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. 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. 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. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 ESV
Paul closed out his preceding thoughts with the words, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT). He is contrasting the seen with the unseen, the temporal with the eternal, the material and the spiritual. Now in chapter five, he continues his comparison by sighting the difference between our earthly, temporal bodies and the new resurrected bodies we will receive as part of our glorification. What we see here is not all there is or will be. The body in which we live does not represent the reality of who we are or will be. John reminds us, “we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul told them, “our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:53 NLT).
Our earthly, physical bodies were not designed for eternity. They are temporal by nature and susceptible to disease, decay and, ultimately, death. And as Paul so matter-of-factly states, there is a day coming when our earthly body will be destroyed. We will die and our physical bodies will undergo decomposition. But Paul assures us that “we have a building from God, a house not made with hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1 ESV). He is referring to our resurrected body. Again, in his first letter, Paul had told them, “Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NLT).
And there is a certain degree to which we should long for our new body. This body is corrupted by sin and prone to disease and decay. In his letter to the Romans, Paul provides us with an autobiographical glimpse into his daily struggle with his own sin nature:
The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.d I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. – Romans 7:14-21 NLT
To the Corinthians, he describes the outcome of this internal battle as producing a burden that results in groaning. Our new nature wearies over the constant warfare going on within us. It even led Paul to exclaim, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:24 NLT). And he answered his own question. “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25 NLT).
Faith in Christ produces victory over the control and penalty of sin in this life and victory over the power and presence of sin in the next life. According to Paul, we should long for the day when we can put off this body of death and put on our new bodies, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. It is on that day when we will finally experience what it is like to be sinless and totally righteous, not just propositionally, but practically. Holiness will no longer be a goal for which we strive, but a reality in which we live.
And Paul says, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 5:5 ESV). We have been redeemed by God in order that we might one day be restored to sinless perfection, and able to enjoy unbroken fellowship with Him. The Holy Spirit is a down payment, a sort of guarantee that what God has promised to us will be done for us. In this life we enjoy the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God who guides and directs our lives. He convicts and comforts. He provides us with a supernatural source of power and a never-ending supply of God’s mercy and grace. But while we enjoy His presence in our lives, we also struggle with the influence of indwelling sin and the external attacks of the enemy. Yet the day is coming when our fellowship with God will never again be broken by sin. Our righteousness will no longer be contaminated by unrighteousness thoughts or actions. Our obedience will be complete. Our joy will be constant. Our holiness will be undiminished and unending. He has prepared us for this very thing.