If you will recall from our previous conversation, some certain members of the Corinthian church had rejected belief in the resurrection of the dead. Paul addressed this rejection near the end of his first epistle to the Corinthians.
Paul countered with the argument that if there is no resurrection of the dead then not even Christ Himself was raised, and if Christ was not raised, then we are all still in our sins. Our faith would be futile, because He would still be dead. Paul then used the analogy of seed time and harvest to further his argument.
But even after having closed his first epistle to the Corinthians, he is not finished with either them or his argument. Instead, sometime later, he composes a second epistle to the Corinthians and almost picks up where he last left off.
2 Corinthians 1
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
8 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.
Paul wants the Corinthians to understand the hardship and suffering he and his companions in the gospel have had to endure in order to bring the gospel to Corinth and the rest of Asia. He wants the Corinthians to know that it was for their sake Paul and the brothers endured. It was not instead for some ill perceived personal gain or power.
In fact, so perilous was the journey at one point that he and his companions despaired of life itself, and yet still they pressed on. This despair was to teach them to continue relying not on themselves, but rather on God who raises the dead.
Notice that. God who raises the dead. And keep in mind who he is talking to. These folks had been denying the resurrection of the dead. Paul counters this denial by pointing out the fact that if the dead are not raised, then Christ is still dead and our faith futile. He now begins his second letter by reminding them that the God whom Paul and his companions depended on for their strength after they found themselves despairing of even life itself is the God who raises the dead.
I say again, notice that. After finding himself in despair of life itself, Paul’s hope was in the God who raises the dead. His hope was not that he would wake up to find himself in heaven after he died.
I think most Christians today would phrase Paul’s comments a bit differently. I think most Christians today would say something along the lines of this –
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our
strength that we despaired of life itself. But
then we reminded ourselves that if we died,
we would just go straight to heaven afterward,
so we weren’t too worried about it anymore.
Be honest. This sounds like something most Christians would say, doesn’t it? Maybe it even is something you yourself would say.
Paul’s hope was not in the God who would transport him immediately up to heaven after he died. Rather, Paul’s hope was in the God who raises the dead.
But Paul isn’t finished. He carries his argument on through the next three chapters, showing the Corinthians how it was for their sake that he and his companions suffered and endured, and how it was the God who raises the dead that gave them the strength to carry on.
2 Corinthians 4
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Young’s Literal Translation puts it like this:
7 And we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us;
8 on every side being in tribulation, but not straitened; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 at all times the dying of the Lord Jesus bearing about in the body, that the life also of Jesus in our body may be manifested,
11 for always are we who are living delivered up to death because of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our dying flesh,
12 so that, the death indeed in us doth work, and the life in you.
13 And having the same spirit of the faith, according to that which hath been written, `I believed, therefore I did speak;’ we also do believe, therefore also do we speak;
14 knowing that He who did raise up the Lord Jesus, us also through Jesus shall raise up, and shall present with you,
15 for the all things [are] because of you, that the grace having been multiplied, because of the thanksgiving of the more, may abound to the glory of God;
16 wherefore, we faint not, but if also our outward man doth decay, yet the inward is renewed day by day;
17 for the momentary light matter of our tribulation, more and more exceedingly an age-during weight of glory doth work out for us —
18 we not looking to the things seen, but to the things not seen; for the things seen [are] temporary, but the things not seen [are] age-during.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, says Paul. And we might ask, why? Paul’s answer, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. In other words, so the world may see that the surpassing power belongs to God and not instead to us.
These earthen vessels, they are afflicted in every way. Afflicted yes, but not crushed; baffled yes, but not discouraged. Persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. These earthen vessels bear the death of Jesus so they might also bear the resurrection life of Jesus. You cannot escape crushing until you are first afflicted. You cannot escape destruction until you are first struck down. And you cannot escape the grave until you first die.
Paul uses the death and resurrection of Jesus as a metaphor for the persecution and deliverance he and his companions experienced. We despaired even of life, he told them, and in this we carried in our bodies the death of Christ. However, this simply served to show us that we must continue to rely upon the God who raises the dead rather than upon ourselves.
The God who raises the dead.
Having explained his hope, Paul then brings his argument to its conclusion.
2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:21
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
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.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
We do not lose heart. Why do we not lose heart? We do not lose heart, because although our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.
Because we know that if the tent that is our home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Now it’s here, right here where many Christians lose their heads, because they insist the righteous enter into this building not made with hands immediately upon the time of their death. In fact, John Gill wrote the following in his commentary:
a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? which some understand of the glorified body upon its resurrection, as opposed to its frail, mortal earthly frame in its present situation; though rather all this designs the happiness of the saints, which will be begun, and they shall immediately enter into, at the dissolution of their bodies, and will be consummated at the resurrection; which is all of God’s building and preparing
They shall immediately enter into at the dissolution of their bodies, and will be consummated at the resurrection.
Where in the world is that to be found anywhere in Paul’s argument? Time and again Paul has argued body. It’s in the body. A vessel. A tent. A house. We carry His death and His life in our bodies. It’s a body that goes down into the ground like a seed, and it’s a body that emerges from the ground like a flower. A body.
And yet here is Gill arguing that upon the dissolution of our earthly body we shall enter into happiness without a body. Imagine that. Paul says body, Gill says no body. Disembodied and happy while we wait for the consummation of our happiness which will be the resurrection of the dead and only then a new body.
And notice he says “enter into”. Paul says raised from the dead. Gill says “enter into,” as if God is merely transporting a consciousness to a new dimension like a captain aboard a star ship. Energize, Mr. Gill.
My hope is in the God who raises the dead. Sadly for most Christians, their hope is in the God who transports the consciousness.
But Dave, Paul said naked. He used the word naked. He said, “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.” This must refer to the nakedness of being disembodied in heaven while we await the consummation of our happiness, it just simply must.
1 Corinthians 15:37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
Guess what the word translated “bare” there is in the Greek. If you guessed gymnos, naked, then you’d be right.
What goes into the ground is a naked kernel. Naked I came from my mother’s womb and I naked I will return. But what is sown is not the body that is to be.
1 Corinthians 15:
38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust. And what was Paul’s argument to the Corinthians in his second epistle? We carry in this body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. How? In a body.
In a body, folks. A body. There is no talk of a disembodied existence to be found anywhere in the Scriptures. There just simply isn’t. All talk of a disembodied existence must be eisegeted into the text rather than exegeted from it.
A people have been made righteous by the cross. I mean, really, really righteous. And yet they still live in these ridiculously broken, sinful and dying tents. Our true homes, the homes God Himself has made for us, they are stored up in heaven for safe keeping. We don’t have them yet. We will not have them until the resurrection. In that sense we are already naked.
What does that mean for us now then? I mean, after all, if we aren’t going to be conscious and disembodied in heaven after we die, then where will we be?
Exactly where Paul told the Corinthians we will be. Asleep. In the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Wait though, Dave. What about what Paul told the Philippians?