“For we know that if our earthly house if this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
For we know.. .!
Not only does the apostle give expression to the assurance of his own personal faith and hope, but he includes here the faith of the entire church of God. Together with the apostle the believing, regenerated body of Christ joyfully expresses its hope, which stretches out into the eternal mansions above.
Here is expressed the certitude of eternal, heavenly mansions!
We know, O yes, we know!
We know because we have been begotten again through the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. We have within us a new life that cannot be overcome by death. In principle we are become new creatures. And we know that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus. Concerning this there can be no doubt!
We know also that though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day. And this renewing work of grace cannot be halted by the exigencies of physical death. Consequently, we know that when our earthly house is dissolved, we have immediately our building of God, eternal in the heavens. For God will not allow that we be found naked; but at the very moment we die, at that very moment He will cover us with our heavenly house, not made with hands.
Indeed, we know!
We know, first of all, that our earthly house of this tabernacle will be dissolved.
Mark well, the apostle does not mean to leave this a matter of uncertainty. Nor did he have in mind or anticipate the speedy return of the Lord that would prevent the dissolution of the body. When he declared, “if our earthly houses were dissolved,” it was not his position that somehow he would escape dissolution. Rather, he looked upon death as imminent, as an objective reality. He means to say, therefore: we know that when our earthly house of this tabernacle will be dissolved, we will have at that very moment our building of God. When we go out of the one, we will immediately enter into the other. At the same time it is also true that so long as we remain in the present tabernacle, we cannot enter into the heavenly house. The earthly house must first be dissolved. And we know that it shall be dissolved; for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Mark also that when the apostle speaks of the dissolution of the present tabernacle, he does not look upon this dissolution as a painful experience. Rather, there is expressed here something that is joyfully anticipated.
Understand well that the Word of God is not speaking here of death in general, an experience which comes to every man that is born of woman, of man that is born dead in trespasses and sins. If this were the case, then indeed the passing through death would be a most painful experience. In death all the ties to the earthly are cut off. And to him who is outside of Christ, death is the gateway to eternal death, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.
But the Word of God here is speaking of the death of the children of God; of those who have within them a renewed inward man. It refers to the experience of those who in death lose an old man, which always made it so difficult for the new man to serve God. For such death is the complete liberation of the new man, the inward man.
Consequently the apostle does not have in mind the more or less philosophical distinction of the separation of soul and body; but the beautiful and scriptural distinction of the separation of the inward man from the outward man. (II Cor. 4:16) And the inward man of the Christian cannot be designated merely by the general term “soul,” but it must be understood as the regenerated man in Christ Jesus, that can never die. That inward man alone remains through the dissolution of temporal death,—all the rest perishes.
To that outward man, that is dissolved, belongs all that makes the earthly house thoroughly earthly. It includes all that God originally formed out of the dust of the earth and breathed into it the breath of life, whereby man became a living soul. It is earthly because it is taken out of the earth. It belongs to the earth. It is earthly in character. And it returns to the earth. “Dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return,” such is the judgment of God upon the outward man that perishes. To that outward man belong all the relationships which tie him to the present world; the relation to husband or wife, the relation of parent and child, of employer and employee, of government and society. To that outward man belong all the sufferings of this present time; not only the sufferings in general, but also the sufferings for Christ’s sake. To that outward man belongs also his relation to the human race that is dead in sin and misery; in which relation he possesses a nature that is subject to the lusts of the world and is exposed to all its temptations. It is that outward man that moves him to seek the things his inward man hates, and to will what the new man in Christ does not want to do. It is because of this outward man that the inward man often exclaims, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?”
It is this outward man, we know, that shall be dissolved!
Hopefully the apostle calls this earthly house a tabernacle! A tabernacle is a tent, a temporary dwelling place. Here the apostle speaks the language of a pilgrim, who does not intend to build his foundations deep, who tarries but for a night; who will not speak the language of the fool, who imagines that his house shall stand for aye.
The Christian knows that the dissolution of this earthly house is absolutely necessary. He is deeply aware that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. All that is of the earth, earthy, must be dissolved.
Indeed, this expectation of the child of God is one of joyful anticipation!
For when this outward man perishes, he is in immediate possession of his eternal home!
