The Fragility of our Tent – The Stability of our Building – the Strength of our Desire

My post today comes from one of my absolute favorite chapters in the entire Bible; 2 Corinthians 5. More specifically the first 11 verses. The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth for the 2nd time, and in chapter 5 he is very candid with them as he has been throughout both of his letters to this wayward church. In verse 1, Paul contrasts the temporary status of our earthly bodies and time on this earth, with the eternal status of our heavenly inheritance. He uses a metaphor to help it make sense to us. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  He compares our earthly bodies to tents. And that makes a lot of sense, because Paul was a tent maker. That was his trade. He was first and foremost defined by Christ, but he provided for himself by making tents. So what better metaphor to explain his point than what Paul did for many hours a week. And if any of us have ever been camping, we know what Paul is talking about here. I, or Paul don’t have to tell anyone that tents are fragile, even the good ones. It doesn’t take much to make them collapse. One big gust of wind, one branch from a tree, and the entire structure can come falling down. That’s what Paul is comparing our earthly lives to. How come? Is he just using hyperbole to make a point, or are our bodies really that fragile? I was just at a funeral the other day. My wife’s grandfather just passed away at the age of 81 from cancer. I looked at his body in the casket and thought about this passage. All I was looking at was a man’s tent; his earthly shell. It wasn’t him, his Spirit was in Heaven with Christ. And it got me thinking…a couple months ago this man was healthy. The cancer had attacked his body with force and quickness and in a matter of a couple months, he passed away. Well the man was 81 years old, he had lived a good long life. However, it made me think of the fragility of our lives. What’s to say that couldn’t be in that casket, or you? What is keeping us from getting cancer, being in a car-wreck, having a heart-attack? If you understand the human life to any degree, you know that it’s here one moment and gone the next. I’m sure every one of us have experienced death at some point in our lives. And according to Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” We all have an appointment with death. It’s coming. It may be closer than we think. Should that cause us to worry? Not unless you’re an unbeliever. If you haven’t trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins, you have every right to worry, because you will have to pay for your own sins someday when you stand before God in judgment. And according to Romans, the penalty for our sins is eternal death in the lake of fire. But that can be taken care of today. We can call upon the name of Christ, admit we’re a sinner, repent of our sins and turn to Him, and accept His free gift of salvation through faith. If death were to come upon us suddenly today, if we’ve made that decision, we know for a fact that we will not have to pay for our sins but spend an eternity in Heaven with Christ. What a hope! But the Word of God promises that everyone will pass away. It may be when we’re 81, it may be when we’re 21, we have no way of knowing. So we had better prepare as if it were a certainty; because it is.

Now let’s look at the 2nd part of verse 1 which talks about our Heavenly inheritance through Christ, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Paul now compares our Heavenly inheritance to a building. Again, I don’t have to tell anyone how stable a building is in contrast to a tent. Even the buildings in Paul’s day were vastly more stable than any tent that is sold in today’s market. And that is what eternity is to every believer. Just as fragile as a tent is and as guaranteed as death is to every human being, we have something much more secure and stable waiting for us. For any of you that may have ever wanted to go camping so bad when you were young that you decided to talk your parents into setting your tent up in the back yard, you for sure can picture this in your mind. Imagine being in that tent, roasting marshmallows over a candle, telling ghost-stories, sitting on rocks that protrude through the tent floor and having a great time; until a storm comes. It starts off as a drizzle and then proceeds to get ugly. The wind picks up, the rain starts to pound and suddenly you’re not having that much fun in that tent anymore. In fact you’re worried about the strength of it holding up under such pressure. But then you remember you’re house, that building just on the other side of the lawn. Oh how sweet that feeling is to look over and see it standing there so secure and safe. So you pack up everything in the tent you don’t want to get ruined and you head towards the safety of that building that you call home. Well what a perfect glimpse of Heaven and Earth. Our earthly bodies are extremely weak and fragile and once a storm hits us, it may be the last time we reside in that tent. But if we’re believers in Christ, how sweet the assurance of that Heavenly building that awaits us. It’s created by God, provided by God and protected by God. Nothing will ever rock or shake the foundation of that building. It is the most secure thing we could ever imagine. According to 1 Peter 1:4-5, Heaven is referred to as “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” That building we have waiting for us is built on the foundation of faith through Jesus Christ. It’s like a house built on cement; firm and secure.

