Writing is something I rarely have time for, but a JW apologist argued in the comment section of a pretty old article against my position. Since I don’t think i’ve ever said much on this text, I decided to take the opportunity to do so. The article is over 8 years old and I didn’t want my response to Rotherham (the JW apologist) to go unnoticed since it did take a good amount of time to write.
You may want to read Rotherham’s comment (linked above) to get some context, but it’s pretty well represented throughout my response. Basically, i’m just reposting here what I posted in the comment so more people will see it:
Let’s just take this one point at a time, starting with your first argument. It looks like you see the best way of making your case is to appeal to texts which you interpret to mean that at least some Christians will spend eternity in heaven. When it comes to 2 Cor. 5, you are apparently drawing out several primary points to try and refute my view:
1) This text cannot be applied to all Christians, but only to some (144K)
2) These ones will spend eternity in heaven
3) They will not have physical bodies
I’m not going to get exhaustive in my exegesis here. I assume you don’t know how I would interpret this passage, so i’ll give some basic outlines and do some interactions with your points. We can get into lexical sources and all that if needed in the next round if you’d like.
“For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down…” – This is just referring to physical death. I think we’d agree on that. But I don’t think this physical body is never to be seen again (though it will be changed dramatically). More on that below.
“…we have a building from God…” – notice this is in the present tense. This “building” (i.e. body) exists now and Paul believes he has some kind of ownership of it. You say that it’s “not the tent we formerly lived in.” In a sense, I agree. It would be nonsensical for Paul to talk about a body currently existing in heaven that is the same as the one he currently lives in. So of course Paul wouldn’t receive “from heaven” the tent he formerly lived in, because he’s already living in it. Something is being added to it. You also argue that this new body/tent is “completely different.” Ok, but completely different in what kind of way? In that it’s eternal? Sure, I agree!
“…a house not made with hands…” – Heb. 9:11 actually gives us a meaning of this, “not of this creation.” You say that the human body is to be “put off.” Where does the text say that? I agree that it’s “not of human origin” in the sense that it’s not of “this creation” as Heb. 9:11 defines the phrase. But that doesn’t mean that when Paul is resurrected, he somehow becomes a non-physical spirit being. You are reading too much into the text and adding things that aren’t there.
…”eternal in the heavens.” – This is an eternal body that is currently being held by God in heaven. But notice the next verse, because Paul describes the body as being received “from heaven, ” not “in heaven.” It looks like you want to say that the new building is “eternally in heaven.” But that’s not what the text says. It speaks of the nature of this tent (eternal) and its source/origin (heaven).
“For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.” – Why is Paul speaking of being “clothed” and “putting on” this new body? You don’t “put on” something if there’s nothing to put it on over (in your view, Paul ceased to exist when he died, right?). It makes far more sense to view this in terms of Paul’s present-tense, perishable and mortal body “putting on/clothed” a new tent that makes him immortal. And yes, this body comes “from heaven” as the text clearly states. Check out other uses of the phrase, “from heaven” in the Christian Scriptures. What do you find? Usually (or perhaps always), a locational transfer of something.
“For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” – Whatever it is that “clothes” us, it does something to what is currently there to make it immortal. In your view, there could be no “me” that gets “clothed” with anything. Why? Because the “me” (i.e. my body) goes away, never to return again. Then, a new creation would happen with this new spirit being is made that identifies as “me” again. But this is a little awkward because this tent already exists in heaven. In other words, you have a big problem in the transfer of identity. (i’m using “me” as a hypothetical since you probably don’t think i’m one of the anointed).
So, you are missing some extremely important features that must be in the text for your view to work. Nowhere does Paul clarify or even hint at the fact that all Christians shouldn’t see this as applying to them. Seems odd that Paul wouldn’t clarify that, since most Christians wouldn’t be able to relate to the text (i.e. everyone living after 1935). Secondly, you have a locational problem since Paul doesn’t explicitly tell us that this new body would be eternally located in heaven. Third, Paul doesn’t even hint that he’s talking about anything other than a real, physical, bodily existence for all eternity, since Paul (i.e. in his physical body) “puts on/clothed” with this immortal tent. Granted, he doesn’t specify earth either. But that’s because he isn’t concerned with location here; rather, he’s more concerned with the nature of the resurrection body.