FOR INDEED WHILE WE ARE IN THIS
TENT, WE GROAN, BEING BURDENED, BECAUSE WE DO NOT WANT TO BE UNCLOTHED BUT
TO BE CLOTHED: kai gar oi ontes (PAPMPN) en to skenei stenazomen (1PPAI) baroumenoi, (PPPMPN) eph'
o ou thelomen (1PPAI) ekdusasthai (AMN) all' ependusasthai, (AMN): (we that: 2Pe 1:13)
(Groan: 2Co 5:2) (but: 2Co 5:3) (mortal: Isa 25:8 1Co 15:53,54)
A SECTION FILLED WITH
G M Burge sums up this section
Paul candidly describes the
eschatological tension Christians face as they examine their own mortality
(“this earthly tent that will be destroyed”) while looking forward to their
redemption (the building from God, not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens). Here the issue is reassurance in light of death, judgment and
eternal life (2Co 5:1-10). Believers groan and have anxiety as they look
forward longingly. But God gives the Spirit as the arrabōn, the guarantee of
their future destiny, namely, that their mortality will be swallowed up in
of Paul and His Letters or
As an aside, if you have not read the entire chapter,
2Corinthians 5, let me suggest you stop reading these notes and take
some time to leisurely, actively (not passively) read through the chapter
using a more literal translation such as NAS, ESV, NKJV. As you stroll
through the chapter, be careful to observe for the
key words Paul uses, stopping
long enough to question each key word with one of the
questions and using the results of your observations to summarize
Paul's major subject or subjects. Don't let yourself get bogged down on
details or difficult to understand verses. Then read the chapter a second
time with the goal being to give the chapter a title that uses some of the
major subject words in the title. Don't try to be too cute or too
alliterative, but give the chapter a title which would be distinctive enough
for that chapter that when you heard it, you would know exactly where to
turn in 2Corinthians. Then read chapter 5 a third time with the purpose of
trying to identify the points where Paul changes subjects and use these
change points to come up with an outline of the chapter. Now you are ready
to read the commentary notes with a Berean-like mindset (Acts 17:11-note).
you are interested in more hints on how to study a chapter or book
the Bible inductively.
If you have taken time to compose your
own outline of 2Corinthians 5, you might want to compare your results with
A C Gaebelein's Outline
2Corinthians 5. And remember that there is no "inspired" outline, so do
not be discouraged if your outline does not match someone else's outline.
And also remember that as you practice this simple exercise each time your
read a chapter, you will find that your skills of observation will begin to
2Co 5:1-8 The Earthly and Heavenly House
2Co 5:9-12 The Judgment Seat of Christ
2Co 5:13-16 The Constraint of Love
2Co 5:17-21 The Ministry of Reconciliation
The following outline is modified from
Hannah's Bible Outlines
on of this section of 2 Corinthians...
sacrifice for the ministry (2Co 4:7-12)
prospect of the ministry (2Co 4:13-5:10)
A) Present distress (2Co 4:13-15)
B) Future reward (2Co 4:16-5:10)
1) Present encouragement (2Co
2) Future life (2Co 5:1-8)
3) Future reward (2Co 5:9-10)
program of the ministry (2Co 5:11-6:10)
A) The motivation (2Co 5:11-16)
1) The fear of the Lord (2Co
2) The love of Christ (2Co
B) The message (2Co 5:17-21)
As we stated in the comments on 2Cor
5:1 (see notes), 2 Corinthians 5 (especially the first 8 verses) has a "bewildering
profusion of interpretations" and yet we know that there is only one correct
This is a poor chapter break and thus
it behooves us to keep the context in mind -- Paul
progresses from speaking of our physical body as the
to describing it as an earthly
contrasts it with our future resurrection body, a
house not made with hands...
2Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man
is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
17 For (explaining why we do not lose heart) momentary, light affliction is
producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,
18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which
are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things
which are not seen are eternal (in context [see below] referring
especially to our future, eternal resurrection bodies where our eternal weight of glory will be manifested).
2Cor 5:1 For (see Dr. Johnson's explanation below) we know that if the
is torn down, we have a
from God, a house
not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens.
2 For indeed in this house
we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven,
3 inasmuch as we, having put it
on, will not be found naked.
S Lewis Johnson asks the
question of 2Cor 5:1...
Paul, why did you say for?
(at the beginning of 2Cor 5:1-note) Well, his answer, I think would be something like this. I've been talking to
you about afflictions (2Co 4:17-note). I've been telling it you how they lead to the eternal
weight of glory. The dissolution of the body, the dismantling of this tent
does not bring annihilation, it brings translation to glory. And that's why
I look at the things that are not seen, not the things that are seen (2Co
4:18), for we
know that if that if the earthly tent,
which is our house, is torn down we have a building from God. (The "for"
explains) why the
apostle can experience those things that he is experiencing, why he can look
to the things that are invisible rather than the things that are visible,
and pass through all of these experiences with confidence and assurance,
because even if I lose my life in the midst of them, I know I have a
building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. So
that little word for gives a clue as to what Paul is really concerned
Unclothed and Clothed Upon - 2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
As an aside when you encounter the "little word for"
in a passage, especially at the beginning of a verse
it is usually a
term of explanation,
always pause and interrogate it with the
questions. As you practice this discipline of a "questioning mindset"
you will find that
(1) You will be forced to slow down. Remember, the Bible is not designed
for speed reading. Far too often I fear one's "Thru the Bible in a Year" reading
program becomes a speed reading contest to make sure we do not fall too far
behind. Beloved, this Book is a love letter and should be lovingly lingered
over. In fact, tarrying over one verse can be of far greater value to our
spiritual lives, than rushing through one chapter in order to achieve a
goal, rather than to meet with our God. And one can even fall into the trap
of subtle legalism of "having" to read your 4 chapters each day. In a sad
sense, love for God's law becomes legalism for God's law. So to paraphrase a
popular commercial from past years, try the pause that refreshes!
(2) You will find that you are more actively engaging the text, the Holy
Word, and giving yourself more time to interact with your Teacher, the Holy
Spirit (1Jn 2:28). Speed reading promotes passive reading. Slowing down
promotes active reading.
(3) You will be far more likely to remember what you have just read (cp
(4) You will find yourself beginning to
practice the blessed spiritual discipline of
discussion on meditation).
Considering the spiritual dividends of meditation in Joshua 1:8 (note)
and Psalm 1 (read Ps 1:1-note,
as my old medical school professor used to say at 6AM rounds every morning -
"You can't not know" (to which I add)...how to meditate on the Scriptures!
Although 2Cor 5:4 is on a separate
page of these study notes, it should be interpreted in the
context of the preceding verses, 2Co
and 2Co 5:3-note.
