Kurt Simmons’ Exposition of 2 Corinthians 5
We will make some brief comments to Kurt’s position as found on his website. I’ve tried to keep his quotes in tact, but if I have failed in that case, you may visit his website.
These are also posted on Facebook. 2 Corinthians 5:1 – “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.”
“Our earthly house of this tabernacle” is the earthen vessel or physical body of the believer. Peter makes this abundantly clear when he says “I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me” (II Pet. 1:13, 14). Peter’s reference is to his impending martyrdom, which Jesus foretold many years before (John 21:18).
This one verse shows that the reference is not a mystical body of believers looking for the dissolution of a corporate “body of death” under the Mosaic law. Nay, rather, the context established in chapter four makes conclusive that the dissolution of the body in view is the apostle’s own body; Paul says that death of the physical body is of little moment to the Christian because he has another house, another body eternal in heaven. Use of the plural pronoun “our” with the singular “earthly house” should not mislead us; it is merely an idiom of speech, not a mystical allusion to the body of believers.
Kurt has made a gigantic leap from the context to find one passage that gives a false hope of exegetical relief. However, he also had to make a passing statement concerning the plural versus the singular used in the text. We will comment on that later.
Paul’s earthly versus heavenly house motif is much more expansive than the human body. Consider the following. 1. The human body is never said to be a house made with [man’s] hands.
Kurt must demonstrate how man made the human body. Every time we see that phrase it always refers to places of worship, or man made temples. (Mark 14:58; Acts 7:48; 17:24). See my article, “A House Not Made With Hands” Primarily in context, it refers to the temple or “house” of Israel. This is set in contrast over against the “house not made with hands,” i.e. the “kingdom of God” or the church (spiritual body) of Christ.
It is Christ himself and the Father who are the true temple in which we worship, (John 4:24; Rev. 21:22).
In addition, Hebrews 9:1 speaks of the earthly or worldly sanctuary, which is contrasted with “the good things about to come” which relates to Christ’s heavenly priesthood and the “greater and more perfect tabernacle.” Observe the phrase, “not made with hands” which describes the greater and more perfect tabernacle, which is the building which comes down out of heaven.
The elliptical phrase is used of the Old heaven and earth versus the kingdom, (Heb. 12:27-28, Dan. 2:45). It is contrasted with the tabernacle of “this creation”. That’s why Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5, speaks of being in Christ as being part of the “new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
The new creation stands opposite to the old earthly house creation. Is Peter, the antithesis of the new creation? Perhaps we have a new twist on Catholicism here!
Kurt Applies The Groaning to Individual Believer Trials
2. II Corinthians 5:2-4 – “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 life. All believers, burdened with the trials of earthly life, groan, earnestly desiring to depart and be with Christ in heaven. The motions of sin in our members make our very habitation here a burden, endlessly wrestling against the sins of the flesh. Paul exclaimed elsewhere “who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). However, it is not enough merely to put off the body in death, for that would leave the soul or spirit “naked” and without a body. Rather, Paul says our hope is to be further clothed upon with a body suited to eternal life in heaven.”
Reply: Kurt ignores the exodus motif of the text which depicts the Old Covenant of bondage as the source of groaning. This of course is written from a Jewish perspective which is why Paul prefaces his statement, “For we who are in this tabernacle groan.” Contrary to Kurt, everyone was not in that tabernacle.
Paul previously explained that point in chapter 4:10-12, saying that they [Jewish believers] always carried about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus in order that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. Note again his focus. For “we” who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Now observe the next verse. So then death works in “us” (that is Paul’s “we”) which contrasts with, “but life works in ‘you'”. The life of Jesus is “resurrection life” of the New Covenant age. Paul wanted that life to be fully “manifested” in his “mortal flesh” just as the life of Moses body was manifested in his “mortal flesh”, only with greater results. He was not asking to be delivered from his earthly body.
