The title of this article entails the use of the word “tale.” Webster gives as one of the meanings of that word, “a relation of a series of events or facts.” That is the way the word is being here used.
Recently I was studying 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, and a thought occurred to me that never had entered my mind before. And it has to do with our our second body, our spiritual body that we look forward as Christians to having following our departure from the body we have now (Jas. 2:26).
Throughout my preaching career, I have taken the view that following the death of a righteous Christian, that person enters Paradise. So far, so good. But I also took the position, as most of my brethren have done, that following a Christian’s death he does not receive his final or spiritual or second body. I thought that he would be given that body at the time of his resurrection from the dead which is still in the future. But that hasty conclusion deserves more and better thought. I think that in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul gave us a truth that we have simply overlooked but which when understood provides additional comfort with regard to the righteous dead (1 Thess. 4:18).
Think about this. We know that spirits are made to inhabit bodies. It is interesting that the New Testament teaches us that dispossessed spirits (those that lose their habitations) are not at ease. The demons that indwelt the Gadarene upon facing the fact that they were about to be cast out of the man’s body requested to be allowed to enter another body (Matt. 8:28-34). And in Matthew 12, the Lord said, “But the unclean spirit, when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and findeth it not” (v. 43). An unclean spirit or demon is not at rest when outside of a body. Now, think about the fact that the human spirit was placed within the human body (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7; Heb. 4:12; 12:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; Jas. 2:26). When a faithful Christian leaves his first or physical body at death, he cannot be at peace without another body being provided for him. Think about this point as you consider Paul’s remarks in 2 Corinthians 5.
The context of 2 Corinthians 5 is one in which the apostle Paul discusses our current physical body in preparation for, and yet in contrast to, the second body that will be supplied to us after death—the personal spiritual body. But just when after death is that second body to be given to the righteous dead? Is it after his physical death or after his spiritual resurrection?
Notice, please that Paul states that our current body in which our spirit lives is a physical one that he calls “the earthly house of our tabernacle” (v. 1). The ASV has a footnote that shows that the word “tabernacle” could be translated “bodily frame.” Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul had described this earthly body as one that is corrupt, dishonorable, weak, and natural in contrast to the second body which is incorruptible, glorified, powerful, and spiritual (v. 42-44). Here in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul informs us that if this physical body be dissolved or destroyed, another body awaits. Notice that Paul uses two images regarding our physical body. He uses the image of a “house” (v. 1) which is our bodily frame, and he uses the image of clothing (v. 2). In other words, the house or habitation of our body furnishes clothes to our human spirit. Adam’s body was made from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). Our second body, Paul affirms, will be eternal and in the heavens (v. 1). A righteous man, then, is not to think that when he loses his first body, the earthly one that bears the image of the earth (1 Cor. 15:47), that he loses out. His second body will be better than the first. It, too, will be a building from God, but it will be “a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens” (v. 1). It will be “of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47). In this first, physical, of-the-earth body, we groan, longing for the second body (v. 2; cf. Rom. 8:26-27).
Our spirit does not desire to be “unclothed,” however. It desires to be clothed permanently with “our habitation which is from heaven” (v. 2). If our first body is dissolved and the second body is not provided us, we would be in a state of nakedness or of being “unclothed” (v. 3). The very idea of a Christian’s being in a state of spiritual nakedness following his physical death would certainly detract from any rational desire to die and to be with the Lord. For the Christian, to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). And to depart and be with Christ is very far better (Phil. 1:23). Is it gain and is it very far better, if at death the Christian is in a state of spiritual nakedness or exposure that would shame him? Of course not! The righteous desire their final form which is the heavenly body that clothes our human spirit. We desire that our mortality give way to our immortality or to life (v. 4; cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-53). Our new form, then, will be that of an immortal body (v. 4), and God made us for that very state or condition. He made us to have immortality (v. 5). God “wrought us for this very thing,” and to prepare us for the next immortal body, he gave to us the Holy Spirit (v. 5).