In 2Co 5:2-4 Paul expresses his preference for the resurrection body
("clothed with our dwelling from heaven"). In 2Cor 5:2 he uses the metaphor
of a house and in verse 4 the metaphor of a tent. In verse 2 and verse 4 he
is groaning because of his present body (the burdens of life, the
limitations of the this body, the superiority of the body to come)
Simple Summary of Three Interpretations
(1) Intermediate State:
(2) Intermediate State:
(3) Intermediate State:
Scripture Not Definitive
The "Intermediate State" is what some theologians have termed
the time between a believer's death (at which time they go to be
present with the Lord) and the time the Lord returns, resurrects the
dead and gives believers their glorified, immortal, incorruptible
bodies which will last throughout eternity. The table summarizes the
possibilities of this "intermediate state" - no body, a temporary body
and status of the current state of believers in heaven as unknown. I
personally favor the last "interpretation", because Scripture makes no
definitive statement regarding the "intermediate state", which
suggests that speculation should be avoided.
David Lowery summarizes the
interpretative approaches to 2Cor 5:1-4...
A number of commentators and theologians
have seen in these verses reference to an “intermediate state,” a period
between death and resurrection. This view takes one of two forms:
Dead (though conscious) believers are without a body while awaiting their
resurrection bodies, or
(b) dead (though conscious) believers receive
an “intermediate body” that somehow differs from their forthcoming
resurrected bodies. (According to either of these intermediate-state views,
Paul was suggesting that he hoped to live till the return of Christ so that
he would not experience an “intermediate state.”)
These views, however, seem
unwarranted. Paul had only two conditions in view since 2Cor 4:16, the
temporal and the eternal. The introduction of a third is
therefore unlikely. It seems clear from 2Co 5:4 that being in this tent (cf. 2Pe 1:13-note), and unclothed describe mortality while being clothed and
possessing a heavenly dwelling depict immortality, without specifying
any intervening stages.
J. F., Zuck, R. B., et al: The Bible Knowledge Commentary. 1985. Victor
For indeed - Paul is emphasizing
the point of the believer's groaning (just noted in 2Co 5:2-note),
a fact also mentioned in Romans...
And not only this, but also we
ourselves, having the first fruits (this means there is more to come!) of
the Spirit, even we ourselves groan (stenazo
within ourselves, waiting eagerly (apekdechomai
which pictures the believer in a continual state of eager anticipation and
expectation to see our Bridegroom! Practically, such an attitude will serve
to motivate us to resist temptations and commission of sin. If we are
expecting Him any moment, we will seek to be ready - 1Jn 2:28) for our
adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Ro 8:23-note).
While we are in this tent - While
we are still alive in these physical bodies and in this present world.
Tent (4636) (skenos
skene ["from root ska = to cover" - A T Robertson] = tent, booth, cloth hut, habitation, tabernacle Mt 17:4 Mk 9:5)
refers to a temporary residence (tabernacle, tent, booth) but is used figuratively
(metaphorically) by Paul here and in the only other use (2Co 5:1-note) to refer to
the human body as the habitation of the spirit (some lexicons say "dwelling
place of the soul"). As Thayer says skenos pictures the body
as a "tent taken down at death." (Ed: And I would add "either at
death or the
whichever comes first! Maranatha [Our Lord come!]). Mounce refers to
skenos as our "corporeal tabernacle"!
Skenos is used figuratively by Paul to refer to
the human body as the habitation of the soul (the "tabernacle of the
soul" - As an aside,
beloved, recall that in the OT the "tabernacle" was where people met with
God (Ex 25:22)! Is that true of your "tabernacle"? More to the point, have
you met with Him yet today? This week? Remember you are under grace not law
- let that love of God [which has been poured out in your heart by the
Spirit -Ro 5:5-note,
1Jn 4:19] motivate your meeting with Him.).
Peter uses a similar word
describe his body writing...
And I consider it right, as long as I am
in this earthly dwelling (skenoma),
to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside (Used of
laying off old clothes, as the runners who participated in the Olympic
Games) of my earthly dwelling (skenoma)
is imminent (tachinos = near at hand, impending, used only here and 2Pe 2:1-note
= swift), as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me (When?
Some 40 years prior Jesus had prophesied the "taking down" of Peter's
dwelling - Jn 21:18,19). (2Pe 1:13, 14-note)
Comment: Dwelling is skenoma
from skenoo = to pitch a tent, this verb derived from the root word
skenos = tent. Peter's "dwelling" was actually a frail "tent"
(skenoma) erected just for a night. And so Peter, like Paul here in 2Co 5:4,
alludes to death as laying aside of one’s temporary, frail tent of our
mortal bodies. "Peter feels the nearness of death and the urgency upon him."
(A T Robertson)
Longman sums up the imagery of
tent in regard to the body noting...
In the OT a comparison is also drawn
between the human body and a tent. The body’s well-being is like a secure
tent (Ps 16:9), and its vulnerability through illness, age or death is like
a tent under siege or a tent whose cords are pulled up (Job 19:12; 4:21; Is
38:12). In the NT the impermanence of the body is compared to a tent that “I
will soon put away” (2Pet 1:13, 14-note). This happens most fully and eloquently
in the writings of Paul, himself a tentmaker, who emphasizes the burden and
longing of our earthly existence for heavenly permanence: “we know that if
the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an
eternal house in heaven” (2Co 5:1-note; also 2Co 5:2-5). Our future form will
be eternal, not something that can be easily destroyed like a vulnerable
man-made tent but rather firm and sure, built by God himself. (It should be
noted that nowhere here is the notion of an immortal soul in a temporary
body.) (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery)
Murray Harris comments that...
The passage does not define the precise
nature of the “sighing” or “groaning,” but the immediate context and Paul’s
thought elsewhere (Ro 8:19-23-note; Php 3:20, 21-note) suggest it was his
sense of frustration with the limitations and disabilities of mortal
existence, knowing as he did that he was destined to possess a spiritual
body perfectly adapted to the ecology of heaven. Paul sought liberation only
from the imperfection of present embodiment, from “bondage to decay,” not
from any and every form of corporeality. After all, it is to Paul that
Christian theology owes the doctrine of the “spiritual body” (1Co 15:35-49).
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan
Groan (complain, sigh) (4727)(stenazo
from stenos = narrow or contracted
as when one is squeezed or pressed by circumstances) literally describes an
internal squeezing and thus denotes a feeling of inner sorrow. Stenazo
means to express grief by inarticulate or semi-articulate sounds. A groan is
an audible expression of anguish due to physical, emotional, or spiritual
to the utterances of a person who is caught in a situation (usually
dreadful) with no immediate prospect of deliverance. In the present context
the continual groaning (stenazo =
= continuous action) alludes to a condition which is unsatisfying and
sorrowful (certainly compared with our future hope of glory!). Thus the
groaning serves in a sense as a cry for deliverance from our physical
bodies. The pain and sorrow believers feel now is because of the fact that
we still live in mortal bodies indwelt by the
old sin nature inherited from Adam - Ro 5:12-note)
which causes us to daily stumble and grieve the Holy Spirit which in turn
We get a picture of the meaning of stenazo
with Luke's use of the noun form (stenagmos - used in Romans 8:26-note
of Spirit's prayers expressed to
God inarticulately) to describe the enslavement of Israel in Egypt...