He wanted the “life of Christ” i.e. the resurrection to be manifested in his body. That is not an acceptable desire for Kurt’s resurrection motif. He must have the “life of Christ” totally manifested without Paul’s “mortal flesh”, a desire and position totally opposite, i.e. a 180 degree turn from that of the Apostle.
Paul was involved in a dying process to Judaism, but Gentiles who were not a part of that Old Covenant temple system were not dying to it. They were coming to life in Christ apart from the Law. Yes, Judaizers tried to impose the Law upon them, but Peter, James and the Elders settled that matter in Jerusalem that they were not to put such a yoke upon the Gentiles. See Acts 15.
Continuing, I don’t know many Christians who are eager to die and go to heaven. The song says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” The lyricist probably had a much better grasp of eschatological transformation than our good friend Kurt. Paul said he had a “desire to depart and be with Christ but to remain in the flesh was more needful, Phil. 1:23. As much as I want to pass on to the next realm, I want to stay here as long as I can render service to advance the body of Christ on earth.
A resurrection doctrine that teaches physical death as the solution to physical life sounds like a Jim Jones doctrine. It’s a cup of poison I choose not to drink. For Kurt, who takes this as an individual body of all Christians, how can we all not be “dying” in such scenario? How could death be working in one group while life works in the other?
Kurt didn’t touch that verse. Why not? Isn’t it a part of the context? Doesn’t it apply directly to the resurrection arguments contained within the context? It is for this reason that he misses Paul’s entire point on resurrection and the groaning in the earthly tabernacle or house.
This language is taken from the Exodus, when Israel groaned under the burdens of Pharaoh desiring deliverance from that bondage. God styles life under Moses covenant as bondage, a bondage that strengthened the already humanly inescapable bondage of sin and death, (Rom. 5:20-21, Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 15:56-57).
Christ, in the gospels, and Paul and John in their writings depict the Old Covenant system as Egypt or bondage. See John 8:31-33; Rom. 8:21-23; Gal. 4:21-26; Rev. 11:8. It corresponds to the eschatological sufferings of that present time. Compare with Romans 8:18-22. But, when one argues the law was completely removed at the cross, it is impossible to see any other picture even though it is right in front of one’s eyes.
We ask Kurt, who are the “we” today in whom death is working and who are the “you” today in whom life is working?
Kurt’s Exegesis of Righteousness 2 Corinthians 5:3
3. Kurt makes an excellent exegesis of the righteousness with which one is clothed, then he throws the clothing out, as if worthless. We believe we know why. Once Kurt admits that the righteousness of the believers is the resurrection clothing, he gives up his “non-justification” position of resurrection.
“There is language here that can be confusing and should be addressed. Disobedience rendered Adam and Eve spiritually naked; obedience clothes us with righteousness. John speaks of the believer’s righteousness as a garment that covers the shame of his nakedness, allowing him to stand before God.
“Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15). This metaphor is fairly common in scripture (cf. Jude 24; Rev. 3:4, 17; 6:11; 19:8), and speaks to the believer’s obedience, purity, and perseverance, which, like a garment, covers the transgressions of the flesh. That is not Paul’s meaning here. Paul is not describing the garment of righteousness that clothes the believer. The context is the apostles’ persecutions “as men delivered unto death,” and the assurance that, as God raised up Jesus, so he would raise them up also, and present them with other believers in heaven (II Corinthians 4:7-14).”
Reply: First, it is important to point out that the righteousness of believers is not their own individual earned righteousness. Paul said, he wanted to be found in Christ, not having “his own righteousness” which was of the Law, but that which was through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith. (Phil. 3:9-10).
The righteousness with which believers are clothed is Christ himself. That is why the Bible speaks of “putting on Christ.” He, is the believers’ righteousness. He alone is our clothing. He is from heaven! Jeremiah prophesied that God would raise up to David a Branch of righteousness who would execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. The name by which he would be called is “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-16)
The larger context is the transformation from the Old Covenant to the New (Jer. 31:31-34, the same as found in 2 Corinthians 3-5).
