Pastor David B. Curtis


The Afterlife (Part 2)

2 Corinthians 5:1-9

Delivered 09/01/2013

We began last week to talk about the afterlife, or heaven. What is heaven? Could you give someone a definition of heaven if you were asked? Notice what the author of Hebrews says:

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; Hebrews 9:24 NASB

Heaven is the dwelling place of Yahweh. I said last week that I think that the Bible says next to nothing about the afterlife, or heaven, so what we believe about the afterlife/heaven is for the most part speculation. The Scriptures don't tell us much about the afterlife, but they affirm that there is one. I believe in the afterlife, the continuation of spiritual life in heaven after physical death. We saw in our last study that Yeshua said that resurrected believers are like the angels in heaven. I see this as saying: We don't marry, we don't die, and we are incorporeal--we won't have bodies.

Yahweh, our God, has no body, so why would we need to have one when dwelling with Him? It is my opinion that we don't get a spiritual body or any other kind of body at death. We are right now part of the corporate body of Christ. I believe that the corporate body of Christ is made up of individuals, with personalities. Yahweh is a Spirit, but He is a person. Losing our bodies does not make us less human. I'll still be me, but with no body. I do not believe that we are in heaven now, heaven is the afterlife.

Preterists have come up with two main terms to explain their views; Corporate or Collective Body View (CBV), and Immortal Body at Death View (IBD). Of these two views there are many variations.

I once held to the IBD view, but the more I studied the Scriptures, the more I moved toward the CBV. Teaching through the book of Romans changed my thinking on many things, one of which was understanding the Scriptures corporately. We must learn to read the Bible from a corporate, not individualist, perspective. The biblical perspective is that every person is a member of a community and that membership determines his or her identity. Now understand this, the corporate presupposes the individual, but the individual does not presuppose the corporate.

For those of you who are Preterists, you know how grasping an understanding of audience relevance changed your view of the Scriptures. Well, I want to propose that grasping an understanding of the corporate nature of the Scriptures will have the same effect.

Notice what Paul writes to the Philippians:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; Philippians 1:27 NASB

The Greek word for "conduct" here is politeuomai. The word politeuomai here is a verb and means: "to conduct oneself worthily as a citizen of a polis, or city-state."

The Roman world had colonies like Philippi, which was a small scale version of Rome--a little Rome. To be a Roman citizen was the epitome of human dignity. Being a Roman citizen was very important in that day. During the Great Civil War, Octavian defeated Anthony. After the battle, a number of soldiers were settled there, and the town of Philippi became a Roman colony. Philippi was 800 miles from Rome geographically, but it was very near in mind-set and lifestyle. There was great pride in the fact that they were a Polis, a city-state. It spoke of their protection, culture, and high esteem in the eyes of Rome. The Philippians thought of themselves as Romans. In Acts 16 we see the founding of the Philippian Church:

and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans." Acts 16:20-21 NASB

"Our city" is referring to Philippi. Notice that they saw themselves as "Romans." It is important that we understand this. Rome was their mother, and they never forgot who they belonged to. They spoke the Latin language, wore the Roman dress, called the magistrates by the Latin or Roman names. They were deeply into Roman citizenship and all it meant.

Well, what did it mean to be a Roman citizen? I don't think that citizenship is all that big a deal to people today, unless you came here from another country and had to work for your citizenship. To the Greeks, the Polis was not just a place to live, there was a tremendous pride in it. The people viewed their Polis as a partnership with other people to obtain the highest good for all society. There was very little living for one's self, the good of the Polis was in the minds of the people. The individual citizen developed his abilities, his talents, his skills, not for his own sake, but for the benefit of the community and for the sake of all. Mutuality, interdependence, and pride of the state was the issue.

In Philippians 3:20 Paul uses the noun form of politeuomai and tells the Philippians that they are to live as citizens of heaven:

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Yeshua Christ; Philippians 3:20 NASB

"Citizenship" is from the Greek politeuma. He is telling them to live for the good of the body of Christ and not themselves. Use your talents and abilities for the good of the Messianic community. We are to live as citizens of heaven using all our talents and abilities for the sake of the Kingdom and not simply for our self.

