Your writing reveals that about you, and it reveals that God is with you. Not that your words are inspired Scripture, but it is clear to me that your heart, your mind, and your soul are focused on and blessed by God.

    God Bless you and keep you, brother. You are in my prayers.

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  2. Thanks for sharing that Robert! What you described sounds almost exactly like my brother’s case. He is still on oxygen though he is home now. Your testimony in you comment is exactly where the Holy Spirit has been pointing me over this trial. Like you, I am so ready to see my Saviour’s face and be with Him forever. I covet your prayers brother. I have been praying for your recovery in my morning prayer time. Since I am still dealing with my own issues as I have been praying for healing tells me that God has a purpose in this so, I pray for perseverance and that He will use me for His glory alone.

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