This passage I have chosen as the central message today represents a change in the Apostles’ thinking with regard to the second coming of Christ.
Possibly an extreme crisis that had recently happened to him made him more aware of the weakness of his human body. He refers to this in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
We will look at the evidence in what was probably the first letter that Paul had written to any church. 1 Thessalonians Paul clearly stated: “We who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). No question, he spoke of being alive at the coming of the Lord. About five years later we find Paul writing about folding our earthly tent which is our body. Let’s look at what he had to say:
2 Corinthians 5:1-5 “For 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. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
This passage begins with confidence, “We know”, not, “We think” or “We believe” but “We Know” that if our earthly tent – our body -- die “we have” a building in heaven. Not “we might have” but “we have”! Take note, our future home is not an upgrade on the present “tent” we live in. Our future home is “a building from God”!
It is certainly appropriate that our new – eternal -- bodies will no longer be weak and temporary because we will live in them forever. John saw our future bodies and spoke of them in his first little letter. 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
Our heavenly dwelling will be patterned after the present dwelling of Jesus. It will be, or it is, radically different from our present body.
Paul wrote about the difference between our present body and our future body in detail in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49. There, the Apostle asks the question, “what kind of body” will the dead have? Then he uses the difference between seeds that are planted and when they return they are raised in glory. The seed is alone when it goes into the ground and it dies only to be restored to a new, powerful life. After the death to life event there are many seeds. According to IowaCorn.org there is about 800 kernels on the average ear of corn. So we can see the seed and stalk comparison is encouraging. This tent we live in is like the single kernel and our future body will be much more complicated – raised in power. “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (15:42-44) The future body that we live in is everything we need.
In one sense we already possess, or own, that future body. In Ephesians 2:4-7, We find: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The biggest problem, in dealing with this scripture and these ideas, is we do not “feel” as if we have been raised up and seated with him in the heavenlies. Wordsworth, English poet of the late 16th and early 17th century, hit the nail on the head when he wrote the poem that begins with the passage:
“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—“
We are in bondage to the world and its customs. We will never consistently feel like we are living in heaven. We really need to get our feeler on board with the truth of God’s Word. Bill Gillham in Lifetime Guarantee put it this way, “You are actually seated in heaven, according to God’s Word, experiencing God’s rest (above your circumstances). You are secure, loved, and treasured:”
We are not aliens to heaven we are citizens there. Paul wrote in, Philippiians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
The process of transformation from dead in sin to dead to sin is called sanctification. Back to 2 Corinthians 5, the confidence we need to live by is “we have a building”
And that building is from God who, as the writer of Hebrews assures us, is the founder of our salvation. The architect and builder of our lives is God the Father in union with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Together the Trinity planned a process through which mankind would be eternally saved.
If you can visualize a table that has all the ages, from beginning to end, existing forever. We only see a part of what is happening now and remember some of those things that happened in the past with no hope of seeing the future. God, on the other hand, sees it all.
God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 46 verses 8-10, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,”
Back to 2 Corinthians 5. Paul referred to our tent being a burden that causes us to groan longing to put on our heavenly dwelling. I will be honest, I am not eager to die. I am not afraid to die. The Bible tells us that Jesus became human at the right time and was born of Mary. He lived a sinless life. Again, at the right time, He took our sins into His body, nailed it to the cross, took it to the grave and left it there.
We should let the eyewitnesses speak.
Peter told it this way, He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Paul wrote a more complete statement of faith: (Corinthians 15:3-8) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
John recorded in (John 1:10-14), He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John added, (John 20:30-31) Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2016. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.