Traveling through a Maze of Metaphors to Get to Christian Hope

2 Corinthians 5:1–10 – 2 Corinthians: A Testimony to Suffering in the Power of God
Trinity Sunday – June 16, 2019 (am)


            Father, you sent your Son Jesus to die in our place and raised him from the dead by the power of your very own Spirit: enliven us and illumine us by that same Spirit to find in your Word, as it is read and proclaimed, nothing less the life and glory of Christ, that we may be transformed into his image. Amen.


            Our sermon text today is 2 Cor 5:1–10, on p. 966 of the pew Bibles. If you have your Bibles, please turn there now. Second Corinthians ch. 5, vv. 1–10. Hear the word of the Lord:

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. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 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.

            William Strunk and E. B. White’s The Elements of Style is a classic guide to writing clear and crisp prose. It’s essential reading for anyone who desires to write well and communicate clearly. They offer 21 pointers for clear communicative style. Here’s Point #18:

Use figures of speech sparingly … similes [and metaphors] coming in rapid fire, one right on top of another, are more distracting than illuminating. Readers need time to catch their breath … When you use metaphor, do not mix it up. That is, don’t start by calling something a swordfish and end by calling it an hourglass.[1]

            Born a couple millennia before Strunk and White, the Apostle Paul never had the chance to read their stylebook. In 2 Cor 5, he has certainly not avoided mixing metaphors.[2] He starts by saying we dwell in a “tent”; one day we’ll receive a “house not made with hands,” which is apparently also to be understood as an article of clothing that we will wear lest we be naked. That’s just, to speak in metaphor, the tip of the iceberg in this passage. English 101 teachers might give Paul an F. So would I—for fantastic, fruitful for Christian life, faithful to the reality of God’s world. Thankfully, Paul takes the risk of losing readers in a maze of metaphors. It’s a necessary risk. Paul doesn’t buy into the lie that metaphors are mere decoration to put on the top of “bare truth.”[3] Metaphor is essential. In 2 Cor 5, Paul, by the Spirit’s inspiration, gives us the proper and necessary metaphorical lenses through which to see reality in right focus.

            But of course we must ask, “What specifically is the reality that is put in proper focus with these metaphors?” What are the tent and house Paul talks about? Why shift mid-thought to images of clothing and nakedness? What do the geographical or locational metaphors used in vv. 6–8 mean—being “at home” or “away from home”?[4] These are challenging and widely debated issues in this very difficult text.[5] This morning I want to provide some guidance for understanding these important matters, in hopes of persuading you concerning what I think is the best general outlook on the passage. So let’s try to sort things out a bit, beginning with what are the clearer, more widely agreed upon building metaphors in the passage.[6] This may give us an interpretive hook to hang our hat on when considering the less clear, more debated metaphors (the clothing metaphors in vv. 2–4, and the geographic metaphors in vv. 6–9).

            First, in v. 1, Paul opens with building metaphors.[7] He speaks of a “tent” in which we presently reside, “our earthly home” which will be “destroyed.” Most agree that Paul here speaks of our present mortal bodies, the physical, perishable flesh and blood and bone of us, which is decaying and will die, returning to the dust from which we were made. Just before our passage, in ch. 4, v. 10, Paul says that he “carries in [his] body the death of Jesus.” In v. 16, he says, “our outer nature is wasting away.”[8] That’s happening to Paul’s body. That’s happening to all of our physical, perishable bodies in this age. It’s the present body that Paul calls a “tent” in 5:1.[9] It doesn’t last forever. It’s a temporary residence (this is part of the reason for speaking of the body metaphorically as a tent, since none of us would think of living permanently in a tent; for many, the best part of camping is packing up the tent and going home![10]). Our present “tent” will one day be “torn down” (NASB)—our physical bodies will be corrupted in death.[11]

            Paul contrasts this “tent” in v. 1, the mortal body, with what he calls “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”[12] The point is debated, but I think Paul here refers, at least,[13] to our future, resurrected and glorified physical bodies.[14] We’re in a “tent” now: our corruptible, mortal bodies. But God will give for a dwelling place a “building,” a house: incorruptible, immortal bodies.[15] That seems to be the simplest explanation of the contrast. Paul has already signaled, a bit earlier in ch. 4, v. 14, that he has our future physical resurrection in mind. Paul asserts, “He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.[16] The Father raised Jesus physically from the dead; that, too, will happen to us. That’s Paul’s confidence and concern in the context. That’s what he’s still talking about when in 5:1 he speaks of the “building from God” which we will one day have.[17]

            So we are now in a “tent,” a physical body that is decaying. But Paul is confident that one day we’ll receive a new “house,” a temple not made with hands—glorified bodies which are not subject to decay and death. To think in terms of the earlier biblical storyline (which I believe Paul is doing with these metaphors): just as in Israel’s history there was a trajectory from the temporary tabernacle (tent) in the wilderness to a fulfillment as a temple (house) in the Promised Land, so also, for Christians, there is a trajectory from a temporary tent (our present mortal bodies) in our present sojourning in this fallen creation to a fulfillment as a house or building (our future imperishable resurrection bodies) in the new creation.[18]

            Now this discussion of the building metaphors in v. 1 helps us when we come to vv. 2–3. In v. 2, Paul says that “in this tent we groan,[19] longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.” This heavenly dwelling is likely the same thing as the building or house from God mentioned in v. 1—namely, our resurrected bodies. But now, surprisingly, Paul mixes in a clothing metaphor. Resurrection hope is now viewed through the lens of clothing.[20] Paul says that we will “put on” a new building, our resurrection bodies; we will be “clothed” with them as with a garment. We are now “clothed” with a “tent” (our mortal bodies), but one day, as v. 4 says, we will be “further clothed”[21]—that is, we will be raised up in new, glorified, imperishable bodies. Paul groans with yearning for this final dwelling place, this final clothing.

            And Paul groans with aversion, in v. 4, at the thought of being “unclothed” or naked.[22] The NASB states it best in v. 4: “we groan … because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed.”[23] Paul groans because of the thought of nakedness. What does it mean here to be “naked”? Well, as we’ve seen, the clothing Paul yearns for is the resurrection body; so it’s reasonable to think that the nakedness he’s averse to is disembodiment, being a free-floating soul, as it were, without a physical body.[24] To be a disembodied “spirit,” to have no body to “put on” and wear, would be to be naked. Paul groans at the prospect.