An house not made with hands!
This is, of course, figurative language. The apostle had just spoken of the earthly house as a tent; and a tent is made with hands. Negatively, then, this implies that the heavenly house is not transient. It does not pass away. It is not a house in which he wishes to dwell only for a night. And positively, this means that the heavenly house is eternal. In that house we shall abide forever. A house in which we shall rest eternally, and not be rushed by the exigencies of time.
And that eternal house is in the heavens!
And heaven is a place, not merely a condition. It belongs to the created universe, and also has a history. It is much richer and glorious now than when Abel, the first martyr, dwelled there alone. There the heavenly throng has steadily increased in number. There is Christ, the raised, exalted, and glorified Redeemer.
Literally we read, “a building out of God” we have!
This does not mean simply that God is the Artificer and Proprietor of that house; though He is, of course. He designed it before the foundation of the world. He made it, and is the owner thereof. But rather the emphasis falls on the fact that God dwells there. Not merely as the omnipresent God, but as He reveals Himself in the highest possible form in the face of Christ Jesus our Lord. There He intends to live the most intimate fellowship of friendship with His people in Christ. Heaven is our home with God; literally, “out of God with us.” That is centrally and essentially the blessedness of heaven.
We can speak, as the Bible does, of that city which is foursquare, with its streets of gold, and its pearly gates. We can say that there is no night there, that into it shall enter no thief to steal, that nothing such as moth or rust shall enter it to destroy. We can say that there is no death there, and it shall be the place of perfect peace to the inhabitants thereof. For the rest, no tongue can describe the place or the house of the many mansions. Except to say this, that we know that in the very center of it dwells the living and glorious God, without which all the rest loses its significance. He is the light and the life thereof!
When the apostle speaks of the house out of God, not made with hands; he is not referring to the body of the resurrection. The entrance into that body must wait unto the day of Christ at the end of the world. Rather he has in mind that whereof also Jesus spake: a house of many mansions, which He is now preparing. Into that house we enter immediately when our earthly tent is dissolved. So we shall never be found naked. And so shall the disembodied spirits of all the redeemed dwell with the Lord. This we know by faith, which is based on the truth: “I go to prepare a place for you.”
This certain knowledge must of necessity have some basis!
A basis implied in the text, but definitely expressed in the context!
First of all, this knowledge and certitude rests on the fact that God has raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. Of this the apostle writes in the preceding: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.” (II Cor. 4:14)
Secondly, this certitude is to be found in the fact that in the present tabernacle we groan, “earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” (II Cor. 5:2)
Upon solid ground, therefore, the certitude of heavenly mansions rests!
On the one hand, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of glory for all who are in Him. A glory which does not wait the last day when the resurrection shall be completed, but a glory that is to be enjoyed immediately upon death, when the new man in Christ enters into heavenly mansions.
On the other hand, the groaning we experience in our present tabernacle is the expression of earnestly desiring to be clothed upon when death overtakes us. This groaning is nothing more than the evidence of the new life, the resurrection life, within us.
Thus we have as the basis for our certitude not only the objective Word of God concerning the glory which Christ has merited for His people; but we also have the work of the Spirit within us registering in the conscious groaning of our spirits to be clothed with our heavenly house.
How blessed is this certitude!
Blessed it is as an object of our hope!
When our earthly and perishable tabernacle shall be exchanged for an heavenly house, not made with hands. When the present, imperfect, sinful and corrupt nature shall forever be abandoned, and in its place we shall appear in the very presence of God, holy and perfect. When we shall lose that in which we have experienced suffering and travail, and heavenly joy shall be our portion. When that which is transient and temporal shall be exchanged for that which is eternal.
Blessed also is this certitude, when we consider it in the midst of our present circumstances!
Now we find ourselves so often affected by temptations, trials, suffering and grief. So oppressive are these circumstances that at times we must exclaim with the apostle, “Who shall deliver me? O wretched man that I am.”
But in spite of all this, we know! And this knowledge fills our hearts with heavenly joy!
So wonderful is this assurance, that death, which is called the last enemy, we can face boldly, triumphantly, and unafraid!
We are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us!
Thanks be unto Thee, O God, for Thy unspeakable grace!