"...., we are to have a
building from God, a house not made with hands....."-2
New World Translation
The English translation "are to have" is of the Greek EXOMEN which is the present indicative active of EXW "to have, to possess." The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures(WTB&TS 1985)gives the basic meaning underneath EXOMEN as "we are having." Why then, it may be asked, if the Greek is in the present tense the New World Translation has translated it with an English future tense?
First of all it is not unusual for a Bible translation to translate what is a word in the present tense in the Greek with an English future tense(English has, properly, two tenses, past and present and will use auxillary words to express the future). For example, Matthew 26.2 where the Greek reads, word-for-word: "and the Son of-the man is-being-given-over into the be-put-upon-the-stake." The words highlighted in green is from the Greek word PARADIDOTAI which is the present indicative passive of PARADIDWMI "to deliver over, to betray." The New Revised Standard Version reads here: "...and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."(italics ours) Here the Greek present "is being given over" has been translated as a future event with "will be handed over." Why is this? Simply because as The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament informs us: "Pres[ent] is used to refer to the certainty of the future event..." When we look at 2 Corinthians 5.1 under the word EXOMEN we read similarly in this same publication: "For the pres[ent] with the meaning "to possess s. [James Hope] M[oulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek: Prologemena. Vol.1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1957]."-italics ours
This kind of present tense in Greek is called the Futuristic Present. It is used by the New Testament writers when they wished to make a confident statement about a future event, and, in many cases, will be translated with an English future tense. It appears that the NWT Translation Committee took EXOMEN at 2 Cor.5.1 as a futuristic present and translated it with an English future tense "are to have." This is understandable given that Paul who was still alive when he wrote of the resurrection body, a body, or "house," to use his metaphor, "not made with hands" which Christians would recieve when they entered into the heavenly realm. We should also note that this "we have a building..."(NRSV, NAS, NIV etc) is part of a conditional sentence: "if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have.." which tells us that Paul was writing of a future event, this future destruction of the "earthly tent."
Interestingly, Nigel Watson in The Second Epistle to the Corinthians(Epworth Commentaries, 1993) comments:
"Many commentators argue that the present tense, we posssess, must be taken literally, as meaning, 'we possess forthwith,' in other words , that we are to recieve the spiritual body at death in contrast to 1 Corinthains 15 and 2 Thessalonians 4, where Paul envisages the spiritual body being received at the parousia. Others , like Barrett and Martin, argue that even here Paul is still referring to parousia, the present tense expressing certainty about the future."- p.50
F. F. Bruce in his commentary in The New Century Bible Commentary series(Errdmans/Marshall, Morgan and Scott, reprint of 1986, commentary based upon the RSV) wrote: "When the time comes for it to be destroyed (or, if we carry on the thought of a tent 'taken down') a more permanent building awaits us. So sure is Paul of this that he says we have it; it is laid up for us in the heavens..."-p.201.