Tuesday, October 17, 2017

THE GREAT REVEAL

We are quick to blame and quick to take credit. We are at the same time critical of others and defensive before our critics. We forget that there is coming a day when God will expose everything done or thought by Christians. All will be laid bare, the blame and the credit. Even our inner motives will be revealed on that day. Paul wrote, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:10).

"We must" translates the verb "it is necessary" (δεῖ). The verb denotes compulsion of any kind but particularly emphasizes a sense of divine destiny (BAGD, p.172). We are destined to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. There are no exceptions. It is necessary for all of us (τοὺς πάντας ἡμᾶς) to face Christ's evaluation. The grammatical construction treats individuals as part of the whole (Blass/Debrunner, Grammar, p.144). Each Christian faces judgment as part of the whole church being judged.

The verb translated "appear" (φανερωθῆναι) is a passive infinitive related to the word for shining light (φαίνω) which can be translated "to appear" in the passive voice (TDNTT, 3:320, BAGD, p.851). John calls us to abide in Christ so that "when He appears" (φανερωθῇ) we will have the confidence to face Him (1 John 2:28). However, φανερόω, as opposed to φαίνω, means to reveal or show someone or something more than simply appear (BAGD, p. 852-853). A few verses earlier, John used the word to describe unbelievers who had been part of the church but who left the church. John says that by leaving the church "it would be shown (revealed) that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). Unbelievers show their true colors when they leave the church.

Paul uses the passive voice in 2 Corinthians 5:10. We are destined to be revealed by God before the judgment seat of Christ (R&R, p.467). Paul uses φανερόω 9 times in 2 Corinthians and 3 times in 2 Corinthians 5:10-11. He uses the passive voice all 3 times teaching us that God does the revealing before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul later expresses that his intention in writing to the Corinthians so harshly was to seek for God to reveal to them their own zeal for Paul (2 Cor. 7:12). Sometimes God reveals us to ourselves. We don't merely appear before the judgment seat, but God shows us to be who we are at the judgment seat (TDNTT, 3:322).

We will be stripped naked before Christ at His judgment. All our hidden sins, our hypocrisies of thought and action that we conceal so well from others will be laid bare before us as we stand before the Lord. His eyes will penetrate to our deepest secrets and rip away the respectable masks we so carefully construct for ourselves in this life. We will see ourselves for who we really are both the good and the bad. God will expose both the "hypocritical and the hypercritical" on that day of His refining fire (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.180).

"Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light (φωτίσει) the things hidden in the darkness and disclose (φανερώσει) the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Don't be quick to blame or take credit. Wait for the great reveal!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

PERSONAL AMBITION


I saw a cartoon recently that pictured three fish bowls in a line, each one bigger than the previous one. The first bowl contained numerous gold fish. One gold fish jumped from the first bowl into the bigger second and then into the third and largest bowl. The caption read, "When your ambition is big then your efforts should be even bigger." If you form a word cluster around the word "ambition," you will see words like drive, determination, aspiration, zeal, desire, goal, purpose, dream, and success. Ambition drives success in our world. We thrive on ambition.

Why then does ambition get a bad reputation among Christians? Why do we think it unspiritual to have ambitions? One reason, of course, is that worldly ambition is selfish. We cannot thrive spiritually if we are driven by selfish ambition. Godly ambition, however, is necessary for personal success as a Christian. Without ambition, we accomplish nothing for Christ. Spiritual ambition drives our desires and guides our determination in life. Paul writes; Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5:9, NASB).

Paul begins with the connective "therefore" (διὸ). He is summarizing a logical conclusion which can be translated "and so" (Moule, Idiom Book, p.164). And so we aspire (φιλοτιμούμεθα) to please Him. The verb is a compound word meaning to love (φίλος) honor (τιμάω) which is close to how we use ambitious today. It can mean to devote ourselves zealously to a cause (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.178, fn. 54). It is a progressive present tense deponent verb indicating that we do the action continuously.

