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Our Earthly House—This Tabernacle

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Our Earthly House—This Tabernacle

9 minuten leestijd

Dear readers, do you know that life is but a journey on which we are all travelling, and that God’s Word says that this journey will suddenly come to an end? I know this is a topic which is not very popular with us.

How many of us want to take five minutes to think seriously about death? In today’s way of thinking, we say death is a morbid subject. We have to be positive. We like to think of life as something that will continue. You can hear all around you: let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Tomorrow lies in the future; today we must just enjoy ourselves.

It is not surprising that we think that way, for the Lord created us to live. That is the way we have come forth out of the hands of our Creator, to live forever to the honor and glory of God.

But it is because of our sins that we must die. We see death daily although it is so foreign to us. We can feel it within our own bodies. The Lord warns us about this in His Word. In 2 Corinthians 5:1 Paul speaks of “Our earthly house of this tabernacle,” that it will be dissolved, broken down.

There are times when I wish I could take you along with me on a round of hospital visits. There you would see how these earthly houses are breaking down. When you come to room 3135, there you see a father with cancer. You can see that he is failing. The Lord says that this earthly house is broken down. We speak with him about what he is experiencing within as this earthly house is being broken down. Also about the necessity of his knowing a house not made with hands, a house that is built by God. We end our visit by praying together, asking the Lord to be merciful unto us and to bless us with His grace.

Do you want to go along to the next room? Or, shall we speak about our own earthly house of this tabernacle? True, then it would come closer to home. As long as we can stand around the bedside of that old father who is dying of cancer, we may show compassion and speak about the seriousness of life, about death that is always before us, but you can still leave that room; you can leave the hospital and go out and walk in the sunshine. You say: yes, death is serious and it can overtake us suddenly, but you do not really believe that it is that imminent for you. Once more your thoughts go back to that old father and say, “Yes, death is serious.”

But now to come back to Paul once more, take notice that he is not speaking of an old father in a hospital. He points the finger at you and me and he says that we know that our earthly house of this tabernacle will be dissolved. You who are older can feel this in your bodies. The Lord is breaking down this house. You cannot stand or walk as straight as before; the hills, which at one time you climbed easily, seem to be much higher for you. The steps leading up to your house, which at one time you did not even think about, now cause you some concern each time you leave or enter your home. You who are middle-aged can also say I can feel that I can no longer work as I did in former years. You are now more concerned about aches and pains that at times you feel in your body. You say, “Could it be that something is wrong with my heart, or what if I have a serious illness?” The Lord says, “This earthly house is being dissolved.”

Young people, do your thoughts run as follows? No, don’t speak to us about these matters; we have our life before us; we have strength; we have health. True, and I hope that the Lord may give you a long life. But did you hear about that serious accident that occurred yesterday, when the lives of two young people suddenly came to the end? Unexpectedly the Lord said, “Thus far and no further.” Can you hear the Lord’s warning in this that your house, this tabernacle, is being dissolved?

Children—no, certainly Paul does not include children when he speaks of an earthly house that is dissolved. I don’t know. 2 Corinthians 5:1 does not speak of any certain age regarding this house. I do know that I see little children with serious illnesses, also little children whose lives have come to a sudden end. So, perhaps Paul includes all of us when he speaks of our earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved.

Readers, our earthly house is still standing. Do stop a moment and observe that house—it is being broken down. Just listen to the creaking of this house. How long will it yet stand? We do not know.

Does Paul have anything else to say? Yes, he tells us that there is a people for whom it will be eternal gain when this earthly house is finally dissolved. What words does he use when he points to that eternal gain? “We have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Oh, what a comfort that must be for those who have by grace come to know what this house really is! He says, that for God’s people, behind the dark veil of death, there is a building of God, a house not made with hands.

Let me first tell you something about this house. It is not made with hands. It finds its very beginning in heaven. For there the Lord was moved from within Himself and there He had eternal thoughts of peace concerning hell-worthy creatures. Oh, the wisdom of God!

Who else but this God could have constructed a house not made with hands? Why did He do this? We may say, because He loved them freely. That is the foundation of that house, the free sovereign grace of God; His eternal decree when He said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”

He laid the foundation of this house in His only beloved Son. Of this foundation He says, “It is from eternity unto eternity.” That is why Paul says, it is a house eternal in the heavens.

To build this house, He gave all. Notice Him in Gethsemane, upon Golgotha; there the foundation was laid; there the mortar used to fitly lay those stones upon the foundation was pressed out of Him. Is that not a precious building? Paul says, it is God’s building, not made with hands. That means that my hands cannot help in the construction of this building. My works, my tears, my prayers are boards not fit for this house. All what is being used to construct it is of free, sovereign grace, the mercy of an eternal God.

What a precious house! Paul says that we know we have such a house with God. Perhaps you say, “But are now those people always sure of this house?” Is not the fruit of spiritual life a poor and needy people of whom the Lord says, “And they shall trust in the name of the Lord?” Certainly, when their earthly house is broken down, then so often they may say, “Oh, Lord, what will it be when the end comes?” Often they fear that their end will yet be an eternal disappointment.

But when Paul says “we” he speaks to those people who by moments may see that there will come an end to this earthly house, and that for them there is a building with God which is eternal in heaven—for it is not made with hands. Perhaps you say, but how do they live in this earthly house? What are their needs; what are their longings? What is the testimony of their life? Paul says that they groan earnestly. Thus those “we” he speaks about know of a special work which took place in this earthly house. Why is that? Because there is a spiritual work that is being wrought from heaven. Therefore, they are not a people who live as they were born—in total indifference. They are different from those “rejoicing” Christians of our day who can always believe, who never have any trouble with whether they are a part of God’s building.

No, the Lord says His people’s days of darkness are many, days when that earthly house is so tightly closed, days when, within that house there is so much fear for the day of death, days when they are concerned because their hearts have become so lukewarm. At such a time, heaven does not quicken and hell does not frighten them. Then again they are so self-satisfied; there is so much resting in the works of their hands, so much building upon past experience.

How necessary that the Lord again speaks of a building of Cod, a house not made with hands! So that in this earthly house they may groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with the house which is from heaven. Why do they groan? By the light from above, they come to know the darkness within. Come to see the filthiness of this house, its sinful corners, its rotten foundation. In this earthly house, they come to feel themselves more and more naked. Then they cry that they may be clothed. With what? Paul says, with our house which is from heaven. Then they groan that they may know God’s nearness again. Whether it may also be for them what the Lord Jesus has spoken, “In my Father’s house are many mansions and I go to prepare a place for you.”

Reader, when will your house be dissolved? Where will you spend eternity? Do you know the spiritual poverty of this earthly house? Do you bow in it many times seeking, desiring to be clothed upon? May you know we have a building with Cod, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. Remember, here the “we” are no more than groaners for they desire that eternal house.


When will your house be dissolved? Where will you spend eternity?


Rev. J. Den Hoed is pastor of the Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Rock Valley, Iowa.

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van zondag 1 mei 1988

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

Our Earthly House—This Tabernacle

Bekijk de hele uitgave van zondag 1 mei 1988

The Banner of Truth | 28 Pagina's

PDF Bekijken