The Release of Heaven

Taking Down the Tent

As an itinerant leatherworker Paul saw his share of torn and tattered tents. Their frugal owners brought them to him to stitch and patch, hoping to eke out a few more years of use. But tents don’t last forever. By design they are temporary and transitory. They inevitably wear and tear. No wonder tents came to Paul’s mind when he wrote about our bodies: “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,” so, “while we are still in this tent, we groan …” (2Co 5:1,4).1  We are pilgrims and we live as those sent into the world to testify for our Lord (Joh 17:18). At the same time, we live knowing that our “citizenship is in heaven” and we long for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Php 3:20; Heb 11:16). As we travel through, we appreciate our “tent” bodies, but they soon show their age and vulnerabilities. We learn how flimsy they are. And it’s not just their sin-induced fragility that makes us groan. We also contend with our sin nature – a squatter in our tent who relentlessly tries to turn us against the indwelling Spirit, back to living for self (Rom 7:17,20; 8:23). That’s a lot for any tent, and for any tent dweller, to endure – a battle on the inside and battering from the outside. No wonder Paul looked forward to the end of his tenting days!

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul encourages us to anticipate the “new home” we will soon enjoy. Our future bodies free from sin and all its effects are a sure reality: “For we know … we have a building from God” (v1). They will be permanent: “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v1). And we are to look forward to them: “longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (v2). In verses 3 and 4, Paul likely refers to a state in which believers are free from their “tent” bodies but still await their “building from God,” glorified bodies. In the language of 1 Corinthians 15, they are between the sowing of their natural bodies and the raising of their spiritual, imperishable, heavenly, resurrection bodies. This would fittingly describe “the dead in Christ” who will be raised at the Rapture (1Th 4:16). While these believers await being “further clothed” (2Co 5:4), they are already enjoying their freedom from sin, “away from the body,” and one could hardly call them homeless, as they are presently “at home with the Lord” (2Co 5:8). As Paul told the Philippians, “to depart and be with Christ … that is far better” (Php 1:23)!

Salvation’s Completion

To understand our “tenting” life and our future sin-free home, we need to appreciate salvation’s past, present and future aspects. We’ve already been saved from sin’s penalty (Joh 5:24; Rom 8:1). We are presently being saved from sin’s power in our lives by the indwelling Spirit of God, which we experience when we live the truth that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). But, even with all this, sin is still present inside and outside our tents. We are still living with its effects in our bodies and lives. We look forward to our ultimate release from sin – the future aspect of our salvation. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Php 3:20-21). We are on our way to live where “nothing unclean will ever enter” (Rev 21:27), a place “in which righteousness dwells” (2Pe 3:13), and where “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). What a salvation! What a Saviour!

In the Meantime

Given the glorious release from sin and the wonder of what lies ahead for believers, it could seem tempting to just abandon these “tents.” But that’s not what Scripture calls us to do in our anticipation. Paul acknowledged his “desire … to depart and be with Christ” but recognized that “to remain in the flesh is more necessary” because the Lord still had work for him to do among the Philippians (Php 1:23-24). “Convinced of this,” Paul wrote, “I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith” (v25). The Lord will take down our feeble tents at His right time, but in the meantime, He has work for us to do in them, for Him and for the blessing of others.

Wonderfully, “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” by the Spirit and Scripture, so that, in the meantime, “we do not lose heart” (2Co 4:16). And we are assured that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (v17). So, keep looking up from your tent window, because “we know that when he [Christ] appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn 3:2). And as we watch and wait, we are to live in daily victory over sin in our tents, as “everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (v3). It’s fitting to live now in keeping with how we will live forever.

In summary, be encouraged; these tents are coming down. We’re going up. We’re leaving sin behind. “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay.” But in the meantime, “my righteous one shall live by faith” (Heb 10:37-38).

1Bible quotations in this article are from the ESV.