This is our promise of the next body that will be an eternal-life body. The Holy Spirit is God’s promise to us of that next or second body (cf. Eph. 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit makes us members of the Lord’s spiritual body while we are here on earth (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 6:12-20; 12:12-13); the same Holy Spirit is the divine promise of our personal glorified body to come! Any accountable person leaving the earth now but without the Spirit within has no prospect for an eternal body of life. Whatever his body will be, it will not be a body of eternal life because he did not belong to the Lord (Rom. 8:9).
Paul goes on to say that since we have the Spirit, we have good courage, and we have knowledge that while we are now absent from the Lord, still being in our earthly body while the Lord is in heaven, we know that eventually we will be present with him and at home (v. 6).
Currently, all of us Christians must walk by faith rather than by sight since we are still in our earthly bodies (v. 7). But our courage fuels our desire to go on and to be with the Lord at home (v. 8). And please notice that Paul declares that when a Christian leaves this earthly body, he is then at home with the Lord! (v. 8; cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-14). And of course, we are constantly whether still here or “over there” trying to please the Lord. That is our aim! (v. 9; cf. Heb. 11:5-6).
Paul then affirms that what we now do in our physical, earthly body determines the nature of our second body as to whether or not our first body will be “swallowed up” of life or whether or not it will be overcome by death (v. 10, 4; Matt. 10:28).
The amazing truth that for years I could not see in this passage is that immediately following the death of the righteous Christian, he is given his second set of clothes or his habitation from heaven, his second body which is a heavenly one. This is staggering!
All of my life, I wrongly assumed that the final glorified body of man would be given to him on the morning of the resurrection, but that is not so. I used to think that in Hades (the realm of the dead), a man did not have his second body. I thought that the second body was to come to him on the very morning of the resurrection. But Paul’s discussion in 2 Corinthians 5 does not fit that idea.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul shows us that following the dissolving of the earthly body, the second one is given! A Christian who leaves this earth is now at home with Jesus. Now, we can’t see Jesus in his glorified state unless we are glorified, too (1 John 3:2). So, those righteous dead in the Paradise part of Hades (Luke 16:22-23; 22:43; 2 Cor. 12:2-4), whom the Lord will bring with him on the morning of the resurrection, already have their glorified bodies (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-14). The Lord will bring the righteous dead back from Hades in their glorified bodies—not to receive them.
The righteous dead brought back from Hades will then enter physical graves from which they will be called out and caught up (John 5:28-29; 1 Thess. 4:17). Those saints yet alive on earth (who never died physically) at the Lord’s return will be caught up with the resurrected saints and will with them meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51).
But what is amazing to me just now is the fact that the second body (the spiritual one) is provided to the righteous dead immediately following their physical death! This second body is what prevents the righteous dead from being “unclothed” (v. 4).
Now, if someone objects by suggesting that the Lord had taught in John 5:28-29 that one must wait until the resurrection to receive his second body or spiritual one, we would respond by making the following observations.
Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.”
Now, notice that Jesus does not mention at what point the dead received their second body. If you are like me, you always assumed that the second body was given to the Christian on the morning of the resurrection immediately before that body comes forth from the grave. But no passage explicitly states that, and no passage even implies that. Furthermore, Jesus did not say that the dead had not already received their spiritual bodies or forms in which to rise from the grave. He simply states that both the good and the evil will arise on resurrection day. When a man dies physically, if he were righteous, he dies into life (2 Cor. 5:4). Remember that even Jesus “being put to death in the flesh” was “made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). All the righteous who die physically die into “life.” This life is their second body—the spiritual one, our eternal one (2 Cor. 5:1, 4). But, in John 5:28-29, Jesus is discussing “resurrection” unto life or “resurrection” unto death depending upon one’s classification as to whether on earth in his physical body he had done “good” or “evil.” So, in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul is discussing the Christian’s dying into life. The Lord in John 5:28-29 is discussing rising from the grave unto life on the part of those that have done good, and rising from the grave unto death on the part of those who in their first body had done evil.