            What’s so bad about being naked? If you’re my carefree three-year-old daughter, nothing. But if you’re familiar with the biblical drama, you may recall that being naked, in a post-Fall world, is a matter of shame.[25] Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their eyes were opened, they saw that they were naked, and they were fearful and ashamed.[26] Nakedness is a reminder of sin and shame, of the triumph of the serpent at the tree, of the unleashing of the curse through Adam and Eve’s sin. But God, in his grace, clothed Adam and Eve with garments of skin, a sign that that they still were his beloved children and that the royal inheritance had not been lost.[27] Being naked is a reminder of the triumph of the serpent and the reality of the curse against sin. Being clothed is a sign of God’s more-than-conquering grace and vindication of his children.[28]

            I think Paul in 2 Cor 5:2 introduces metaphors of clothing and nakedness to situate the coming physical resurrection into its proper place in the biblical storyline.[29] That resurrection will be the final undoing of the curse, the final triumph over the serpent’s attacks, the final restoration of all that seemed to be lost in humanity’s rebellion. Nakedness will be undone and the glorious royal clothing we were meant to wear will be ours—resurrection bodies.

            So if we’re tracking rightly, then this is no small, isolated thing Paul yearns for. What he says at the end of v. 4 confirms this. There Paul explains that his ultimate hope is that “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Those last words of v. 4 are a virtual quotation of Isa 25:8.[30] What’s the point of quoting Isa 25? Well back in Isa 25, what God promises is a great end-time banquet when not just one or two individuals or private families but all nations will feast at the Lord’s table, in a creation made new and filled to overflowing with goodness, in a society of justice and peace and rightly ordered worship, in a world where death is finally conquered, where every remnant and reminder of the curse is gone, and where every tear is wiped away not just from my face but from all faces. That’s what Isa 25 promises; and it’s that promise that Paul is persuaded will be fulfilled finally when Christ returns and raises his people from the dead. So when Paul says he groans to not be naked but to be clothed with resurrection bodies, the resurrection body is really theological shorthand for the whole new creation and the completion of not just some but all of God’s good purposes.[31] This is not some isolated, privatized, individualistic hope that Paul has; it is as large as the new creation.

            But we’re not there yet. There is an “in the meantime” season in salvation history.[32] Christ will return and transform us, our bodies, and all things. That’s coming. But now “in the meantime” we wait and groan. Paul addresses the “meantime” of waiting in vv. 6–10. But to help us conceive of this season of waiting, he shifts to the metaphor of being at home and being away from home. He says, in v. 6, “while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” The New Living Translation more directly reflects Paul’s language here: “as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord.”[33] Paul uses a verb that elsewhere in Greek literature typically refers to being on a journey away from home, to sojourning in foreign lands, to being in exile.[34] To be “away from the Lord” is to be away from home in a kind of exile. Paul takes the Ascension utterly seriously.[35] The risen Lord Jesus ascended to the heavenly throne-room; hence, he is no longer physically present to us here on earth. He will return one day. But for now, he is physically absent. And for as long as he is absent from us, we are in a kind of exile, away from our truest home. So, Paul says in v. 8, that he would “rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Until we can enjoy Christ’s presence in full, we are not home.

            Now there’s a crucial related notion that is too frequently not noticed in this passage. Remarkably, Paul uses the same verbs—“to be at home,” and “to be sojourning away from home in exile”—to describe our experience with respect to the physical body.[36] Verse 6: “While we are at home in the body, we are away from home with the Lord.” And v. 8: when we are “away from home/exiled from the body, we are at home with the Lord.” Which is it, Paul? Where’s our home? Are we at home in the body, or are we at home in the presence of the Lord? I think, for Paul, the answer is, “Yes.” Based on Paul strategic use of language,[37] we must further define “our truest home” to be this: not just being in the presence of the physically resurrected Lord in any old way, but being in his presence in our own physically resurrected bodies. Until our final, end-time resurrection happens, we are all—whether we’re in the body, or dead and with Jesus—still awaiting the end, still in a time of longing for the future consummation, still not ultimately and entirely “at home.” That’s why Paul repeats himself in v. 9, only now he doesn’t specify where at home or away is—is it “in the body” or “with the Lord in heaven”? It doesn’t really matter if we’re looking to the final resurrection as our ultimate hope and home. What matters only, in this time of waiting, in this “meantime” in between the first and second comings of Christ,[38] is, as Paul says, “to please the Lord,” to trust him, to follow him, to heed his word.[39]

            Popular piety believes that the Christian hope is “dying and going to be with the Lord in heaven.” Sometimes 2 Cor 5 is used as a prooftext for this belief. But it’s emphatically not what Paul would have us ultimately hope for in 2 Cor 5.[40] Yes, for Paul, “dying and going to heaven” is better than our present experience of sin and brokenness and the absence of our risen Lord. Paul says in v. 8 that he’d “rather be away from home in the body to be at home with the Lord.” The latter is better than the first. But it’s not the best.[41] The best is to be physically resurrected with Christ, as 4:14 says will happen, so that we can be with the Lord “face to face” not “face to disembodied spirit.” What’s best is to be clothed with our new “house,” the resurrected bodies that Paul groans for.[42] Until that final resurrection happens, our experience is one of tension, of being “at home” but “away from home,” of continued yearning and groaning for the full consummation of God’s mighty and glorious work of salvation.

            We need to go back and underline what Paul specifically groans about in vv. 2 and 4. In v. 2, he groans positively (he yearns) for his “heavenly dwelling”—that is, his resurrection body. In v. 4, he groans negatively at (he loathes) the thought of being “unclothed,” naked. But what will we be, if we die before the Lord returns, and “go up to heaven” without resurrected bodies? We will be, in the way Paul defines it here in 2 Cor 5, naked, disembodied. Amazingly, we will have reason to groan and will groan … in heaven. That’s the implication of 2 Cor 5.

            But we don’t need to simply read between the lines of 2 Cor 5. It is said explicitly in the book of Revelation. Turn to Rev 6. Revelation 6 is the great vision of the seven seal judgments. What John sees and hears in Rev 6:9, as the fifth seal is broken, is breath-taking. Revelation 6:9 reads, “I saw under the altar[43] the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had born.” John sees the souls of the martyrs in the heavenly temple complex. What are these martyred souls in heaven doing? Verse 10: “They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” How long, O Lord? That’s the cry of the psalms of lament. How long till you vindicate our blood? How long till you establish justice on the earth? How long, O Lord? There is lamentation going on in heaven! It’s lamentation, or groaning, because the consummation of God’s good purposes for all the earth—for our bodies, for justice, for the order and flourishing of all creation—has yet to arrive. It’s lamentation because the story is not at its end. The martyrs have died and their souls are “in heaven,” and they are not yet finally home.

