number of years ago I was preaching the funeral of a dear lady who used to be
in a church that I had pastored. Her husband, also a devout believer, asked
that I build my sermon for his wife' s funeral around 2 Corinthians 5. Since I
had never taught through 2 Corinthians, I was somewhat surprised to discover
during my preparation for the message that it spoke of our blessed hope- the
rapture. Follow along with me and see what I mean.
The Context of 2 Corinthians 5
of us are familiar with the second half of 2 Corinthians 5, but what about the
preceding context? Paul is dealing with a group of people who were rejecting
his authority as an apostle of Christ. Thus, they were reluctant to accept his
advice. In chapter 4, Paul notes that he is pouring out his life for their
sake. He contrasts this temporal life, which the Corinthians believers greatly
valued, with the one to come. Since the life and world to come are of greater
value, then, Paul reasons, believers should live this present life from the
perspective that places a priority on things that will have " an eternal weight
of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).
Corinthians, to which Paul wrote, had adopted the view that the physical body was
of no value, since everything on the physical plane was inferior to things in
the spiritual realm. Paul rejects this, and teaches that the physical is not
in and of itself carnal but can be used to promote that which has eternal
spiritual value. This Paul explains in his chapter on the resurrection in 1
Corinthians 15. As he sets the stage for 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says, " For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an
eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things
which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are
seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor.
A Tent Verses a Building
Corinthians 3:1-2 says, " For we know that if the
earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a
house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we
groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven." Since verse 3 is
based upon Paul' s statements in verses one and two, we need to know what he is
saying there. Paul tells the Corinthians believers that their current body is
like an " earthly tent." Why did he choose the word " tent?" He most likely
uses the word " tent" because it is a temporary dwelling for a person who is on
a trip away from home. That is the status of a believer during the church age,
he is a pilgrim, just passing through this world (Phil. 3:17- 21). The term
used for a resurrected believer in heaven is called " our dwelling from heaven."
It is also called " a house not made with hands." Thus, our permanent dwelling place is clearly said to be in heaven and
something to which we look. Since heaven is our home, then it makes sense that
" building" is the description that Paul uses since it connotes a permanent structure.
So our current physical body is
called a " tent," while our future resurrected body is described as a
" building." So what does Paul mean when he speaks in verse 3 of not wanting to
be found " naked" in verse 3?
Since the subject matter of this
portion of Scripture relates to the state of the body, whether mortal or
resurrected, Paul speaks of the interval between a believer' s death and the
resurrection. Robert Gromacki says, " This period between the physical death of
a believer and his resurrection is designated as the time of nakedness. It is
when the self has neither its old body or its new body. Theologians have
called it the intermediate state of the soul."  This does not mean
that when a believer dies he does not go to be with the Lord, since Scripture
says, " to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" (2 Cor.
5:8). Philip E. Hughes explains as follows:
the death the soul is separated from the body, and man' s integral nature is
disrupted. This important aspect of the disintegrating character of death
explains the Apostle' s desire that Christ should return during his lifetime so
that he might experience the change into the likeness of Christ' s body of glory
(Phil. 3:21) without having to undergo the experience of " nakedness" which
results from the separation of soul and body at death. . . . It still means a
state of nakedness and a period of waiting until he is clothed with his
passage, in its indirect way, is teaching the Paul was longing for the rapture
to occur before he died, since the interval between Paul' s death and the
obtaining of his resurrection body would come at the time of the rapture (1
Thess. 4:13- 18; 1 Cor. 15:51- 58). Thus, 2 Corinthians 5 is a rapture passage.
" It is the resurrection and the rapture which the new desire longs for," says
Roy Laurin, " because the resurrection and the rapture will bring us this
building which is " an house not made with hands." 
