Home Bible Study©
Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published weekly on Friday
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1Timothy 2:3-4)
Welcome to HBS.
Introduction to Chapter 5
I trust you’re aware our Apostle Paul did not divide his letters into chapters and verses. The person credited with dividing the Bible into chapters is Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury (1207-1228). This was a useful organizational tool, but eventually most inventions can and will be improved it just takes time. In the mid-16th century Robert Stephanus (a.k.a. Robert Estienne) created a verse numbering system, giving us the ability to refer to specific Bible phrases within Bible chapters making Stephen Langton’s system even more useful. The chapter and verse numbers we know and have grown accustomed to using today are direct descendants of these systems.
I added this data to our Bible lesson today because 1) I believe church history is relevant to Bible study. They’re like two peas in a pod. 2) Because 2 Corinthians 5 is closely related to chapter 4. How close? According to theologians, they believe it has been improperly separated from it. They think chapter 5 should have been added to chapter 4. Here I am thinking, in the original manuscripts there were no chapters or verses, no breaks or interruptions, so of course it did belong.
In chapter 4, Paul began with the subject of the ministry, the honesty and faithfulness with which Paul and his fellow-laborers worked (2 Corinthians 4:1-3); the suffering, the trials and dangers encountered in the course of working in their ministry of righteousness and of life (2 Corinthians 4:7-12); and the consolations and support which they had in the various trials (2 Corinthians 4:13-18), and continues his discourse on into chapter 5, verse 1, with the words, “For we know…”
Please open your Bible at 2 Corinthians 5:1.
The Temporal and Eternal
2 Corinthians 5
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 human hands, eternal in the heavens.
Paul was a tent-maker by trade (Acts 18:1-3). This is how he supported himself while preaching the gospel of the grace of God. He also worked as a common laborer so as not to be a financial burden to the churches. If you remember, one of the reasons Paul wasn’t respected by the Corinthians was because he didn’t ask for money, as the other so called apostles were doing. Paul would have been well within his rights as an apostle of the Lord to receive financial support, however, he didn’t want anything to cause hindrance to the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:11-12).
I suppose because Paul was a tentmaker this is why he chose to use it as a metaphor here. You see, a tent is a temporary shelter. The Arabs and Bedouins of the nomadic dessert tribes lived in tents, wandering from place to place, while those who are permanently rooted live in a house.
The present dwelling place of the Believer’s soul and spirit is here called a tent, and by nature it is a temporary dwelling, by this Paul means to say we may pull up and move at any time. The house Paul refers to is said to be eternal. He’s referring to our resurrected body, as compared to our present body, which is temporary. The body in which the “inner man and woman” now resides is fragile, easily crushed, and perishing, it is often a burden and yields to temptation, for since the fall it has not been favorable to spiritual living. But the new and glorified body will be forever free from sin, sorrow, and death (Revelation 21:4).
For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.
The word house carries the same meaning as tent or dwelling place in verse 1.
We groan – Paul’s saying Believers sigh deeply for what is not yet seen or realized, i.e. God’s kingdom, our new, glorified bodies, our lives as adopted children of God the Father, and so much more (Romans 8:18-22).
Longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven - I don’t personally think this is true with all Believers. Based on my own conversations and observations I don’t see youthful people focused on end of life planning or dying at all. They are intently focused on the here and now, or as Paul put it: the things that are seen. I think Paul’s statement is true for those Believers who have matured in the faith and especially for those senior Believers, like Paul, who have entered the autumn of their years; people who realize the Rapture event is nearer than before. Based on what I see in Paul’s letters, he believed he’d live to see the Lord coming in the clouds for His Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). I have the same kind of expectant faith! I look for the Lord’s coming every day because I prayed for it the night before.
However, we are well aware that this present tent is breaking down, if not you soon will be, because the Second Law of Thermodynamics is at work all around us. It basically reveals that material things are not eternal. Nothing stays as fresh as the day you purchased it, everything ultimately returns to dust. What was it the LORD God said to the man before he was evicted from Eden, “for you are dust and to dust you shall return - Genesis 3:19). Since this is true, why wouldn’t you and I look expectantly to something better?
Inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked - it’s clear our Apostle Paul longed to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, meaning he was looking forward to the Rapture of true Believers, when this mortal (body) must put on immortality. Obviously, Paul is talking about our resurrected bodies – the ones we’ll receive in which mortality will be “swallowed up” in immorality, an event which he deemed to be near at hand. This conversation is similar to the one in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57.
Paul wants us to understand these eternal promises are ours now; in fact eternity resides in us at this very moment, for if we should die now our eternal soul would go to be with the Lord in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). We have a house not made with human hands eternal in the heavens already there waiting on us.
will not be found naked – this short phrase has caused a lot of confusion in the church. However if you remember the pagan culture Paul encountered in Corinth upon his arrival (Acts 18) and the fact that these new Believers were not that far removed from where they started when they first believed, meaning they had one foot in the church and the only foot in the world, it’s not too difficult to understand what Paul meant. The ancient Greek conception of the afterlife was already well established by the 6th century. Homer described the underworld, deep beneath the earth, where Hades, the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, and his wife, Persephone, reigned over countless drifting crowds of shadowy figures – the shades of all those who had died. It was not a happy place. Indeed, the ghost of the great hero Achilles told Odysseus that he would rather be a poor serf on earth than lord of all the dead in the underworld (Odyssey, 11.489-91).
KHARON (Charon) was the Ferryman of the Dead, an underworld daimon (spirit) in the service of King Hades. Hermes Psykhopompos (Guide of the Dead) gathered the shades of the dead from the upper world and led them down to the shores of the Akherousian (Acherusian) mere in the underworld where Kharon transported them across the water to Hades in his skiff. His fee was a single coin which was placed in the mouth of a corpse upon burial. Those who had not received proper burial were unable to pay the fee and were left to wander the earthly side of the Akheron (Acheron), haunting the world as ghosts.