            “Heaven,” in the sense of the disembodied experience of Christ’s presence, is not our final home. Heaven is a remarkable good, and life there is far better than the sorrow of our present sojourn. This is part of our Christian hope. But it is not our ultimate home and hope. Our true home, the home we long for ultimately, is not escaping this material world and material bodies to heaven “above,” but the heavens coming down from above to our material world and material bodies, engulfing it all, eradicating the curse, making all things new. That’s how Rev 21–22 pictures it. Our truest home, and ultimate hope, is not escape to disembodied bliss in “heaven,” but the union of the heavens and the earth into one glorious kingdom of God. With yearning and hope, our hearts are to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

            But why does this matter, practically? Why does Paul need to clarify such things in 2 Cor 5? It matters because what you hope in—what your ultimate hope looks like and feels and smells and sounds like, the nature and logic and pattern of your hope—has a major shaping effect on how you live in the present. Hope impacts everything. Not just what you think about the future but how you live in the present is profoundly influenced by the shape of your hoping.

            So consider a few scenarios. Perhaps we hope only in escape from the material world to personal bliss in a disembodied “heaven.” Perhaps we latch onto Paul’s desire in v. 8 “rather to be away from the body and at home with the Lord,” without paying attention to the context. Perhaps what matters most in our hearts is relief from personal afflictions and discomforts. Perhaps we pray, “My will be done on earth, until I escape into heaven.” What would our everyday life look like if that were our hope and prayer? It might look like always putting personal concerns first. It might look like spending the bulk of our energy and money and time toward the end of minimizing our own discomfort and pain. It might look like building up private little kingdoms for myself and my “nuclear family,” in which we admit only people we like and who are mirrors of ourselves. After all, where the story is headed is simply a “me and Jesus” disembodied personal bliss, so why would anything else matter in the present except personal comfort for “me and Jesus” (and others who remind me of me)? When our hope is simply an escape to disembodied bliss, the life that flows forth from that hope might look a lot like the life of the first century church in Corinth (or the life of 21st century affluent suburbia).

            Or maybe we hope in the product of our doing. Maybe we latch onto v. 10, stripped of its biblical context, and say, “We are going to be judged according to our deeds; so I need to prove that I am good enough.” Maybe our prayer is, “Thy will be done on earth because of my mighty labors.” What kind of practical life might that kind of “hope” give rise to? My guess would be a life marked by a lot of anxiety, a lot of navel-gazing, and little intimacy with others. God didn’t create us, and he didn’t redeem us in Christ, to bear the weight of the future on our shoulders. When the weight of the future rests on our shoulders, inevitably it presses down so that all our eyes end up seeing is our own belly buttons. We become constantly preoccupied with “how we are doing” and can’t shake worry that we’re not doing “good enough.” We’re endlessly anxious about what others think of us, always advertising our “lifestyle” but failing to live an actual life. We continually complain about how others are the problem, how they can’t get with our program. We ignore Scripture’s testimony to the glory and mercy and kindness and wisdom and beauty and justice of God, seeing only what we take to be its terrifying warnings of judgment. Such is the life of those whose hope rests ultimately on their own strivings.

            But maybe, just maybe, we hope in what the Bible holds out as our truest and final home. Perhaps our hope is increasingly shaped by the full biblical storyline, not a truncated version of it. Perhaps we recognize not only that Paul longs to be “with the Lord,” but also that he longs to be fully clothed in resurrection bodies, because he’s not (and we’re not) fully home till that happens. Perhaps we begin to yearn with Paul (and Isaiah) not just for my personal relief and escape but for nothing less than the mortal being swallowed up by life for the everlasting and embodied joy of all nations and all creation. Perhaps our earnest prayer is what our Lord taught us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

            Such yearning and hope will then encourage us that the future is not up for grabs, not because we can now see the future with the eyes of our flesh, as it were, but because we trust the sure promise of God’s word. The New Jerusalem at the end of Revelation comes down from heaven; it’s not something we climb up to or pull down in our own strength. It’s something God freely and graciously gives in his own wise timing.[44] So we don’t need to anxiously wring our hands thinking it might not come about if we’re not good enough.[45] Knowing that the future resurrection and new creation is secure in God’s hands, we are freed not to try to bring it about by the force of our will, but to humbly conform our life with gratitude and joy after its pattern.

            I think we are also freed to more earnestly lament the sorry state of our world that is not yet there. Getting a better sense of the eternal weight of glory that awaits sets the present, sad state of the world under the curse in great relief. If we could see what the world could and should, and one day will, be more clearly, we would more earnestly lament how it presently is. It’s not despair and unbelief, but hope that fuels lament. True, earnest, humble biblical lament is always lifted up precisely because God’s people so strongly believe that he can and will make good on his promises, and because they so deeply long for God’s promises to come to full fruition. When we are attuned to what Scripture holds out for us as our truest home and final hope, we are freed not to ignore present sorrow, or explain it away as “no big deal,” or tritely downplay and minimize it with clichés. We are freed to honestly lament the truly lamentable—the spread wickedness, the sadness of injustice, the groaning of all creation together with our own groaning, the continued presence of the curse and of death, the incredibly vicious and cruel way death mocks us, attacking our youngest, moving ever so slowly but inexorably for others. The world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Our awareness of that, and our strength and freedom to lament it, grows as our hope is shaped more and more according to Scripture.

            And as that happens, we will be emboldened to labor in Christ’s name for the good of others, even in the valley of the shadow of death. The fear of loss and death is a huge obstacle to living lives of love. The true Christian hope combats that fear and gives us courage. All that is broken and seemingly lost now for Christ’s sake and the good of our neighbor will in the age to come be repaid and restored a hundredfold. We will be raised to new life, so laying down our lives for the good of others now is really no sacrifice. This explains why Paul goes into resurrection hope in such detail here. It’s the hope of resurrection that makes him, as he says in v. 6, “always of good courage” in the midst of his many apostolic sufferings.[46] And he wants the Corinthians themselves also to “be of good courage,” to courageously lay their lives down in self-sacrificial love for others.[47] Paul proclaims the fullness of our Christian hope to the Corinthians, so that, inspired and shaped by that true Christian hope, the Corinthians in the present might press more fervently and faithfully into self-sacrificial love.

