We Know The Dirt Is Not Our Destiny

Bible Book: 2 Corinthians  5 : 1
Subject: Death; Eternal Life; Heaven; Heavenly Body

In Psalm 139:14, David says, "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."

When you stop and consider the complexity and precision of the human body, you understand completely what would bring David to write that statement. Our bodies are made up of several trillion cells, that are each so complex and amazing, that scientist are still baffled by their construction.

Those trillions of cells make up the organs and substance of the human body that in a typical day will perform some astounding feats. For instance, in a single twenty-four hour period, the average adult heart will beat over 103,000 times. In that same period of time, your blood will travel some 168 million miles. You will breathe 23,040 times, and you will move some 750 muscles. All this activity is virtually conducted on autopilot by your brain that is also helping you to look at the road, carry on a phone conversation, and worry about your children. The human body is in itself a miracle.

Nevertheless, as complicated and wonderful as our bodies may be, they are plagued by one fatal flaw - that is, they cannot last forever.

With the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and the introduction of sin into the human race, the human body was started on a collision course with the grave. Now each birth is just the beginning of the process of dying. With each year of life, the body draws closer and closer to the day when its heart will stop beating, its lungs will stop breathing, and its function of life will cease altogether.

When this happens, it is often said that the body is merely returning to the dust from whence it came. While there is some truth to that statement, for the believer, the reality is that the dirt is not our destiny.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1, the Apostle Paul addresses the subject of the death of the body, and what it actually means for those who live in Christ. As we examine his words, we are reminded that while this earthly body may die, it does not mean that life has ended. Paul says that we know that if this body should pass, we will enter a new and glorious body that will put this old body to shame.

There are three truths that we find as we look at this wonderful verse of Scripture. Notice them briefly with me. Notice first of all that Paul gives us:

I. The Picture of the Christian's Present Dwelling

Before Paul opens up the great truth of what we will be one day, he introduces us to the reality of what we are now. In the opening of verse one, Paul gives us a picture that helps to describe our present bodies. Notice he refers to our present bodies as, "our earthly house of this tabernacle." In this description, Paul paints a wonderful picture of the bodies we now live in. Notice a couple of things about this picture of our present dwelling. Notice first of all:

A. Paul's Illustration

Look again at verse one. Paul says that we now dwell in an "earthly house" or "tabernacle". To understand what Paul means by this it is critical that we look closely at these words. Notice first of all the phrase "earthly house". The phrase literally means our house on earth. But don't mistake what Paul means by this. He is not referring to your physical address, and the structure of wood and brick in which your family lives. When Paul mentions our earthly house, he is talking about our physical bodies. Our bodies are the houses of our soul and spirit. Your physical body is the earthly house of what makes you who you are.

Notice also that Paul uses the word "tabernacle." This is an interesting word. It refers back to the tabernacle that the Children of Israel carried around in the wilderness. The word literally means a tent.

If you have studied the life of Paul, then you know that his vocation or trade was that of a tentmaker. He made tents to financially support himself before churches began to supply him with aid. Perhaps that is why Paul uses the illustration of a tent to describe the bodies in which we now live. It is an interesting way to describe our earthly bodies.

Many years ago, someone came up with the figure that all the chemical compounds of a 150 lb man are worth only about 98 cents. A biochemist by the name of Morowitz questioned this number, and did some research of his own. He took some of the substances that exist in each human body, and calculated their price per gram. For instance, Hemoglobin, a substance in the blood is somewhere around $285 per gram. Insulin is over $50 a gram. The hormone that stimulates hair growth (which we have very little of, and some have none of), he estimated to be worth around $8 million a gram. He went on an on until he calculated that typical man is probably worth somewhere around $6 million dollars.i

Whether or not we can fix a precise dollar value on a human body, Paul tells us that our bodies are essentially nothing more than flesh covered tents.

