Sermon #903 Miscellaneous Sermons
Series: The State Of God’s Saints In Heaven #2
Title: Where Have They Gone; And What Are They Doing?
Text Ecclesiastes 4:1-2
Subject: The happiness of God’s saints between death and the Resurrection
Date: Sunday Morning - February 25, 1990
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 grave side 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, I can understand the sorrow. Those who die in unbelief and sin die under the wrath of God! If our sorrow is the sorrow of parting friends, I can understand that too. None of us like to part with cherished friends and loved ones. But 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.
Today I want to talk to you about God’s saints in heaven, our brothers and sisters who have been taken from us. The title of my message is Where Have They Gone; And What Are They Doing?
I want to show you that God’s saints in heaven, our departed friends are alive and well. Though their bodies have died and been laid in the earth, they are more alive than ever and full of happiness.
In the message this morning I have four points. I am going to make two statements and answer two questions.
1. The soul of a redeemed sinner, immediately after death, enters into heaven, into a state of eternal happiness.
2. For the believer, the death of the body and the freeing of his soul is a welcome relief.
3. Where have our departed friends gone?
4. What are God’s saints doing in heaven?
I. First, let me show you from the Word of God that THE SOUL OF A REDEEMED SINNER, IMMEDIATELY AFTER DEATH, ENTERS INTO HEAVEN, INTO A STATE OF ETERNAL HAPPINESS.
It is not my intention to answer the foolish questions of infidels and heretics. And I do not intend to be sidetracked by the foolish speculations of ignorant men and women about life after death. My purpose is threefold: I want to…
1. Comfort and instruct God’s saints.
2. Persuade sinners to seek Christ.
3. And honor God in the process.
Therefore, I will speak to you about the wonder of immortality with simplicity, appealing to no authority but the Word of God.
You and I are men and women 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 you die, that is not all. Your soul lives on, not in a state of sleep, insensitivity, and inactivity, but in the fulness of life and consciousness.
The souls of believers, redeemed sinners, men and women who have been made righteous before God by the righteousness of Christ imputed to the, the souls of God’s saints return to God at death. 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. And 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, and caught up into glory. And we shall forever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
I will not now speak of 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 hell. O sinner, how I wish you could realize that. 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.
A. 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.
1. When the righteous perish from the earth, they live in uprightness forever (Isa. 57:1-2).
a. The righteous are those men and women who are born of God, made righteous by grace.
· In justification by imputed righteousness.
· In regeneration by imparted righteousness.
b. When the righteous die, they are taken away from evil.
c. They enter into a world of peace.
d. They rest in their beds.
· Their bodies in the grave.
· Their souls in the arms of Christ (Heb. 4:9-11).
e. The walk in their uprightness.
God reckons the righteousness of Christ imputed to us to be our righteousness. And he makes it ours. In heaven, our departed brethren walk in their uprightness, in spotless purity and holiness, in shining robes of bliss and glory.
2. As soon as a believer dies, he is carried by God’s angels into heaven, Abraham’s bosom, the place of endless comfort (Lk. 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.
3. Every repentant sinner, as soon as he dies, is taken to be with Christ in Paradise (Lk. 23:43).
a. Paradise is heaven, the garden of God (Rev. 2:7).
It is the third heaven which Paul had been raptured for a brief visit (2 Cor. 12:2-4), during his pilgrimage here. Paradise is the place of the divine majesty, the place of happiness, pleasure, and endless delight.
b. It was to Paradise that Christ went as soon as he died, to obtain eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9;12).
c. It is a place of assured blessedness, promised to sinners who seek the mercy of God in Christ - “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
· “Today” - immediately.
· “Shalt thou” - Assuredly.
· “Be with me” - In endless company.
· “In Paradise” - Heaven.
4. Death for the believer is gain, infinite, immeasurable gain (Phil. 1:21, 23).
a. Paul believed that, as soon as he departed from this world, he would immediately be with Christ in blessed communion.
b. Believing the Word and promise of God, he looked upon death as a desirable thing.
B. What is the state of the saint’s life between death and the resurrection?
I will not say more than the Bible says. But this much I know, the souls of God’s saints are not floating around in the sky.
1. They have gone to a specific place, where Christ is.
2. They are assembled as a glorified church (Heb. 12:22-23).
3. Their souls exist in a recognizable form.
· Lazarus (Lk. 16:23).
· Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:3).
Do God’s saints in heaven have a body between death and the resurrection? A physical body? No. A spiritual body, a heavenly form, a house for their souls? Most definitely! (2 Cor. 5:1).
Every believer, as soon as he leaves this body enters into heavenly glory with Christ. It is this assurance of heavenly glory and bliss that makes death a desirable thing for the believer.
II. Secondly, I want you to see that FOR THE BELIEVER THE DEATH OF HIS BODY AND THE FREEING OF HIS SOUL IS A WELCOME RELIEF (Phil. 1:21-23; Rev. 14:13).