            It’s worth pointing out one more thing in closing. Paul clarifies, in the middle of our passage in v. 5, that he who does all these things, who will continue his good work in and for us until the very end when he raises us in glorified bodies, is God.[48] And God has given us, Paul says, his very own Spirit who is a “guarantee”—or as other translations have it, a “deposit” or “down payment.” A down payment isn’t just sort of like payment for something; it’s part of the full payment, the first installment. The Spirit isn’t just sort of like our future hope; he is part of the future hope—the best part and living heart of it—given in advance to us in the present.[49] The Spirit that the risen and ascended Lord Jesus poured out on his people at Pentecost is the power and life of the future breaking into our lives in the present. The Spirit so works that the shape and feel and pattern of the future begins now to take form in and among us—morally, emotionally, practically, socially. It’s the Spirit who softens and fashions our hearts so that we humbly and joyfully desire to please the Lord, like a child seeks to please their loving parent. It’s the Spirit, working through the proclamation of the true Christian hope, who molds and shapes our lives as the body of Christ into the shape of that future hope in the present, as a little foretaste of it, for our refreshment and for the refreshment of the nations.

            Our Christian future is great and glorious. It is sure. And it is even breaking out in our midst in the present. So we can have great confidence, and be of great courage, as we seek the good of those around us and the glory of Christ in our homes and neighborhoods. And we can pray with deep confidence for God’s kingdom to come and his glory to fill the earth. Indeed, let us pray even now, as our Lord taught us to pray. Please join me in praying the Lord’s Prayer:


                                                Our Father, who art in heaven,

                                                hallowed be thy name;

                                                thy kingdom come;

                                                thy will be done;

                                                on earth as it is in heaven.

                                                Give us this day our daily bread.

                                                And forgive us our debts,

                                                as we forgive those our debtors.

                                                And lead us not into temptation;

                                                but deliver us from evil.

                                                For thine is the kingdom,

                                                the power,
                                                and the glory,




[1]     William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th ed. (Essex: Pearson, 2014), 80.

[2]     C. K. Barrett speaks of the metaphors used in the passage as “hopelessly mixed” (Commentary on the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, HNTC [New York: Harper & Row, 1973], 152). Likewise, in the eyes of Victor Paul Furnish, they are “rather inelegantly combined” (II Corinthians, AB 32A [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984], 296). At least and at a general level, we may say with Gordon Fee that, since images are interweaved and mutually dependent, “neither of them can be pressed as images per se” (God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994], 325; see also Andrew T. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet: Studies in the Role of the Heavenly Dimension in Paul’s Thought with Special Reference to His Eschatology, SNTSMS 43 [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981], 63).

[3]     For Paul, there is no such think as speaking “merely metaphorically,” as if there were some other, more “reasonable” and truthful way of speaking, as if what the Spirit inspired Paul to say here in 2 Cor 5 is somehow not the best way to talk about reality. For Paul, to speak metaphorically is to speak in truthful and theologically faithful ways about God’s world and what God is doing in, with, and for it. How else could we finite, created beings speak about the infinite, uncreated God, except in metaphors and similes and analogies? On the analogical/theological character of all human discourse and knowing, see James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), 121–25; Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 99–111; and at much greater length Michael S. Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 35–150. The irony of modernity (both “secular” and evangelical versions of it) is that, though posturing itself as promoting “bare” and “literal” (equated with “propositional”) truth, it is ever spinning narratives, proffering controlling metaphors left and right. How could it not, being as it is a project of human, creaturely knowing? Yoram Hazony states the matter particularly clearly: “metaphor and analogy appear at a level of conscious human reasoning that is prior to and more basic than the articulation of such reasoning in terms of propositions. Newton’s Principia, for example, relies heavily on metaphor and analogy in the forging of its basic concepts, which are only subsequently interrelated by means of a superstructure of mathematical propositions from which deductions can be taken … [T]he operations of the human mind involved in analogical reasoning are basic to human reasoning concerning general causes or natures … neither Newtonian science nor any other form of advanced human reason seems to do without it” (Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012], 27). In this light, it is also important to note that the postmodern condition in which “metanarrative” has come to an end, as Lyotard originally suggested, is less the denial of master narratives per se (as is commonly and mistakenly assumed) and more the deconstruction of master narratives posing as non-narrative, bare “truth.”

[4]     That the metaphorical field/imagery shifts in vv. 6–8 is rightly noted by Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 68, 213n59.

[5]     The complexities and disagreements extend far beyond the little we will consider today. For a helpful, concise review of the basic approaches to the interpretive cruxes in 2 Cor 5:1–10, see C. Marvin Pate, Adam Christology as the Exegetical and Theological Substructure of 2 Corinthians 4:7–5:21 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991), 2–21. We will focus on only the most significant contours of the passage. One area of historical inquiry that we will entirely bypass is the question of whether 2 Cor 5 constitutes some sort of development in Paul’s thought from earlier writings. For one example of an interpreter who discerns (measured) development in Paul’s letters, with 2 Cor 5 being a more mature expression of post-death expectation than what is found in 1 Thes and 1 Cor, see F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 300–313. Such proposals typically (1) depend on prior decisions about the dating of individual letters of Paul (about which there is no consensus), (2) are limited only to the “undisputed Pauline letters” rather than to the whole canonical Pauline corpus, and (3) lean rather heavily on the supposed psychological impact of Paul’s near-death experience reported in 2 Cor 1:8–11. While I have no necessary objection to reading Paul’s letters in something of this way (I am less impressed by more radical proposals concerning “development”), I think we must also admit that we are dealing with rather slim amounts of evidence (a few passages, or individual verses, in [some of] Paul’s extant letters), and evidence which does not lend itself to such evaluation easily (all of Paul’s letters being occasional literature, none were written to outline his “view of resurrection and the parousia”). In fact, at the end of the day, my inclination is rather in the direction of what, while dated, remains one of the more helpful approaches—namely, Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1930; repr., Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1994), 172–205.

[6]     However, Andrew Lincoln more fittingly comments, “Possibly the one point about which there is no dispute with regard to 2 Corinthians 4:16–5:10 is its difficulties” (Paradise Now and Not Yet, 59).