That is Paul's illustration, but notice something further about our present dwellings. Notice not only Paul's illustration, but notice also further:

B. Paul's Intent

What is the point that Paul is trying to get across about our earthly bodies? First of all, it is important to see that he is not saying that our bodies are worthless or cheap. No, the New Testament clearly states that our bodies are the "Temple of the Holy Ghost." Therefore, that it is certainly not Paul's intent to teach us that our bodies are unimportant. What Paul is trying to teach us through the illustration of the tent is that our bodies are temporary. A tent is a mobile and temporary structure. It is designed to be taken down and moved, and it is by no means a permanent dwelling. We are reminded in this verse that these bodies we now inhabit are only temporary housing for our souls.

One day the stakes of these tents will be pulled up, the tent itself will be folded up, and we will leave them for our permanent homes.

As John Quincy Adams was nearing his death, his friend Daniel Webster came to visit him. Webster later told of what Adams said to him on that last visit. Webster asked about his health, and Adams said, "I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed [dwelling], battered by the winds and broken by the storms. From all I can learn, the Landlord does not intend to repair."

What Paul is teaching us is that the aches and pains, creeks and cracks of our bodies are more than just signs of age. These are signs of the temporary nature of our earthly bodies. There is no fountain of youth into which we can dip these tents. Immortality for the body is impossible. That is why in   verse one, Paul gives us a picture of the Christian's present dwelling. Notice however, that he goes on in this verse. We see not only the picture of the Christian's present dwelling, but notice secondly that we see:

II. The Principle of the Christian's Possible Death

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin that first noted that the only sure things in life were death and taxes. Franklin was certainly right about taxes, but I am not so sure that he was right about death.

Look again at verse one, and notice how Paul phrases this verse. He says, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved..." Notice the word "dissolved". It is translated from a word that literally means destroyed. Paul is talking about the death of our physical bodies. Now notice that little word "if". He uses the word "if" because he was certain that "if" Christ returned the Christian would not have to face death. Death is a possibility for us that will only be interrupted by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, even with the eminent and certain return of Christ looming somewhere on the horizon, the subject of death is one that Paul addresses in this text, and therefore we must consider as well. Notice a couple of things about the Christian's possible death. Notice first of all that:

A. We Should Look at Death

Woody Allen once said, "I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens." Like Allen, most of us are uncomfortable with considering the prospect of our own death. We don't like to dwell on the fact that we are most likely going to have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death someday. Regardless of whether or not we want to think about our own death, the Bible actually encourages it. In Deuteronomy 32:29 says, "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end." There is wisdom in considering the fact that one day, if the Lord tarries His coming for very long, you are going to die.

Before his death in 1981, American writer William Saroyen called the Associated Press with one final word of observation. He said, "Everybody has got to die, but I always believed that an exception would be made in my case. Now what?"iii

When it comes to death, apart from the return of Christ, no exceptions will be made. There is a possibility that all of us in this room are going to die. With that fact before us, there is wisdom in considering and looking at death. Far from being a subject we should avoid, it is one we should consider and prepare for every day.

With that in mind, notice something else we learn from the Christian's possible death. We learn not only that we should look at death, but notice also further that:

B. We Should Learn from Death

Rather than avoid the subject of death, why don't we learn from it, and use it as motivation for life? Considering the fact that life is "but a vapor", and that death is probably closer than any of us have imagined, we should be challenged to live for Christ every day as if it is our last. The Lord Jesus made a strong statement regarding this in John 9:4. He said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work." When you consider the strong possibility that death will come for you before Christ does, you should decide that you are going to live now in such a way that you will not fear the coming of death.

The old Puritan preacher, Richard Baxter, used to pray, "Lord, let me preach as a dying man to dying men." We should pray, "Lord, let me live as if this were my last day on earth. Let me learn from death, and live my life for You, however brief that life may be."

While there is a great prospect waiting for the believer on the other side of the grave, the prospect of the grave should affect how we live on this side of it. By the grace of God, may we see that this body and this life are only temporary! God help us to learn from death, and live only for him in the time in which we are given on this earth.