(God declares) I HAVE CERTAINLY SEEN THE
OPPRESSION OF MY PEOPLE IN EGYPT, AND HAVE HEARD THEIR GROANS (stenazo),
AND I HAVE COME DOWN TO DELIVER THEM; COME NOW, AND I WILL SEND YOU TO
EGYPT.' (Acts 7:34 cp Ex 2:24, 25)
A VIVID PICTURE OF
A SAINT'S GROANING
Spurgeon gives a lengthy
exposition of our present groaning (this is a long note but
definitely worth reading slowly,
as you take time to ponder the picture that Spurgeon is painting as he
contrasts your present with your future)...
This earnest desire, of which the apostle
has been speaking in the preceding verses, is made up of two things —
a painful groaning and sense of being
burdened while we are in this present life, and a supreme longing after our
promised portion in the world to come.
Dissatisfaction with the very idea of
finding a continuing city here, amounting even to groaning, is the condition
of the Christians mind. “We look not at the things which are seen,” (2Co
they are not worth a glance; they are temporal, and therefore quite unfit to
be the joy of an immortal spirit.
The Christian is the most contented man
in the world,
but he is the least contented with the world.
He is like a traveler in an inn,
perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an
inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his
home. He baits by the way, and is thankful, but his desires lead him ever
onward towards that better country where the many mansions are prepared. The
believer is like a man in a sailing vessel, well content with the good ship
for what it is, and hopeful that it may bear him safely across the sea,
willing to put up with all its inconveniences without complaint; but if you
ask him whether he would choose to live on board in that narrow cabin, he
will tell you that he longs for the time when the harbour shall be in view,
and the green fields, and the happy homesteads of his native land. We, my
brethren, thank God for all the appointments of providence; whether our
portion be large or scant we are content because God has appointed it: yet
our portion is not here, nor would we have it here if we might!
“We’ve no abiding city here,
Sad truth were this to be our home.”
No thought would be more dreadful to us
than the idea of having our portion in this life, in this dark world which
refused the love of Jesus, and cast Him out of its vineyard. We have desires
which the whole world could not fulfill, we have insatiable yearnings which
a thousand empires could not satisfy. The Creator has made us to pant and
long after Himself, and all the creatures put together could not delight our
souls without His presence.
“Hopeless of joy in aught below,
We only long to soar,
The fullness of His love to feel,
And lose His smile no more.”
In addition to this dissatisfaction,
there reigns within the regenerate heart a supreme longing after the
heavenly state. When believers are in their right minds, their aspirations
after heaven are so forcible that they contemn death itself. When faith is
weak, then the pains and the groans of dying make a black cloud of
forebodings which darken the spirit, and we shrink from the thought of
departing; but when we know that our Redeemer liveth, and look forward to
the resurrection and to the glory to be revealed, we cry-
“Oh, if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul should stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through death’s iron gate,
Nor fear the terrors as she passed.”
Whatever the separation of the soul from
the body may involve of pain or mystery, the believer feels that he could
dare it all, to enter at once into the unfading joys of the glory-land.
Sometimes the heir of heaven grows impatient of his bondage, and like a
captive who, looking out of the narrow window of his prison, beholds the
green fields of the unfettered earth, and marks the flashing waves of the
ocean, ever free, and bears the songs of the uncaged tenants of the air,
weeps as he views his narrow cell, and hears the clanking of his chains.
There are times when the most patient of the Lord’s banished ones feel the
home sickness strong upon them. Like those beasts which we have sometimes
seen in our menageries, which pace to and fro in their dens, and chafe
themselves against the bars-unresting, unhappy, bursting out every now and
then into fierce roarings, as though they yearned for the forest or the
jungle; even so we also chafe and fret in this our prison-house, longing to
be free. As by the waters of Babylon the sons of Zion sat them down and
wept, even so do we. Dwelling in Kedar’s tents and sojourning with Mesech,
we long for the wings of a dove that we might fly away and be at rest.
“O my sweet home, Jerusalem,
Would God I were in thee!
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see.”
Having thus seen that the groaning
wrought in us by God is made up of dissatisfaction with this world and
anxious desire for the world to come, we may profitably consider it yet a
What is it that makes the Christian long
for heaven? What is that within him which makes him restless till he reach
the better land?
It is, first, a desire for the unseen.
The carnal mind is satisfied with what the eyes can see, the hands can
handle, and the taste enjoy, but the Christian has a spirit within him which
has passions and appetites which the senses cannot gratify. This spirit has
been created, developed, enlightened, and instructed by the Holy Ghost, and
it lives in a world of unseen realities, of which unregenerate men have no
knowledge. While in this sinful world and earthly body, the spirit feels
like a citizen exiled from his native land; it stands upon the outmost
borders of its own region, and longs to penetrate into the center of
spiritual things. Hampered with this body of clay, the spirit, which is akin
to angels, cries after liberty; it longs to see the Great Father of Spirits,
to commune with the bands of the pure spirits forever surrounding the throne
of God, both angels and glorified men; it longs, in fact, to dwell in its
true element. A spiritual creature, begotten from above, can never rest till
it is present with the Lord. Oh! to see the things which we have heard of in
metaphor and simile, to enjoy them really with our spirits, the harps, the
crowns, the palms — what must it be to possess such joys? The streets of
transparent gold, the river of the water of life, the glassy sea, the throne
of the Great King — what must all these be? Until these joys and glories be
all our own our souls will ever cry and sigh.
Moreover, the Christian spirit pants
after holiness. He who is born again of incorruptible seed, finds his
worst trouble to be sin. While he was in his natural state be loved sin, and
sought pleasure in it, but now being born of God and made like to God, he
hates sin, the mention of it vexes his ears, the sight of it in others
causes him deep sorrow, but the presence of it in his own heart is his daily
plague and burden. If he could be clean rid of sin this mortal body might
not be to him a load, but because the tendencies of the animal passions are
always towards evil, he longeth to be rid of this vile body, that he may be
clothed upon with his house which is from heaven, from which all these
passions will be expelled. Oh, to be without the tendency to sin, without
the possibility to sin! What bliss the prospect affords! My brethren, if we
could be placed in the meanest and most destitute condition, and yet could
be perfect, we would prefer it to being sinful, even though we should reign
in the palaces of kings. Our spirit, therefore, crieth after the immortal
state, because sin will be for ever banished from it.
In the Christian’s spirit there is
also a sighing after rest. “There remaineth a rest for the people of
God,” as though God had put in us the longing for what he has prepared; we
labor daily to enter into that rest. Brethren, we long for rest, but we
cannot find it here. “This is not our rest.” We cannot find rest even
within ourselves. Wars and fightings are continuous within the regenerate
spirit; the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit warreth against
flesh. As long as we are here it must be so.
We are in the camp of war,
not in the chamber of ease.