Our aspiration is true whether we are "at home" (ἐνδημοῦντες) or "absent" (ἐκδημοῦντες). We have seen these two words before in this passage (vs.6, 8). What does it mean to be at home or to be absent? Some understand it to mean whether we are at home in the body (alive on earth) or we absent from the body (naked in the intermediate state) we are to aspire to please Jesus (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, 178-179). Does this mean that we must strive in our bodiless, intermediate state after death to please Christ? Obviously, this cannot be true as Hughes quickly explains. The next verse (v.10) states that we are judged only for what we do "in the body" (σώματος).

It is better to read the phrases contextually. Whether we are at home with the Lord (v.8) or absent from the Lord (v.6) our one ambition is to please Him. If we are home with the Lord, we cannot do otherwise. We will please Him because there is no way to displease Him when we are at home with Him (Martin, 2 Corinthians, p.113). For now, we are absent from the Lord (v.6), so our one desire is to please Him now as we await His return.

The purpose of our ambition is to be pleasing to Him. The verb "to be" (εἶναι) is a purpose infinitive (Burton, Moods and Tenses, p.146). The verb means to exist or to live (BAGD, p.223). "Pleasing" (εὐάρεστοι) means to be acceptable particularly to God (Romans 12:2). Paul uses it in Titus 2:9 of slaves giving satisfaction to their masters (BAGD, p.318). Our personal ambition both now and for eternity is to bring satisfaction to Christ. We live to please Him.

An ambition to please Christ means:

  • a zeal to accomplish His mission in this world
  • a drive to use our gifts for His church
  • a passion to invest our energy for His purpose
  • a determination to be successful in His ministry
How ambitious are you? How ambitious am I?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

LIVING AS IMMIGRANTS


Living in our physical bodies is like living in a foreign country far from home. We think we are at home in these bodies, but we long for our eternal, heavenly bodies whenever we suffer demoralizing pain and sickness. We instinctively know as Christians we were made for heaven and expect that God will transport us there one day, reconfiguring our bodies into forms fit for the new world. Being always confident (2 Cor. 5:6), we are confident (2 Cor. 5:8) that one day we will be at home with Jesus. The participle "being confident" (θαρροῦντες) introduces a break in the sentence, and the thought is picked up again in verse 8 with the main verb "we are confident" (θαρροῦμεν).

The intervening thought is introduced by "and knowing that" (καὶ εἰδότες ὅτι). The conjunction (καὶ) should not be understood as causal - because we know a truth. Paul introduces an additional thought as a parenthesis.  The additional thought is not the cause of our confidence. It explains our current status in life more fully. Our confidence is not based on our current status in life. We are always (πάντοτε) confident no matter our circumstances. The additional thought explains our circumstances.

"While we are home in the body we are absent from the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6). The play on words is clearer and more vivid in the Greek text. We "are at home" translates ἐνδημοῦντες and "are absent" translates ἐκδημοῦμεν. The second word means to leave one's country or to be away from home in a foreign land (BAGD, p.238). The temporal participle, "while we are at home in the body," explains our current circumstances. We live in these bodies but living in our bodies means that we are far away from home with the Lord. We are immigrants in this life. Our true home is with Jesus.

Paul goes on to explain how we can have communion with Jesus even though we are immigrants in a foreign land. We are far away from Jesus in one sense, but we still know His presence in another because (γὰρ) "by faith we are walking, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). We are walking (περιπατοῦμεν) is a present tense verb indicating the current, ongoing life we live. "By faith (δὶα πίστεως) and "by sight" (δὶα είδους) are on opposite ends of the sentence for contrasting emphasis. The preposition (δὶα) with the genitive indicates "by means of" (Moule, Idiom Book, p.56). Faith and sight are opposite ways of living as immigrants in a strange land.

The noun translated "sight" has both an active and a passive meaning. The passive meaning refers to form or outward appearance. The active meaning is seeing or sight (BAGD, p.221). Some understand the verse using a passive meaning. We are not walking by what is seen (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.176) in this life but by faith in Him. Living by the way things appear to be is not living by faith. Others argue for an active sense of the word. We are not walking by what we can see because we cannot see Jesus. We are living in a foreign land, and He is invisible to us.  We walk by faith that He is with us even though we cannot see Him now (Martin, 2 Corinthians, p.111). The active sense is probably better because it forms a more vivid contrast to walking by faith.