[7]     The opening “We know” of 5:1 indicates that Paul is appealing to traditional belief that was widely shared. Furnish calls it “almost confessional in form” (II Corinthians, 291). Apparently, this opening metaphor was something the Corinthians understood in common with Paul and the broader church. Pate suggests that, in fact, three streams of tradition are being combined in Paul: “1) Jewish traditions regarding the heavenly temple; 2) The Jesus tradition which equated Christ’s body with the temple of God’s presence; 3) The later Christian tradition that extended Jesus’ resurrection to the individual believer” (Adam Christology, 121; but note Barrett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 151). David Garland thinks it possible that Paul is referring to something he himself had already taught the Corinthians (2 Corinthians, NAC 29 [Nashville: B&H, 1999], 247–48; cf. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 211–12n43).

[8]     Interpretive false trails are taken when 5:1–10 is treated in isolation from its larger context and from Paul’s theological/apologetic concerns in the letter (as rightly noted, e.g., by Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 59–60; Furnish, II Corinthians, 288, 291, 293; Pate, Adam Christology, 2; Garland, 2 Corinthians, 245). I will not expressly mention the role of our verses within the larger contextual argument of 4:16–5:10 (and 2:14–7:1) until the end of our time this morning, and then only very briefly, but that function in the discourse is assumed throughout.

[9]     Cf. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 61–62.

[10]  Thus, the “tent” provides one contextual index for a right understanding of the “eternal” which is in view in the passage (another is the reference to that which is “transient” in 4:18). The eternality of the dwelling we await has to do with its permanence and is not a statement about its metaphysical infinitude (see, rightly, Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 60). Unlike other ancient Hellenistic sources, Paul does not appeal to the metaphor of a tent to distinguish bodily existence from a future disembodied existence which is preferable, but to emphasize the “impermanent and collapsible” nature of present bodily existence, or “the instability, and thus the vulnerability, of one’s mortal existence” (Furnish, II Corinthians, 293).

[11]  The “we” of the passage may be interpreted as inclusive of (or impinging on) believers in general, even if there is still a concern about Paul’s own apostolic sufferings in particular (2:14–7:1 as a whole is, in the main, Paul’s apostolic self-defense; the “body” which “carries about the death of Jesus” that we just mentioned in 4:10 is Paul’s body). For further discussion, see, e.g., Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 210n25. I think 4:14 marks a crucial development in the context, where Paul speaks of “our” future resurrection with Christ and presentation together “with you.” Here Paul includes the Corinthian church in his discussion of his experience as an apostle. This mutual experience/hope, then, provides the context for the discussion beginning in 5:1–10 (or 4:16–5:10).

[12]  As Lincoln shows, “depending on context the local in connection with heaven can shade over into the qualitative” (Paradise Now and Not Yet, 61). In this context, it may be said that the body is “in the heavens” inasmuch as it “partakes of the quality of that realm,” and is thus “heavenly” (Lincoln notes, in particular, how οὐράνος and οὐράνιος are sometimes interchangeable [compare, e.g., Matt 6:9 and 14]). But the specific quality of ethereality or non-materiality need not be identified as part of the “heavenly” nature/quality of our future bodies; that idea must be imported from elsewhere, being unstated in 2 Cor 5. In fact, I think there is an even better (though perhaps not alternative) explanation of the identification of the “house” we will receive as being “eternal in the heavens” (see below).

[13]  Though I am more prepared than Furnish to read the imagery of 5:1–2 “anthropologically” (i.e., identifying “the dwelling from heaven” more closely with the resurrected bodies of individual believers), nevertheless I think of this as a kind of theological shorthand for the new creational age/life (cf. Furnish’s reading of 1 Cor 15:54 in II Corinthians, 296–97). Thus, functionally, Furnish and I are not far off, and I affirm Furnish’s conclusion: Paul’s concerns in this passage are “not restricted to the longing for a spiritual body,” but includes his “longing for the fulfillment of salvation, the longing for what Paul will describe in Rom 8:21 as ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’” (ibid., 296).

[14]  One of the most substantial alternative interpretations, spearheaded by the seminal article of E. Earl Ellis, “The Structure of Pauline Eschatology (II Corinthians v:1–10,” NTS 6 (1959–1960): 211–24, is that “the dwelling from God, a house not made by hands” is the corporate body of Christ into which believers are incorporated.  But as Lincoln pointedly comments, “If οἰκία in this half of the comparison [i.e., v. 1a] has reference to the body, then all the indications are that the parallelism is to be maintained and that it will also have reference to the body in the other half [i.e., v. 1b]” (Paradise Now and Not Yet, 61).

[15]  Elsewhere, in 1 Cor 6 for example, Paul identifies the human body as a temple of the Lord. Nearer to the context of 2 Cor 5, Paul speaks of believers (perhaps corporately, as is his normal practice) as God’s temple in 2 Cor 6:16.

[16]  The explicit mention of resurrection (Christ’s and believers’) in 4:14 does not come up as frequently in interpretive discussions as it should. A couple exceptions are Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 325; and Scott J. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 211; cf. Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 71.

[17]  Much has been made of the present tense “we have” (ἔχομεν) of v. 1 (see Pate, Adam Christology, 7, 11–12, 16–17, 130–31). Is it a “real” present (so Garland, 2 Corinthians, 251)? Or is it a prophetic present, as it were (so Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 63–65; Pate, Adam Christology, 124–25; cf. Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 188)? Garland presses the present tense in such a way as to suggest that our future resurrection bodies are received immediately upon death and not at the parousia, with theological upshot being a rejection of any so-called intermediate state (2 Corinthians, 251–53). As Lincoln notes, “such an interpretation is by no means necessary or convincing in this context. It is exactly the element of immediacy which is missing from the text and which has to be read into it” (Paradise Now and Not Yet, 63–64).

[18]  Cf. Philip E. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 162; and Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 212n9, drawing on James M. Scott. An argument can be made that elsewhere, in Rom 5–8 in particular, Paul reads the church’s life as a typological fulfillment of the history of Israel (from creation in Adam [Rom 5], to ‘baptism’ in waters in a new exodus from oppressors [Rom 6], to the [non-]giving of the Law at Sinai [Rom 7], to wandering in a present wilderness of suffering and a creation subject to futility as we await the Promised Land of the new creation [Rom 8]). For proposals along these lines in Romans, see Frank Thielman, “The Story of Israel and the Theology of Romans 5–8,” in Romans, vol. 3 of Pauline Theology, ed. D. M Hay and E. E. Johnson (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 169–95; N. T. Wright, “New Exodus, New Inheritance: The Narrative Substructure of Romans 3–8,” in Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, ed. S. K. Soderlund and N. T. Wright (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 26–35 (see also, more generally, Wright’s Romans commentary in the NIB series). Here in 2 Cor 5, Paul transposes something of that storyline and experience into the key of the individual human body.

