In this week’s lesson, we are going to continue to take a look at Paul’s encouraging words to believers. The words we will see today will continue to encourage the believer’s hope in the Lord. In our lesson last week, we saw Paul mention our hope in the new covenant and that hope gives us confidence. The new covenant, we should remember, is the promise of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and our salvation through our faith in His only begotten Son.
The new covenant is a heavenly promise! So, we are going to be taking a look at that heavenly promise in our lesson this week. This week’s lesson is being taught from 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.
Confident in the Heavenly Kingdom
Our lesson opens up with Paul saying to the Corinthians, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (v.1).” I want to put a great amount emphasis on the confidence that Paul is speaking with on behalf of all who genuinely follow Christ. Paul does not say that ‘we guess’ that if our earthly house is destroyed we have a building from God that is eternal in the heavens; he says “we have”.
Now, where does this confidence come from? Personally, for me, it comes from my faith in the words of Christ. We have a promise that the Lord promised to us that if we believe in His only begotten Son, we will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). To the apostles, Jesus spoke of heaven. In John’s gospel, Jesus tells us that in His Father’s house are many mansions and that He was preparing a place for us there in His Father’s house (kingdom) (John 14:1-6). So, because Jesus said it, I believe it.
Now, let’s also focus on this tent that Paul mentions in this opening verse. What is this tent that Paul is speaking of? Clearly this tent is temporary, right? So, we could consider two possibilities here. Since Paul mentions our earthly house, we could consider the world to be in view. As we know, this world, this current creation in fact, is temporary and will one day pass away. As shown in the book of Revelation, this world will pass away and a new heaven and earth will come forth (Rev. 21:1).
A temporary home
At the same time, however, what else is temporary that is of this world that you can think of? Is your physical body also temporary? Is your physical body also a home? I would tell you that your physical body is most definitely a tent – home – that is temporary and of this world.
As you may have heard me say before, this physical body is a shell (a cover) for our soul. You see, this physical body can be destroyed and pass away but the soul will always remain, regardless of what happens to the physical body.
With Paul using tents here, this reminds me of the children of Israel as they journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. On their journey through the wilderness, they did not have a physical stationary home as they journeyed. No, they camped in tents – even the tabernacle was a big tent! Eventually when they got to the Promised Land, the days of living in a tent faded away as they had entered the land where they would live in their stationary homes.
Now, what happens to the soul after the body is destroyed? Where do you believe your soul will go? The believer should be confident that when this body of ours passes away, our soul, we, have a home in the Lord’s kingdom because of our genuine faith. So, with this confidence, the believer should not lay up their treasures in this world that will eventually be nothing, but we should lay up our treasures in the kingdom of God that cannot perish (Matt. 6:19-20).
Looking forward to heaven
Now, when one chooses to live life with this mindset, he or she would look ahead filled with hope and excitement for the day when they can enter into their heavenly home. Paul says, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked (vss.2-3).”
Yes, I imagine most of us can appreciate life and its splendor. Yet, at the same time, we also look at this splendor and we see the wickedness that surrounds us. I preached about being on our journey through life in my sermon last week, and how while we are on this journey, we are always seemingly going through trials and tribulations and having affliction after affliction.
The trials and tribulations that we face can become so burdensome that they can become too much for us. Then, when we add on to those burdens our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual afflictions, we can become exhausted. Rather than being clothed in all that we go through while we are on this journey through life, we often begin to look ahead to the days of eternity where all of these things pass away and we are clothed in the eternal happiness, peace, and joy that comes with dwelling in the Father’s house.
Paul sums up this very thought as he says to the Corinthians, “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 (v.4).” Those who love this world, will never put on the garments of eternal happiness, peace, and joy. There are so many people who rather continue to walk naked (unrighteously) rather than put on the clothes of God’s righteousness. Genuinely, this is a crazy thought to me because I much rather wear the clothes of immortality than the clothes of a world that is going to pass away.
Confident in the Lord
As we saw Paul say in our lesson last week, we speak these words with great confidence and boldness because our hope is in the Lord (2 Cor. 3:12). Again, some will ask us, how can you be so confident in heaven? We are confident because of God!