Notice something else as continue looking at this verse. Notice not only that we see the picture of the Christian's present dwelling, and the principle of the Christian's possible death, but notice also thirdly that we see:

III. The Promise of the Christians’ Permanent Destiny

While Paul addresses the temporary nature of our bodies, and the prospect of death in this verse, the primary subject of this verse is not death. It is life after death. Let's look at the verse again in its entirety. Paul says, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." In this verse, Paul mentions the possibility of death only to point us to the promise of what is to come after our death. are reminded here that the dirt is not our destiny. We are not bound to decompose along with our earthly bodies. When we die, we will trade these tents in for glorified, perfect, and permanent homes.

As we finish looking at this verse, let's take a moment and notice a couple of things about the new bodies that are part of the Christian's permanent destiny. Notice first of all:

A. The Form of Our New Bodies

What exactly will our new bodies be like? It is a question that we cannot fully answer. Many have speculated about the nature and characteristics of the bodies we will receive after death, but no one can give a complete description. Instead of speculating about the details, let's look at what Paul does tell us about the form of our new bodies. He says that our new bodies will be a "building of God, an house not made with hands." That is a wonderful phrase. The phrase "building of God" literally means a structure or building out from God. Then, in case we don't get the idea, Paul says that our new bodies will not be made by human hands. While it is true that in one sense every life is a creation of God, the reality is that every life is also to some extent a human creation.

When a man and a woman come together and reproduce, their children are a combination of both of their genetic structures. The color of our hair and eyes, our height, our mannerisms, our personalities are very much a reflection of our biological parents. We inherit our genes from them.

Along with basic genetic information, we also inherit something else from our parents. We inherit their sin nature. They were born in sin, and therefore so are we. That is why it is so important that our new bodies are not made with human hands. For all we do not know about our new, heavenly bodies, we do know this - they will be completely free from the presence and problems of sin.

Temptation will no longer affect us. Sin's curse will broken, and we will be perfect, sinless, and absolutely holy. With the songwriter I say, "What a day that will be!"

If I may quote John, "...it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Notice something else about our new bodies. Notice not only the form of our new bodies, but notice also further that we see:

B. The Future of Our New Bodies

Notice how Paul closes this great verse. He says that we shall receive new bodies, not made with human hands, "...eternal in the heavens." Look at the contrast. Now we live in temporary tents that are decaying and dying every day. But, one day we will inhabit bodies that are eternal in the heavens. Here is a truth that can encourage us as we battle the sickness of disease of this passing world. We can rest assured that one day when these old bodies have been laid in the ground we will put on a new body that will never need a coffin, a funeral, or a eulogy.

As I studied this verse this week, an old song came to my mind. It was written in 1940 by Luther Presley. It says:

"On that resurrection morning when all the dead in Christ shall rise,

I'll have a new body, Praise the Lord, I'll have a new life.

Sown in weakness, raised in power, ready to live in paradise,

I'll have a new body, Praise the Lord, I'll have a new life."

One day, when we walk the streets of heaven, clothed in our new eternal, glorified bodies, we will understand better what Paul meant when he said, "O grave where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"

I know this old body will not last forever. But that is alright. I am going to trade it in one day on a

model that will never see corruption and death. I will receive a "building of God, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."


I read about a group of young children that went to visit the nursing home. One of the little girls stopped to speak to one of the residents. She asked the lady, "How old are you?" The lady responded, "I'm 98." The little girl was amazed, and then she asked, "Did you start at one?"

We all started at one, but where we will end this life is yet to be determined. For some, it could be many years before they face death. For others, it could that this is their last day on earth. Regardless of where we are on our journey of life, if we know Christ, we also know that we are one day closer to our upgrade. As Paul puts it, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, and house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."


i Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations; Tan, Paul Lee; p. 772

ii www.sermonillustrations.com; accessed 6-12-07

iii ibid