The importance of community in Ancient Near East thought and life, and a corporate understanding of the nature of humanity provides an important perspective on the interpretation of the Scripture. An individualistic reading of Paul has long been the overwhelmingly dominant approach until only recently with the appearance of the work of E. P. Sanders and the ensuing New Perspective on Paul. Sanders' work helped to usher in a far greater appreciation of the concept of covenant in Paul's thought resulting in a far greater emphasis on corporate over against individual concerns, particularly concerning the relationship of Jews and Gentiles in the Church. Now the corporate perspective is widely accepted and may even be called the firm consensus among New Testament scholars.

We must recognize that Paul's thought was thoroughly covenantal, focused on the fulfillment of the covenant purposes of God in Christ and their consequences for Jews and Gentiles. Second, for Paul, and virtually all Jews (and non-Jews in Mediterranean and Hellenistic culture) of his time, the group was primary and the individual secondary. This is an essential point to grasp for interpretation of Paul and the New Testament. Modern westerners tend to view social reality in the opposite way: The individual is primary and the group secondary. So the individual is viewed as standing on his own, and corporate concerns are subordinated to individual concerns.

Paul's (and his culture's) perspective was essentially corporate. The individual was not viewed as standing on his own, but was seen as embedded in the group to which he belonged. Corporate concerns generally took precedence over individual concerns, and when it did not, this was judged as wrong. Such corporate interest can be seen in

Paul's primary concern for love and unity dominant in all his letters. The Pauline corporate perspective found individual identity based in the group rather than vice versa.

One of the big differences between the IBD and CBV is that of getting an individual body in heaven. Another reason, beyond what I shared last week, that I don't believe we get a body in heaven is because when the Scriptures talk about the body in connection with the afterlife, it is with a corporate understanding.

Let's look at some of Paul's uses of body and see what we can learn. His first corporate use of "body" is found in Romans 6:

knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; Romans 6:6 NASB

"Our body of sin"--what is Paul referring to here? "Our" is plural and "body" is singular. And also notice that it is "the sin," which is the same "the sin" that he has been talking about since chapter 5.When Paul speaks of the "body of sin," he is not writing with an individualistic Greek understanding of the spirit of a man being polluted by his sinful body, but of the solidarity of mankind with Adam--the unredeemed members of the human race form the "body of Sin." The picture is of a covenant community, which is outside of the Kingdom of God. Conceptually, Paul thinks in corporate terms.

This expression "the body of sin" occurs nowhere else in Scripture, so we must seek to determine its meaning from the context and the Hebraic understanding of the body. The Jews, who have a strong sense of solidarity, normally use the term sma "body" when referring to a corporate reality. Paul often called the Church, "the body of Christ":

Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 NASB

Each believer is "individually" a member of the corporate body of Christ. It doesn't say: And you are Christ's body, absorbed into the Borg. And neither do I.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NASB

This is normally interpreted as a reference to the believer's physical body being the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit; usually followed by, "Don't smoke, drink or fornicate," but never do you hear, "Don't overeat or eat things that are bad for you." This interpretation overlooks the fact that "your" is plural, and that body (soma) is singular. Paul is not talking about their physical bodies, but their corporate body--themselves as a Church--that is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The traditional individualistic interpretation is contrary to all other usage of the New Testament writers in regard to the concept of the living temple. Elsewhere, this concept is always applied to the Church, never to the individual. It is collectively, as the Church, that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit:

to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Yeshua through the gospel, Ephesians 3:6 NASB

So if Paul calls the corporate community that is in Christ the "body of Christ," it makes sense that his phrase "body of sin" would refer to the corporate community in Adam. The "body of sin" is not a reference to the human body, it is a corporate description referring to the unredeemed community, which has Adam as its head. The redeemed community has forever been removed from the body of Sin.

F.F. Bruce writes: "This 'body of sin' is more than an individual affair, it is rather that old solidarity of sin and death which all share 'in Adam,' but which has been broken by the death of Christ with a view to the creation of the new solidarity of righteousness and life of which believers are made part 'in Christ.'" (Bruce, Romans, 38).

Manson writes: "It is perhaps better to regard 'the body of sin' as the opposite of 'the body of Christ.' It is the mass of unredeemed humanity in bondage to the evil power. Every conversion means that the body of sin loses a member and the body of Christ gains one." (Manson, Romans, 945).

Tom Holland writes: "The body of Sin is the body that is in covenantal relationship with sin just as the body of Christ is the body that is in covenantal relationship with Christ." (Holland, Romans, Chapter 6, page 29).