We live in our bodies like an immigrant who has left his loved one in a foreign country. The immigrant cannot see the one he loves, but he works hard to see her again one day. We cannot see Jesus, but we work hard for the day when we shall see Him again. Believing not seeing is the only way to live in our declining and decaying bodies.




Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SWALLOWED BY LIFE


Christians do not look forward to death. We look forward to life. Death is plan "B" for the Christian, not plan "A." Plan "A" is to be alive when Christ returns so we can be transformed directly into our resurrection bodies without the stripping that we experience in death. Death strips the body from the soul leaving us naked until the coming of Christ when we receive our resurrection bodies. Paul writes, while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life (2 Cor. 5:4).

We are groaning in these earthly bodies as people who are weighed down (βαρούμενοι) by a depressing thought (R&R, Linguistic Key, p.466). We know that death is coming for all of us unless Jesus comes back first. What we will experience in death is the cause of our mental burden. The next clause begins with a causal connection (ἐφ᾿ ᾡ) explaining the reason for the depressing weight we carry in life (Turner, Grammar, 3:272). We want to be clothed (ἐπενδύσασθαι) with a new body not stripped (ἐκδύσασθαι) of the old body and left naked until the resurrection (2 Cor. 5:3). We don't want to die and live in a bodiless state. God never designed the soul to be separate from the body as Greek philosophy, and later Gnosticism promoted. God created the soul and body as one whole being in perfect unity. Sin brought the curse of death which is the separation of the soul from the body.

We want to be clothed so that the mortal will be swallowed up by the life. Mortal (θνητὸν) means that which is subject to death (BAGD, p.362). Our bodies, not our souls, are subject to physical death. Paul uses the euphemism of a "tent" (σκήνει) to describe our bodies because a tent is a temporary form of housing. Our bodies will be swallowed up by life at the resurrection. The verb translated "swallowed up" (καταποθῇ) is a picturesque term. The compound verb comes from the preposition κατά meaning "down" and the verb πίνω meaning "to drink." The compound verb means to "drink down" or "swallow" (BAGD, p.416).

The word was also used of waves of water overwhelming someone. The Septuagint uses the word to describe how God drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Exodus 15:4). Life drinks down that which is subject to death. Our mortal bodies are absorbed into life when Christ comes back (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.170). The same verb is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:54 when he writes that "death is drowned (swallowed up) in victory."

Our mortal bodies are swallowed by the life. The preposition (ὑπὸ) with a genitive object and a passive verb as in this case denotes the agent that does the swallowing, not the instrument by which we are swallowed (Blass/Debrunner, Grammar, p.122). The swallower of death is the life (τῆς ζωῆς). Normally the definite article is not used with abstract nouns like "life" (Blass/Debrunner, p.134) so the question is why is the article used in this case? The definite article is used with nouns designating persons (Blass/Debrunner, p.133) so "the life" is a substitute for a person, not an abstract noun. Jesus is "the life" (John 14:6) so Jesus, as the life, swallows up our mortal bodies when He returns for us (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.170, fn35).

We want to be alive when Christ comes back so we can be drowned by life in Him. When Christ comes back, He immerses us in the tsunami of His life. Jesus, who is life itself, swallows us, who are subject to death, alive, so we never taste the curse of death.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

WILL WE HAVE BODIES IN HEAVEN?


Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. We know two important truths about death and the afterlife. 1) To be absent from our bodies is to be present with our Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). 2) We receive our new bodies at the resurrection when Christ returns (1 Cor. 15:50-54). What happens to us in the interim, between death and the resurrection? We go to heaven, but will we have bodies in heaven?

