2 Corinthians 5:1–10
Do you remember your dreams? I mostly don’t, but I do have some dreams I remember.
There are some dreams that almost everyone has. Among the top ten is the falling dream. Then there is the flying dream. And the most common dream in the entire world is perhaps the being chased dream. Maybe you’ve had one of these dreams. There’s another dream you may have had that is among the most common dreams that people have.
This is the one where in your dream you are going about your normal routine. You are going to work, waiting for the bus, or just walking down a crowded street. It all seems normal until you suddenly realize that you are stark naked. Dreaming that you are completely or partially naked in public is very common.
Your reaction to being naked in public will partly depend on your culture, but in general when people have this dream they don’t feel good. They feel exposed, and vulnerable.
In ancient times, the Romans and Greeks enjoyed getting naked in public. They did sports naked and went to the baths together in the nude. The Hebrews, however, felt differently. For a Hebrew it was a most shameful and indeed sinful thing to expose your body. To be shamed is to be involuntarily stripped naked.
In 2 Samuel 10:4 we read this: “Hanun seized David’s ambassadors and shaved off half of each man’s beard, cut off their robes at the buttocks, and sent them back to David in shame.”
David was so angry that he sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. David made slaves of the people of Rabbah and forced them to labour with saws, iron picks, and iron axes, and to work in the brick kilns.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians that this dream, this nightmare of being naked, will come true. It will become your reality. One day we will wake up totally naked in front of Jesus. What will he see?
If you’ve watched any number of the movies that show heaven, you will have seen people wearing clothes and looking much like they looked on earth. Even the fashions and haircuts seems the same. That might not be the correct image. Paul says in verse four that we will be naked when we die. We will enter the next life like we entered this life – unclothed.
He says: “it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us.”
When you die, it’s not just your clothes that fall to the ground. It’s also the flesh that clothes you. At that moment you are standing in front of your relatives, your friends, and whomever without anything to cover your nakedness.
The worst part may be that you are standing before Jesus totally naked.
Everyone will see clearly all the stains on your soul that you had concealed beneath good deeds and polite conversation. That is truly naked. That is totally exposed.
Our illnesses and diseases can be a metaphor for sin. For example, a man can look very healthy and go about his daily business while he is dying of cancer. You cannot see that he has cancer, but beneath the surface it is killing him. Only when a doctor looks inside is the cancer discovered.
For many people it’s the same with sin. Sin is like an invisible disease of the blood. Sin is like leukaemia, perhaps. When the clothes you wear are stripped off, everyone will be able to see the extent of the disease that has infected your spirit. The moment you die, you can no longer hide your sin.
Of course there are symptoms to many diseases, from a runny nose to open sores. And Galatians 5:19 says there are symptoms of sin as well, such as “sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties.”
The Greeks thought in a similar way about the physical body. Plato said that death was merely the shedding of the body. He taught that the body was heavy and weighed down the soul, so getting rid of it was a good thing. Without a body to weigh it down, your soul would soar up to heaven from where it had come.
Paul agrees to some degree, before he points out how they are wrong. He is using language as Plato to speak to the Corinthians so they can understand. He talks about the groaning that accompanies life on earth.
Paul and the Hebrews disliked the image of nakedness. He says that the groaning is not a desire to be naked. It isn’t a longing to be bodiless.
No, Paul says. The groaning is actually a desire for a new body. He says, we want to put on our new bodies. We long to get out of this body so that we can put on a new body and be with the Lord. The purpose of the Christian life is not simply to die as quickly as possible to go to be with God. There is the important matter of sin to deal with first.
While you are still diseased, will God give you a new body? Paul says that after we have been stripped naked we will stand before God. Verse ten. At that moment we shall be judged by Christ. He will look at you standing naked in front of him. He will see clearly everything. And he will judge you for the life you lived while in your body.
In the future, Paul says in verse three, “we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.”
There is some debate about just when exactly this happens. How long will you be naked? I don’t know. I do know that is temporary. As this body shows more and more signs of decay, I join Paul in growing weary of wearing it. I’m looking forward to my new clothing.
As he says in verse two: “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.”
The first person to have this experience was Jesus, who freed us from our sins.
Revelation 1:5 says, “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us.”
There is no natural cure for the disease of sin. There is no natural way to wash your robes white and spotless. The only way is to be cured by doctor Jesus, the Messiah.
Paul says that doctor Jesus can cure your sin. When you stand naked in front of the judgement throne, there will be nothing dirty for you to be ashamed of.
We need Jesus. We need to trust him. We need to obey him. We need to develop our relationship with him. Because without knowing him and having a relationship with him, we cannot live for Jesus.
When you are naked on arrival in heaven, everyone will see with what motives you lived. All will see at once if you lived for yourself. Paul says the new life is for people who while in their body lived for Jesus. Turn to verse fifteen.
“He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.”
The cure for the disease of sin that stains your soul is to belong to Jesus. We need to belong to Jesus. Look at verse seventeen.
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
We are being cleansed and healed right now. There will be no shame for us.
This is no dream. This is reality for all who belong to Jesus.