While living in this world, we seek to be content with God’s good providence. We want to glorify God by living before him in faith, resigning all things to his will. And we would not change our lot in life, even if we could. Our heavenly Father knows and always does what is best.
I want you to understand me. I am not weary of life. I cannot imagine a man in this world having a happier, more tranquil, blessed life than I have.
· My wife - My daughter - My granddaughter!
· My church family - My friends.
· The ministry God has given us.
But life in this world, at best, is a burden to the heaven born soul. In this tabernacle we groan (2 Cor. 5:1-4). We groan for life! Our hearts cry, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death!”
A. Int his body we struggle with sin - In heaven we shall be free from sin!
B. In this body we are tempted and often fall - In heaven we shall never be tempted and shall never fall.
C. In this body we weep much - In heaven we shall weep no more.
D. In this body we long to be like Christ - In heaven we shall be like Christ.
E. In this body we long for Christ’s presence - In heaven we shall forever be with Christ!
I have many friends in heaven whom I dearly love. I miss them. But I do not sorrow for them. I envy them!
Illustration: The eagle in the zoo.
When an eagle is happy in an iron cage, when a sheep is happy in a pack of wolves, when a fish is happy on dry land, then, and not until then, will my soul be happy in this body of flesh! Death for this man will be a welcome relief (Psa. 17:15).
III. I have shown you from the Scriptures that God’s saints, as soon as they die, enter into heaven, and that death for the believer is a welcome relief. Now, let me answer this question - WHERE HAVE OUR DEPARTED FRIENDS GONE?
I have already shown you that they have gone to heaven. They have not gone to purgatory. They are not asleep. Our friends who have left us are in heaven. But where is heaven? That is a question I cannot answer. God has not told us. Heaven is a place somewhere outside this world, somewhere outside time. But it is a place, a real place.
· Heaven is the place where Christ is.
· Heaven is the place to which he has promised to bring us (John 14:1-3).
· Heaven is the place where our departed friends are right now (Heb. 12:22-23).
Read 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. In these eight verses Paul tells us several things about the believer’s death and entrance into heaven.
A. Death is the dissolving of this earthly body.
· This body is of the earth.
· This body is only suitable for the earth.
· This body must return to the earth.
· And the dissolution of this body is no cause for sorrow. It will be like taking off a shoe that hurts my foot - A welcome relief! It will be like laying aside a tool that is no longer needed. It will be like tearing down a tent to move into a house.
B. In heaven, we shall have another house for our souls. “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” houses, dwelling places.
· A house not made with hands.
· A house prepared by Christ.
· A house suitable to our glorious life.
C. As soon as this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, we shall enter that house Christ has prepared for our souls in heaven.
There will be n o lapse of time, no delay, between the dissolving of this body and our entrance into our house in glory.
D. This is not a matter of conjecture, but a matter of certainty - “We know…”
1. By the Revelation of God.
2. By the earnest of the Spirit (v. 5).
3. By faith in Christ (v. 7).
What happens to the believer after death? Do you ask me, “Where have our departed friends gone?” They have gone to heaven. They have gone home. They have gone to be with Christ!
IV. Fourthly, let me briefly answer one more question. WHAT ARE GOD’S SAINTS DOING IN HEAVEN?
The Scriptures speak sparingly with regard to the saints’ employment in heaven. But there are four or five things revealed to us.
A. God’s saints in heaven are celebrating and adoring the perfections of God in Christ (Rev. 5:11-12; 7:11-12).
· His holiness!
· His power!
· His wisdom!
· His goodness!
· His grace!
· His faithfulness!
· His love!
B. God’s saints in heaven are delightfully employed in beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ (John 17:24).
Oh, my soul, what will it be to behold the glory of our Redeemer? We shall forever behold him as he is, with a constantly increasing knowledge of him.
Heaven is the Garden of God where the Rose of Sharon is in full blossom; and the fragrance of it perfumes the whole place. Heaven is to behold Christ forever, never taking my eyes off him, and never wanting to.
C. God’s saints in heaven are employed in the constant exercise of every spiritual grace.
1. Faith - The saints in heave believe God.
2. Hope - Our brethren patiently wait in hope of the resurrection.
3. Love - They truly love one another.
D. God’s saints in heaven are employed in the unending service of God (Rev. 7:14-15).
1. They are engaged in prayer (Rev. 6:10).
2. They sing the songs of grace to the praise of God.
· Electing grace.
· Redeeming grace.
· Regenerating grace.
· Justifying grace.
· Sanctifying grace.
· Preserving grace.
E. God’s saints in heaven are engaged in constant, uninterrupted fellowship with one another and with the holy angels.
· Covenant mercy.
· Angelic services.
· Redeeming love.
· Saving grace.
· Divine providence.
1. Make certain that you are in Christ.
2. Take comfort with regard to those who have gone to heaven.
3. Be assured that our weary, troublesome lives will end soon - and they will end well (2 Cor. 4:17 - 5:1).
Illustration: The robin’s nest.