For 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. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
A couple of years ago, I ended our Christmas missive with a reflection on the fragility of life, for one close to us was killed in a car accident. I didn’t know that as I composed the letter, a beloved older friend was near death, having suffered a stroke. We often live in a state of denial, but for everyone, one day our earthly tent will be destroyed.
Yet Paul here speaks to the Corinthians about longing for his heavenly dwelling, which God the Builder and Architect has created and which moths and rust will not destroy. It’s another variation of the already-not yet which we spoke of in previous weeks. We mentioned how we have been redeemed but are not yet completely sanctified; here we note that we groan on earth as we anticipate the wonders of heaven. Namely our rich communion with God.
I love how Paul reverses the wisdom of the world with his phrase, “swallowed up by life” (in contrast to death being the great swallower). All the remnants of our old self – the mortal – will be swallowed up by the true and everlasting light and life in our heavenly dwelling. We will no longer be naked and ashamed, but clothed in a better outfit than we ever could have dreamed of.
Prayer: Lord God, help me to live with an eternal perspective today, remembering that people and your word will be all that remains eternally. Plant in me the hope of heaven, which you promise will not disappoint.