Mortality Swallowed Up of Life

by Pastor Cornelius R. Stam

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“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
“For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
“If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
“For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of [by] life.
“Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
—II Cor. 5:1-5


Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, a widely recognized dispensational Bible teacher, has taught in his 8-volume Systematic Theology, that each believer who dies will be provided with an intermediate body between his death and his resurrection. Dr. Chafer’s Theology declares that “apart from the divine provision of an intermediate body, the believer’s desire that he should not be unclothed or bodiless, could not be satisfied (Systematic Theology, Vol. IV, P. 415).

Due to the well-deserved respect Dr. Chafer has earned among dispensational believers, his theory has become rather widely accepted among the members of the so-called “Grace Movement.” For this reason we explain why we believe that this is not what this passage teaches, for this interpretation creates too many insurmountable problems.

1. If there truly were two “houses from heaven” prepared for the deceased believer, one an “intermediate” house and the other an “eternal” one, Verse 2 would have been the place to say so. But nothing is said to even imply this. We long to be clothed upon with our “house” (singular) which is from heaven, i.e., our resurrection body.

2. The present dwelling place of the believer’s soul and spirit is here called a “tabernacle,” or tent, indicating that we may “pull up stakes and move” at any time, while the “house” the apostle refers to is said to be “eternal,”1 evidently referring to our resurrection body as compared with our present body, which is indeed temporary.

3. A tent itself is a temporary affair. The Bedouins and Arabs of the nomadic desert tribes live in tents, wandering from place to place, while those more permanently fixed live in houses. Thus Paul calls our present body a “tabernacle,” or tent, in which we live temporarily, while “earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (Vers. 1,2).

The body in which “the inner man” now resides is fragile, perishing, often a burden and a temptation, for since the fall it has not been conducive to spiritual living. But the new and glorified body will be forever free from any tendency toward sin, sorrow or death.


It is clear that the apostle longed, not for death, but for the Rapture of believers, when “mortality” will be “swallowed up of life,” an event which he deemed to be near at hand (Ver. 4 cf. I Cor. 15:54-57).

The Scriptures consistently teach that there is an inward man and an outward man, though we should know this from observation and experience. The body is only the house in which the true man, the inner man, lives.

Stop and think a moment. These eyes of yours do not actually see. It is you, inside, who sees through them. One moment after a man has died, his eyes are still in perfect condition, but they see nothing. The man himself, the spirit and the soul, who saw through them, “the inner man,” has left the body, and the eyes have been left behind as the lens of a camera or the windows in a house; they never saw anything. It was the camera itself, or the tenant of the house, who had seen through them. Our eyes and ears are but physical instruments to make possible our seeing and hearing.

The apostle, recognizing the above distinction, declares that his persecutions have not caused him to faint, for while “the outward man” indeed “perishes,” “the inward man is renewed day by day.”

We know by Scripture, observation and experience, that “the outward man” does indeed perish. While Adam was enjoying the beauty of the Garden of Eden, God warned him about eating of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” “For,” said He, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

And in that day Adam indeed became a dying creature, and by him “sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom. 5:12).

Thus, as far as the outward man is concerned, all men everywhere: rich as well as poor, educated as well as illiterate, the mighty ruler as well as the poor slave: all are perishing creatures.

Despite the constant battles to keep the body alive; despite all the efforts of medical science, and of the nutritional experts—and of those who claim to have gifts of healing, the death rate still remains at one per person with few indeed living to be even 100 years of age. Despite all the surgery and all the pills and medicines, and all the vitamins and natural foods, men still continue to die.

So it is clear that “this [present] tabernacle” may be “dissolved,” in which case the “inner man” would leave the body and go to be with Christ. But there is an important truth about this eventuality that Dr. Chafer seems to have missed. Time is not a factor where heaven and heavenly things are concerned. Thus the apostle says in Ver. 4:

“We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed [disembodied], but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life”
(II Cor. 5:4).

The apostle was not longing for death and the dissolution of his body; he groaned and longed for the Lord to give him his new, glorified body. But Paul who said, “to die is gain” knew that if his tent body2 were dissolved he would be going to meet the blessed One who had a new, glorified body for him, “mortality swallowed up of life“: Christ’s life. And this, not after many years, for there are no years in heaven. Indeed, the fact that Paul longed, not to go to be with Christ in a disembodied state, but to go to Christ to receive a glorified body, is evident from his words in Romans 8:22,23:

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

Mark well, “even we ourselves groan…and wait,” for what? for death and disembodiment? No! for “the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

And this new, glorified body will not be “made with hands,” i.e., a human product, like the tents Paul toiled day after day to make. It will be a divine creation, “eternal in the heavens.”

So we are destined for glory, Christian friend, glory greater than the highest archangel will ever know. Let us then press forward, if “groaning,” also “longing” for the wonderful things promised to us in His Word.

“…if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17).

Once we see that time is not a factor in heaven, that there all is an eternal present, II Corinthians 5:1,2,3 and 4 all become clear. The “building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (Ver. 1): a temporary intermediate body? Hardly. It is the believer’s everlasting, glorified body (Phil. 3:21). “We groan” and “earnestly desire”—a temporary, intermediate body (Ver. 2)? Is this the believer’s hope? Never! We desire to be clothed upon “with our house which is from heaven,” to be changed into the likeness of Christ, now glorified at the Father’s right hand.

Thus “being clothed we shall not be found naked” [i.e., disembodied] (Ver. 3). Will we be “clothed” only with a temporary, intermediate body? No such thing is even hinted at here. He still refers to the eternal “house which is from heaven.” And in Ver. 4 the apostle was obviously not longing for death and the dissolution of his physical body; he “groaned” and was “burdened,” earnestly longing for his new glorified body, “that mortality might be swallowed up of life“—Christ’s life.

