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Our Heavenly Dwelling December 22, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.

Summary: Paul begins by asserting that even if his physical suffering leads to his death, his soul will be in heaven – which is built by God. Also, his current state causes him to groan, as he longs for his soul to enter heaven – and have a dwelling place after his death. Yet Paul is still alive, and so his sufferings cause him to groan – not for death itself, but for the time when his soul will enter heaven, as his time in heaven will overshadow his present sufferings. Indeed, God has:

  • prepared him for his time in heaven
  • placed His Holy Spirit in him as a guarantee of that future reality.

Given the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in him, Paul is confident in all circumstances; he knows that in his current state he is not in heaven (yet he lives by believing in the heavenly things that he cannot see) and so he prefers death as a means to being in heaven with Christ. As he prefers to be with Christ, he aims to please Him – as a point of honor – whether he is in his current state or in heaven. Paul concludes by noting that all Christians will stand before Christ to be judged, and they will be rewarded – or punished – based on their good – or bad – acts on this earth.

Thoughts: Verse 1 shows that after a believer dies, their soul enters “an eternal house in heaven.” Apparently the precise meaning of this phrase has been the subject of much debate, and Hodge presents the alternatives in his commentary:

1. The first answer is that the house not built by human hands is heaven itself.
2. That it is the resurrection body…
3. The third opinion is that the house into which the soul enters at death is, so to speak, an intermediate body – that is, a body prepared for it and adapted to its condition during the state intermediate between death and the resurrection.

Hodge then goes on to refute the second and third alternatives and support the first. If the first choice is indeed true, then this lends credence to the practice of believers saying, when a fellow believer passes away, “he is with Jesus now,” or “she is singing and dancing on the streets of heaven.” I had always thought that dead believers remained dormant until the second coming of Christ, especially in light of Paul’s teaching regarding the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58. Now this verse implies that when a believer dies, their soul immediately enters heaven, and it is only joined to a “glorious” body at the second coming of Christ.

Verse 9 shows that true Christians desire to please Christ in all that they do. Hodge offers some thoughts on this point:

And here he means that as ambitious people desire and strive after fame, so Christians long and labor to be acceptable to Christ. Love for him, the desire to please him and to be pleasing to him, animates their hearts and governs their lives and makes them do and suffer what heroes do for glory.

One of the high school students at my church recently asked me why, if God desires that Christians devote their lives to His service, they constantly sin and fall short of His desires. At the time I provided a rather weak answer. Later I thought about this issue and I kept returning to Paul’s remarkably candid assessment of his spiritual life in Romans 7:7-25. Basically Paul knew that his sinful nature was at war with his spiritual nature, and so he could not avoid sinning – constantly – as a Christian. Yet this compelled him to give thanks to Christ, as His finished work was sufficient for his salvation. I think that as believers, we should constantly remind ourselves that we each have two natures – and not one – which is an immediate cause for celebration. Our celebration should compel us to honor God and devote ourselves to Him out of gratitude. Indeed, as believers we must be realistic – we do not only possess a spiritual nature, but we also possess a sinful nature, and this will not be rectified until Christ’s second coming. In light of this, we must constantly thank Christ for His finished work and not depend on our own strength.

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