Paul said it best when he said to the Corinthians, “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (v.5).” The genuine believer’s confidence comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in the hearts of all who believe. Let us remember that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to guide us in all truth (John 16:13). The truth that the Spirit declares to us is a truth that comes from the Father and Son and it is this truth dwelling in us that fills us with confidence.
Yes, while we are in both the world and this body of ours, we are not in the Lord’s house but that does not mean we are not confident in the Lord. I have said it before in the past and will say it again today, I can go to another planet or to the ends of the universe and my confidence in the Lord will not wane. We will see Paul say, “we walk by faith, not by sight (v.7).
We must understand that faith has absolutely nothing to do about what we see or what can be proven by man. It is impossible for us to say that we have faith in something that we can see – that is not faith. Faith, as we know, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).
Many people do not believe in God and heaven today because they are obsessed with only accepting what they can see. Yet, I would tell those people that the Lord has constantly revealed Himself and even heaven to mankind as well in bits and pieces. Jesus came directly from heaven and was a manifestation of the fullness of God in the world. At the very same time, as we discussed in last week’s lesson, those that genuinely believe are being transformed into the image (or reflection) of God through the inner working of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
So, again, I believe in the Lord and heaven because I believe in the word of Christ. Not only do I believe in the Lord and heaven because of His word but also because of what I have come to recognize spiritually. The genuinely does not walk by physical sight but rather by spiritual sight. Through my spiritual sight, I am able to recognize all that the Lord does for me and it brings great joy to my soul. So, I am filled with great confidence in both the word and what I have witnessed the Lord do for me and those around me as well.
Getting to Heaven
Now, at this point in our lesson, we will see the lesson begin to merge with my sermon from last week. In recent weeks, I have brought up and focused on God’s judgment for how we choose to live in this world. So, I am absolutely happy that this passage of scripture was chosen for our lesson this week because I believe it to be very important that we begin to refocus on the Lord’s judgment.
For too long now the church has gotten away from talking about the Lord’s judgment and we should not be doing that. You see, we should focus on this more so that all of those around us can begin to live their lives with the mindset of understanding that the Lord truly is watching them as they go along the way.
The believer should live their lives with the mindset that God is watching. When we live life with this mindset, we would be making it our aim to please Him by the manner in which we walk on this journey through life (v.9). You see, we would be living life with the mindset that God is going to judge us, even if we are one who genuinely believes in the Lord.
The truth of the matter is that everyone will have to go and stand before the Lord. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath (Is. 45:23).” This prophecy would later be quoted by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 14:11).
Judgment Seat of Christ
Those who are not of Christ, will stand before the Lord at the Great White Throne to face God’s judgment of how they lived on their journey through life (Rev. 20:11). The true believer, however, will not stand before this throne to face God’s judgment. We will see Paul say to the Corinthians that we, the true believer, “must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (v.10).”
Now, if you have been following my ministry for the past decade, then you know that I have spoken a great deal about this judgment. Standing before the Lord can be a terrifying thought to have, but in all honesty, the believer should not be as terrified as one who stands before the Lord at the Great White Throne.
First and foremost, we as true believers must remember that Christ has already suffered the Lord’s wrath for us; you have no need to worry about suffering God’s wrath at the judgment seat of Christ. You see, we have a mediator that has already stood before the Lord on our behalf and pleaded our case to Him. As a child of God, the genuine believer has already found mercy and forgiveness in His eyes.
So, what is happening at this judgment for the believer? One may ask, why do we have to go before the Lord if God has already judged us and found no fault in us because we have believed in Christ? Well Paul tells us that this judgment actually has nothing to do about punishment but is focused on rewarding those of true faith. We will be rewarded for the things done in the body, according to what we have done, good or bad.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote that they should run their race (go through their journey) in a manner where they desire to receive a reward; he made a comparison to those who run and compete for a prize (1 Cor. 9:24-27). In this comparison, Paul essentially said that we should live our lives in a manner to where we are striving to receive our reward from the Lord. The reward: an imperishable crown – the reward we would receive at the judgment seat of Christ.
So, again, we should live our lives in a manner where we desire to enter into God’s heavenly kingdom; trusting and believing in the one who directs our path to His Father’s house. Live with confidence and walk the pathway to heaven with confidence as you follow the way that Christ leads you. Should we do this, we will enter heaven and receive the crown of life that the Lord has waiting for us (Jas. 1:12).