Tuesday, 4 August 2015
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:4
Paul continues to expand upon the same thought which he has been speaking about since verse 1. “We who are in this tent” is speaking of all saved believers in Christ who are still alive. Those who have died have put off their current tent and are awaiting the call of the resurrection which is seen in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. There it says that “the dead in Christ will rise first.” However, those who are still alive “groan, being burdened.”
This is our current state. We have pains and trials and we know that because of Christ there is something far better which lies ahead. But this isn’t just Christians. In Romans 8:22, Paul says –
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
However, though all creation groans, for the believer there is the sure hope of something better ahead. We look to the resurrection and we anticipate our time ahead when we shall also participate in it. Now, we struggle in this life because our body is temporary and corrupt. Again, Paul says in Romans 7:24 –
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24
Therefore, our groaning is in hope, “not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.” To be “unclothed” means to die and be rid of this corrupt body. Someone without the hope of Jesus may desire this state. For example, someone who commits suicide may simply want to be done with life. In ending their life, their groaning will hopefully end. But in Christ, there is more than just the hope of ending pain. Rather, there is the hope of being “further clothed.”
We look forward to a new life in a new body that is far better than what we now possess. Because Jesus has gone before us, and because we are promised to be like Him in His resurrection, then we desire that additional state rather than just to put off this mortal, corruptible body. This is the assured difference between those who do not know Christ and those who do. We have the solid hope “that mortality may be swallowed up by life.” This corresponds perfectly with Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 15 –
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.'” 1 Corinthians 15:54
For Christians, the path doesn’t end at death. Instead, it continues on with new and everlasting garments. And Paul’s words here imply that he believed that he may actually be alive when the Lord returned. Two points to consider on that are: 1) even since the earliest times in the church, there was the eager anticipation of the Lord’s return. 2) The concept of a “rapture” was understood, not misunderstood, by those who waited for their change. Paul’s words clearly show that this event was expected by believers. Thus it was not a late “invention” which came through dispensational theologians.
As a final note, Paul’s words here closely resemble the apocryphal writings of the Wisdom of Solomon –
“…for a perishable body weighs down the soul,
and this earthy tent burdens the thoughtful mind.” Wisdom of Solomon 9:15
It is believed by some that Apollos, Paul’s friend mentioned in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus may have been the author of this book.
Life application: We have a sure hope of a better, eternal body which is superior in all ways to the one we now have. Be content to live this life knowing that whatever you are facing in physical trials, you will never face them again when you are given your new and eternal home. God has lovingly prepared something wonderful for you.
Lord, thank you for the promises of Your word which tell us that this mortal life will be swallowed up with immortality. I know this will come in the twinkling of an eye and the change will be both immediate and complete. And I know this with all certainty because Jesus has gone before me and Your word says that because I have received Him, He will receive me. What a sure promise I possess. Thank You for this wonderful hope! Amen.