Notice what Paul writes in verse 12:

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, Romans 6:12 NASB

What does Paul mean by "mortal body"? By and far, most commentators say or assume that Paul is talking about the physical body. It's kind of amusing to me how so many commentators don't even deal with the phrase "mortal body," they just assume it is the physical body. They act as if that is so obvious that they don't even need to discuss it.

Tom Holland writes, "His appeal is not to the believer to control his body, but to the church to maintain her purity. The term 'body' is corporate. 'Your mortal body' is not a reference to the physical body of the believer, but to the physical existence of the church in Rome. This verse is an appeal to the church to discipline its members who refuse to live the new life in Christ."

I disagree with Holland here. Can the local Church be called a "mortal body"? Mortal is from the Greek word thnaytos', which means: "liable to die." Let's trace this word "mortal" in the New Testament and see if we can learn what Paul means here. This word is used six times in the New Testament, it is only used by Paul. He uses it here and in Romans 8:11. He uses it twice in 1 Corinthians 15, and twice in 2 Corinthians, in 4:11 and 5:4. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 15:

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 NASB

In Paul's argument in this chapter he has been talking about two bodies:

it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:44 NASB

I see him here as talking about the body of Adam and the body of Christ. Notice the next verse:

So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15:45-46 NASB

The mortal is the body of Adam. Those in Adam who trust Christ put on immortality. Notice in YLT what is swallowed up:

and when this corruptible may have put on incorruption, and this mortal may have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the word that hath been written, `The Death was swallowed up--to victory'; 1 Corinthians 15:54 YLT

It is "the" death. This is the death that came from Adam. So in the context of chapter 15 mortal is connected with the body of Adam, as opposed to the immortal body of Christ.

Alright, let's look at how Paul uses this word "mortal" in 2 Corinthians 5. But before we look at chapter 5, we must get the context. Remember context is king when it comes to interpretation:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB
For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:9 NASB

This should be clear that Paul is contrasting the two covenants. The Old kills, the old condemns, and therefore they groan:

For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:11 NASB

This verse is much clearer in YLT:

for if that which is being made useless is through glory, much more that which is remaining is in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:11 YLT

The old was "being made useless," the tent of the Old Covenant body was being torn down. Now look at chapter 4:

always carrying about in the body the dying of Yeshua, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10 NASB

"Body"--here in both uses is singular, he is not talking about plural bodies. The "our" is plural, but "body" is singular. Paul has been talking about the covenants, and now he uses "body" to speak of them. He hasn't switched his topic to physical, biological bodies, he is still talking about the covenants:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 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 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Paul says the "outer man" is decaying; that is what he said in 3:11. They were not to look at things "seen"--this is again the Old Covenant: the temple, priesthood, sacrifices, feast days, which were temporal. But they were to look at things not seen-- the New Covenant, which is eternal.

Now from this context of the contrast of covenants we move to chapter 5 where the subject is still a contrast of covenants, not biological bodies:

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. 2 Corinthians 5:1 NASB

This is where the IBD guys get their support for a spiritual body in heaven. In fact most Christians today interpret this text as talking about a change that takes place to our biological body at death. If you read it in isolation, it's easy to see how you could get that, but if you keep it in context, you'll see that the subject is covenant.

"Tent" here is skenos and is only used here and in verse 4. The words "torn down" are from the Greek word kataluo. Notice how Matthew uses this word:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17 NASB

"Abolish" here is kataluo. Matthew uses kataluo of the removing of the Old Covenant.

And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." Matthew 24:2 NASB

Here what is being "torn down" (kataluo) is the Jewish Temple:

and said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'" Matthew 26:61 NASB

Again, it is used of destroying the Temple. It is also used this way in Matthew 27:40 and Acts 6:14. This word is used 16 times in the New Testament, 10 of them clearly referring to the Jewish Temple. This word is never used of physical death. Is Paul trying to confuse us? If this text is talking about physical death, why did he use a word so often connected with the Temple?

The word "building" is from the Greek word oikodome, which is used several times for the Jewish Temple and is also used of the Body of Christ:

in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, Ephesians 2:21 NASB
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Ephesians 4:12 NASB

This word is never used of an individual body, earthly or heavenly. Why does he use these words if he is not talking about the destruction of the Old Covenant?

