Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tent or Temple?

     I'm really having trouble being selective with this chapter... there's just so much meat and juiciness in just about every verse.  But we'll take a swing at the first few verses, and see if I can get on base (be thankful I'm speaking metaphorically... I'm not much of a slugger!).
"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,  if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened--not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life."  (2 Cor 5:1-4) 
A great place to visit, but who'd wanna live there?
     Paul has a complex and variable use of similes in vss. 1-4... both his day job (as a leatherworker /tentmaker) and the worship places of the Mosaic Covenant are in the background as he starts off.  So the contrast between the transient Tabernacle (especially during the wilderness wanderings) and Solomon's Temple shows us the proper perspective we should embrace regarding our physical shells;  but he also qualifies the building as "not made with human hands, eternal in the heavens", so the physical Temple is not the ultimate hope of believers either, but a sign/type of a greater reality (e.g. 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19).  The general draftiness of these imperfect dwellings (both actual buildings and our mortal bodies) only cause us dismay;  just like a constant drip from a leaky roof, the aches and pains of age (and in Paul's case especially, the side effects of abuse) are both an irritant and an inconvenience, hampering our enjoyment and our effectiveness in ministry.  Finally, the conditions of our bodies could be likened to the slums of any major city... the only thing holding those buildings up is the uniform coat of graffiti!  But God's providential purpose in all this is not to create a longing for lost youth... any Rogaine or Viagra ad can accomplish that!  Instead, believers are to yearn for life, true life from, in and through God.
Sure, they look fine now...
     A great place to define "life" is with its opposite, death.  In the first verses of Scripture, man is told regarding that fateful tree: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”  So this means that the moment they ate, Mr. and Mrs. Adam's hearts would stop and they would keel over?  This is the false understanding with which Satan successfully attacked our first parents (Eve at least);  the reality of God's decree has to do with our spirituality, our ethereal essences which reside somewhere between the cells, membranes and tissues.  Once we sinned, our "life" ended:  our capacity to be connected to, receive vitality from and enjoy the Source of all life, God.  So just like a decapitated chicken running around the yard, the appearance of life Adam and Eve gave off post-fall was false and deceptive.
     And this deception is permitted to continue, in God's perfect plan, even after He gives new life to a person in Christ:  the "old man", our birthright from Adam, still decays.  Inside, the true believer is fresh, shiny and bursting with fruit flavor... and this is where our text comes into play.  Paul isn't sure which will happen first:  his death or Christ's return, but he is sure that one of the two will complete the process started at his conversion.  One day soon, "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."  (1 Jn 3:2)
Photos courtesy of Allie'sdad and florisla

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