If the reader will open his Bible to this fifth chapter of Second Corinthians, he will discover that Paul is dealing with three possible states. Let us classify his statements regarding them:
1. 'Our earthly house.' 'At home in the body.' 'Absent from the Lord.' This house can be 'dissolved.' 'In this we groan.'
2. 'Unclothed.' 'Naked.'
3. 'A building of God.' 'House not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.' 'Our house which is from heaven.' 'Clothed upon.' 'Present with the Lord.' 'Absent from the body.'
If the 'earthly house' means our present, mortal body, as all agree, then unless there is clear proof to the contrary, it would logically follow that our heavenly house is the immortal body. And thus be a process of elimination the 'unclothed,' 'naked' state can mean none other than that state of dissolution known as death.
We are assured of the desired third state because we have 'the earnest [pledge] of the Spirit.' Verse 5. But how will God's Spirit finally insure our reaching this desired state? Paul answers: 'If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.' Rom. 8:11.
The learned Dr. H. C. G. Moule well says: 'The same Spirit, who, by uniting us to Christ, made actual our redemption, shall surely, in ways to us unknown, carry the process to its glorious crown, and be somehow the efficient cause of 'the redemption of our Body.' ' - The Expositor's Bible, comment on Romans 8:11
Now, if the fulfilling to us of that pledge of the Spirit is the change that takes place in our mortal bodies at the resurrection, then we must conclude that the change to the third state, that of being 'clohted upon' with the heavenly house, comes at the resurrection, and consists of the change in our bodies from mortal to immortal.
Paul declares further: 'We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaleth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.' Rom. 8:22,23. The he is here dealing with the same problem as in 2 Corinthians 5, is evident:
Romans 8;22,23 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
'Groan within ourselves.' 'We groan.'
'First fruits of the Spirit.' 'Earnest of the Spirit.'
'Waiting for.' 'Earnestly desiring.'
'Redemption of our body.' 'Clothed upon' with heavenly house.
Thus we conclude again that the change from the 'earthly house' to the 'house which is from heaven' is an event that involves the 'redemption of our body,' which 'redemption,' all agree, occurs at the resurrection day. (See also Phil. 3:20,21.)
The apostle states that he longs to be 'clothed upon' with the heavenly house, 'that mortality might be swallowed up of life,' or, as the American Revised Version states, 'that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.' Verse 4. In other words, 'what is mortal' loses its mortality by this change.
According to the immortal-soul doctrine, 'what is mortal' is the body only, which at death dissolves in the grave; while the soul simply continues on in its immortal state, freed from the mortal body. But Paul longs to be 'clothed' with the heavenly house, 'that what is mortal bay be swallowed up of life.' Thus by their own tenets, the immortal-soul advocates must agree that Paul in this passage is not dealing with an experience that takes place at death. We might therefore close the discussion.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul declared: 'We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.' When? 'At the last trump.' And what will take place? 'The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.' And what will result from this? 'When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.' 1 Cor. 15:51-54. This last phrase parallels the language in 2 Corinthians 5: 'What is mortal [or subject to death] may be swallowed up of life.' The swallowing up of death, or mortality, is still a future event.
That Paul expected to be 'clothed upon' with the heavenly house at the resurrection day, is the certain conclusion from all his statements. Being 'present with the Lord' is contingent upon being 'clothed' with the heavenly house. Therefore the being 'present with the Lord' awaits the resurrection day. How beautifully this agrees with the apostle's statement to the Thessalonians, that at the resurrection we are caught up 'to meet the Lord,' and 'so shall we ever be with the Lord.' 1 Thess. 4:16,17
If it seems strange to some that Paul should speak of putting off one 'house' and putting on another when he meant simply the change in our bodies from mortal to immortal, we would remind them that he uses a similar figure of speech when describing the change that takes place in the heart at conversion. He declares that we should 'put off . . . the old man,' and 'put on the new man.' Eph. 4:22-24.
The fact that Paul coupled together the being freedom from the earthly house and the being clothed upon with the heavenly, does not prove that he expected an immediate transfer from one to the other. He makes specific reference to an 'unclothed,' a 'naked' state. On the question of immediate transfer, the reader is referred to the discussion of Philippians 1:21-23 in the preceding chapter.
With propriety might Paul 'groan' for the day when he could put off this mortal body, with all the evils suggests by it, and could put on, be 'clothed upon,' with the promised immortal body, in which body he would be ready 'to meet' and to 'ever be with the Lord.'