Putting off the Body
II Peter 1:12-15
Peter wrote his second letter when he knew it was just a short period of time before his death. Therefore, II Peter serves as both a letter and also a last testament.
Peter uses a colloquial idiom to express his impending death. This is caught best using the Authorized King James version where it is described as “shortly I must put off this my tabernacle” (II Peter 1:14). Other versions use the word “tent” to describe this, but my preference is to use tabernacle.
Paul in II Corinthians 5:1-5 uses similar language when he likens death to putting off his body, rather than putting off his tabernacle or tent.
It is therefore possible to read these passages and understand that both Peter and Paul were thinking that they were near the end of their lives. Was it then possible that both Peter and Paul were thinking in terms of their souls surviving the distribution of their body. This is unlikely for a number of reasons. The New Testament is consistent in viewing the future hope of Christians after they die in terms of the resurrection. Paul, when he speaks of death, he does not speak of immortality but of resurrection (I Thessalonians 4:12-18; I Corinthians 15:12-56).
Interestingly enough Jesus while on earth made the same claim (John 11:1-44). He talks of death as a sleep from which we must be awoken in the resurrection (verses 11 and 13). Therefore, when the New Testament talks about death, it does so in terms of resurrection, not in the immortality of the sinful soul.
In the Hebrew Bible, it was the combination of spirit/breath and body that made up a human being. Genesis 2:7 reads; “And the LORD god formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (King James Version) or “Living Being” (New Revised Standard Version). God created the first human by first making a body, and then breathing into it the breath of life. Both body and spirit were required for human life to exist. Without one or the other, life ceases. As Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, at death, “then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and spirit (the breath of life, Genesis 2:7) shall return unto God who gave it.”
Within the New Testament there is no conception of a future life after death without the involvement of a body. Believers who have died will be resurrected with a body. Without a body, they have no existence.
Paul believed and taught the same for he wrote the to the church in Thessalonica, For the Lord Himself will descend from haven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).
This was one of the main reasons Christ came to die for us. Not only to save us from sin, but give us hope that upon his return, all that have died and believe in him would receive ever lasting life.
So, “Putting off the Body” really has two meanings. It means dying with Christ to self, and it also means that until Christ returns we are subject to physical death. When we die, we await Christ triumphant return, were the dead in Christ will rise again and will live with their Lord and our Lord forever. Amen