2 Corinthians 5:1
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands…
1. The description which the apostle makes of the present state in which we now are.
2. His description of the future state, in which the faithful shall be hereafter.
3. The certainty of that happy state. The one habitation is certain as the other. But what certainty is there of such things, may some say? May we not abuse ourselves, if we look for that which no man ever saw? Is not this to build castles in the air? The apostle answers to such surmises, here, in my text: "We know that we have a building of God," etc. We have solid grounds for this persuasion that it amounts to a knowledge.
I. HE SAITH IT WAS A THING KNOWN; A MATTER THAT WAS DEMONSTRABLE BY PROPER ARGUMENTS. It was not a probable opinion, but an undoubted conclusion. There were sound arguments which led them to this unmovable belief. What were they?
1. For they knew that Jesus their Master, who made discovery of these things to them, had certain knowledge of them himself, and could not deceive them. He was not like to many idle persons, who draw maps of such territories as they never saw.
2. They knew likewise that this person, who could not but speak the truth, had promised to purified souls, that they should see God (Matthew 5:8). How can we behold, then, the glory of God, unless all our powers be mightily widened beyond the highest of our present conceptions.
3. Of this change they saw an instance in our Lord Himself.
4. Accordingly they knew that He did ascend up to heaven forty days after His resurrection (Acts 1:10, 11).
5. For they knew withal that their very bodies should be made like unto His (John 17:24).
6. And this truly they knew, as well as anything else, that He lives for evermore, and can make good His kind intentions and gracious promises (Revelation 1:18).
7. Especially they knew by the change that He had wrought in their souls that He could easily do as much for their bodies. It was no harder for Him to give a luminous body than it was to illuminate their minds; to turn this earthly house into an heavenly than to fill the spirits of common men with the spirit and wisdom of God.
8. To conclude, they knew likewise there had been some alteration already made, upon occasion in the body of some of them, and that others also felt an higher elevation of their soul. As for the body, St. Stephen's face was seen as it had been the face of an angel (Acts 6. ult.). Let us believe the testimony of men so well assured. For to think that there is no habitation for us in the heavens, because we were never there, is as foolish as if a man that had never stirred beyond the door of his cottage should imagine that all the goodly buildings he hears of at London are but so many clouds in the air, and have no real being. Let us but a little awaken our souls to look beyond this house of clay.
II. IT IS CONSIDERABLE THEN THAT THIS WAS A MATTER GENERALLY KNOWN; A THING WHEREIN THEY WERE ALL AGREED. They had a knowledge and not a mere opinion. And yet an opinion that is not private, but common, carries no small authority with it. We are all very much overawed by that which is universally received. They were all satisfied that this was the very truth of God, there was no dispute or division among them about this doctrine. It was the common faith of God's elect; the common hope of their heavenly calling, and, in one word, the common salvation (Titus 1:1, 2, 4; Ephesians 4:4; Jude 1:3). It was not the belief of St. Paul alone. This shows that they had no superficial thoughts of the life to come, but that they were exceeding serious in the belief of it.
III. They knew these things so clearly that THEY MADE THEM THE AIM TO WHICH THEY DIRECTED ALL THEIR DESIRES AND ENDEAVOURS. This particle "for" sends our thoughts back to the words before, and gives us an account of that character which we there find of the Apostles of our Lord, who "looked not at the things which were seen, but at the things which were not seen." They were so persuaded of this happy state hereafter that it was always in their eye. They slighted and trod upon all other things in compare with this, A great token of the sincerity of their belief; for otherwise they would not have been so foolish and unthrifty as not to have made some present temporal benefit of that great knowledge and power wherewith they were endowed.
IV. But more than this; they were so sure of this building of God in the heavens THAT THEY ENDURED ALL SORTS OF MISERIES AND PAINS IN THIS LIFE MERELY IN EXPECTATION OF IT.
V. THEY WERE SO SURE OF THIS THAT IT SEEMED TO THEM AS IF THEY HAD THIS HOUSE NOT MADE WITH HANDS IN PRESENT POSSESSION. They speak as men that belong to two countries, and have estates in this and in another kingdom. Such men say, "We have a building." Though they cannot dwell in both their houses at once, yet they call them both theirs. They had a right and title to it. They had good deeds and evidences to show for it, which proved that it was settled on them by the will and testament of Jesus Christ their Lord and Master, to which they had the witness of the Spirit in their hearts. They might challenge it as their own, and lay hold on eternal life, which words instruct us that we must work in this earthly house wherein we dwell. We are in a place of labour and not of idleness and sport.
Parallel VersesKJV: For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.