In addition, the clothing motif is taken from Ezekiel 16, where God speaks of Israel before he entered a marriage covenant with her as “naked and bare”. God then states the following: “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread my wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you and you became Mine, ” say the Lord God. Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood and I anointed you with oil. ‘I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk’…”Ezk. 16:7-13.
It should not be difficult to observe from this text that God’s covenant relationship with Israel is likened to the intimacy of the marriage bed. The covering of nakedness had nothing to do with the “dying of a physical body” but it had everything to do with God’s promises to Israel and his covenant with her. The clothing in the context is the tabernacle, alluded to in the badger skins, fine linen etc. That is Paul’s motif and context in 2 Corinthians 5. It shows that the clothing the nakedness are “covenantal” terms not biological.
Thus, Paul’s desire was not to be “unclothed” i.e. without a covenant with God once the Old Covenant clothing was worn out and folded up as a vesture and changed. He wanted to be clothed with the house from heaven which was Christ. It was an already but not yet progressive realization of the the goal or hope (2 Cor. 3:11-12, 18).
Note also how Kurt adds the words “in heaven” to the text of 2 Corinthians 4:7-14, when he says, “He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you, [in heaven]. Those words are not in the text. First, they contradict what Paul said in verse 11. If the “life of Jesus” would be manifested in their “mortal flesh” how does “mortal flesh” get to heaven?
If Kurt argues that the “life of Jesus” is the life of the gospel, then why was Paul dying that such life “may be manifested”? How could Paul’s physical death manifest the life of Jesus in his “mortal flesh” when he is no longer in His mortal flesh?
II Corinthians 5:2-4 – “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 life.”
Kurt’s Dichotomy on Eschatological Change of the Living
4. Kurt argues that eschatological change is not found in the context. Then he argues for eschatological change!
“Moreover, the eschatological change is not in view either. In I Cor. 15:54, Paul speaks about death being swallowed up in victory. For the dead in Hades this meant the reception of eternal life in heaven; for believers alive at Christ’s return, the mystery of the eschatological change meant they would receive juridical life; viz., adoption and sonship by which they were deemed putative heirs of eternal life.
Elsewhere this is described as the marriage of the Lamb and bride, and speaks to the covenantal union of Christ and the church by which the latter was washed and made pure without “spot, or blemish, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27).
The one was actual and spatial, consisting in removal from Hades to heaven; the other legal and soteriological, consisting in justification by the blood of Christ.
But that is not the context here; here Paul is not speaking about the living saints and the eschatological change. The context is the death of the physical body, the dissolution of the outward man, and the resurrection of the spirit to eternal life.”
Kurt says resurrection is the dead exclusively being raised out of Hades to eternal life. Then he says for believers who remained alive until Christ returned, that the mystery of “eschatological change” meant they would receive “juridical life; viz., adoption and sonship by which they were deemed putative heirs of eternal life!”
What does this mean? First, consider that the saints were already heirs of eternal life for the receiving of the inheritance, (Matt. 25:34; 1 Cor. 15:50)?
Secondly, note Kurts confusion and contradiction: “Moreover, the eschatological change is not in view either.” Now compare that statement with this; “for believers alive at Christ’s return, the mystery of the eschatological change meant they would receive juridical life…” So which is it, eschatological change or “no eschatological change?”
Thirdly, Kurt says the believers receive “juridical life, adoption and sonship at Christ’s return. This is the man who writes that he repudiates all things Max King. He adopts King’s view in trying to refute it! He is forced to adopt a spiritual view of resurrection in 70AD, because he limits resurrection exclusively to the dead in Hades.
Since he can’t get the believers to Hades without their physical death and since he can’t force himself to admit they have the immortal body and eternal life while yet physically alive in this life, i.e. while in their “mortal flesh” he is forced to give them more of what they already have, legal, juridical life by denying them of what they were promised in the gospel!?!
