Between Death and the Resurrection
“Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.” (Ecclesiastes 4:2)
The wise man Solomon, after considering “all the oppressions that are done under the sun,” the tears of the oppressed in this world, the power of those who oppress and the fact that there is no comfort for God’s saints in this world, said, “I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.” In the Book of Revelation, we read a similar statement – “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord” (14:13). Yet, when you and I go to the funeral home and graveside to bid our loved ones good-bye, we are filled with sorrow and weeping. Why is that so?
If the one God has taken is an unbeliever, the sorrow is understandable. Those who die in unbelief and sin die under the wrath of God. If our sorrow is the sorrow of parting friends, it is reasonable. None of us likes to part with cherished friends and loved ones, even temporarily. However, if the sorrow is the sorrow of those who have no hope, uncontrollable anguish, or even anger at God for having taken someone we love, I cannot understand that. Such sorrow reveals both ignorance and unbelief, ignorance of the blessed state of God’s saints in heaven and unbelief regarding the Word of God, the promises of the gospel, and the finished work of Christ.
I want to show from the Scriptures that God’s saints in heaven, our departed friends, are alive and well. Though their bodies have died and lay in the earth, they are more alive than ever and full of happiness.
The Word of God plainly and repeatedly assures us that the souls of the redeemed, immediately after death, enter into heaven and into a state of eternal happiness. As we think about the wonders of immortality, our only source of information is the Word of God. Only the eternal God can unveil the mysteries of eternity.
We are creatures of God made with immortal, undying souls. Though these bodies must die and rot in the earth like the brute beasts, our souls will exist forever. As soon as you die your soul will enter into a state of endless happiness or misery. Man does not die like a dog. When your dog dies, that is all there is to it. It ceases to be. But when you die, that is not all there is to it. Your soul lives on, not in a state of sleep, insensitivity and inactivity, but in the fullness of life and consciousness.
The souls of believers, redeemed sinners, men and women who have been made righteous before God in Christ, the souls of God’s saints return to God at death (1 Corinthians 5:1-9). Our departed brothers and sisters, as soon as they closed their eyes in death opened them again in glory. There they shall remain until the second coming of Christ. Then, when Christ comes again in his glory, he will bring them all with him, raise their bodies from the dust and reunite their bodies and souls in resurrection glory. Believers yet living when Christ comes shall then be changed, glorified, caught up into glory. Thereafter, we shall forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Though hell is as real as heaven and damnation as real as salvation, lest I turn your thoughts to matters of great sorrow and grief, I will say little about the horrible state of the wicked and unbelieving after death. They shall immediately, as soon as they close their eyes in death, wake up in the torments of the damned in hell. If you are yet without life, without faith, without Christ, and thus without hope, be warned. The wrath of God is upon you. If you die without Christ, you must be forever damned! To die without Christ is to die without hope. But for the believer, things are different. The believer, as soon as he dies, is alive forever. His soul goes immediately home to God in heaven.
The Word of God, when speaking of the believer’s death, always represents it as an immediate entrance into heavenly blessedness and glory. Actually, for the believer, death is not death at all, but the beginning of life. Our Lord said, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26). God’s elect never die. The death of the body is the liberty of the soul. And as soon as our souls are freed from this body of sin and death, we shall enter heaven.
When the righteous perish from the earth, they live in uprightness forever (Isaiah 57:1-2). They are taken away from evil, enter into a world of peace and rest in their beds. Their bodies rest in the grave in hope of the resurrection. Their souls rest in the arms of Christ, their Redeemer. Our departed friends have entered into everlasting rest (Hebrews 4:9-11). There they walk in their uprightness. God reckons the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us in justification and imparted to us in sanctification, to be our righteousness. And he makes it ours perfectly and experimentally in heaven. There our departed brethren walk in their uprightness, in spotless purity and holiness, in shining robes of bliss and glory.
As soon as a believer dies, he is carried by God’s angels into heaven, Abraham’s bosom, the place of endless comfort (Luke 16:22-25). “Abraham’s bosom” was a Jewish expression referring to the place of heavenly happiness prepared for God’s saints between death and the resurrection.
Every believing sinner, as soon as he dies, is taken to be with Christ in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Paradise is heaven, the Garden of God (Revelation 2:7). Recently, the Lord took a dear friend of mine, Bro. Jim Gough, to Glory. Jim loved to visit with and entertain friends in his garden. On the day God took him, his grandson said to his parents, “Now he’s walking in God's precious garden.” Jim’s son-in-law Alan, appropriately replied, “What a wonderful place to be.”
Paradise is the third heaven, to which Paul was raptured for a brief visit (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) during his pilgrimage here. It is the place of the divine Majesty, the place of happiness, pleasure and endless delight. It was to Paradise that Christ went as soon as he died, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12). Paradise is a place of assured blessedness, promised to sinners who seek the mercy of God in Christ. The dying Savior said to the dying thief, who had just been converted by his omnipotent grace, “Today (immediately, as soon as this ordeal of death is over) shalt thou (most assuredly) be with me (in my full presence and company forever) in paradise (Heaven).” — “What a wonderful place to be!”
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