The trumpet must sound, and the clash of
arms must be heard, and we must go to our watch-tower, and continue there
both night and day, for we are militant as yet, and not triumphant. Our soul
pines to be at rest. When shall the rowers of our spirit indulge themselves
to the full without the fear of falling into sin? When shall my memory
recollect nothing but what will glorify God? When shall my judgment always
rightly balance all events? When shall my desires be after nothing but my
Lord? When shall my affections cling to nought but Him? O when shall I
possess the rest of the sinless, the rest of the satiated, the rest of the
secure, the rest of the victorious? This longing for rest helps to inflame
the Christian’s desires for the house not made with hands.
This divinely-wrought desire is made
up of another element, namely, a thirst for communion with God. Here, at
the nearest, our state is described as being “absent from the Lord.” We do
enjoy fellowship with God, for “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and
with his Son Jesus Christ,” but it is remote and dark. “We see through a
glass darkly,” and not as yet face to face. We have the smell of His
garments from afar, and they are perfumed with myrrh, and aloes, and cassia,
but as yet the King is in His ivory palaces, and the gate of pearl is
between us and Him. O that we could come at Him! O that He would even now
embrace us, and kiss us with the kisses of His mouth. The more the heart
loves Christ, the more it longs for the greatest possible nearness to Him.
Separation is very painful to a bride whose heart is burning for the
bridegroom’s presence; and such are we, longing to hear the most sweet voice
of our Spouse and to see the countenance which is as Lebanon, excellent as
the cedars. For a saved soul to long to be where its Savior is, is no
unnatural desire! To be with Him is far better than earth’s best, and it
would be strange if we did not long for it. God, then, hath wrought in us
this in all its forms, He has made us to dread the thought of having our
portion in this life, He has created in us a supreme longing for our
heavenly home, has taught us to value unseen and eternal things, to pant
after holiness, to sigh after sinless rest, and to yearn after closer
fellowship with God in Christ Jesus.
My brethren, if you have felt a desire
such as I have described, give the glory of it to God; bless and love the
Holy Spirit Who hath wrought this selfsame thing in you, and ask Him to make
the desires yet more vehement, for they are to His glory.
Bear with a word in praise of this
God-wrought groaning. This desire after the world to come is above ordinary
nature. All flesh is grass, and the grass loves to strike its root deep into
the earth; it has no tendrils with which to clasp the stars. Man by nature
would be content to abide on earth forever. If you long for a holy and
spiritual state, your desire is not of nature’s creation. God has wrought it
in you. Yea, I will venture to say that the desire for heaven is contrary to
nature; for as there is an inertia in matter which makes it indisposed to
move, so is there in human nature an indisposition to leave the present for
the future. Like the limpet, we stick to the rock on which we crawl. We
cling to earth like the ivy to the wall. We are afraid to set sail upon that
unknown sea of eternity, and therefore shiver on the shore. We dread to
leave “the warm precincts of this house of clay,” and hovel as this body
is, we count it dear. It is the Lord who forbids our lying among the pots,
and gives us the wings of a dove to mount aloft. As soon would a clod seek
the sun as a soul seek its God, if a miracle of grace were not wrought upon
While they are contrary to the old
nature, such aspirations prove the existence of the new nature. You may
be quite sure that you have the nature of God in you if you are pining after
God; and if your longings are of a spiritual kind, depend upon it you are a
spiritual man. It is not in the animal to sigh after mental enjoyments,
neither is it in the mere carnal man to sigh after heavenly things.
What your desires are,
that your soul is.
If you are really insatiably hungering
after holiness and after God, there is within you that which is like to God,
that which is essentially holy, there is indeed a work of the Holy Ghost
within your hearts. I shall detain you awhile to notice the means by which
the Holy Spirit quickens these desires within our spirits.
HUNGERING AFTER HOLINESS
AND AFTER GOD
This desire after a portion in the unseen
world is first infused in us by regeneration. Regeneration begets in
us a spiritual nature, and the spiritual nature brings with it its own
longings and desires; these longings and desires are after perfection and
God. Imagine an angel imprisoned in a stable: it is perfectly certain that
it would be discontented with the place where the horned oxen lay. If it
felt that the divine will commanded it to tarry there for awhile, I doubt
not that the bright visitant would contentedly put up with the confinement;
but if it had liberty to leave the society of beasts, how gladly would the
bright spirit ascend to its native place. Yes, heaven is the place for
angels, the true abode of holy spirits and we, too, since our spiritual
nature is born from above, long to be there, nor shall we be content until
These desires are further assisted by
instruction. The more the Holy Ghost teaches as of the world to come the
more we long for it. If a child had lived in a mine it might be contented
with the glimmer of candle light; but if it should hear of the sun and the
green fields, and the stars, you may depend upon it the child would not be
happy until it could ascend the shaft and behold for itself the brightness
of which it had heard and as the Holy Ghost reveals to us the world to come
we feel longings within us, mysterious but mighty, and we sigh and cry to be
away where Jesus is.
These desires are farther increased by
sanctified afflictions. Thorns in our nest make us take to our wings;
the embittering of this cup makes us earnestly desire to drink of the new
wine of the kingdom. We are very much like our poor, who would stay at home
in England and put up with their lot, hard though it be; but when at last
there comes a worse distress than usual, then straightway they talk of
emigrating to those fair and boundless fields across the Atlantic, where a
kindred nation will welcome them with joy. So here we are in our poverty,
and we make the best of it we can; but a sharp distress wounds our spirit,
and then we say we will away to Canaan, to the land that floweth with milk
and honey, for there we shall suffer no distress, neither shall our spirits
hunger any more.
Heavenly desires are still farther
inflamed by communion with Christ. The sweets as well as the bitters
may be made to increase our longings after the world to come. When a man has
once known what fellowship with Jesus is then he pines to enjoy it forever;
like the Gauls on this side the Alps who, when they had once drank the
Italian wines, said one to another, “It must be a fair land where they grow
such wine as this, come, brethren, let us draw our swords and cross the Alps
and take the vineyards for ourselves.” Thus does the love of Jesus set us
longing to be with him.
“Since I have tasted of the grapes,
I oft times long to go
Where my dear Lord the vineyard keeps,
And all the clusters grow.”
Communion with Christ sharpens the
edge of our desire for heaven. And so, to close this vein of thought,
does elevation of soul. The more we are sanctified and lifted above the
grossness of earthliness into conformity with Jesus, the more we long for
the world to come. A peasant at the plough is quite content to mix with his
fellow laborers, but suppose he forms a passion for the study of the stars,
feels a poet’s frenzy, or develops mathematical powers, or learns the
science of flowers, or in any way discovers the treasure hidden in the field
of learning, he will be sure to be uneasy in ignorance, and will pine for
books and education. He dreams of schools, and colleges, and libraries. His
fellow ploughmen laugh at him, and count him but a fool. If they have enough
to eat and drink and clothe themselves, they are content therein, but he has
wants for which the village has neither sympathy nor supply. His elevation
of mind has brought with it groanings, to which, has he grovelled like his
fellows, he would have been a stranger. So is it with the regenerated man,
in proportion as he is elevated by the Holy Spirit by growth in grace. The
higher he rises the more he longs to rise. To him that hath it is given, and
he desireth to have in abundance; with a sacred covetousness he panteth
after yet higher degrees of grace, and after glory itself. Thus have I
opened up to you the desire which the Holy Spirit works in us. “He that
hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God.” (2Co 5:5KJV) (2Corinthians
5:5 The Glorious Hereafter and Ourselves)
Ron Mattoon writes that...