Kurt defines legal, juridical life as follows:
“We thus pass from a condition of legal and juridical condemnation and death, to one of justification and life by the obedience of faith and power of Christ’s cross.” “The Sword and The Plow, “The General Resurrection and The Book of Daniel, Vol. XII, No. 9, Oct. 2009, p. 2). But wait, there’s more.
Fourthly, Kurt says they receive adoption and sonship! Adoption is resurrection! It is the redemption of the body. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves grown within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Rom. 8:23). If the saints received the adoption as the “mystery” of eschatological change, why are they yet hoping for what they already have, (Rom. 8:24-25)?
The adoption belonged to Israel, their covenant and their promises. Kurt gives up his entire resurrection affirmative on a silver platter. That is why they were heirs! That is their release from the bondage of corruption! This is a death blow to the individual body at death view he advocates! He also said it was the “covenantal union”. What does that mean if not covenant eschatology?
So much for repudiating all things Max King! Kurt’s doctrine recants his repudiation of Max King, per his debate with Don Preston (End of Torah, p. 16). Kurt’s doctrine embraces Max King’s view in “The Cross and The Parousia”, that the resurrection is justification from sin-death. Kurt has an already but not yet for sin-death of believers who were yet alive at the Parousia.
Kurt’s doctrine refutes his own proposition he wanted to affirm a debate with me.
“Resolved: The general, eschatological resurrection occurred solely in the realm of the spirit, and consisted in the release of the spirits of the departed dead from Hades unto their respective eternal rewards in Heaven or Hell (Gehenna). No part of the eschatological resurrection involved living saints on earth or their receipt of justification from sin.
Affirm: Kurt Simmons
Deny: William Bell”
Take a look at that last sentence. “No part of the eschatological resurrection involved living saints on earth or their receipt of justification from sin.
Now compare with the above. “...for believers alive at Christ’s return, the mystery of the eschatological change meant they would receive juridical life; viz., adoption and sonship by which they were deemed putative heirs of eternal life.
Elsewhere this is described as the marriage of the Lamb and bride, and speaks to the covenantal union of Christ and the church by which the latter was washed and made pure without “spot, or blemish, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). The one was actual and spatial, consisting in removal from Hades to heaven; the other legal and soteriological, consisting in justification by the blood of Christ” (emp. mine).
What were the saints heirs to in 70AD that they were not already heirs to in 30 AD? Nothing! Do you know what else this means? It means Kurt was going to debate himself in our debate. I was going to merely sit back and see who won, the Kurt who says eschatological resurrection has nothing to do with justification from sin, versus the Kurt who says, the eschatological resurrection is legal, and juridical, and covenantal, i.e. justification from sin.
Now read a quote from Max King and compare with Kurt’s analysis of 2 Corinthians 5: “For Paul, death is abolished when the state of sin and the law are abolished. And in this pattern of argumentation, the state of sin, the law, and consequently death are abolished when the Old Covenant aeon is consummated, giving place to the New Covenant aeon of life and righteousness.“Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia, p. 644.
At Home In the Body
5. II Corinthians 5:5-8 – “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing [is] God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 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.”
On this text Kurt writes: This passage dispels entirely the notion that the corporate body of believers is in view. At home in the earthly tabernacle of the physical body is to be absent from the Lord in heaven; but to be absent from the physical body is to be present with the Lord above.
This is every true believer’s ultimate hope: the time when the sorrows and troubles of earthly life are laid aside and we hear those words “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21, 23).
Once again, Kurt misses the meaning of the text. The “body” in the passage stands over against the Lord. Here, body is to the Lord, as earthly tabernacle is to the heavenly tabernacle in verse 1.
