2 Corinthians 5:1-10
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 
In the 15th century, when Spain controlled both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, also called the Pillars of Hercules, its coins pictured the Pillars with the inscription “No More Beyond” (Ne Plus Ultra). The Pillars were the gates to the known world and beyond them there was nothing but ocean – until 1492 when Columbus discovered the New World. Soon afterward, Spain admitted its ignorance and struck the “No” from its motto to read, “More Beyond.” 
That change in knowledge (that there was “More Beyond”) brought about a cultural, economic, and geopolitical revolution. Paul offers us a much-needed spiritual geography lesson in this text that continues to draw our hope away from the visibly-broken world to the New Jerusalem, the eternal, sin-free new earth where God will dwell face-to-face with his people in glorious eternal perfection. But many of us, most of the time, delude ourselves to live as if there is “No More Beyond.”
But “More Beyond” describes not only the Apostle Paul, but also the ultimate focus of all the Bible. Scripture begins in a perfect garden paradise where God dwells with mankind. Our union representative, Adam, is tempted by the devil to doubt the goodness of God. Adam plunges himself and all of his offspring into the condition of sin. At that moment, heaven and earth are torn apart and mankind is cast away from God’s presence. However, Adam is cast out with the promise that the Seed of the Woman will crush the head of the devil, the great serpent-dragon, and undo his works. From that historical point onward, scripture records the journey from one perfect-but-temporary garden toward a new eternal perfect Garden that is entirely free from sin’s presence, power, and possibility. There, God’s promise that he will dwell with us and be our God and that we shall be his people, finds its eternal consummation. That is what drives Paul.
The first 10 verses of chapter 5 continue the theme we looked at last week where we saw that Paul’s confidence in future resurrection and transformation was what enabled him to minister with such resiliency and stead-fastness (cf. 4:7-12). The future we long for drives our present actions. The problem is that we tend to live in the land of “No More Beyond” than living as pilgrims journeying through toward “More Beyond.”
TENT VS BUILDING (1)
Paul begins this section with a confident assertion of the actual physical resurrection to come. “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” If you have read the book of Acts, you know that tent-making was the Apostle Paul’s day job. But that is coincidental to the point he is making. Paul is not advertising for his day job. He has in mind the nomadic, tent-dwelling lifestyle of Abraham and his children, the Israelites. In particular, Paul’s shift in metaphors from “tent” to a “building from God” is a reference to the tabernacle tent and the temple in Jerusalem. One was movable and temporary, the other was immovable and permanent. His metaphor emphasizes the contrast between our present earthly bodies and our promised eternal glorified resurrection bodies.
Further, just as there was continuity between the tabernacle and the temple, there is continuity between the mortal body and the imperishable resurrection body. We know this is Paul’s meaning from he wrote to the congregation at Philippi in Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  He wrote a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53:
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
Just as there was continuity between Christ’s glorified resurrection body and his incarnate body, there will also be continuity for us. The body knitted together in our mother’s womb, the body in which we now live, will be resurrected and will exist transformed in eternal continuity (Ps. 139:13-15). This continuity points to the goodness of God’s physical creation. Our resurrection bodies will have all the excellent qualities God created us to have, so that we will be eternal living proof of God’s wisdom in making a material creation that was from the very beginning “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Resurrected believers will live in new bodies suitable for inhabiting the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pt. 3:13). That is a joyful thought for those with eyes of faith who can “see” the New Jerusalem.
Paul’s outer sin nature was wasting away. His inner new nature was being renewed day by day. Both of those events came through affliction that Paul knew was only momentary in view of the glorious eternity that awaits all who trust into the perfectly-lived life and sacrificial blood-shedding death of the risen, glorified, and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. On that great getting up morning, Paul was confident that his scarred, aching, disintegrating earthly body would experience a glorious resurrection to become “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (v. 1). There was “More Beyond” for Paul’s physical body. He was certain.
CONFIDENT LONGING (2-5)
Paul’s certainty of the future resurrection was expressed in deep, logging, groaning. He writes in verses 2 through 4:
2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
The expression of “groaning” sounds negative, as if he hates his earthly life and ministry. But it’s actually a positive statement: “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” – it’s anticipation, a straining toward a glorious place. Most of us, if we believe in Heaven, want to go there, but much later rather than sooner. Paul did not think like most of us do. He hoped to get there sooner rather than later.
