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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). It is the third heaven to which Paul was raptured for a brief visit (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) during his pilgrimage here. Paradise 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 (Luke 23:43; 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).”
Immediately with Christ
That is immeasurable gain! Yes, death for the believer is gain, infinite, immeasurable gain. Paul was confident that as soon as he departed from this world he would immediately be with Christ in blessed communion in heaven. Believing the Word and promise of God, he looked upon death as a desirable thing. Every believer, as soon as he leaves this body, enters into heavenly glory with a heavenly body with Christ. Their souls exist in a recognizable form. Moses and Elijah stood upon the mount of transfiguration in a recognizable form (Matthew 17:3). When the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, he saw and recognized him as the very same man who laid by his gate upon the earth (Luke 16:23). It is this assurance of heavenly glory and bliss that makes death a desirable thing for the believer (2 Corinthians 4:17-5:9).
God the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to tell us plainly that as soon as this earthly house is dissolved, we have a “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” What is that house? Some say the house is heaven itself. Perhaps, Paul is saying, “we have a heaven in the heavens,” but I do not think that is his meaning. Others suggest that this “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” refers to the resurrection body; but Paul is not speaking here of the resurrection. He is telling us about the state of God’s saints immediately after the death of the body. It seems obvious to me that the Apostle is here declaring that as soon as we drop this earthly house of clay, we enter into another house for our souls, an intermediate body that is specifically prepared for that blessed state.
Every word here shows a distinct contrast between this new house and the old one. The old is a tent. The new is a building. The old, though not made with hands, was made what it is, a house of death, defiled and made defective by the sin and fall of our father Adam. The new is God’s work and God’s gift. The old is temporal and perishing. The new is eternal. This house is a new body, replacing and surpassing the old. It is in the heavens in the sense that it is God’s gift, something he has for us where he is, and which we shall wear there. “We have it” means “it is ours.”