By Heath Jarrett
My vacations are often others' nightmares. When winter comes, I climb mountains and sleep outside. As the weather worsens, my delight increases. Last December a friend and I climbed Eagle Peak, the top of Modoc County. With a retreating sun, we made camp on the leeward side of the nearly 10,000 foot summit. Though the weather had warmed up from the sub-zero temps the week before, the panting wind still had fangs. Moving quickly, we stomped out a snowy platform for our tent.
Magenta danced along alpine snow and sky, transitioning to cobalt. Slopes steeply falling away under us led to the high desert 5,000 feet below. Unimpeded views stretched out through Nevada's serrated Black Rock and Oregon's abandoned east. As the curtain of sky faded to black, the stars of the show came out to bow, regaled in twinkling splendor.
Just days from the solstice, we were in for one of the longest nights of the year, and a thin canopy of nylon was our only shelter.
A tent gives a dose of civility—a home away from home. But just as much as they are portable, they're also impermanent. Tents are temporary dwellings. Though I'd sleep in one for weeks (and I have), it's always nice to come home to plumbing and a cushy bed.
Paul likens our earthly bodies to tents—temporary homes that will be exchanged for a permanent building in glory. The first is suited for earth, the latter is outfitted for eternity in heaven.
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor 5:1).
Paul's analogy makes it clear that Christians can and do die physically. Our earthly homes are destroyed, but we have hope that eclipses the grave: the resurrection. And it is our new physical bodies which are called “a building from God.”
In Paul's previous letter to the Corinthians, he makes it perfectly clear that our resurrection life is completely dependent on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15). It is our vital connection to Jesus who conquered the grave which supplies our immortality. Just as he physically rose again, we shall also. Just as he forever lives in heaven, we shall live with him also.
As much as we can enjoy the sights and displays of glory here on earth, we do so as travelers living out of tents. Heaven is our permanent home—a place where God's plumbing is “the river of the water of life” flowing through the middle of our city, and, though there is no night, we will certainly enjoy all the cushy comforts of God's rest (Rev 22:1–5).