Gromacki notes the rapture connection in the following:
verb " clothed upon" is a double compound (ependu™ using three words epi, en,
du™). It actually means to
put one piece of clothing over another which is presently being worn. The
usage in this context probably means that Paul wanted to be alive when the Lord
returned. In that way, the new body could be put on right over the old one.
further explains in verse 4 why he hopes for the rapture before his death. " For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being
burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order
that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." G. Coleman Luck
explains, " The thing for which we groan is not death and dissolution of the body. We do not
long to be ' unclothed,' so to speak, but rather to be ' clothed upon,' to have
our mortal bodies transformed and perfected without dying at the time of the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:17;
1 Cor. 51, 52)." 
passage seems to teach that a believer during the church age who dies before
the rapture is with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), but do not yet have their new
resurrection body. This seems to also imply that there is no New Testament
basis for those who teach that we have an intermediate body (i.e. not a
resurrection body) during the interval between death and the resurrection as we
dwell in the presence of the Lord. Otherwise, how do they explain Paul' s
desire to not be naked? Further, this passage does not allow for " soul sleep"
since the person is very much alive during the interval, it is the body that is
Implications of 2 Corinthians 5
are a number implications that flow from the fact that Paul said in 2
Corinthians 5 that he desired to be taken in the rapture rather than die. I
will attempt to note some of those implications.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, " For we must all
appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for
his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad."
This is significant in that the " judgment seat," or " bema" is the special
judgment for church age believers only, not the end of the millennium great
white throne judgment of unbelievers. Since verse 10 is part of Paul' s passage
where he has expressed his desire to be taken in the rapture, it supports the
notion of pretribulationism since the bema will take place after the rapture of
the church, while in heaven, in order to prepare the church for her return with
Christ at the second coming (Rev. 19:1- 10).
Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 15:51- 52 the following: " Behold,
I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a
moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will
sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed."
Here Paul taught the doctrine of the resurrection, while in 2 Corinthians 5 he
links it with the rapture. Although 1 Corinthians 15:51- 52 stands on its own
as a rapture passage, it is further strengthened by Paul' s rapture teachings in
2 Corinthians 5. Paul is writing to the same church in both epistles, thus, he
is speaking of the same subject- the rapture- both times when he addresses the
subject of the resurrection.
Third, we learn from 2
Corinthians 5 that it is indeed a godly attitude to desire for the rapture to
occur in one' s lifetime. Since Paul desired to be taken to be with the Lord
via translation so that he would not be naked, it is clear that he is modeling
a godly attitude to be emulated throughout the remainder of the church age by
subsequent generations. Yet, many Christians in our day disdain the rapture.
Rapture hater Gary North says the following:
today supposedly will escape this supposedly burning building because we all have
been issued free tickets on God' s helicopter escape.
escape never comes. The supposedly imminent Rapture has now been delayed for
almost two millennia. . . . They care only about an imminent escape from
long-term responsibility: the Rapture. Rapture fever destroys men' s
ability to reason theologically.
It weakens God' s Church.
does North explain Paul' s statement in 2 Corinthians 5:8, which says, " we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be
absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord" ? According to North' s
theology, Paul' s attitude is sinful. Apparently the rapture has destroyed
Paul' s ability to reason theologically. Perhaps Paul' s theology also weakens
God' s church, as North declares. Paul clearly states that he would really
rather be " at home with the Lord." Was Paul one of those just sitting around
waiting for the helicopter escape known as the rapture? Of course not, and
neither do we who would rather be " at home with the Lord."
Fourth, this passage does not teach
one to shirk genuine biblical responsibilities as suggested by rapture haters
like North. Instead, it teaches those of us who love His appearing that " we
have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (2 Cor.
5:9). Why? Because we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2
Cor. 5:10). Tim LaHaye has said many times and in many ways that those who
believe in the pre-trib rapture have three great practical applications:
First, a motive for evangelism; second, a motive for world missions; and
thirdly, a motive to live a godly life in an ungodly world. That is exactly
what Paul is saying in 2 Corinthians 5:1- 13, contrary to rapture nay-sayers
like Gary North.
though 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 is a little used passage relating to the pre-trib
rapture, it is an important one that needs to be considered by anyone desiring
a complete understanding of the New Testament teaching of the rapture. It
provides another interesting piece of the puzzle concerning the nature and role
of the church and how it fits into the blessed hope, which is the rapture of
the church. It models for believers a proper motive for longing for the
rapture, not because we cannot handle life in the present, but because "though
you have not seen Him, you love Him" (1 Pet. 1:8). Maranatha!