[19]  Here the referent of τούτῳ is to be identified as “tent” on the basis of the preceding statement of v. 1, and of the parallel in v. 4 (ἐν τῷ σκήνει). But see Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 195.

[20]  That this is so is confirmed by 1 Cor 15, where Paul is very clearly talking about our imperishable resurrection bodies, and again uses the metaphor of “putting on” or “clothing”: “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality,” Paul says in 1 Cor 15:53. He’s making the same point here in 2 Cor 5.

[21]  The compound form ἐπενδύσασθαι (ἐπί + ἐνδύω) in vv. 3 and 4 (cf. the simple form ἐνδύσηται in 1 Cor 15:53–54, and in the [preferred] variant of 2 Cor 5:3) suggests that Paul has in view a clothing “over” or a being “fully” clothed, on top of our present mortal body/clothing—that is, to say, he longs to be alive when Christ returns, thereby avoiding any season of nakedness. See Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 65–66; Barrett, 2 Corinthians, 152–53.

[22]  Pate notes that the flavor of the “groaning” shifts from “positive” in v. 2 (longing for the building from heaven) to “negative” in vv. 3–4 (“aversion to nakedness”) (Adam Christology, 132n19; cf. Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 213; see Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 65–67, for extended discussion).

[23]  The NASB rightly takes ἐφ᾿ ᾧ causally (see C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, 2nd ed. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963], 132). The ESV obscures things with, “we groan … not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed.” At first glance, the immediately preceding βαρούμενοι might appear to be a causal participle, but more likely it is temporal or circumstantial (so Furnish, II Corinthians, 269). The cause of the groaning is specified in the relative clause.

[24]  Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 213, would press an ethical understanding: the nakedness Paul is averse to is being without the clothing of righteousness/righteous deeds. There are problems with Hafemann’s specific proposal. Pate, for example, notes, “The anthropological terminology occurring throughout 2 Cor 4:7–5:21 (σκεύεσιν, 4:7; σώματι, 4:10 [twice], 5:6, 8; σαρκιν [sic], 4:11) dictates that the nakedness Paul desires to avoid is bodilessness—existing without a body in the intermediate state” (Pate, Adam Christology, 135n44; for related discussion and further defense of the “nakedness” in 2 Cor 5 as being disembodied existence, see Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 66–67). Nevertheless, the two interpretive approaches (the ethical and the anthropological) may not be far apart in their upshot, inasmuch as physical resurrection may be viewed as the end-time vindication/justification of the saints, publicly declaring the truth of the Spirit-wrought work that began on their “inner man” (4:16) in the present and that produced deeds which “pleased the Lord” (5:9–10); see G. K. Beale, “The Role of Resurrection in the Already-and-Not-Yet Phases of Justification,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper, ed. S. Storms and J. Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 190–212, esp. 207–8.

[25]  In a pre-Fall world, there is no shame in nakedness (see Gen 2:25). But an argument can be made that neither was nakedness the final goal for Adam and Eve (moreover, it is likely important to note the unique marital relationship into which Adam and Eve were placed which provided an acceptable relational context for nakedness without shame). Echoing a riff in Irenaeus, we might suggest this: coming naked from the womb of God’s creative love, Adam and Eve were to grow out of their infancy into the maturity of kingship, when they would be invested with royal garments so that, like the God in whose image they were created (see, e.g., Ps 93:1; 104:1–2; Isa 6:1), they might be robed with glory. From a different angle, it is interesting that there is a vibrant tradition of interpretive speculation in early Judaism and Christianity, which suggested that Adam and Eve were clothed in garments of glory and light before the Fall. See, e.g., Apoc. Mos. 20.2; Hist. Rech. 12.3; 3 Bar. 4.16; Ephraem of Syria, Comm. Gen. 2.14. For many other sources and related interpretive trajectories in early Jewish interpretation, see Pate, Adam Christology, 33–76. Pate argues that speculation concerning the lost glory-clothing of Adam is the proper background for understanding 2 Cor 5:1–10 and its clothing/nakedness imagery.

[26]  See Gen 3:7. Pate rightly connects the “nakedness” (together with the “groaning” and the “clothing”) of 2 Cor 5 to Gen 3 (Adam Christology, 115–20; cf., more reservedly, Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 212).

[27]  On the significance of God’s gracious act of clothing as (or as tied to) the reaffirmation of inheritance rights, see Gordon P. Hugenberger, Marriage as a Covenant: Biblical Law and Ethics as Developed from Malachi, Biblical Studies Library (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 198–99.

[28]  More pointedly, Beale comments that Christians’ “physical resurrection is the final overturning of the death penalty” sentenced at the Fall (“The Role of Resurrection,” 203).

[29]  Pate has made an important argument that the mixing of metaphors and images in this passage is due to “the overlap of traditions” (Adam Christology, 123, emphasis original; see further 121–25). While remaining tentative about the viability of the specific traditions and nature of “overlap” proposed by Pate, the idea that the “mixing” has a literary, theological function is, I think, exactly right.

[30]  On the allusion to Isa 25:8 in v. 4, see Pate, Adam Christology, 117–18; Garland, 2 Corinthians, 262.

[31]  The situation is much the same in Rom 8:18–25, where “the revealing of the sons of God,” “our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body,” is the icon of the renewal of everything and, for that reason, is the object of the creation’s own “groaning.” Many follow J. F. Collange, who argues that Rom 8:17–25 is Paul’s developed statement of, and thus can function as a commentary on, 2 Cor 4:16–5:5 (e.g., Furnish, II Corinthians, 294–95; Pate, Adam Christology, 114). 1 Cor 15:35–57 also undoubtedly informs our passage, being (1) earlier correspondence to this same congregation, (2) filled with the same/similar terminology to discuss the same subject matter, and (3) quotes/alludes to the same OT authoritative source (Isa 25:8 in 1 Cor 15:54). For discussion, see Garland, 2 Corinthians, 245–46; but note Furnish, II Corinthians, 292, who (with Garland) identifies some important differences between the two passages. In Fee’s estimation, Paul thinks it necessary to return to ground already covered in 1 Cor 15 here on the heels of his self-defense in 2 Cor 4, “lest they [the Corinthian church] seize his apparent denigration of present bodily existence as supporting their own viewpoint” concerning the unimportance of the physical body (God’s Empowering Presence, 325).

[32]  We could also call it, in early Christian theological discourse, the saeculum. The “secular,” for early Christians, was less a domain and more an age, the “in between” time, the “meantime.”

