2 CORINTHIANS 5
5:1 Our Eternal House In Heaven
1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Paul continues in this chapter to talk about why he does not lose heart. He does not lose heart because he knows, even if his earthly body is destroyed, he has a heavenly or eternal house or dwelling coming.
The phrase “earthly tent” is a metaphor for our physical bodies. Our physical body is a temporary dwelling, as is a tent. A tent is more fragile than a house or a building. The word “if” does not mean death is ultimately uncertain, but that Paul is making an “if\then” statement (a “conditional” in Logic). If “A” happens, then “B” happens. If the tent is destroyed, we have a building to take its place.
Some day our earthly body, or tent, will die. But our spirit does not die. Psalm 146:3-4 says the spirit will depart and the body returns to the ground. Why does it say “return”? Genesis 2:7 says the Lord god formed man from the dust of the ground. The body came from the ground and it will return there. That verse also says God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. The spirit came from God.
When Adam sinned, not only was he separated from God, but his physical body became perishable. In Genesis 3:19, God said Adam would return to the ground for that is where he was taken from.
Ecclesiates 12:7 says the body returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it. That is what death is for us. It is a separation of body and spirit.
Our spirit returns to God at death. Paul said we have a building from God, an eternal home in heaven. Some say Paul is talking about the body we will ultimately have. But, that comes later, at the resurrection. Paul was not talking about the resurrection as he was in 1 Corinthians 15, when he said Christ would return and we would be raised and given glorified bodies. Instead he is talking about physical death.
So, I think the “building” in this verse is our eternal home, heaven. We will exchange the temporary for the permanent, the fragile for the durable. Paul says 3 things about this building. First, it is from God. Second, it is an eternal house in heaven. Third, it is not built by human hands.
Jesus told his disciples, in John 14:2-3, “In my Father’s house are man rooms [dwellings]; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” Jesus has prepared a place for us that we will receive at death.
I don’t believe the Bible teaches that we go to sleep at death and awake at the resurrection. Rather, I believe it teaches that, at death, we go immediately to heaven to be in the presence of Christ. That makes sense in this passage, as Paul says he has comfort in that, even if he is killed here, he has a dwelling with Christ in heaven that is better than life here. In Philippians 1:23, he says he desires to depart and be with Christ, not take a long nap, the “Big Sleep”, if you are a Raymond Chandler fan.
In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus referred to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and said God is the God of the living. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, angels carried Lazarus at death to Abraham’s side, or to heaven. (see Luke 16:22). The rich man went directly to Hades and suffered.
At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Christ. (see Matthew 17:3). Jesus told the believing thief on the cross, today you will be with me I paradise. (see Luke 23:43) Hebrews 12:22-23 says we have come to the city of the living God and the spirits of the righteous made perfect.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says this: (Q.37) "The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection."
The Heidelberg Catechism teaches us to confess that "my soul will be taken immediately after this life to Christ its head" (Q & A 57).
Richard Baxter said: Rebirth brings us into the Kingdom of grace, and death into the Kingdom of glory.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in soul sleep and rewrite the passage of the thief on the cross to accommodate their view (I say to you today…). Roman Catholics believe the soul goes to Purgatory to be purged of sins. There is no scriptural support for this.
Our dwelling in heaven is not made by human hands, but prepared by Christ for us.