God, let our heart be in heaven. Amen.
Text: Second Corinthians 5:1-10
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. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to 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.
Our earthly body may easily be destroyed. Just as the Tabernacle of the Old Testament could not stand, so neither will this “earthly house.” But we have an eternal dwelling waiting: a heavenly city and a new, incorruptible body. So, if it were today, we would gladly exchange the present one. Yes, this we earnestly long for and yearn for, though we would be reluctant to put off this present body and would rather wish our body to be changed without death, so that the mortal might be swallowed up by life. O how incredibly good it will be to come home to the Lord! Not because we doubt our glorification; God’s Spirit who calls “Abba, Father!” in us, is the guarantee of our inheritance. Not as if that would disturb us that we do not see our heavenly home. Sometimes feeling only sin and seeing only death can indeed trouble us, but it draws our heart away from this world. And when the Spirit teaches us that we now “walk by faith,” that this is the order of salvation, our Savior’s terms, the test of our obedience: then hope will conquer. But we would gladly leave these troubles, would gladly go home, gladly be across the dark gulf that lies between. “O how blessed it will be, Lord Jesus, in Your joy!”
Yet at home or away from home, we live for the Lord, and our aim is to please Him. For whether we shall die and rise again, or be changed in a moment, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body.” After death there is no conversion. “Each one will receive the things done in the body.” Paul would never have said this if the soul could be converted when the body is in the grave. Soul and body belong closely together, so that the soul can never be reborn and sanctifled without the body. Therefore it is so terribly important that we partake of grace here and live a new life.
So examine yourself to see if you feel the seriousness of death, if you long for the heavenly dwelling place, if you are diligent to walk pleasing to the Lord, and if you have the Spirit’s pledge of the inheritance of heaven, then boldly you will dare to go and meet your God!
Lord Jesus, give me Your Spirit. Draw my heart to You, and make me zealous to walk pleasing to You. “Let me never dream away my time of grace, but see to it that I walk in the light before Your eyes, and am led, Savior, by Your hand, strengthened, chastened, comforted, and guided by Your Spirit.” Amen.
Then take comfort and rejoice,
For His members Christ will cherish.
Fear not, they will hear His voice;
Dying, they shall never perish;
For the very grave is stirred
When the trumpet’s blast is heard.
Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave
And at death no longer tremble;
He, the Lord, who came to save,
Will at last His own assemble.
They will go their Lord to meet,
Treading death beneath their feet.
O that ye would set your hearts
High above all earthly pleasures.
Take instead what He imparts
Who hath giv’n you lasting treasures.
There your heart’s affections give
Where ye shall forever live.
Anon.: Jesus Christ, my sure defense L 565:8-10 ELH 532:8-10 tr. The Lutheran Hymnal;
tune: Jesus, meine Zuversicht