[33]  See also the CEB (cf. GNT). But neither the NLT nor the CEB preserve the built-in tension by translating the preceding verb as “being at home in the body” (note the shared root: ἐνδημέω, ἐκδημέω). The older and obscure Young’s Literal Translation is about the only English translation to do so.

[34]  The verb ἐκδημέω is used nowhere else in biblical literature (but see the related term ἐκδημία in 3 Macc 4:11). For extrabiblical uses, see the sources cited in the entries in LSJ for ἐκδημέω (the related terms ἐκδημητικός, ἐκδημία, and ἔκδημος are consistently used with the same nuance of being abroad/in exile/away from one’s homeland).

[35]  On taking the Ascension seriously, see N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008), esp. 109–22.

[36]  Lincoln thinks the phrasing “absent from the body” is significant—the point is precisely that Paul entertains the possibility of a disembodied experience of the Lord’s presence (Paradise Now and Not Yet, 69).

[37]  There is a deliberate and crucial “antithetical use of at home and away from home” (Furnish, II Corinthians, 272, emphasis original). Tension is built into Paul’s expressions. Some identify the tension not within vv. 6–8 themselves but between vv. 6–8 and vv. 2–4; for such interpreters, the tension is, in fact, self-contradiction, which becomes a reason to reject the notion of an intermediate state being present in vv. 6–8. For discussion, see Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 70–71, who suggests, among other things, that Paul may be needing to defend the truth of his apostleship and of Christian hope simultaneously on multiple fronts (cf. Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 192–94). Since the terminology appears nowhere else in Paul, Furnish thinks Paul is polemically picking up the language of his opponents in v. 6, which he then reworks into his own corrective formulations in vv. 8–9 (Furnish, II Corinthians, 301–3). That Paul takes up the language of his opponents here is possible but not necessary to uphold the basic point: the reformulation in v. 9 moots the question of “location.” Thus, as Furnish concludes, “It seems likely that Paul intends to leave the object of the participles unclarified, precisely in order to be done with the imagery entirely” (ibid., 304; see also below).

[38]  Another way to describe what I think Paul is doing in 5:6–10 is to situate even the so-called “intermediate state” into the category of “the meantime.” We must reckon with the possibility, as Pate puts it, “that even the intermediate state belongs to the ‘not yet’ side of Paul’s eschatology” (Adam Christology, 116; see further 128). In Furnish’s words, “the apostle has transformed the image from one of location to one of direction” (II Corinthians, 303). As a result, what matters most is not “where we are” but “when we are.” I am trying to transfer Christian hope from a spatial register to a temporal (eschatological) register, from which it should never have strayed (cf. James K. A. Smith, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017], 1–52, on the need to move beyond spatial metaphors in political discourse).
                  Some interpreters are strongly opposed to identifying any “intermediate state” in 2 Cor 5:1–10. For example, Hafemann’s perspective is tied to his his ethical interpretation of the “nakedness” Paul is averse to—Paul is not entertaining some season of disembodiment for Christian souls (see Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 213). Differently, Garland thinks the present tense ἔχομεν in v. 1 proves that “resurrection is the next thing the dead in Christ experience, not waiting” (2 Corinthians, 253n652; cf. Bruce, Paul, 312). That is a lot to rest on a disputed sense of the Greek tense of one verb (see above). Additionally, Garland mistakenly assumes that a futuristic reading of ἔχομεν requires one to identify the “building from heaven” as “the intermediate state.” “The building from heaven” need not be so identified—rather, it may refer to the resurrection body, which is not yet received in the intermediate state. In any case, other Scriptures must also be taken into account (e.g., Rev 6, discussed below). Garland appeals to Phil 1:23–24 as supporting his reading, since Paul very clearly desires the “very much better” thought of departing to be with Christ. It must be acknowledged, however, that Phil 1:23–24 is susceptible to being understood as referring to the intermediate state (dying and being immediately in the presence of Jesus before the general resurrection), which is precisely what Garland rejects. But, more to the point, the “very much better” in Phil 1 is only relative to the present existence in broken bodies in a sinful, broken present age. Garland does not, apparently, reckon with this (nor with the fact of groaning/lamentation in heaven of Rev 6!). I am persuaded that the angles I am taking on the NT witness better accounts for Phil 1:23–24 than Garland’s interpretive tack (and the interpretive tack of popular evangelical piety; see also Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 69). But Garland is correct in one respect: it is “small consolation,” or better it is only partial consolation, to know that at death one goes to be present, only in a manner, with the Lord (2 Corinthians, 251). This is to say, one’s ultimate hope should not be “heaven” but new creation in the consummated resurrection age. Garland’s discussion also alerts us to the need to deny that Paul’s words in 2 Cor 5:1–10 indicate that he wants to avoid the “limbo” of the intermediate state at all costs or that he thinks of it as unqualifiedly undesirable. Paul is not self-contradictory in vv. 1–5 and 6–10, as he is sometimes accused of being. In vv. 6–10, both being “at home in the body and away from home with the Lord” and being “away from home in the body and at home with the Lord” are in the “meantime” season of salvation history, with the result that our “location” in this age is mooted (see v. 9, and the discussion below). Paul’s ultimate hope set forth in vv. 1–5 remains the same in vv. 6–10.

[39]  Recipients of grace in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are freed to give thanks and embody lives of thanksgiving. This proper way of viewing the call to “please the Lord,” and the “deeds” expected of Christians, is already signaled by 4:14–15 (noted by Beale, “The Role of Resurrection,” 206).

[40]  In fact, I’m persuaded that Scripture nowhere identifies the ultimate Christian home and hope as “dying and floating away to disembodied bliss in heaven.” When we pay attention to what the Bible, and to what Paul here in 2 Cor, actually says about our true home and future hope, we find something different than what’s in popular imagination. You might ask, “Why, then, do so many people believe that ‘dying and going to disembodied bliss in heaven’ is the ultimate Christian home and hope?” I’d say it’s a complicated mixture of several things, including but not limited to the deep influence of certain habits of (esp. 19th and 20th century) hymnody, some common thoughts and tropes and narratives in popular culture (which Christians have sometimes eagerly, but uncritically, sought to capitalize upon), and some prevalent but unthought-through habits of speech in and as churches (specifically, the frequency and dominant function of our use of the term “heaven”).

