“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as 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.
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. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 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. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 4:17 – 5:1-5 ESV
It is important to note that there were no chapters or verses (or headings!) in the original manuscripts of the Bible. They were only added later by translators when it was compiled. Their purpose is to ease reading, but shouldn’t stop us from linking passages that go together.
Such it is with the end of 2 Corinthians 4 going into chapter 5. In our previous study we spoke about the Gospel being carried in our weak, human bodies, so that both the life and death of Jesus might be displayed in us. And while our bodies are slowly wasting away, our inner beings are being renewed day by day. Today’s passage continues from that point.
Paul says that the trials we suffer this side of eternity are “light” and “momentary” and even full of purpose. How could he say that? Paul had his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and Heaven. In his letter to the Philippians he wrote the following: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:2) He knew that earthly suffering purposefully prepared for him “an eternal weight of glory”. This is true for us as well, when we focus on Jesus, when our hope is in the unseen, eternal things of God.
Now what is this “earthly tent” that Paul was referring to? In the context of this passage, it speaks about our earthly bodies slowly deteriorating. However, it can also refer to the fallen world that we live in. Similar to this passage, Paul said in his letter to the Romans that “…the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 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.” (Romans 8:22-23) We look forward to a New Creation, but also renewed bodies so that “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life”.
How can we be sure of this everlasting, unseen hope? God has given us His Holy Spirit as a seal that guarantees our inheritance (see also Ephesians 1:13-14).
So, in the midst of a pandemic-stricken world where the threat of another hard-lockdown looms as our country nears a second wave of COVID-19, let’s focus our eyes and hope on Jesus and His Eternal Kingdom.