“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
On my first trip to Kalmegha, Bangladesh, several years ago, I visited in the home of “Andrew,” a newly-baptized former Hindu. He mentioned at that time that the previous evening they had prayed in his house to the Hindu gods, but “tonight we have prayed in this house to the real God.” Andrew and his wife are gone, but their daughter-in-law and her two children still live in their house. It is old, much damaged with rot and termites, and in sore need of replacement. Thankfully, some have contributed for that purpose and within a short time this family will have a new house, safe and functional.
Some of us remember the old gospel song, “This Old House,” with the lyrics, “Ain’t gonna need this house no longer, ain’t gonna need this house no more; Ain’t got time to fix the shingles, ain’t got time to mend the floor; Ain’t got time to oil the hinges or to mend the window pane, ain’t gonna need this house no longer, I’m getting ready to meet the saints.” This song reminds us of Paul’s figure of speech from 2 Corinthians 5. The earthly house in both cases is our fleshly body. It ages, deteriorates, and ultimately must fail us. But the great Christian hope is of another “house” which will replace this one, a house which in turn will never have to be replaced, but is “eternal in the heavens.”
It is rewarding to be able to help someone in need replace their decaying or damaged home. The many workers in the U.S. Katrina-ravaged Gulf coast who are rebuilding and repairing those houses know a deep satisfaction from their hard work and generosity. So too, when we are able to provide funds for a poor Asian family to have an adequate house, we are blessed. But this is a small accomplishment compared to the great gift of a new house for all eternity. When one builds a house of brick or wood it may last a lifetime or perhaps a few lifetimes, at most. However, when one puts on a “new man” (Ephesians 4:24), he is destined to live eternally in an incorruptible “house” (1 Corinthians 15:53). There is no building which can compare. No contractor or carpenter can hope to erect a house that will last for untold thousands, even millions, of years. Yet the house which we will receive will not show the slightest wear, even after much longer than that.
Physical dwelling places have great importance in our life styles. We need their shelter. We take significant aspects of our identity from our houses. Our dreams and goals often focus upon the kind of home for which we long. If we can translate those same significances to our eternal hope, it will have great impact on our spiritual growth. Let us “set (our) mind(s) on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). We really will not need this old house much longer. Not if we are truly “getting ready to meet the saints.”
The earthly house is our fleshly body. It ages, deteriorates, and ultimately must fail us.