The promise of a heavenly body caused
Paul and other believers to groan for it. What an appropriate description...
"groan." Doctors today make their living listening to groaning tents.
A dermatologist tries to keep the canvass of our tent in good shape. The
family doctor spends his life patching up and stitching up this tent of
ours. The orthopedic doctor tries to keep our tent legs from pulling loose.
Someone once asked John Quincy Adams how he was personally doing. Adams
"I am very well, thank you. However, the
house in which John Adams lives, is growing old. The thatch is wearing thin,
and it trembles in every gale. I think John Quincy Adams will have to soon
move out, but he himself is very well, sir."
We groan, especially as we get older. Why
do we groan? We groan today, as they did back then, because we feel the
pains associated with mortality, namely our physical limitations, sickness,
heartaches, and the increasing disabilities that accompany advancing age. We
groan also because of the stress, mess, tests, unrest, and distress of this
life. How many times in frustration or great stress have we said or felt,
"Lord, just go ahead and take me home!
Lord, please come today and get me out of here!"
The Christian does not groan in his or
her present body because he or she wants to get rid of it. We really are not
going around hoping, begging, or longing to die today! We groan because we
long to receive the immortal heavenly bodies that God has promised us. God's
promises of something better make us dissatisfied with what we have now. We
are yearning and pining for what we don't have right now, but what we will
have someday. Paul said he "earnestly desired" his glorified body (2Co 5:2-note).
He longed or pined for it. Having put on our heavenly bodies, we will not be
naked. In other words, we will not be spirits without bodies. In this body
that we have, we groan because we are burdened, weighed down or pressed by
the pressures of this life. We groan, not because we want to die and get rid
of these bodies that clothe us now. We groan because we want to put on our
new glorified body so that our earthly decaying body will be swallowed up by
life eternal in Heaven. Not only the promise of a glorified body, but pining
for it and the blessings of Heaven will help us to keep one eye on eternity.
from 2 Corinthians, Volume 1).
Matthew Henry comments that we
(1) A groaning of sorrow under a heavy
load; so believers groan under the burden of life: In this we groan
earnestly, 2Co 5:2. We that are in this tabernacle groan, being burdened,
2Cor 5:4. The body of flesh is a heavy burden, the calamities of life are a
heavy load. But believers groan because burdened with a body of sin, and the
many corruptions that are still remaining and raging in them. This makes
them complain, O wretched man that I am! Ro 7:24.
(2.) There is a groaning of desire after
the happiness of another life; and thus believers groan: Earnestly desiring
to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven (2Co 5:2), to obtain
a blessed immortality, that mortality might be swallowed up of life (2Co
5:4), that being found clothed, we may not be naked (2Co 5:3), that, if it
were the will of God, we might not sleep, but be changed; for it is not
desirable in itself to be unclothed. Death considered merely as a separation
of soul and body is not to be desired, but rather dreaded; but, considered
as a passage to glory, the believer is willing rather to die than live, to
be absent from the body, that he may be present with the Lord (2Co 5:1), to
leave this body that he may go to Christ, and to put off these rags of
mortality that he may put on the robes of glory.
Because we do not want to be
unclothed - A T Robertson rephrases it as...
“For that we do not wish to put off the
clothing, but to put it on”. ...Paul does not wish to be a mere disembodied
spirit without his spiritual garment.
Being burdened (916) (bareo
from baros = weight, heaviness, figuratively a burden as in Gal 6:2)
means to lay on a heavy load; to encumber with weight, to weigh down, to
burden. Figuratively, to
oppress with any thing grievous; as, to burden a nation with taxes. The
effect of drowsiness = "Heavy eyes" (Mt 26:43, Mk 14:40) "Overcome (heavy)
with sleep" (Lk 9:32).
Bareo - 6x in the NT: Mt 26:43
Mk 14:40 Lk 9:32 Lk 21:34 2Co1:8 2Co 5:4 1Ti 5:16. NAS = burdened(3),
heavy(1), overcome(1), weighted down(1).
use of bareo is Ex
7:14 describing Pharaoh's heart as "stubborn" (English translation of
Septuagint = "made hard")
Here in 2Co 5:4 bareo describes
the present state of the regenerate soul confined in “the earthly house of
Paul used bareo
figuratively to describe afflictions earlier in this letter...
2Cor 1:8 For we do not want you to be
unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we
were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we
despaired even of life. (cp 2Co 11:16-33).
Giving instructions to Timothy
1Ti 5:16 If any woman who is a believer
has dependent widows, let her assist them, and let not the church be
burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
Vincent comments: Holtzmann quotes
an inscription in the chapel of the Villa Albani at Rome: “To the good
Regina her daughter has erected this memorial: to the good Regina her
widowed mother, who was a widow for sixty years and never burdened the
church after she was the wife of one husband. She lived 80 years, 5 months,
and 26 days.” - Word Studies in the New Testament
Be on guard,
= calls for
continual attention = Be ready for His return at all times!
Are you ready? If not, why not?
another discussion on imminency.
Cp parallel warning in Lk 21:36 = both involve remaining spiritually alert,
prepared and faithful!) so that your hearts will not be weighted down
with dissipation and drunkenness and the
of life, and that day (The Day of Christ's Return - cp Lk 21:27 - cp
Second Coming) will not come
on you suddenly like a
Comment: It is important to note
that whenever Jesus discusses His Second Coming, He invariably enjoins
watchfulness (cf. Lk 12:37 38 39 40; Mt 25:13; Mk 13:33, 34, 35, 36, 37).
English the verb to burden means to cause worry, hardship or grief to
pictures this as a continuous burden.
Want (2309) (thelo)
refers to a desire that comes from one’s emotions. It involves an active
decision of one's will, and thus implies volition and purpose.
As an aside Jerry Bridges
reminds us that it is...
the will that ultimately makes each
individual choice of whether we will sin or obey. It is the will that
chooses to yield to temptation or to say "No". Our wills, then, ultimately
determine our moral destiny, whether we will be holy or unholy in our
character and conduct. (Ed: Compare Jesus' words on will - Lk
22:42, Jn 4:34, 17:4, Jn 5:30, Jn 6:38, cp Jn 8:29, Heb 10:7, 8, 9, 10 - may
God's Spirit enable us to fix our eyes on Jesus' pattern of a life that
pleases the Father.)
To be unclothed (1562)(ekduo
from ek = out + dúo = cause to sink, go or come) means
literally to go or come out of, to put off and especially to put off
clothing and thus to unclothe. To remove clothing, strip off garments (of
Jesus' before His crucifixion - Mt 27:28, 31, Mk 15:20), undress oneself (in
In 2Co 5:4 Paul uses ekduo
figuratively to described the laying aside of a body. In other words Paul is
saying we do not want to be in a disembodied state after death, but instead
desire to possess our resurrection body which God will give us (As alluded
to in 2Co 5:5 God "prepared us for this very purpose").
