“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the LORD” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
The collapse of the high-rise condo building in Miami, Florida, on Thursday morning brought home, once again, the fleeting shortness of life. Looking at the wreckage, one imagines being in an apartment next door to one which fell away. You were safe while your next-door neighbor fell to his death in an instant!
Thinking about that led me to think about the fact that at any moment, disaster can come.
If you are a victim of such a thing and are not among those saved in Jesus Christ, you are lost. You would be a little like those who fell to their death without even knowing what was happening. However, we who are being saved in the Blood of the Lamb are like the one in the intact apartment – affected but not lost.
Jesus Lives and So Shall I
Jesus lives, and so shall I: death, thy sting is gone forever!
He, for me, hath deigned to die, lives the bands of death to sever.
He shall raise me from the dust: Jesus is my hope and trust.
Jesus lives and reigns supreme: and, His kingdom still remaining,
I shall also be with Him, ever living, ever reigning.
God has promised – be it must: Jesus is my hope and trust.
Jesus lives – and by His grace, vict’ry o’er my passions giving,
I will change my heart and ways, ever to His glory living.
Me He raises from the dust: Jesus is my hope and trust.
Jesus lives – and death is now but my entrance into glory;
Courage, then, my soul, for thou hast a crown of life before thee,
Thou shalt find thy hopes were just: Jesus is my hope and trust.
SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Awaiting the New Body
“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.”
The apostles and Gospel writers present clear, easy-to-understand accounts about resurrection, about eternal life, and about the coming Kingdom … the new heaven and earth that are planned for us by our Creator God. And, my friends, while there will indeed be a worldwide tribulation, for us, the born-again followers of Christ, it is all GOOD NEWS. In fact, it is the best news humankind has ever heard!
My dad always loved to listen to the country music station on the radio. It drove my mother crazy. She hated country music with a passion. She called it ‘that twangy, nasal noise.’ Around the time I was about five years old, there was a country hit called “How Far Is Heaven?” sung by the inimitable Kitty Wells, a singer that epitomized, for my mother, that twangy, nasal noise. And every time that song would come on, my mother would run to turn off the radio immediately. The fallout was that I never ever got to hear the whole song.
Now, my beloved grandmother had died not long before, and I wanted to find out if it was possible to go to see her in heaven, like the little girl in the song wanted to go to see her daddy. If there was a way to go to heaven and come back the same day, I wanted to know how to do it. Well, I figured the song would tell me that, but since I never got to hear the whole song, I never found out how I could go to heaven, see my grandmother, and come back again. Still, I used to fantasize about it, dream about it even. And like the little girl in the song, I would ask myself, How far is heaven?
Actually, I think I learned from that song that life didn’t end at death – that somewhere, those who have died still live, somehow. All I know is that from a very early age, I have believed that life is forever and that death is just a doorway or portal into the next phase of our eternal life. And that next phase is as close to us as the air we breathe. It’s not far. Heaven is not far.
While Apostle Paul doesn’t exactly answer Kitty Wells’ question, he is particularly eloquent about what he refers to as ‘falling asleep,’ a first-century euphemism for dying. Paul gives us several word pictures about how we exchange our mortal bodies for the immortal bodies God has in store for us, the bodies in which we will live for all eternity.
“For I 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” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Before he was called by Jesus to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul was a Jewish rabbi.
He was also a tentmaker. In Acts 18:3, Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila, who we are told were tentmakers like Paul, and he stayed with them and worked with them, no doubt using every opportunity, even in tent making, to make disciples in Christ. And Paul uses this lovely simile to comfort us about death.
Our physical body can be likened to a tent. A tent is not a permanent dwelling. It serves the purpose of giving shelter for a short time only. In a similar way, Paul says, our bodies are designed for the purpose of housing our spirits while we are on earth.
Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Romans, and so on contain some of the most difficult theological lessons. Apostle Peter says in verse 3:16 of his second letter: “Our dear brother Paul writes letters that contain some things that are hard to understand ….” Paul was a learned man … a rabbi, a Jewish leader.
His epistles contain some of the most profound theological passages ever written down. But even though some of the deeper theology requires careful study, I tell you the Apostle writes very clearly about death and the afterlife.
Using down-to-earth language that all may understand, and using all small words, Paul comforts the reader over and over again that death is not the end, but that life goes on forever.
Looking ahead to the end of our earthly journey, we may be apprehensive about “What’s next?” Paul tells us we have nothing to fear.
No matter how we die or when or where, and no matter what may be our physical condition at the moment of death, we have God’s promise of eternal life.
Death and dying have been held among life’s greatest mysteries.
It’s such a scary process for so many that few people want to talk about these things until it is absolutely necessary.
But God’s Word is literally chock full of reassurance and comfort concerning this most common occurrence.
Paul says there are some things we can know with certainty. One of these is that one day our bodies will be resurrected. The process will be just like Jesus’ resurrection after being in the tomb for three days. And Paul says we actually have a guarantee that it is true.
Verse 5: “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.” The Spirit in us is like a deposit we might put down on something we want to buy, which guarantees it will be ours one day.
Once we are in the Spirit, saved by Grace, baptized, we have God’s own word, His guarantee, that eternal life is ours in Him. And the guarantee of eternal life includes being clothed in an immortal body.
Philosopher Teilhard de Chardin proclaimed that he was not a human being having the odd spiritual experience along the way, but he was instead an eternal spiritual being having a human experience. Paul says it differently, but it amounts to something similar.
Paul writes that we live in an earthly tent. It is a wonderful metaphor. Our spirit self is clothed in a tent of flesh.