Paul gives us a clue in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4. When the tent that is our body is folded up in death, we know we have an eternal home to clothe our souls, yet Paul expresses a longing to be clothed at death. Why? So as not to be seen as naked. Paul writes in verse three, "of course if (εἴ γε καὶ, see Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.169, fn32) having clothed ourselves (ἐνδυσάμενοι), we will not be discovered (εὐρεθησόμεθα) naked (γυμνοὶ)." Textual note: the reading "having put on" (ἐνδυσάμενοι) is better attested than the reading "having put off" (ἐκδυσάμενοι) even though it might seem tautological (Metzger, Textual Commentary, p.579-580).

What does Paul mean by expressing his desire not to be found naked? There are three popular options. 1) Paul is talking about his desire not to experience the suffering and shame of our current mortal lives any longer (Bible Knowledge Commentary). 2) Paul is talking about his desire for a temporary intermediate body that God gives to us until the resurrection (Woychuck, BSac, Vol. 108, April-June, 1950). 3) Paul is talking about his fervent wish not to be found in a bodiless state after death until the coming of Christ (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, pp.169-173).

The third interpretation is best. Paul is expressing a concern he feels about what happens after death and his desire to be clothed rather than unclothed after he dies (2 Cor. 5:4). The future tense "will be found naked" (εὐρεθησόμεθα) is a future fear, not a present reality. The experience of "nakedness" follows death. Why express his concern at all if he knows already he will be clothed immediately with his new body when he dies? Furthermore, the intermediate body is nowhere else taught in Scripture and seems foreign to New Testament theology (Hughes, p.173).

Paul wants to be alive until Christ returns so he can skip the disembodied intermediate state between death and the resurrection (Martin, 2 Corinthians, p.106). Paul does not fear death, and neither should we, but he does not want death either. He is like the martyrs under the throne of heaven crying "How long, O Lord" (Rev. 6:9-10). These disembodied souls were waiting in heaven for the coming of Christ to judge the world.

I draw four conclusions from Paul's longing not to be discovered naked after death.

1) God created humans to be complete as soul and body together. Our souls were never designed to live bodiless like the Platonic (and later Gnostic) idea that our souls have been imprisoned by our bodies and long to be freed from bodily existence. We are less than fully human without a body, so our bodies are vital to the fullness of eternal life (Hughes, p.170).

2) We live as disembodied souls in heaven between death now and the resurrection to come. Yet, somehow, in a way we find hard to grasp, our souls will still be recognizable to others during this interim period.

3) It is far, far better to remain alive until the coming of Christ and so enter immediately into the fullness of resurrected life. Our "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) is to see Jesus at His appearing and never experience death at all.

4) We know for certain that to die is gain (Phil 1:21) - even in our disembodied state. We prefer to be separated from our bodies because we are, then, at home with our Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).

Even so, Lord, come quickly!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

GROANING FROM LONGING

There is a groaning that rises from a deep longing for something anticipated with great excitement like a child impatiently awaits Christmas morning or a groom longs for his wedding day. Paul writes, For even in this (house) we groan, longing to be dressed with our home from heaven (2 Cor. 5:2).

The verb translated "we groan" (στενάζομεν, see 5:4) is a present indicative indicating that the groaning is an ongoing, continuous groaning in present time. We sigh in this life because of our circumstances (R&R, Key, p.466), but do our sighs reflect a negative or positive outlook? Paul says that we groan in anticipation of something better not merely distress over our bad circumstances. Our groaning reflects a positive outlook for the future and is generated by the Holy Spirit at work in our lives according to Romans 8:23 where Paul uses the same word (Martin, 2 Corinthians, p.104). Groaning is the first fruits of the Spirit as we await the redemption of our body. Sighing for heaven is the sign of the Spirit in our hearts.

We groan because we long to be dressed in our home from heaven. The verb translated "longing" (ἐπιποθοῦντες) is a present participle indicating that we are continually longing to be clothed. We long for our heavenly clothing like newborn babies long for pure milk (1 Peter 2:2). Paul tells us that we will all be changed - transformed - at the resurrection as the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality (1 Cor. 15:51-53). The believer's longing is to put on the imperishable body that will last forever.