Ekduo - 6x in 6v in NAS - Mt
27:28, 31; Mk 15:20; Lk 10:30; 2Co 5:3 4. NAS = stripped(2), took...off(2),
Luke 10:30 Jesus replied and said, "A man
was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they
stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.
Ekduo - 21x in the
non-apocryphal Septuagint - Ge 37:23; Lev 6:11; 16:23; Nu 20:26, 28; 1 Sam
19:24; 31:9; 1Chr 10:9; Esther 5:1; Job 11:15; 19:9; 30:13; Song 5:3; Isa
32:11; 52:2; Lam 4:3; Ezek 16:39; 23:26; 26:16; 44:19; Hos 2:3 A majority of
the uses in the Septuagint refer to stripping off clothes.
Leviticus 6:11 'Then he shall take off
his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp
to a clean place.
Job 19:9 "He has stripped my
honor from me And removed the crown from my head.
Matthew Henry: "He has stripped me
of my glory, my wealth, honor, power, and all the opportunity I had of doing
good. My children were my glory, but I have lost them; and whatever was a
crown to my head he has taken it from me, and has laid all my honor in the
dust." See the vanity of worldly glory: it is what we may be soon stripped
of; and, whatever strips us, we must see and own God's hand in it and comply
with his design.
But (alla) is a strong
adversative (contrast) - not unclothed but clothed.
The first edition of the New Living
Translation paraphrases the passage...
We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be
swallowed up by everlasting life.
Here is the Amplified Version
to help us understand what Paul is saying...
For while we are still in this tent, we groan under the burden and
sigh deeply (weighed down, depressed, oppressed)—not that we want to put off
the body (the clothing of the spirit), but rather that we would be
further clothed, so that what is mortal (our dying body) may be swallowed up
by life [after the resurrection].
Comment: Keep in mind that when you are "stuck" on the meaning of a
particular verse, first pray and examine the
context, but if you are still
"stuck", consider looking at another Bible translation (see chart
Bible Versions). The two I have found
most helpful are the Amplified (which is more literal to the original
language) and the New Living Translation (NLT), which is a paraphrase
but one which tends to be a relatively accurate interpretation of the
original Greek text. The discerning Berean (Acts 17:11-note) should be cautious
with some of the "loose" paraphrases such as The Message (a
version from which I do not quote), which in my humble opinion can stray
quite far away from the meaning intended by the original Greek text and from
God's intended meaning! And
remember if you are "off" on the interpretation, you are at risk of
inappropriate application which can have significant spiritual consequences.
Harry Ironside associates the
phrase we do not want to be unclothed with the Second Coming of
Christ noting first that...
we are not earnestly desiring to die, for
that would not be a natural thing for any Christian. The Christian should
not earnestly desire to die, and yet should be prepared for it, but he
should also be prepared to live for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul
says, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Php 1:21-note). And then he
says that he would rather live to be a help and blessing to other people.
And so we hope "not for that we would be unclothed," but we do long
to be "clothed upon." That is, we would like to live to the second coming of
our Lord Jesus to get our resurrection body in that wonderful hour of His
triumph, "that mortality might be swallowed up of life." And whether
we live or die this is the final goal.
John MacArthur discusses the
Greco-Roman dualistic philosophy (matter is evil and spirit is good - see
MacArthur's sermon for more
discussion of "dualism") that was prevalent in Paul's day and
even after addressing it (dualism) in
that letter (First Corinthians), it is still a problem. It was still a
present issue so here he points out,
"We are waiting to put on our
resurrection body not to be found naked."
He points to the truth that when his
earthly tent is dismantled and he dies, God's plan is not for him to exist
as some disembodied spirit, floating around in infinity somewhere as the
Greek pagans taught. Their dualism, their hatred of the physical, their
miscomprehension of creation, their seeing matter as evil led to the idea
that death released the immortal soul into the nebulous freedom of the
spiritual world. And they would be freed from the bondage of their body to
float throughout eternity freely.
For example, a Roman thinker said the body is a tomb, we need to escape from
it. Platonus could say that he was ashamed that he had a body. Another
writer, Epictetus, said of himself, "Thou art a poor soul burdened with a
corpse." No less than Seneca wrote, "I am a higher being and born for higher
things than to be the slave of my body which I look upon as only a shackle
put upon my freedom and so detestable a habitation dwells the free soul."
Paul wasn't looking for the release from his body, he was looking for the
next body, one that was perfect in the perfections of immortality. Paul
isn't looking for nirvana, some kind of unconscious extinction. He's not
looking for freedom as a disembodied spirit. He's not waiting for the day
when he's going to get absorbed into the infinite. He wants a body. He is a
person. He was designed by God and promised by God he would have a body and
he wants a body in which he can be like Jesus Christ. Jesus had a
resurrection body and he wants one because he wants to be like Christ and he
wants to serve God and glorify God and honor God and praise God through the
means of that glorified body....
Paul just throws it in to make it clear,
we long to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven inasmuch as we having
put it on shall not be found naked. We're not looking to be floating
spirits. The ancient philosophers may have longed for the nakedness of the
soul, but Paul didn't. The ancients may have felt that the soul needed to be
stripped of the body to enter its highest bliss, but Paul didn't. The
highest expression that we will ever know in the glory of God's eternal
heaven will be when we receive our bodies, our new resurrection bodies. And
body-lessness to Paul and to any thinking Christian is a repulsive thought.
We are to be a person, not a floating spirit lost in infinity.
In fact, Paul was so passionate about
this, follow this, that he didn't even want to experience the period of time
in which he would have to wait for his body. And I find that fascinating. He
so longed to be like Christ, he so longed to have the perfect vehicle for
expression of praise and service to God in eternity that he didn't even like
the idea of having to wait around to get his body.
You say, "Well now wait a minute, did he have to wait around?" Yes, that's,
you see, why I told you if he had his choice he would prefer to be
right? Remember we went into that last week. If he had his choice he'd like
to be raptured because at the Rapture there's a transformation of the body,
right? And he would rather, just like you would, live until Jesus comes for
His own. He comes and changes us and we don't experience death, we just get
our new body right like that, in a twinkling of an eye (1Co 15:52).
On the other hand, if he were to die, he would have to wait till the Rapture
to get his body because the bodies aren't raised until the
Well He hasn't come yet. So the saints
that have died, their spirits are in heaven, but they haven't received their
resurrection bodies yet. Their spirits are there. You say, "Well what are
they like?" I don't know, their spirits are there but they don't have a
form. Their presence is there without that resurrection body. You
say, "Do they have their earthly body?" No, you can check anybody's grave,
the earthly body is there, whatever is left of it. They don't have that.
They're in a spirit form. And Hebrews 12:23 says, "They are the spirits of
just men made perfect." Their spirits have been made perfect, they're
perfectly holy and righteous and virtuous, they just have not yet received
their resurrection bodies. That awaits the Rapture of Jesus Christ.