To be in the earthly tabernacle/body is to be absent from the heavenly tabernacle/Lord. While Paul and his “we”were in the “not yet dissolved” body meaning they were in process of dying to it, they were absent, meaning not fully present with the Lord. The evidence was the presence of the Holy Spirit, who was given in the absence of Christ, John 16:7.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” This can only mean that as long as the Helper is present, Christ could not return and therefore remained absent until the completion of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in consummating the eschatological transformation from the ministration of death to the ministration of righteousness, (2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 5:5).
Not until the Holy Spirit’s ministry was complete would they be “face to face” i.e. present with Christ. Face to face presence arrived when miracles gave way to the perfection in Christ, 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:7-8; Rev. 22:4.
Labouring Present or Absent
6. II Cor. 5:9, 10 – “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 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.”
Reply: First, Paul’s reference to present or absent is spoken of in relation to the body. Present in the body = absent from the Lord, while absent from the body = present with the Lord.
Secondly, note how Kurt imposes the word “his” body, to lend weight to his individual body premise. It is not there. The Greek reads, “dia tou somatos” in or through “the” body, not “his” body.
Pauls’ statement, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, is argued from a Jewish perspective. It is a quote from Isaiah 45:23, and compares with Romans 14:10-12. This demonstrates that the judgment is in fulfillment of the law and the prophets, the source of Paul’s gospel and eschatology, (Acts 24:14-15; 26:22-23).
More particularly note Peter’s words. “For the time has come for [the] judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins ‘with us first’ what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17) Peter’s “us first” corresponds to Paul’s “Jew first” of Romans 2:6-10.
“Who will render to each one according to his deeds…tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Thus, it is clear that God was working judgment in the Jews with a priority over the Gentiles though the latter was not to be excluded. The statement of Romans 2:6, “who will render to each one according to his deeds” is applied first to the Jews, who would receive judgment according to the deeds done in the “body of Moses” i.e. the earthly house or tabernacle.
Kurt rejects this and attempts to make the text speak of man’s physical body. (Time and space does not allow us to write a full refutation of the individual body view. We will address Tom Case’s exegesis in a future writing.)
“Here we encounter the singular “body” but the context makes impossible any interpretation other than the individual’s physical body, inhabited during earthly life. Each of us is judged for the things done in his or her own body; where we spend eternity will be decided by our faith and obedience, including works of charity toward our fellowman and labor in the gospel of Christ.”
He abandons the corporate view of Paul. Paul says that each one may receive the things done in “the body” not in each one’s own body, but “the body.” That is a singular corporate collective body. It is argued from a Jewish point of view, i.e. Old Covenant earthly tabernacle. That is why Jews were “dying to it’ but Gentiles were not. “Death works is us, but life in you.
Physical death works in everyone, thus it is not the context of 2 Corinthians 4 or 2 Corinthians 5 in Paul’s resurrection motif. It is the body where sin and death worked through law. It is the body of Moses the Old Covenant tabernacle and earthly house made with hands, which stood over against the heavenly house, or tabernacle of God, not made with hands out of the heavens.
That is why Paul and Jewish believers were “dying” to it, and why Gentiles were not. However, it came down from heaven to be with men, (Revelation 21:1-3). Kurt’s individual human or biological body is thus refuted by the context and by his own contradictions.
Kurt’s Conclusion on 2 Corinthians 4-5, Denial of What He Affirms
II Corinthians 4:1-5:1-10 turns upon the promise of individual resurrection of the believer. This assurance sustained the apostles as “men appointed to death” in their ministries and lives of self-sacrifice.
The idea of a covenantal resurrection (justification) of the corporate church is nowhere present in the text. Compare Kurt’s conclusion with what he wrote above.
If the mystery of eschatological change is legal, juridical which he defines as justification and life by obedience to Christ, and if this is the adoption, and sonship by virtue of entering the covenant, then by Kurt’s own admission justification and covenant are in the context.
And since 2 Corinthians 5, is 1 Corinthians 15, Kurt must agree that Covenantal resurrection of justification from sin is taught in 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5.