Paul uses the metaphor of a house (οἰκητήριον), but he changes the word from οἰκία to οἰκητήριον. The latter word implies a home more than a house (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.168, fn 29). A house (οἰκία) does not require an inhabitant to be a house. A home (οἰκητήριον) implies the presence of an inhabitant (οἱκητήρ). Paul's mixed metaphor enriches our understanding. We long for the day when we will be dressed in a home from heaven. We will inhabit our heavenly bodies as our eternal homes.

The verb translated "to be clothed or dressed" (ἐπενδύσασθαι) is a compound word combining the preposition ἐπί with the verb ἐνδύω. The meaning of the compound verb is to put on outer clothes over other clothes like an overcoat is put on over regular clothing.  Our heavenly body is put on over our earthly body in a way that absorbs and transforms our earthly body (Hughes, 2 Corinthians, p.168 fn31). Since we get our glorified bodies to wear at the resurrection when Christ returns and not when we die, we long to be alive until the return of Christ and experience the glorious transformation without death (1 Cor. 15:51-53). We do not fear death but long to avoid the disembodied state Paul calls "nakedness" in the next verse (2 Cor. 5:3). Death brings nakedness until God dresses us with our new bodies at the resurrection. It is far better to be alive when Christ returns because God puts on our new bodies like an overcoat covering and transforming our current bodies.

We sigh with longing for that day. I watched my dad in his last year of life groaning with a deep desire to be clothed with his heavenly home. He suffered physically, but he sighed not so much because of his physical suffering but because of his desire for heaven. His groaning rose from his longing. Earth holds little value when the longings of our heart transfuse our horizon with the glorious hues of heaven.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

COLLAPSING OUR TENTS FOR OUR UPWARD CLIMB

I used to enjoy back packing in the mountains. We often slept in our tents. The next morning I would fold up the tent and tie it to the backpack. The rule of tent camping is to leave no trace behind as we move on to new heights. Death is like collapsing a tent. Paul writes For we know that, if our earthly house, the tent, is taken down, we have a building from God which is eternal (2 Corinthians 5:1).

The conditional clause (ἐὰν) is a third class condition called a "more probable future condition" (Dana & Mantey, Grammar, p.290). Death is a relatively uncertain future event since Christ could return before we die, but death is certainly more probable than not! Death always involves the loss of our earthly (ἐπίγειος) house (οἰκία). Paul uses the noun οἰκία instead of οἶκος which may imply an intentional distinction. The noun οἶκος was used to refer to the totality of a deceased person's possessions while the noun οἰκία referred to simply the person's residence (TDNT, 5:131). Our physical body is the residence of our soul.

My body is a house which is a tent. The noun for a tent (σκήνους) is a genitive of apposition to the noun for a house (οἰκία). The genitive of apposition is a second noun that describes the material that makes up the first noun, so the tent is the fabric that composes the house (MHT, Grammar, 3:214).

Paul, like a tent maker, knew tents. Tents were used as the cover of a wagon or a shelter on the deck of a ship along with homes used by nomadic people. They were always transitory structures in comparison to houses and even secular writers compared life in this world to a tent "passing by; one comes, sees and departs" as Democritus wrote (NIDNTT, 3:811). A Jewish reader may well have thought about The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths where families constructed tents made of branches to remember life in the wilderness before entering the promised land (R&R, Key, p.466).

Campers "strike" their tents every morning. The verb translated "torn down" (καλυθῇ) is a passive verb referring to the dismantling of a tent by someone other than the tenter so God "strikes" our tents in His time. It is a compound verb made up of κατά, meaning downward, and λύω, meaning to loosen. The sense of the verb is to take down the tent (TDNTT, 4:338). The body where our souls reside is taken down, folded up or dismantled so we can move on to a new life because our physical bodies are temporary and impermanent.

Death means collapsing the tents of our bodies for our upward climb in Christ. Our focus in death is to look forward to life not backward at life. We look ahead not behind like a backpacker eager for his next glorious mountain peak experience.