Paul’s longing is like the groaning for future glory that he wrote about in Romans 8 where he mentioned three related groanings. The first groan is that of creation itself:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 
The word “eager longing” has the sense of standing on the tips of our toes craning our necks to see a wonderful sight. Eugene Peterson’s translation reads: “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.”
Not only does creation groan in longing, we who trust into Christ’s salvation do also. “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). We naturally long for the day when our adoption as God’s children will be completed at the redemption of our bodies. We groan because we live in mortal, sinful flesh. But our groaning is not negative because it is a prompting of the Spirit that Paul describes as “the firstfruits of the Spirit” – the down payment of the eternal blessed state.
Not only does creation groan and we groan, the Holy Spirit groans as well. “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The Holy Spirit gives expression to our longing for completeness we feel but cannot articulate. Because of our present weakness and becoming greatness of glory, we groan. But we are not alone in our groaning, we are surrounded by the sympathetic longings of creation and of the Holy Spirit himself. And one day our groanings will turn into praises in glory!
Paul was like a child waiting for Christmas morning. He groaned in his earthly tent as he considered the pleasant thoughts of receiving the gift of his new permanent, glorious, heavenly dwelling. But his longing was not for death as such, but to be clothed with his heavenly body so that he would “not be found naked.” This is a reference to Adam’s sudden shame over sin which he and Eve attempted to cover over with fig leaves. To be clothed over with his resurrection body was to be declared righteous and beyond shame and judgment.
Paul groans to be clothed over with his resurrection body and for the vindication his new righteous covering would bring. As he writes here in verse 4 of our text, “4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” The phrase “swallowed up by life” is a reference to Isaiah 25:8 and 1st Corinthians 15:54:
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 
Paul longs for that great getting up morning because of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit as his guarantee. “5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” Paul’s groaning was a gift from God, reminding him there was “More Beyond” this present, visible, world – another material world where everything and everyone will be “very good” (Gen. 1:31) as God originally made it – where the “already” of Christ’s work is finally consummated with the “not yet” that is to come at the great resurrection. The word used for “guarantee” is used in present-day Greek to represent an engagement ring – a guarantee of the wedding day to come.
Paul’s transformation from Saul Paulus of Tarsus, a corporate-ladder-climbing prosecutor of the Jewish Temple Court, into the Apostle Paul came purely by the re-creative power of the Holy Spirit and was his guarantee that his change in his present life (the “already”) was a deposit for his complete transformation to come at the resurrection (the “not yet”). Paul’s radical change was proof there was “More Beyond” – more unimaginably good gifts of God to come.
Do you groan in your present earthly sinful flesh for your perfect heavenly dwelling? I think the older we become, the more affliction we undergo, the greater we long for the “More Beyond.” Affliction shifts our focus from what our human wisdom thinks is good for us toward what God actually says is good for us – longing for the fullness of his eternal promise to be our God, for us to be his people, and for him to dwell with us. This is really the secrete signature written on each human soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable longing, the thing we desired before we met our spouses or made our friends or chose our vocations, the thing we shall still desire on our deathbeds even when our minds no longer know our spouses, friends, or work.
CONFIDENT COURAGE (6-8)
Paul, the weak and unimpressive apostle whom the Judaizes mocked and derided for not measuring up to their standards, was utterly confident about his future regardless of his present earthly trials and the constant accusations of not being enough and not measuring up. He was “always of good courage” (v. 6a), he was “Captain Courageous.” If you study Acts and Pauline literature, you have to conclude that he was “one of the bravest, most resilient people in all of history.” Few historical characters can match his unwavering tenacity for his mission. He felt the sheer weight of glory of the “More Beyond.” It was ballast for his epic journeys.