An important passage in I Corinthians 15 confirms all this since it is almost universally agreed that I Corinthians 15 is the great resurrection chapter and that not until the rapture will we receive our glorified bodies.

I Corinthians 15:54 deals with the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living saints. Concerning the dead in Christ he says:

“…this corruptible shall have put on incorruption.”

But referring to the living saints, he says:

“And this mortal shall have put on immortality.”

Note this carefully: “This mortal” refers, not to the dead, but to those who are “apt to die,” as all living saints are. And when shall these receive their glorified bodies? Immediately! They will go immediately from mortality to immortality, though some of the dead in Christ will have been “with Him” for many years: Paul and his comrades for almost two millenniums of time on earth.

Nothing is said about the dead having lived meantime in temporary intermediate bodies, nor is any explanation given as to why the living saints would not need such bodies. Indeed nothing whatever is said or even implied about any temporary intermediate body. Appropriately so, for nothing is said anywhere in Paul’s epistles about any temporary intermediate body for members of the Body of Christ. This doctrine rose from a mere conjecture meant to answer what seemed to be an insurmountable problem. What Paul does say, so appropriately, and by inspiration of God is:

“Behold, I show you a mystery;5 We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed” (I Cor. 15:51).


“Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit” (II Cor. 5:5).

Verse 5 is indeed the grand climax of this section of II Corinthians. The word “wrought” here (Gr. katergazomai) has the sense of working out, as in Philippians 2:12, “work out your own salvation” (i.e., from strife and its results). It has the idea of bringing about, developing, or preparing. This is a common usage of the English word “wrought” even today. And surely God has not “wrought” us for some temporal secondary blessing. No, He “hath wrought us for this self-same thing”: to be glorified with Christ, with a body “fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). There is no place here or in the preceding verses for a temporary, intermediate body. But this word katergazomai is used throughout Paul’s epistles of that which God is bringing about for and in the members of the Body of Christ.


To assure us of this glory to come, God has “given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.” It is most important to bear in mind that an “earnest” is not a sample. Rather it shows that the buyer is in earnest. Consistently it refers to a down payment, the firstfruits, a pledge. It is a first payment (on the principal), a pledge that the purchaser truly means to acquire the whole. The “firstfruits” in Israel were that part of the whole crop which ripened first, thus a pledge that the rest of the crop would follow. In no case is an earnest something like the thing purchased; in every case it is part of it: the down payment.

Now to assure us that He has wrought us for this very thing (i.e., the eternal glory to come), God has given us the “earnest of the Spirit.” The Spirit does not yet have all of us but, thank God, we have all of Him, to help and enlighten in times of need. Ephesians 1:14 declares that the Spirit:

“…is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”

Romans 8:22,23 states that not only does “the whole creation” groan and travail in pain,

“but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”

Finally, II Corinthians 1:22 states that God has

“sealed us, and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

Ah, but when the entire man is redeemed, not only the spirit and the soul, but also the body, then the Holy Spirit will have full possession of us, and we will wholly and joyfully fulfill God’s will for us. Hallelujah!


“Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.

“(For we walk by faith, not by sight):

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

“Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him” (II Cor. 5:6-9).

We have shown that II Corinthians 5:1-5, and indeed Paul’s epistles as a whole speak, not of three physical bodies for the believer but of two.

The one has to do with this life; the other with the life to come (II Cor. 5:1).

The one Paul calls a tent, the other a building (II Cor. 5:1).

The one is earthy, the other from heaven (II Cor. 5:2).

The one is temporary, the other eternal (II Cor. 5:1).

The one is corruptible, the other incorruptible (cf., I Cor. 15:54).

The one is called vile and humiliating, the other glorious, like Christ’s glorious body (cf. Phil. 3:21).

In the one we groan, in the other—forever blessed (II Cor. 5:4).

We have seen, too, that time is not a factor in eternity, so that Paul did not long for disembodiment at death, or for a temporal, intermediate body between death and resurrection. He longed to be with Christ, that mortality might be swallowed up of life and that he might receive his “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1,4).

Now it is in view of this promised coming glory that the apostle declares, “Therefore, we are always confident” (Ver. 6).

“We are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight:)” (Vers. 6,7).

Our glorious position with Christ in the heavenlies and all of our “all spiritual blessings” there, are enjoyed by faith, not by sight. Indeed, there is nothing for sight in our present situation, for “the things which are seen are temporal” (4:18), but there is much, so much, for faith, for by faith “we look…at the things which are not seen” and these are “eternal” (ibid).

But this present situation is not the best; it is future, not present; we enjoy it only by faith. Thus the apostle says:

“We are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present [Lit., at home] with the Lord” (Ver. 8).

Note carefully that there is nothing here about a temporary, intermediate body, only about going home to be “with Christ.”

The apostle expresses his feelings about this matter beautifully in Philippians 1:23,24, where he says:

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better [Lit., “better by far”];

“Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”

He was “in a spot” between two: his deep longing to be with Christ and his responsibility to minister to the saints.

“Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him” (Ver. 9).

Why this? Absent from Christ, as we are, we are still “accepted in the Beloved” as far as our position is concerned (Eph. 1:6). Thus, when we have gone to be with Christ, finally without sin, will we not be “accepted of Him”? Ah, the reason why Paul strove—and why we should strive—to be “accepted of Him” whether present or absent, is explained in the next verse.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (Ver. 10).

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