Let me make another point just here. Since Jesus entered Paradise, following his physical death and, so, without his physical body that Joseph and Nicodemus buried (John 19:38-42), he entered Paradise with his glorified body (1 Pet. 3:18). He was not “unclothed.” He was clothed with his second body. However, his stay in Paradise was brief, and his spirit came back to his grave and inhabited his physical body again, since that is the one that was put to death and by which Jesus would demonstrate his power over physical death (Rom. 6:8-10). The physical death required a physical resurrection to prove that Jesus had, in fact, overcome physical death (John 20:24-29). So, he had to give up temporarily his glorified body in order to re-inhabit his physical one. He regained that glorified body at his ascension (Acts 1:9) since flesh and blood cannot go to heaven (1 Cor. 15:50). But, since righteous dead Christians are now beyond their physical bodies that were dissolved or destroyed (2 Cor. 5:1), and they are at home with Christ (2 Cor. 5:6-8), when the Lord comes back for the resurrection of the physically dead, he will bring back the righteous dead in their glorified bodies to be resurrected since their physical bodies are no more and cannot inherit eternal life anyway (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:50). Those righteous saints on the earth at the time of the Lord’s return will not die or sleep, but will be translated or changed from their physical to their spiritual body at that time (1 Cor. 15:50-51). And the victory of which Paul speaks which is the victory over death is experienced by the faithful in Paradise long before resurrection morning. They have their second bodies and they have their victory now (1 Cor. 15:54-58).
The final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) is a day of explanation or reckoning (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46), but it is not a day of decision. When a man physically dies, divine judgment is already pronounced regarding that man’s destiny in that the man sees himself either in Paradise which is the third heaven (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:1-4) or in Tartarus which is, evidently, a part of Hades as well (Luke 16:23; 2 Pet. 2:4; Matt. 16:18), the place to which the unrighteous dead go following physical death. We will all appear at a final Judgment for sure, but eternal destiny will already have been decided either (1) by the nature of the second body given the dead following their physical death and its placement or (2) by the nature of their body following their change or translation if they did not experience a physical death (1 Cor. 15:51). Divine judgment will follow every human death both (1) immediately which is indicated by the nature of the new body and its placement and (2) ultimately by explanation at the final Judgment Day (Heb. 9:27; Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 16:19-31; Rev. 20:11-15).
My good friend, Glenn Jobe, in our discussion mentioned to me that the Lord’s body on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:2) was his glorified body! That must be right. Jesus was able in that body to communicate with and to see and to be seen by the late, great Moses and Elijah. Abraham was in his new body when the rich man talked with him in Hades, and the rich man and Lazarus were in theirs (Luke 16:19-31). And whatever the nature of the rich lost man’s body in Luke 16 is, it was not one that provided eternal life but rather eternal death (John 5:28-29; Matt. 25:46). The unrighteous dead are given a second or spiritual body (Matt. 10:28). But it is not a body that has eternal life in it (2 Cor. 5:4).
Faithful Christians look forward to the redemption of our body. As we grow older on earth, our physical body begins to give way (Eccl. 12:1-7). We wait now on earth in hope of seeing the glorified body that will be ours (Rom. 8:18-25). God makes a claim on every righteous disciple that enters the realm of the dead (Hades) by glorifying him with his new body. That is, the second body or the “of heaven” body (1 Cor. 15:47-49) given to each saint following his physical death. It is the glorified body in which the righteous disciple lives as he awaits the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14; Phil. 3:11). That is his body for eternity, and it is the body that will be raised from the grave on the day of the resurrection.
It is interesting that Jesus taught in John 5:28-29 that a person’s eternal destiny is based on what he did while in his physical body—the body that was placed later in a grave or tomb. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we Christians are constantly trying to please God (whether living in our first or second bodies [v. 9]), and that our judgment will be based on what we did while still on earth and living in our physical bodies. There will be a separation at death, unfortunately, of some Christians from other Christians, for some Christians did good and some did not (v. 10; cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; 25:31-46). But when the separation of the human spirit from the human body occurs in the experience of a faithful child of God, immediately as he leaves his earthly body, he enters his heavenly. My, what a thought to consider! That is how he is seen by those other righteous folk who now look at him and welcome him as he enters the eternal domain. He along with them is allowed to walk with the Lord in white for he is worthy (Rev. 3:4).