“For if we know that the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Corinthians 5:1)
People refer to their bodies in numerous ways, each of which probably gives you a glimpse into their worldview. Here as he opens II Corinthians 5, Paul refers to our fleshly bodies as “our earthly tent.” This is a good and needed reminder for many of us:
When Paul calls our body a “tent”, he reminds us that it is NOT permanent. A tent is not a permanent structure; it is typically something you construct for a short period time: for an overnight trip, or perhaps a week of vacation. Even in Paul’s day, a tent was a temporary structure. So when he refers to our body as a “tent” he reminds us that it is not permanent. It is very temporary. Our “building” — a permanent structure — will come later, he says, “in the heavens.” But that is not now. Right now we dwell in this “tent.” It will not last forever.
It is good that we remember this. It is foolish to live as though our bodies here will never age, never wear out — and yet that is exactly the attitude that many people seem to strike. If you hold your hand over your heart, and feel it beating, you ought to think to yourself: “This will not continue forever. One day, this beating will stop.” It is a sobering thought, but many of us need it. I have heard J.I. Packer relate the story of how the wife of Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor, used to keep a skull by her bedside to remind her of the frailty of life. That sounds macabre to many of us, but we DO need reminders that the bodies we inhabit are merely temporary dwelling places.
Being aware of the brevity of the time we have in our earthly bodies should help us turn away from temptations to evil, live lives that glorify God, and do what is important while we have time, because our days in this “tent” are very limited. Soon it will be time to “strike the tent” and set out for the eternal “building” that God has prepared for us in heaven. Are you ready for that?