Thursday, December 28, 2023

Ready to Break Camp?

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT)

When you’re getting ready to go somewhere, your destination determines your outlook. For instance, if you’re going on vacation to Hawaii, you can hardly wait to get there. But if you’re going to the dentist, you’re dreading it.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “The time of my death is near” (2 Timothy 4:6 NLT). Or, as the New King James Version renders it, “The time of my departure is at hand.”

Earlier Paul had written to the believers in Philippi, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. . . . I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (Philippians 1:21, 23-24 NLT).

Paul knew where he was going. He knew that he was going to Heaven. Granted, Paul had a marked advantage: he had already died, gone to Heaven, and returned to Earth. He wrote about the experience in 2 Corinthians 12, where he said he was “caught up to the third heaven” (verse 2) and saw things that were indescribable.

Many commentators believe this probably happened after Paul preached the gospel in Antioch. The Bible tells us, “They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe” (Acts 14:19-20 NLT).

We can imagine Paul in Heaven before His Lord, before the One who had called him on the road to Damascus, before the One who had pardoned him of every sin. But then Paul came back, and ever since, he was homesick for Heaven.

This reminds us that Heaven is not a place of unconscious oblivion; it’s a place of conscious existence. Death held no terror for the apostle Paul. He understood that it meant going and being with Christ. It was a beginning, not an ending. It was a promotion.

The word “departure” used by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:6 (NKJV) comes from an interesting Greek term that also could describe breaking camp.

After a few days of camping, most people are ready to break camp, go home, and enjoy the luxuries of a hot shower and clean clothes. They’re happy to break camp.

When death comes, the tent called the body is laid aside as the spirit moves into a more permanent residence. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (verse 1 NLT).

Does that sound depressing to you? Getting ready to break camp is good news if you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ. It means that you’re going to a far better place. It means that you’re going to Heaven.

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