As mentioned previously, a tent is the most transient of shelters. If you have ever stayed in one on a stormy night, you’ll understand how fragile and vulnerable this makeshift home can be. And, like our bodies of flesh, tents wear out. They sag. They expand.
They wrinkle. Eventually, they are so threadbare that they no longer work to the purpose for which they were made. But Paul says one day we will get to trade our “tent” in for a building in heaven.
Now, compared to a tent, even a wooden shack is an improvement. But consider what it might be like to move from living in a small tent to inhabiting a 20,000 square foot mansion built of marble! Here on earth, even a dwelling built of marble will wear out one day. But the metaphor is that we will one day trade our earthly body, the equivalent of a flimsy tent, for a heavenly body, the heavenly equivalent of a marble mansion.
Our heavenly body will be superior in every way to the one we are used to here on earth.
When Jesus walked out of the tomb that day long ago, some people didn’t recognize Him right away. Why? Because the body that came up from the grave was glorified. So, what does that mean?
Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians that the perishable, our mortal bodies, cannot inherit the imperishable, or the spiritual realm of heaven. He writes in Chapter 15:51-54, “Listen, I tell you a mystery; We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
How will it happen? Oh, gallons upon gallons of ink has been spilt trying to figure that one out.
At this point, it is best just to trust that Paul knew what he was talking about. Today we will take it on faith alone.
So this new body will be immortal. Gospel writer Luke tells us that when Jesus arose, His glorified body could do things a normal body couldn’t. For example, two of his disciples were walking to the village of Emmaus when, all of a sudden, there was a third party with them. This wonderful companion, whom they didn’t recognize, taught them the Scriptures as they had never heard them explained before, and, in their own words, their hearts burned within them with the glory of it.
It was only when the three sat down to eat supper, when Jesus broke the bread, that they recognized Him, and then He just disappeared (Luke 24:13-27).
Later, while the disciples were gathered in someone’s home one day, suddenly Jesus was among them, even though, we are told, the door was locked. Luke says they were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. But Jesus told them to look at His hands and feet and touch Him. He said, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Even so, that body had walked through a locked door. He had appeared out of nowhere. And that’s not all. Jesus then asked, “Do you have anything here to eat?”
We read, “They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He ate it in their presence” (Luke 24:36-43).
Ghosts don’t eat food. But glorified bodies evidently do — which segues to a lovely future event that we who love Jesus are so looking forward to, and that is the Marriage feast of the Lamb in heaven.
My mother-in-law grew up very poor on a farm in Saskatchewan during the dirty 30’s. There was always a scarcity of food. One of her life’s pleasures now is having a tasty meal with family and friends. One day she asked, “It’s true, isn’t it? We will eat in heaven?” It was a happy thing for me to be able to reassure her that yes, we will indeed get to eat in heaven.
Revelation 19:7-9, listen to this with trust and faith: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ And he added, ‘These are the true words of God.’”
We won’t just eat in heaven … we will feast.
So, what do we have to do to get these glorious new bodies?
Jesus tells us in John 6:29 that the work we need to do for God is simply this: to believe in the One He sent.
John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Dear friends … if there is anyone reading this who is not yet saved … washed in the blood of the Lamb … baptized … please consider giving your whole life to Jesus today. Calamities can happen at any moment. We never know just when we will be called to step out of these tents of flesh. It might not happen for years. But it might come as it did for those poor people in the high-rise condo in Miami – out of the blue and right now!
Life is so very short and so very uncertain. Moses said to the Lord in Psalm 90:5-6, “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning; though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.”
After the flood, the LORD God declared that the lifespan of humans on earth was, henceforth, to be 120 years. Even if we live to that great old age, those 120 years are but a drop in the bucket in the scheme of eternity. A friend of my mother’s, on her deathbed at age 90+, put it this way, “I can’t believe it is over already.”
Listen, the only sure thing in life is its end.
Knowing that Your Saviour walked out of His tomb and lives forever, and knowing for sure that you will spend eternity with Him in glory makes life worth the living and takes the sting out of the dying.
The LORD God is the Creator of LIFE … LIFE in all its beauty, its abundance, its pleasures and joys. God did not create humankind for death. He created us for LIFE, abundant LIFE, and not just for 120 years on earth, but for eternity with Him. My dear friends, death is not the end. It is, in fact, a glorious new beginning, a renewal of our relationship with Our Creator, His blessed Son, Jesus Messiah, and His Holy Spirit.
How far is heaven? Not far! Not far at all, Chaverim. It’s just a step outside the tent.
Let us pray:
Our heavenly Father, today please comfort all those who are mourning for loved ones who are facing death this day, and for those they have lost over the years. Father, comfort them with the knowledge that death is but a change of venue, moving from our earthly tent to our mansion in heaven. Thank You, LORD God, for sending Jesus to save us from our sin and eternal death. Instead, in our belief, Father, You have granted us eternal life, eternal joy and eternal love. We pray our thanks in the strong and precious Name of Jesus Christ Who lives forever and ever. Amen.
If anyone reading this devotional has not yet received Jesus as their Saviour, but God has touched your heart by His Holy Word, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or find a Bible-believing local church and ask the Pastor what you must do to be saved in Grace. In the meantime, please consider the ABCs of Salvation:
A – Admit
Admit what you have done wrong and ask forgiveness.
Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
B – Believe
Believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again as payment for your sins.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
C – Confess and Choose
Confess and choose to allow God to be in charge of your life.
Matthew 16:24 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This article, based on God’s Holy Word, was written by the inspiration of God’s own Holy Spirit.
All glory to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.