II Corinthians 4:6–5:10. Paul Is Homesick For Heaven and Burdened By His Humanity.
Key Notes: He thinks about dying. The Intermediate State. When do we have eternal life? A great hope.
Paul moves away from exulting in the glory of God—the spiritual side of his life—to the physical and emotional side of his life which is painful. Distress, suffering and perhaps exhaustion re-emerge. We first heard in IICor.1:8 of the deadly peril he faced in Asia and of fighting beasts in Ephesus. (ICor.15:32). He could say that “…I die every day” (ICor.15:31) referring to his suffering for the Gospel. Paul has been beaten, stoned, and ship-wrecked, so that we can imagine a 55 year old man who looks and feels older than his age. Here he thinks and talks about dying. He has mentioned it elsewhere (Gal.2:20) but without the sense of death being close at hand.
4:7–8 The treasure (the light of the glory of God) is in an earthenware jar. The transcendent power belongs to God and not to the human vessel. Paul describes his life in four matched couplets with an intensifying effect:
Afflicted (squeezed) / not crushed,
Perplexed / not despairing;
Persecuted (pursued) / not forsaken,
Struck down / not destroyed.
4:10–12 "Always carrying in the body the dying of Jesus
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
"While we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh."
These parallel sentences have different meanings. The" dying of Jesus" is the crucifixion of the old self, something every believer must pursue. "Being given up to death for Jesus’ sake" is the mortal risk that the apostles take in their evangelistic work. The outcome of both is the life of Christ seen in the apostles--and life for the believers.
4:13 “I believed and so I spoke.” [ or," I kept my faith, even when I said..."'] This sentence is easily passed over. But it is a quotation from Psa.116:10 in which the Psalmist describes a near-death experience and God’s rescue. Paul is alluding to a similar near-death experience and rescue, in short-hand form.
"For Thou hast delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
I walk before the Lord in the land of the living,
I kept my faith, even when I said 'I am greatly afflicted'". (Psa.16:8–10)
4:16 In spite of physical weakness (“our outer nature is wasting away”) his soul and spirit (“our inner nature”) is renewed every day.
“This momentary light affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
He compares the weight of glory with the trivial distresses of this life. The word “weight” is closely related to the word “glory” so that the expression conveys the idea of double weight vs. the trivial troubles. The phrase “beyond all comparison” is difficult to convey; the Greek is something like “surpassing upon surpassing”. Literally it would be “hyperbole upon hyperbole”. So we read of future glory, doubly heavy or profound, surpassing anything imaginable. The scales tip heavily toward glory compared to the relative lightness of his troubles.
5:1 –5 In this section he exposes us to one aspect of this glory, what he believes is ahead for the believer. If [and when] our earthly body, which is like a tent, is destroyed, it will be replaced by a building in heaven, something much more solid than a tent. When he dies, he would not be naked but further clothed, immersed in immortality. The proof of this concept is the Holy Spirit, our guarantee.
5:6–9 At home in the body, we are away from the Lord. We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Either way we make it our aim to please Him.
In this section, Paul gives us our clearest glimpse of what happens after we die, the interval between death and resurrection, the after-life, called “The Intermediate State”.
There is a Present State, this earthly life.
There is a Final State, the resurrection life.
Both are well studied, but little is taught about the Intermediate State, between death and resurrection.
Basic facts of the Intermediate State:
*At death probation ends. There is no second chance, no purgatory. Heb.9:27
*It is a time of rest. Rev.14:13; ISam.28:13
*It is paradise. Lk.23:43
There are several opinions that have been expressed about the Intermediate State.
*Time stops. There is extinction of thought from death until the Resurrection. The individual will awake as if no time had elapsed between death and resurrection.
*The soul sleeps until the resurrection. The word sleep is often applied to the dead (Dan.12:2) but as Jesus said, it is a euphemism for death. Jn.11:11–14
*We don’t know. Since Paul says so much about the resurrection, and so little about the intermediate state, it is better not to try to make any teaching on it.
If we ask, for example, whether the intermediate state will be embodied or disembodied, the majority of writers either cannot say or favor a disembodied state. (Seventeen sources were checked: six commentaries and nine theologies. The tally was 3 for an embodied state, 4 for a disembodied state and ten sources that were non-committal.) They argue that Paul is ambiguous, says too little, and hedges with words like “sigh with anxiety” and “groan” indicating his lack of assurance about the conditions of the intermediate state. They find no clear description of what the condition of the person is after death.
To find an answer, we go first with that part of the text which is most clear:
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house made without hands, eternal in the heavens. “ ."..and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. That speaks for a conscious, bodily fellowship experience with Christ after death.. Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross: "Truly, I say to you, today will you be in Paradise with me." (Lk.23:43). "'This day' reinforces the idea that Jesus is speaking of the intermediate abode of the righteous." (Intern. Stand. Bible Encyclo. G.F. Bromiley et al; Eerdmans,’86. Vol III, p. 661)
On the question of whether the soul possesses a body, if we think Paul is ambiguous when he talks of exchanging an earthly tent for a heavenly building, (even with the Holy Spirit as the guarantee), we can turn to the rest of Scripture. None of the commentators appear to take the rest of Scripture into account. If people are seen after they are known to have died, what do they look like? Are they ghosts?*Samuel, when roused, looked like “a god” to the witch, but like Samuel wrapped in his robe to Saul.
*The Rich Man in Hades is conscious, thirsty, speaking and aware of his situation. Lk.16:22. [Some discount the parable, since its intention is not to teach about life after death but the consequences of failed charity, but there is nevertheless much talk of life after death and I doubt that Jesus intends to deceive.]
*Moses and Elijah on the Mt. of Transfiguration are talking to Jesus (Lk.17:3) and are clearly visible to Peter, James and John, who tend to put Moses and Elijah and Jesus on an equal footing. They would have been frightened by ghosts. Matt.14:26
*"Have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead but of the living." (Matt.22:32)
There is no convincing evidence of a disembodied state in Scripture.
To complete our understanding of what happens after we die, we turn to four texts.
1. Jesus said “whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (Jn.11:25)
In order to interpret this text we must understand the meaning of death. The Bible speaks of people now living as being "dead in sin" (Eph.2:1) or "alive together with Christ" (Eph.2:5). Those who are “dead” in this life are separated from God. Those who are alive in this life are in fellowship with Christ and at peace with God. The Bible also speaks of a second death (Rev.21:8) which is final separation from God. Those who experience the second death are finally separated from God.
Death is separation. Life is relationships, fellowship, bonding.
Physical death is separation from people.
Spiritual death is separation from God.
2. Jesus says those who believe in Him during this life have eternal life.
“…he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (Jn.5:24)
Having eternal life now describes our union with Christ. If we receive Christ as Savior, we do not become separated from Him, even in death. In other words, we will not die the death of separation from God. We cannot be separated from the love of Christ and the presence of Christ. So “he who believes in me will never die.”
3. Jesus said “I have prepared a place for you.” (Jn.14:2)
When we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord. IICor.5:5–8
4. Death is swallowed up in victory by the resurrection of Christ, and ours to follow. ICor.15:54.
With these texts we can effectively communicate with others, believers and seekers, about what happens after we die.
GEMS OF THIS PASSAGE.
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.”
“He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence.”
“Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. “
“This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
“We are of good courage and would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
“Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. “