So there is a waiting period for those who have died and who will die before
the Rapture. If you live till the Rapture, you won't have that. If you die
before the Lord Jesus comes, there will be a period of waiting. Though the
sting of sin is removed, there is still a period of waiting.
You say, "Will we have the sense of "Boy, this is taking a long time?"
Paul's saying to himself, "I've been counting the days and do you realize
I've been here for two thousand years? Is it like that?" No, it's not
like that because you can't read time into eternity and a day with the Lord
is as a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2Pe 3:8, cp Ps
90:4). And when you get into that dimension you're not talking about time as
we know time, but you are talking about the realization that something has
not yet occurred....
But he said, "Look, we want to...we
want to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, we want to put it on so
we're not found naked." He wanted that glorified body which would bring
him to the perfection that was like his Lord, his risen Lord. He didn't want
the period of nakedness if he could avoid it. Though death and being with
Christ even in that condition was better than life here, he was groaning
for the perfection that his glorified body would bring. (Facing
Death Confidently, Part 2)
from epí = upon or
intensifier of +
enduo = to
clothe, English - endue, literally to enter into, as clothes) is a stronger
form of enduo and means to put on in addition, to put on one's self
as putting on a garment over existing clothing. "To be fully clothed" (UBS).
Here Paul is using the verb figuratively in reference to being clothed with
our resurrection body.
Barnett remarks that...
“The ‘clothed upon’ and ‘swallowed up by
life’ imagery (2Co 5:2 3 4), when read alongside 1Co 15:53 54, leaves little
doubt that this ‘house’ (in 2Co 5:1) is the individual’s resurrection body.”
Vincent notes that
ependuomai is used
Only here and 2Co 5:4. Compare
ependutes fisher’s coat, John 21:7. Literally = to put on over.
The metaphor changes from building to clothing,
a natural transformation in the mind of Paul, to whom the hair-cloth woven
for tents would suggest a vesture. (2
Corinthians 5 Word Studies in the New Testament)
S Lewis Johnson comments that
doesn't want to be naked. Jews have a
horror of that, and that -- in that sense, the apostle's thought should be
understood. the question with Paul is on the one hand dying and living in a
disembodied state for a time until the coming of Christ. 1 Corinthians 15
makes it very plain that the resurrection takes place when our Lord comes.
So the apostle, on one hand, has the option -- or shall I put it this way --
the alternative. The alternative is dying and living in the disembodied
state until the coming of our Lord or surviving until the coming of our
Lord, the parousia. And the apostle has simply expressed his viewpoint that
he wants to survive to the parousia if that should be within the will of God
in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. That's his hope,
mortal swallowed up by life. The change. No fear nor unmanly monkish wish to
die characterizes the apostle, but he looks forward to the future in that
Unclothed and Clothed Upon - 2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
James Denny says
Nothing could be less like the apostle
than a monkish, unmanly wish to die. He exalted in his calling. It was a joy
to him above all joys to speak to men of the love of God in Jesus Christ,
but nothing on the other hand could be less like him than to lose sight of
the future in the present and to forget, among the service of men, the glory
which is to be revealed. He stood between two worlds. He felt the whole
attraction of both. In the earnest of the Spirit (Ep 1:13, Ep 1:14KJV-note), he knew he had an
inheritance there as well as here. It is his consciousness of the dimension
of life that makes him so immensely interesting.
A little girl was taking an evening walk
with her father. Wonderingly, she looked up at the stars and exclaimed: "Oh,
Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side
SO THAT WHAT IS MORTAL WILL BE
SWALLOWED UP BY LIFE: hina katapothe (3SAPS) to thneton upo tes zoes.: (we that: 2Pe 1:13)
(Groan: 2Co 5:2) (but: 2Co 5:3) (mortal: Isa 25:8 1Co 15:53,54)
So that (hina) explains the
purpose for what Paul has just stated. Be alert to these
terms of conclusion
taking a moment to stop (the Bible was never meant to be a speed reading
exercise) and ask the
Only what is mortal perishes; the
personality, consisting of soul and body, survives.
R B Hughes writes that...
Paul foresaw the great event when, either
by resurrection from the dead or by living transformation, “we shall all be
changed” (1Co 15:51). Mortality must put on immortality, and “death will be
swallowed up in victory” (1Co 15:54, quoting Isa. 25:8). Paul echoed these
words almost verbatim in 2Co 5:4: “in order that what is mortal may be
swallowed up by life.” The present state of Paul and the church was that
which is mortal. To be swallowed up by life is to put on the
dwelling from heaven. Paul pictured the end of the age, when God will come
for His own. (Hughes,
R. B. Second Corinthians. Chicago, IL: Moody Press)
Mortal (2349) (thnetos
from thnesko = to
means that which is subject to death, destined to die (the destiny of
everyone because of Adam's sin -
It is interesting to note that in the ancient Greco-Roman "the basic
difference between humans and deities relates to the mortality of the former
and the immortality of the latter" (BDAG), except that their "gods" were
really no gods at all, demonstrating the utter foolishness of rejecting the
clear natural revelation of the Creator (cp Ro 1:22, 23-note).
Thnetos - 6x in NT - Ro 6:12 Ro
8:11 1Co 15:53, 54 2Co 4:11 2Co 5:4
from katá = down + pínō = to drink) means literally to
drink down, and so to swallow and to swallow up completely. Figuratively katapino
means to cause the complete and sudden destruction of someone or something,
in this case our physical, mortal bodies (which are decaying anyway! 2Co
4:16) are to be devoured. Normally one might expect Paul to say swallowed up
by death, which in a sense is true for unbelievers, but for believers Paul
can say our mortal existence will be swallowed up by life, because as Paul
explains in his first epistle...
this perishable must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this
perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put
on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS
SWALLOWED UP (katapino) in victory."
Katapino- 7x times in
23:24; 1Co. 15:54; 2Co. 2:7; 5:4; Heb 11:29; 1Pe 5:8; Rev 12:16.
It is the crushing burden of sin and
affliction believers experience in their physical bodies that makes them
yearn for their spiritual bodies. Repeating his disdain for soul nakedness,
Paul emphasized again that he did not want to be unclothed as a disembodied
spirit, but to be clothed with his glorified body. Then, what is mortal will
be swallowed up by the fullness and perfections of eternal life, and
believers will be like their risen Lord. Like John, they “know that when He
appears, [they] will be like Him, because [they] will see Him just as He is”
J: 2Corinthians. Chicago: Moody Press
Radmacher (et al) helps
us understand the meaning of the phrase clothed with life writing
The believer’s future experience is
called life, meaning the full experience of eternal life in
Christ. The life experience of the future is being determined by how
we invest this life today (2Co 4:17-note).
E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible
Commentary. Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers)
can refer to (1)
physical life (cp Ro 8:38-note,
1Co 3:22, Php 1:20-note,
Jas 4:14, etc) but more often refers to (2) to supernatural life in
contrast to a life subject to eternal death (Jn 3:36). This quality of life speaks of fullness of
life which alone belongs to God the Giver of life and is available to His
children, those who have been born again (Jn 3:3, Ro 6:4-note,
In context zoe alludes to eternal life (Mk 10:30, Titus 1:2-note).
