Be Confident of Your Heavenly Home
If you had the opportunity to speak at a funeral for a believer, and you didn’t know what to say, today’s passage would be a good place to start. When a believer dies, we can have confidence that he has gone to heaven and is enjoying his eternal rewards. Funerals/memorial services can actually be uplifting and encouraging when the deceased was a Christian. It’s a blessing to know what awaits us when we go “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
In the previous passage, Paul has been discussing “things which are not seen.” He asserted that those who suffer because of their service for God are earning for themselves an “eternal weight of glory.” And now in chapter 5, he assures us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (vs. 8). Chapter 5 is a continuation of what he was talking about at the end of chapter 4.
These unseen things—the hope of heaven and eternal rewards—are what keeps Paul from being discouraged and quitting. He perseveres in the ministry without losing heart because of these unseen realities.
Paul says we can “know” (vs. 1) certain things about our heavenly home; we can be confident about such things. And the main point he’s making here is that we’ll enjoy a glorious existence in heaven after we die.
Strictly speaking, what Paul is talking about here is the intermediate state. It’s “intermediate” in the sense that it’s after physical death but before the resurrection. The resurrection happens when Jesus returns—the dead in Christ will rise. After that, we’ll have a resurrection body, and we’ll have that body for all eternity. But what about before the resurrection? What will be our condition after death and before Christ’s return? That’s what Paul is talking about here.
One other thing to note before we get into the text: Some might complain that the study of these “unseen things”—heaven and our future experience there—has no practical value for today; it doesn’t really change the way we live here and now. But that is exactly wrong. Knowing these things does change how we live here and now. We can handle our “light afflictions” (4:17) now because we know the future state of our souls. Even if serving God results in death, faithful service for Christ and his church is still worth it. We can persevere here and now because we have an eternal mindset. Confidence about eternity helps us face the trials and afflictions of today.
Paul tells us several things about what happens immediately upon death for the Christian. We should both know these things and be confident about them. These truths should give us strength to persevere in serving God in spite of difficulties.
What if serving God costs us our lives? What if it results in our deaths?