Therefore, in light of this, Paul is saying, I don’t want any of you to misinterpret my words. We’re not going to be ghosts, hanging around after our death, haunting people and places. That’s Greek, mythological mumbo-jumbo, however, people were caught up in that religious-based web of fear even though there were zero facts to back it up.
2 Corinthians 5
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.
No one will die and then float off to be with the Lord in a bodiless existence (be found naked) for in verse 3 Paul said, Inasmuch as we, having put it on. And in verse 4 he groaned and was burdened earnestly longing for his glorified body – thinking he’d be alive to see the Lord on that great day, he wrote: so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. The subject of the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living saints is found at 1 Corinthians 15:54. Concerning the dead in Christ Paul said: this perishable will have put on the imperishable. But, when referring to the living saints he wrote this, this mortal will have put on immortality.
Please note the difference. This mortal refers not to the dead, but to those who are apt to die, as all living saints are. And when will these saints receive their glorified bodies? Immediately! This book says they will go immediately from mortality to immortality.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will (do what) transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:20-21).
Our bodies must be transformed (made to be like Christ’s) so they can function in heaven. This will take place immediately (1 Corinthians 15:51) in the blink of an eye.
Let’s move on to verse 5.
2 Corinthians 5
5: Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
The Greek word for prepared is Katergazomai (pronounced: kat-er-gad’-zom-ahee), a Verb, Strong’s Greek #2716, and it means: to work out; to accomplish – as in Philippians 2:12 - …work out your (own) salvation, (i.e. from strife and its results). It has the idea of making something happen and certainly God has not prepared all those who love Him for some temporal secondary blessing. Paul uses this word often in this letter (2 Corinthians 4:17, 5:5, 7:10, 11, 9:11; 12:12). Our lives are not controlled by fate or luck despite what many may believe, but by God. Even our trials can be the means by which our spiritual maturity is achieved (Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 5:8). God has prepared each and every true Believer to be glorified with Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:20-21).
God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge – this concept of a pledge had an O.T. precedent (remember, N.T. writers are Hebrews writing in Koine Greek).
A promise to pay a debt (Genesis 38:17-20; Deuteronomy 24:10-13)
A promise of providing sustenance (1 Samuel 17:18)
A personal promise (2 Kings 18:23; Isaiah 36:8)
This Greek term refers to a “down payment” or earnest money. It is the firstfruits, a pledge that the purchaser truly means to acquire the whole crop which ripened first. The firstfruits in Israel were that part of the whole crop which ripened first, thus a pledge that the rest of the crop would follow. This means in no case is an earnest payment something like the thing purchased; in every case it is part of it: the down payment.
Now to assure us that He has prepared us for this very thing, i.e. the eternal glory that is to come in Christ Jesus, God has given us the Spirit as a down payment. The Holy Spirit does not have “all of us” yet, but thank God we have all of Him to enlighten us and to help us in our time of need. The Spirit is the fulfilled promise of the New Covenant of righteousness: who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:14).
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord – For we walk by faith, not by sight – we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
In the section, 5:1 – 5:5, and in Paul’s other letters to be sure, it speaks, as a whole, of two physical bodies for the Believer. The one has to do with this life; the other with the life to come, 5:1. The one, Paul refers to as tent, the other a building from God 5:1. The one is earthly; the other is from heaven 5:2. The one is temporary; the other is eternal 5:1. In the one we groan, being burdened, in the other we are forever blessed 5:4. In view of all this promised coming glory that our Apostle Paul has declared, Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord – For we walk by faith, not by sight (v6-7).
Our glorious position in Christ Jesus in the heavenlies, as well as all of our spiritual blessings there, are enjoyed by faith, not by sight. Although our relationship with other Believers may fall into the uncertain category at times, our relationship with the Lord is never in question. But this present situation is not the best due to the effects of lingering sin in our lives; it is a future event, we enjoy it by faith, which leads Paul to say in verse 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.
Why is Paul talking like this? If you’ll recall, he had recently suffered an illness that had him on his deathbed up there in Philippi, after leaving the beast down in Ephesus. The attacks from his adversaries were ongoing and relentless; these included the spiritual attacks from Satan. Let us not forget the Corinthian church issues that upset Paul so much. He was well aware of the unfinished work to be done there and elsewhere.
This is an immediate, one-way trip beautifully expressed in Philippians 1:23-24: But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better, yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Paul felt pressured from two directions; his deep longing to be with Christ and his responsibility to minister to the Believers. This sentiment takes right into verse 9.
Therefore we also (labour - KJV) have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him – I don’t know if you’re aware, but our Apostle Paul referred to himself as the Lord’s bondslave in Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1, 2:7, and Titus 1:1. In plain English this means his life was not his own. By this statement Paul means to say he was purchased by Jesus Christ from the slave market of sin: But thanks be to God that though you were (what) slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed (Romans 6:17).
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life (Romans 6:22). One of the things Paul is saying here is everything we do and say has eternal consequences. Therefore, as we go about our business each day our goal is to please the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:8-10; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 1:10, 3:1-2; Titus 2:9). Make sure you note that in your day-planner. It should be the first thing you read every morning. The reason for this is given is verses 10-12. Paul warned Believers once before about this future event at Romans 14:10, and now he’s doing it again for the Corinthians benefit (and ours, of course) because it’s not something we should forget or consider too lightly. Paul’s referring to the Judgment Seat of Christ.
We’ll pick up the lesson from here when next we meet. Have a great week!
(To be continued)
© Copyright 2011
GJ Heitzman’s Ministry
All Rights Reserved