2 Corinthians 5:1-10
These verses serve a twofold purpose. First, they amplify the point Paul has been making in this chapter, and second, they transition into his next subsection in his larger discussion defending his apostolic ministry. The new subsection will deal with preaching the ministry of reconciliation, as we will shortly see.
To accomplish this expansion and transition, Paul will use two metaphors, the first of which is seen in 5:1…
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.
The “earthly tent we live in” represents our mortal bodies, this earthly existence. Paul uses a building “not made by human hands” to represent our eternal future in Christ. Thus, if and when our tent is destroyed, after all, a tent is a temporary shelter, we will have a really cool house to live in. Of course, who would want to live in a tent when there’s a cool house waiting for them?
After this, he mixes metaphors:
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. (5:2-4)
I suppose we could read these verses and identify the exact number of writing and communication rules Paul has broken here in the way he introduces and mixes his metaphors, but in the final analysis, I think he made it work. The tent and house of verse 1 have become articles of clothing, and now our contrast is between being clothed and being naked. While that would normally be confusing and would make his meaning unclear, it seems to be clear enough that when we die, when that tent is destroyed, we will not be left with nothing i.e. naked. Instead, we will be “clothed” with that new house not built by human hands, by the fact that we have inherited eternal life in Christ.
I should also point out that in these verses, Paul has shifted the meaning of “we”, for in the last two chapters, “we” meant Paul, as opposed to “you” Corinthians. Now, “we” means Paul and his readers. This reminds me of the time I was at a luncheon and sitting next to an English Professor. I asked her where she thought the line was between questionable grammar and style. Her response was, “Honey, you’ve written for three presidents; when you do it it’s style, when my freshmen do it it’s bad grammar.” Having completely understood her meaning, I’m happy to point out Paul’s unique writing style.
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. (5:5)
Whatever we might say about Paul’s writing style, this is a wonderful verse. God has created us to have an intimate relationship with Him for all eternity. Honestly, this all by itself is wonderful, incredible and heartening. Yet the next part is simply amazing, for by giving us His Spirit in this life, God has given us a foretaste of what is still to come and a guarantee that He is serious about our eternal future. Sit back and think about that… We have God present within us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Yes of course, sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the day-to-day, our problems or challenges; maybe we have health issues or pain or… whatever it may be . We may groan a bit, we may long for our eternal destiny, but even then, God is with us and we can turn right into His loving presence if only we would remember to do so.