So what? So our earthly bodies are as fragile as tents and our heavenly inheritance is as secure as a building. What should that do for us? How should that cause us to react? Well let’s keep looking at 2 Corinthians 5. In verse 7 it says, “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” And then in verses 9-10 it says, “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to the Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Paul makes sure he gives us plenty of things that those 2 previous facts should cause us to do. The head knowledge that our earthly bodies are fragile and temporal, and that our heavenly inheritance is secure and eternal isn’t good enough. It MUST strengthen our desire for Christ.

The only reason we have the hope that we do is because it was purchased for us with a very expensive cost; the death of Christ on the cross for the sins of mankind. If we trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, we must continue in the work that was started and make Him Lord of our lives as well as our Savior. If we don’t, we act as if His death was in vain. And we know it wasn’t. So what does it mean to make Him Lord of our lives? Exactly what it says in 2 Corinthians 5. That we make it our aim to be well pleasing to Him. That is why we were created, that is why we breathe, that is why we have any time remaining on this earth. If we choose not to live for Christ after accepting the free gift of salvation, we are a people to be pitied. You see when God created the world and created man, He did it for one specific purpose; to bring glory to Himself. However because of sin, that plan was temporarily thwarted. But insert Jesus Christ. Christ’s death not only purchased our souls out of eternal damnation, it also allows us to once again have a relationship with God and to be able to accomplish the one distinct purpose we were created for; to bring glory to God. Unbelievers cannot claim that. Sin is still blocking access to God, and no one without access and no one with the stain of sin is of any worth to God. The only thing that allows us to be able to please God, is the sacrifice of His perfect and holy Son on the cross so that His creatures could once again bring a stain-free, unblemished sacrifice to God. Thank you Christ!! And those acts that we do to please Christ, after we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, will last for all eternity.

Let me end this post with an analogy to help us consider this passage. Let’s say that our house is on fire and we are in the house at the time.  (according to verse 1 of 2 Corinthians 5, that is exactly the case. Our tents are dissolving.) So we smell the fire, maybe even see the fire down the hall and what do we do? We get out! Right? Well a wise person does. But a person who lives in contrary to this passage does nothing of the sort. They remain in the house until the fire gets to their room, in fact they get nice and comfortable as if they have no idea that at some point the fire will reach them. What would we call such a person? A fool! A person that knows that the house is burning will do whatever they must to get out; even if that means they jump out of a window, because the result would be much worse staying in the house. But let’s take it to an even more foolish level, because many Christians do. Not only do we NOT leave the house and instead get nice and comfortable, but we begin to move more and more possessions into that burning house. Sounds ludicrous doesn’t it? Well, many people (even Christians) live in such a manner. They can hear the Word of God on this topic, know in their heads that their tents are fragile, that their house is on fire and that at some point death will occur. But instead of getting out of the house (salvation in Christ) and instead of moving all their possessions into a more secure location (acts of service to please God through Christ), they remain in the dissolving tent with all their earthly possessions that are about to burn and they start moving more and more into the house. That is the definition of a fool.

We MUST act as if we know our tents will be destroyed, we MUST trust in Christ for salvation and have an eternal building waiting for us, and we MUST move all our possessions from the tent into the building. How do we do that? Live for Christ and not for us. Everything we do that isn’t for Christ, will dissolve like our tents. But everything we do for Christ, will be moved by God into that secure building where they will last forever and ever with our heavenly bodies and our Lord Savior, Jesus Christ.

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