2) Second, having an eternal perspective motivates us to live wisely.
Before we get into this point, I want to clarify a common misunderstanding about heaven.
2 Cor 5
6 So, we are always confident and 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 and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.
These verses make it sound like, forget the body. The body is like a prison. My soul needs to be freed from my body. Why? So that I can be at home with the Lord. Many churches wrongly teach that our soul is all that matters. We just need to save souls. And compared to the relative importance of our souls, our bodies don’t really matter. When someone dies, we say, grandma died, but don’t worry, she’s in a better place now. She’s with the Lord. The body is just flesh and bones and soon will be nothing more than dust. This incomplete teaching creates a false duality, a separation of soul and body. The soul matters. Your body, not so much.
The verses that precede are confusing, I’ll admit, but if we understand them, they shed some light on this relationship between our souls and our bodies.
2 Cor 5
1 For we know that if our temporary, earthly dwelling is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. 2 Indeed, we groan in this body, desiring to put on our dwelling from heaven, 3 since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
We often think of heaven as a dwelling and it is. It is a place. However, in this instance, v2 – while groaning in this body, this tent, this earthly dwelling, we desire to PUT ON our dwelling from heaven. Interesting choice of words. Paul uses heaven as a dwelling that we put on like clothing. v3-4 – when we are clothed, we are not naked. Yet the very physical body that our soul is clothed in now is a cause for groaning. As burdened as we are in our mortal flesh, we do not want to be unclothed, meaning we don’t want our souls to leave our bodies forever. We don’t want to be unclothed from our physical bodies but clothed.
Nakedness here is a metaphor for being without a body. Basically, having a disembodied soul. After the Fall, literal nakedness brought shame to sinful Adam and Eve. God remedied their nakedness with clothing. He covered their shame. And ever since, clothing has remained a consistent requirement, thank goodness, throughout Scripture and practiced in human history.
For this reason, Paul likened being without a body after death to the condition of nakedness. Ultimate salvation is not that disembodied souls enjoy eternal bliss in the heavenly realms. Ultimate salvation involves salvation of our souls and our physical bodies. This points to a bodily resurrection.
How do we know this? Jesus was raised from the dead, not just his soul, but also his body. He spent 40 days after the resurrection to prove to his disciples that he was not merely a spiritual being. He was spiritual, but he was also very physical. He ate breakfast with the disciples in John 21 to prove that his body was resurrected. He was the firstfruits, the first example, the new pattern that all who have faith in Christ will follow. When Jesus returns, he will make all things new. He will make a new heaven and new earth. Think of the Holy City in Revelation as the Garden of Eden 2.0. Adam and Eve lived in a physical universe with physical bodies in perfect harmony with one another and they ruled over creation and enjoyed spiritual fellowship with their Creator. There was no sin. One day, we will return to a similar state, but better.
When Jesus returns, our bodies will rise from the graves and merge with our souls. This means, until Christ returns, there is an intermediate state the moment we die where we are immediately awake and present with Jesus. If you die before Jesus returns and this return is known as the Second Coming of Christ, you are away from your body, out of your body and at home with Jesus. This is the intermediate state before our souls are reunited with our glorified, physical bodies on the day Jesus returns. The contrast in this passage was not between physical and spiritual, but between present, mortal, physical bodies and future, immortal, physical, resurrected bodies.
2 Cor 4
18 So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
The Bible tells us to live wisely because what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. I don’t know about you, but that verse doesn’t help me much. It doesn’t motivate me to focus on the unseen. Why? Because I can’t see it. Right? I can see money so I can focus on money. I can see pleasure so I can focus on pleasure. But how can I be motivated to focus on what I can’t see?
2 Cor 5:10 gives us the motivation.
2 Cor 5
10 For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ [in other words, the judgment seat of Christ], so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
Why should you and I live wisely? Because there is divine judgment that awaits. When we hear the word “judgment,” we normally think about heaven or hell. Will I make it in? Or will I be judged and sent to the other place? Christians are not judged in this way. If you have repented of your sin and placed your faith in Christ, you will be saved. You will be welcomed into heaven. You can’t lose it. You can’t stumble out of salvation. If God has saved you, you will not be judged and lose eternal life.
However, all Christians will be judged in a different way. At the judgment seat of Christ, it’s not an issue of commendation. If you are in Christ, he will be your Advocate on judgment day. He will commend you to the Father, he will recommend you for entrance into an eternity with God. At the judgment seat of Christ, it’s not commendation, but it is evaluation. Your life and my life will be evaluated. What you have done in the body will be evaluated. Your deeds, how you lived will be evaluated. If what you did in the body was good, you will be repaid for what you have done. You will receive a heavenly reward. If what you did in the body was not good, if the ways you lived out your life here were worthless, you will be evaluated and those worthless deeds will be burned up.
I am not sure what this evaluation will look like. But it suggests that some Christians will make it into heaven by the skin of their teeth. Barely making it in with their trousers smoking, scorched, singed by the fires of hell. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to cut it that close. I don’t want to barely squeak by because my life was evaluated and most of my deeds were burned up.
2 Cor 5
9 Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to Him.
If you are a Christian, wouldn’t you want to please God? Wouldn’t your main aim or purpose of your life be to please Him? He saved you. He sent His Son to die for you. He loves you. He did everything for you so that you could respond in faith and be saved. He initiated everything. He loves you that much. Wouldn’t you want to please him? Don’t you want to hear the words, well done, my good and faithful servant? A healthy amount of fear of divine judgment is a helpful motivator for every believer as he serves the Lord.