Monday, August 4, 2014

HOUSES AND TENTS (2 Corinthians Chapter 5)

2 Corinthians 5:1-2, “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.”

This verse looks back to that which proceeds and the encouraging word that our present day trials are “preparing us for an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Looking not at the things that are seen, we do not lose heart knowing that “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus” and bring us into his presence (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:14).  A distinction is made, in these two verses, between our present dwelling (our earthly home) and that which awaits us in heaven.  We now reside in a tent, but we long for our heavenly abode.

Our family once tent camped at the Deschutes River State Park at the mouth of the Deschutes River.  It is typically very windy in the Columbia River gorge and it was on that occasion.  Sometimes it seemed as if the winds would lift our tent off the ground and blow it away.  Laura and I camped there again last year.  A sudden thunderstorm brought strong winds and heavy rains and most of the tent campers quickly picked up their tents and left.  Tents are temporary dwelling places.  They are subject to tears and rot.  Their ability to provide comfort and shelter is limited.

The Maryhill Museum of Art lies across the river from the Deschutes River State Park.  We once left our tents behind to visit the place.  It was designed 100 years ago by a famous architectural firm and built by Sam Hill to be his residence.  It is constructed of steel I-beams with interior steel studs.  The walls, floors, and ceilings are constructed of poured concrete reinforced with steel.  Sam Hill built it to last “1000 years.”  For one hundred years it has stood and weathered the strong winds and storms that sometimes visit the Columbia River gorge. But as impressive as the Maryhill building is, it is subject to the same decaying forces that permeate all of this curse-afflicted creation (Cf. Romans 8:21; 2 Peter 1:4).  It too will be destroyed one day (Cf. 2 Peter 3:10-11).

Our earthly bodes are compared to tents.  They are temporary dwelling places.  They are frail, subject to decay, and not fit for heaven (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50).  They are “perishable,” “sown in dishonor” and “weakness,” “natural” not spiritual, “from earth,” and “of dust” (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).  No “age-defying” machination of man can work to prevent the decay.  Only through God’s intervention, in receiving the One who died for sins and rose from the dead, can any of us experience triumph over sin and death (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 1:16; John 1:12). 

Paul was writing to believers in Christ and his message was one of hope and assurance.  God has prepared a home for us in heaven.  In contrast to the temporary dwelling places in which we now live, our heavenly home is “eternal.”  It will last far longer than 1000 years.  It is not subject to rot, or rust, or robbers (Cf. Matthew 5:19-20).  As any homeowner knows that it takes a lot of work to keep up a house, but not so our heavenly abode.  No earthly home is without flaws, but our heavenly home will be “imperishable, undefiled and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4).  A famous architect designed the Maryhill home, but it is God Himself who has designed and constructed our eternal one (Hebrews 11:10, 16).  As Jesus once said to His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you will be also” (John 14:3-4).

Moving is a difficult and tiresome thing, but the distress is lessened if the move is to a more desirable place.  Every believer in Christ will one day make a last move to a heavenly abode.  Jesus’ presence there makes that place most desirable (Cf. Philippians 1:23; 3:20).  The use of the word “if” in verse one is noteworthy.  Those alive at Christ’s return will not experience “destruction” per se, but will be instantly “caught up” into His presence and transformed (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:50-52).  Whether we “walk the vale with Him, or “meet Him in the air,” in either case, we will brought home to a place that will far exceed our expectations and desires (Cf. Ephesians 3:19-21).  “So we do not lose heart…for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

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