For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building form God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV)
Camping is fun! Most of the time.
When I was in college, some friends and I went to the Current River for a planned two day, two night float trip. We arrived at the campsite after the sun had set and just as rain started to fall. With haste, we set up the tents unaware of our surroundings.
Halfway through the night I woke up with clothes, sleeping bag, and pillow all cold and soaked. In the morning we discovered our site was at the base of a hill. As it rained throughout the night, the water streamed down the hill, through our tents, and towards the river.
We spent the day on the river like planned, with six of our eight hours also in the rain. When it was over, we pondered the thought of a second night and decided to pack up and head home. Home was dry and warm. Another night in a chilly, wet tent sounded miserable.
Paul’s take on life was like that camping trip, though the things he suffered were far worse than even the most miserable camping excursion (think: beatings, imprisonments, hunger, shipwrecks, etc., see: 6:4-10, 11:23-29). Still, after all of that hardship, he looked at his sufferings as mere “slight momentary afflictions” not even comparable to the “eternal weight of glory” to come (4:17).
He saw past what eye could to see to what God has promised for eternity, the things that are at the moment only seen by faith.
So he said, in these sufferings (let alone the normal process of aging) our present bodies are wasting away, but that’s okay. For you see it’s like we’re living in tents. Tents are temporary dwellings. We’re meant to be in homes.
So it was also with Israel in the wilderness for forty years they moved about in tents until finally they could find a home in the Promised Land. The earth now and our present lives are our wilderness and eternity our Promised Land. That doesn’t mean we wander hopelessly about; no, God has a purpose for us. We’re ambassadors of the great King and the eternal Kingdom, calling out for people to know Jesus and follow him as we live, work, and play among them (5:20).
We have purpose as we dwell in these tents, but we long to go home. This is not that we long for death. Yes, Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “To live is Christ, to die is gain,” but that was not a longing for death. He was longing for what lay beyond death.
Death is an enemy and not a friend, the Bible never waivers on that; but it’s a conquered enemy forced to do the service of the King for the children of the Kingdom. Death is now what ushers us into the presence of our Savior-King, but still there is more.
That is why Paul said we groan, longing to leave the tent and enter into our eternal homes, not to be found naked (5:2-4). That is what death is, between the now and the resurrection: nakedness. Yes, God might grant a robe (Revelation 6:11), but that is still temporary, waiting for the house.
The house is the eternal body; it is being further clothed; it is the mortal swallowed up by life. It is home, with Jesus, with the Father, with the Spirit, and with our brothers and sisters, dwelling upon the new earth. Home.
So, Paul wrote, it doesn’t matter what we suffer—it won’t steal our good courage or our desire to please God, because we “walk by faith, not by sight” (5:6-9). We live in a tent. Some days it’s a beautiful day to camp, some days we wake up cold and soaked, and some days we’re beaten down by wind and hail.
But home is coming. It will be here before we know it. Let us serve our purpose now by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; even if it means afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger (6:4-7). After all, when we taste for the first time that great glory of eternity the miseries of this world will be slight momentary afflictions not even worth comparing. We will be home.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.