[41]  Jan Sevenster thinks in terms of three separate states/stages—this life, the intermediate state, the consummated resurrection/age after the pariousia—and helpfully specifies their relative desirability which moves from lesser to greater. See Jan N. Sevenster, “Some Remarks on the Gumnos in 2 Cor 5:3,” in Studia Paulina in honorem Johannis de Zwaan septuagenarii, ed. J. N. Sevenster and W. C. Van Unnik (Haarlem: Erven F. Bohn, 1953), 202–14, qtd. in Pate, Adam Christology, 26–27n60; cf. Ben Witherington III, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 391.

[42]  What’s best would be to know the full fellowship of Christ who not only suffered and died but was raised again to new and true and fully material life. That’s what Paul says in Phil 3: he yearns to know Christ fully, to not only become like him in his death, but also and ultimately to “attain to the resurrection from the dead” that we may know him in the full “power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10–11). This declaration in Phil 3 must be set in tandem with—and provide the crucial, contextual definition and clarification of—the much more famous assertion that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” from Phil 1.

[43]  The position “under the altar” is significant. The Levitical sacrificial background goes something like this (not exactly, since the I am telescoping a larger complex of offerings): a sacrificial animal was slaughtered, the blood was poured out at the base of the altar, while the sacrificial victim was burned and the smoke ascended into the heavens (into the presence of God). It was the burning up and ascension that completed the sacrifice and brought the offerer (vicariously in the body-turned-to-smoke of the animal) into God’s presence. But the martyrs in Rev 6 are at the base of the altar. They have been slaughtered for Christ, their blood spilled, but they have not yet, apparently, fully ascended in smoke to their final goal. So their portrayed location ties in to, and further makes sense of, their speech, which is lamentation. On this reading, see Peter J. Leithart, Revelation 1–11, ITCHSONT (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2018), 302–3.

[44]  I think that this accounts, in part, for the NT portrayal of the “upward location” of “heaven.” The point is clearest in Gal 4, because Paul’s expression there so flagrantly contradicts our normal expectations. In Gal 4:25–26, Paul directly compares and contrasts the “present Jerusalem” not with the “future Jerusalem,” as we might expect, but with the “Jerusalem above.” The “Jerusalem above” is most assuredly a future reality, but the future is portrayed in spatial terms. It’s not because the new heavens and new earth is literally floating above us in the sky; rather, “above” is biblical idiom for saying that the future is a gift (cf. James 1:17). The future is Heaven’s to give. It is not something we attain by our grasping after it, or by our climbing up to it and wresting it from God’s hands. It comes down freely from above, from the Father of lights from whom every good and every perfect gift comes. See Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989), 118. Thus, in 2 Cor 5, Paul proclaims that we have a house “eternal in the heavens” to assure readers that it is secure in God’s sovereign hands, and will be given in God’s sovereign grace and timing (just as our inheritance is “kept in heaven for you” in 1 Pet 1:4). The point is assurance of the certainty of our future resurrection and the reception of it from its divine source (see Lincoln, Paradise Now and Not Yet, 65), rather than instruction on the metaphysical makeup of the cosmos, and certainly not an invitation to long for departure from the earth.

[45]  Importantly, what gives, or is the basis of, Christian courage is not the deeds performed in the present and examined at the end-time judgment in vv. 9–10. The οὖν of 5:6 points backward not forward. The basis of Christian courage is the promised resurrection (vindication) won and begun in Christ’s resurrection (4:14) and sealed, guaranteed, and deposited by the Spirit (5:5). See, rightly, Beale, “The Role of Resurrection,” 206.

[46]  The introductory γάρ in 5:1 ties our passage directly to the preceding as an additional grounding or basis for the thesis stated in 4:16. Hafemann connects 5:1 directly to the preceding antithesis in 4:18, so that the “seen” and “unseen” things are explained or grounded (γάρ) in the tent and dwelling from heaven (2 Corinthians, 211; see also Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 194). But more generally, “This entire section [i.e., 4:16–5:10] must be read together as the fivefold gar (‘for’) clauses in 4:17, 18; 5:1, 2, 4 show” (Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth, 389; cf. Furnish, II Corinthians, 263; Garland, 2 Corinthians, 243). In particular, the first three γάρ’s in 4:17, 18; and 5:1 provide a step-ladder-like grounding of the assertion about not losing heart as the inner man is being renewed (4:16), with the two καὶ γάρ’s of 5:2 and 4 providing explanatory material for 5:1. The repetition of θεός in 5:5 recalls θεός in 5:1 and wraps up the explanatory aside in 5:1–5; at the same time, the repetition of κατεργάζομαι in 5:5 from 4:16 wraps up the overall defense of the thesis. In turn, 5:6–10 is seen to be the overall inference (οὖν) from this section of the self-defense. All of this is to say that the first function of 5:1–10 in the discourse is its contribution to Paul’s apostolic self-defense. At the same time, this self-defense lays the groundwork for the later direct polemic against Paul’s criticizers in chs. 10–13 (see also 5:11–13, noted by Pate, Adam Christology, 125). That is to say, even here in ch. 5 (2:14–7:1), Paul already has an eye on where he will be going later in the letter (which speaks against the two-letter hypothesis both in its radical form and in its modified, more nuanced form).

[47]  Two examples come to mind from what follows in 2 Cor. Paul wants the Corinthian church, maybe at great cost to themselves, to make a stand for purity in a Corinthian world awash in impurity, as he will charge them later in ch. 6, so that their witness to the unbelieving world that desperately needs the purity and goodness of the way of the Lord might be vibrant and attractive. Also, he wants them to give financially, out of their own resources, for the good of the poor saints in Jerusalem, as he will charge them to do in chs. 8–9.

[48]  I take the referent of “this very thing” (εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο) in v. 5 to be less a single point in the preceding v. 4 but “the general thought dominating the whole preceding context” (Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 197). Indeed, given how 5:5 wraps up the whole discussion beginning in 4:16 (note the inclusio of κατεργάζομαι in 4:16 and 5:5), we have good reason to believe that “this very thing” is the promised work of God throughout the section.

[49]  One of the best brief explanations of the Pauline term ἀρραβών applied to the Spirit is found in Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, WBC 42 (Dallas: Word, 1989), 40–41: “Paul uses the term as a metaphor to show what takes place in God’s giving of the Spirit … In a down payment, that which is given is part of a greater whole, is of the same kind as that whole, and functions as a guarantee that the whole payment will be forthcoming. The Spirit then is the first installment and guarantee of the salvation of the age to come with its mode of existence totally determined by the Spirit … The Spirit is seen as the power of the age to come given ahead of time in history.”