Zoe in classical Greek refers to natural
life--the principle that enables living things to move and to grow. In the
NT, zoe focuses on the theological meaning rather than on the biological.
From the perspective of the NT, in every respect life is the counterpart of
death. Each book of the NT speaks of zoe. In each, the principle of life
lifts our vision beyond our earthly existence to reveal a unique quality of
life that spans time and eternity and that has its roots in God. It is the
biblical use and meaning of zoe that most concerns us as we examine what the
NT says about life.
L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)
(in comments on 2Pe 1:3-note)
writes that zoe...
speaks of life in the sense of one who is
possessed of vitality and animation. It is used of the absolute fulness of
life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God. It is used to
designate the life which God gives to the believing sinner, a vital,
animating, spiritual, ethical dynamic which transforms his inner being and
as a result, his behavior.
(Comments on 1Jn 1:2 by Wuest)
Thayer indicates (zoe is) “the absolute fulness of life, both essential
and ethical, which belongs to God.” Thus, this life that God is, is not to
be defined as merely animation, but as definitely ethical in its content.
God is not the mere reason for the universe, as the Greeks thought, but a
Person with the characteristics and qualities of a divine Person.
ethical and spiritual qualities of this life which God is, are communicated
to the sinner when the latter places his faith in the Lord Jesus as Saviour,
and this becomes the new, animating, energizing, motivating principle which
transforms the experience of that individual, and the saint thus lives a
Christian life. (Recommendation:
You might want to re-read this
slowly, meditatively and with a heart overflowing with incredible gratitude!
I fear that I do not even begin to grasp the significance of the zoe with
which God has gifted us as His children by grace through faith! If I did I
think it would be a strong motivating, strengthening force in those moments
where my flesh begins to lure me to sin against so great a salvation gift
The message of John is that since the believer is a partaker
of this life, it is an absolute necessity that he show the ethical and
spiritual qualities that are part of the essential nature of God, in his own
life. If these are entirely absent, John says, that person is devoid of the
life of God, and is unsaved. The ethical and spiritual qualities of this
life were exhibited to the human race in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus.
His life thus becomes the pattern of what our lives should be in holiness,
self-sacrifice, humility, and love.
(Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
Spurgeon in his book "Power in
the Blood" discusses several points about what the saints are currently
The first is that these bodies of ours
are not delivered. Beloved, as soon as a man believes in Christ, he is no
longer under the curse of the law. (See Galatians 3:13.) As to his spirit,
has no more
over him, and the
has no further claims against him. His soul is translated from death to
life. But, the body, this poor flesh and blood, does it not remain as
before? Not in one sense, for the members of our bodies, which were
instruments of unrighteousness, become by sanctification the instruments of
righteousness to the glory of God. (See Ro 6:13-note)
The body that was once a workshop for Satan becomes a temple for the Holy
Spirit, wherein He dwells (1Co 6:19-note).
However, we are all perfectly aware that the grace of God makes no change in
the body in other respects. It is just as subject to sickness as before;
pain throbs quite as sharply in the heart of the saint as in the heart of
the sinner; and he who lives near to God is no more likely to enjoy bodily
health than he who lives at a distance from Him. The greatest piety cannot
preserve a man from growing old; although in grace he may be like a young
cedar, fresh and green, yet the body will have its gray hairs, and the
strong man will be brought to totter on the cane. The body is still subject
to the evils that Paul mentioned when he said that it is subject to
corruption, dishonor, and weakness, and is still a natural body. (See 1Co
15:42, 43, 44.)
These are not little things, for the body has a depressing effect on the
soul. A man may be full of faith and joy spiritually, but I would challenge
him to feel the same way under the ill effects of some diseases. The soul is
like an eagle, and the body is like a chain that prevents its mounting.
Moreover, the appetites of the body have a natural affinity to that which is
sinful. The natural desires of the human frame are not in themselves sinful,
but through the degeneracy of our nature, they very readily lead us into
sin. Through the corruption that is in us, even the natural desires of the
body become a very great source of temptation. The body is redeemed with the
precious blood of Christ; it is redeemed by price; but it has not as yet
been redeemed by power. It still lingers in the realm of bondage and is not
brought into “the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Ro 8:21-note).
Now, this is the cause of our groaning and mourning, for the soul is so
married to the body that when it is itself delivered from condemnation, it
sighs to think that its poor friend, the body, is still under the yoke.
Suppose that you were a free man who had married a slave. You could not feel
perfectly content; but the more you enjoyed the sweets of freedom yourself,
the more you would mourn that she was still in slavery. So is it with the
spirit: it is free from corruption and death, but the poor body is still
under the bondage of corruption, and therefore the soul groans until the
body itself is set free.
Will it ever be set free? Oh, my beloved, do not ask that question. This is
the Christian’s brightest hope. Many believers make a mistake when they long
to die and go to heaven. That may be desirable, but it is not the ultimate
satisfaction for the saints. The saints in heaven are perfectly free from
sin, and, so far as they are capable of it, they are perfectly happy; but a
disembodied spirit can never be perfect until it is reunited to its body.
God made man not pure spirit, but body and spirit, and the spirit alone will
never be content until it sees its physical body raised to its own condition
of holiness and glory. Do not think that our longings here below are not
shared by the saints in heaven. They do not groan because of any pain, but
they long with greater intensity than you and I for “the adoption, to wit,
the redemption of our body” (Ro 8:23-note).
People have said there is no faith in heaven and no hope; they do not know
what they say. In heaven faith and hope have their fullest strength and
their brightest sphere, for glorified saints believe in God’s promise and
hope for the resurrection of the body. The apostle tells us that “they
without us should not be made perfect” (Heb 11:40-note);
that is, until our bodies are raised, theirs cannot be raised; until we get
our adoption day, neither can they get theirs. “The Spirit and the bride
say, Come” (Rev 22:17-note).
Not only the bride on earth, but also the bride in heaven says, “Come,”
telling the happy day to hurry, the day when “the trumpet shall sound, and
the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1Co
15:52). For it is true, beloved, the bodies that have decayed will rise
again; the fabric that has been destroyed by the worm will suddenly form a
nobler being; and you and I, though the worm may devour our bodies, will in
our flesh behold our God (Job 19:26).
These eyes shall see him in that day,
The God that died for me;
And all my rising bones shall say,
“Lord, who is like to thee?”
Thus, we desire that our entire manhood,
in its trinity of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the last
vestige of the Fall. We long to put off corruption, weakness, and dishonor,
and to wrap ourselves in incorruption, in immortality, in glory, in the
spiritual body that the Lord Jesus Christ will bestow on all His people.
(See 1Co 15:42, 43, 44.) You can understand in this sense why we groan, for
if this body, though redeemed, is really still a captive, and if it is to be
completely free and rise to amazing glory one day, those who believe in this
precious doctrine may very well groan after it as they wait for it.