Paul says, "We have"--this is a present active indicative, which means at the time of Paul's writing: "they already had a house not made with hands (around AD 55)." So there are two houses existing at the same time, the earthly tent and an eternal house not made with hands. This certainly fits the transition period where the Old and New covenant existed together for a period of forty years. Can these houses be two biological bodies?

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 2 Corinthians 5:2 NASB

The "this house" here is the "earthly tent" of verse 1. They were groaning in the house they were in and longing for a new home from heaven. Is this a physical body? We certainly could say that we groan in our biological bodies. But is this what Paul is talking about? I don't think so. This word "groan" is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 8:23 "...even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." So both texts have the same meaning:

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB

The "redemption of our body" is a reference to the resurrection. The promise of resurrection was a promise made to who? Resurrection was a promise made to Israel. Ezekiel 37 connects the Spirit and the resurrection, and Romans 8 talks about the Spirit and the resurrection. The resurrection was Israel's hope. Yahweh had promised to redeem His people from the grave:

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. Hosea 13:14 NASB
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah. Psalms 49:15 NASB

These verses express hope that God will provide salvation beyond the grave, one of the few references in the Tanakh to life after death. This is what Paul calls "the redemption of our body"--the body talked about here is not our individual physical bodies. The "our" is plural and "body" is singular. This is referring to the corporate body of Christ. "Our body" is the body of Christ, and it has been redeemed! Redemption is tied to the destruction of Jerusalem that happened in A.D. 70.

I see Paul in the text in 2 Corinthians 5 as comparing two covenants, the Old and the New. The Old Covenant caused groaning. Paul is not talking about new individual bodies, but about the covenants. The earthly tent, our house, is a reference to the body of Moses:

For indeed 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 Corinthians 5:4 NASB

Here the "mortal" is the tent, the Old Covenant. What is mortal, liable to die, will be swallowed up by the life.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord 2 Corinthians 5:6 NASB

The "we" here is not us! The "we" is Paul and his first century Jewish audience. Think about this: If the body here is the physical body, then as long as we are in the biological body we are absent from the Lord. Are believers today absent from the Lord? No, we dwell in His presence, that is the glory of the New Covenant:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, Revelation 21:3 NASB

We live in the presence of Yahweh, sin has been dealt with, and we have full access to His presence:

for we walk by faith, not by sight 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB

We no longer see the Temple, it is no longer physical. It is a spiritual dwelling place:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB

Yeshua the Christ is the Cornerstone of the new spiritual Temple, the apostles and prophets are the foundation. This building is described as growing into a holy temple (in the first century), to become God's dwelling place. The house was finished in A.D.70 and Yahweh moved in:

we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 NASB

They wanted to be absent from the body of Israel, the Old Covenant, and to be present with the Lord. The tent of the Old Covenant has been torn down. It was completely dismantled in A.D. 70, and believers today dwell in God's presence now and forever.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, Romans 6:12 NASB

So, "Mortal body"--is not talking about individual bodies. I believe that this is a reference to the corporate "body of Moses," which is part of the "body of Adam," which was mortal and about to end. What we need to understand is that in the "body of Adam" was the "body of Moses." The Old Covenant community was born in the body of Adam. Everyone was born in Adam, but Jews were in the body of Moses, which was in the body of Adam.

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" Jude 1:9 NASB

Some think the devil wished to show the Israelites where Moses was buried, knowing that they would then adore his body; and that Michael was sent to resist this discovery. But I see the "body of Moses" here is referring to Old Covenant Israel. The devil was disputing with Michael over Old Covenant Israel:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 NASB

Old Covenant Israel was identified with Moses, they were in the body of Moses.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Yeshua have been baptized into His death? Romans 6:3 NASB

Paul talks about being baptized in Moses and Christ. This shows us that the physical people of Israel who made up the Old Covenant were the body of Moses. And those who trust Christ become part of the body of Christ.

Alright, that's enough for today. I hope that I have demonstrated that "body" is very often used corporately to refer to the "body of Adam" or the "body of Moses," speaking of unredeemed humanity. Or to refer to the "body of Christ," those individuals who have placed their trust in Christ and been redeemed. Could we get some kind of body in heaven? Absolutely! But the Bible doesn't talk about it. The body the Bible talks about is the corporate body of Christ--the redeemed of all ages, Jews and Gentiles. So it is my position that we don't get or need a body in the afterlife.

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