Paul faced the reality of his present circumstances with joyful optimism. He writes, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.” The Holy Spirit gave Paul the confidence that Christ was always with him and gave Paul the constant divine communion he needed. Though Paul had his “already” communion with God, he also knew that his present earthly sinful flesh prevented him from ultimate fellowship and face to face intimacy with the Lord Jesus. He knew heaven and earth had been torn apart by the sin of the First Adam and that the restorative work of the Last Adam was not yet consummated. Paul had to live by trust in the promises of God’s Word – walking by trust rather than sight with his focus upon the “weight of glory” (4:17) to come. His trust into Christ’s consummation of all things in judgment and blessing marked his entire existence.
That meant that the apostle had a passionate longing to be face-to-face with Messiah Jesus. “8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” This is not simply a geographic wish. Paul longed for ultimate fellowship with Christ unimpeded by human sin within and without. To be “at home with the Lord” was to live face-to-face with him in the New and True Garden. He could only do that in his sinless resurrection body that certainly awaited him and all of us who trust into the person and work of Christ.
The clear implication is that the apostle Paul does not desire a prolonged life on this sin-cursed earth! He wrote to the Philippians, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” The true conviction that there is “More Beyond” drastically changes our values and longings for the present. It’s remarkable that we go to such extremes for ourselves and our loved ones who know Christ to hang on to this life as if there really is “No More Beyond”!
CONFIDENT RESOLUTION (9-10)
Confident hope of face-to-face communion with Christ naturally brings an ongoing desire to please him. “9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” Martin Luther was a dog-lover, and he often used his Pomeranian as an illustration. He wrote once of his dog’s complete fixation with food. Luther noticed that when he held the dog’s bowl full of food, his dog’s eyes were firmly fixed upon the food. If he moved the bowl up or down, left, or right, his dog’s eyes followed the food. His dog lived for, and was completely fixated with, his daily meal.
Luther knew that dogs don’t understand abstract concepts. They don’t think much beyond their next meal and how to get human attention. They can’t read. They have no eschatology (no doctrine of the future), no sense of a resurrection to come, of judgment or reward. Their “More Beyond” is the next doggie treat or toy. But they remain firmly fixated on their needs.
How much more should we who are made in the rational and creative image of God be fixated on our ultimate need to live face-to-face with Christ, our Master? We trust that he is God Eternal, that he demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners he lived out God’s holy Law perfectly and died for us sacrificially; that he was raised on the third day, that he received a glorified resurrection body and has prepared one like his for us, and that with it will come the immeasurable eternal riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7). For all of that, we desire to please him.
There is one final grace with which Paul ends this section. “10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Christ stood before Pilot’s judgment seat (Matt. 27:19), and Paul stood before Gallio’s judgment seat (Acts 18:12). So must all humanity stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Attendance is compulsory.
We may stand before him trusting into our own works vainly hoping that he will grade on a curve. Or we will stand before him trusting into his saving works of perfection, sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension. We make it our aim to please God because, on that great getting up morning, he will declare that he is infinitely pleased with us because he looks upon us and sees his Son, the Lord Jesus, to who we by trust belong.
The opinion of modern and postmodern thought is “No More Beyond.” There is nothing beyond the physical universe we observe. We are predisposed by sin to know only by observation because, our fleshly wisdom says there is no divine revelation. But Christ calls us to “More Beyond,” so that “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (4:18).
If, by God-given trust, we are sure there is “More Beyond,” we groan. We yearn with hopeful anticipation for our resurrection bodies and our resurrected eternal dwelling with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We yearn for the day when we shall be delivered from nakedness – Adam’s shameful judgment. We are on a long journey from an obliterated garden of performance to an eternal Garden-City of perfection: perfect fellowship, perfect love, perfect joy, and perfect delight.
Upon which side of the Pillars of Hercules do you live? Do you live in the dark landscape of “No More Beyond,” or in the radiant promise of Christ’s “More Beyond”? Your answer determines how you will continue to live in this “slight momentary” (4:17) life and how you will fare at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. ..20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 5:1–10.
 Hughes, R. Kent. 2 Corinthians. Crossway. Kindle Edition.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 3:20–21.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 15:51–53.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:19–22.
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Ro 8:19–21.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:23.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:26.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Co 15:54–55.
 Hughes, op. cit., quoting Paul Barnett, The Message of 2 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p. 100.
 C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1978), pp. 145-147.
 Hughes, op. cit.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Php 1:23–24.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17–21.