We know if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God; a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed, in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling FROM heaven. 3 In fact after putting it on, we will not be found naked. 4 For indeed, we who are in this tent groan, being burdened. That is because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed. Then, what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a pledge. (2Cor5:1-5)
What Paul means by our earthly tent
“Our earthly tent” is how Paul describes the body in which the God-given soul resides. So also does Peter (2Pet1:13-14). But it is of course not just the body but the brain also. Both were procreated from our earthly parents and both shall return to dust . The human spirit on the other hand “shall return to the God who gave it” (Eccles12:7). And that spirit/soul is itself a memory-retaining intellectual entity. As Scripture affirms, the rich man wondering why he must experience suffering in Hades was told by Abraham to “remember that in your lifetime you received good things and likewise Lazarus evil things, so now he is comforted and you are tormented“ (Lk16:25). That is an interesting statement in itself which we won’t deal with here.
It may be stating the obvious to some, but it follows from the above that as earth-bound human beings our thoughts and actions derive from two sources: the brain and the internal “psyche” or whatever you wish to call the intellectual, memory-retaining spiritual entity that leaves the body after death.
And these sources conflict with each other as Paul teaches in Romans chapter 7. They have opposing laws or governing principles. “For I am gratified by the law of God in my inner man. But I perceive a different law in my bodily members warring with the law in my mind; bringing me into captivity to the sinful law that is in my bodily members (Rom7:23). The “law in my bodily members” refers of course to the bodily senses as they are processed through the brain. Truly, it is our earthly tent and the brain in particular that is the SOURCE of mankind’s problem, not his God-given soul/spirit.
The problem is therefore temporary, not eternal. However, whilst the soul is pure, it is also pliant, i.e. liable to corruption. That has consequences extending beyond our earthly life which Jesus refers to in the context of salting with fire (earlier post). Only the Christian is given the spiritual resources “to possess his own vessel (tent) in sanctity and honor” (1Thes4:4). That is what effectively the apostle (and bible) means by being saved: “O wretched man that I am; who can deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God it is through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom7:24-25).
Once the above is understood, many theological conundrums are resolved, not least Augustine’s unsavory teaching that infants who die unbaptized “must endure sensual pain throughout eternity, albeit to a mild degree” – either to pay for Adam’s sin or the depravity of their own God-given souls [ref# 1]. Such was watered down to an extent by the Catholic Church but they still effectively taught (until Vatican II) that Jesus Christ would not tolerate the souls of any unbaptized infants in Heaven (characteristics somewhat at odds with the Gospels’ accounts of the Savior’s dealings with children).
Also, the dilemma for many creationist Christians who rightly discern that the spirit/soul is not derived from sperm or ovaries but is planted by God at birth – unavoidably implying in the context of Augustinian/Reformed theology that a God-given entity is corrupt and itself hell-deserving. Absolutely not, the source of the problem is man not God. My sin-infested intellectual vessel (earthly tent) was derived from my earthly father, ultimately from Adam. That which God supplied was pure, albeit liable to corruption (1Pet2:11) once one is of an age to discern good from evil.
THAT is the true nature of original sin – not a soul corrupted at birth or Adam’s guilt imputed to everyone’s account, but God-given souls operating within their temporary housing that was conceived in sin (Ps51:5). This is not to deny that mankind is indeed paying a price for Adam’s sin through the corrupted vessel/tent we have inherited. But as hinted at in my recent posts even this is an act of supreme love on God’s part, especially in view of the implications to His Son in remedying the situation. God’s mysterious strategy was in the context of mankind’s glorious destiny and how it should best be accomplished and perfected (Heb2:10 cf. Rev10:7).
Re-clothing the soul
So, returning to the featured passage it is no wonder Paul writes “In this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling that is from heaven, since in fact after putting it on, we will not be found naked” (vv2-3). This affirms the related truth concerning the Christian’s destiny. It is not fulfilled when his or her spirit enters heaven, which Paul here describes as being naked and elsewhere as being asleep, but when one is re-clothed in that which is FROM heaven.
This is not so as to be spiritual entities at rest in their heavenly home. It is for the soul to reside in a glorious resurrection body. And unlike the situation in Romans 7, material and spiritual shall co-exist in perfect union. Then one can truly be united to the Man who is God and actively participate within His realm. That will be joy unspeakable and full of glory. How the above is reconciled with Scripture as a whole is set out in The Little Book of Providence:
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Related post: awaiting final redemption
Ref #1: Latin: paena sensus . (cf. New Advent: Catholic Encyclopaedia under headings “Unbaptized infants”, “Limbo” and the “Teaching of St Augustine”).