“O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.”
For the believer the death of the body is the freeing of the soul. It is a welcome relief (Philippians 1:21-23; Revelation 14:13). While living in this world, we seek to be content with God’s wise and good providence. We want to glorify our great God by living before Him in faith, resigning all things to His will. We would not change our lot in life, even if we could. Our heavenly Father knows and always does what is best.
Life a Burden
Yet, life in this world, at best, is a burden to the heaven born soul. In this tabernacle we groan (2 Corinthians 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!’ In this body we struggle with sin. In heaven we shall be free from sin. — In this body we are tempted and often fall. In heaven we shall never be tempted and shall never fall. — In this body we weep much. In heaven we shall weep no more. — In this body we long to be like Christ. In heaven we shall be like Christ. — In this body we long for Christ’s presence. In heaven we shall forever be with Christ.
We have many friends in heaven whom we dearly love. We miss them. But we do not sorrow for them. We envy them! The believer, as long as he is in this world, is like an eagle I once saw while visiting a zoo. He sat on an iron perch, with a chain holding him to the earth, gazing into heaven. It appeared that he longed to soar away into the distant clouds; but the chain held him fast to the earth.
When an eagle is happy in an iron cage or chained to an iron perch, when a sheep is happy in a pack of wolves, when a fish is happy on dry land, then, and not until then, will the renewed soul be happy in this body of flesh. Death for God’s saints will be a welcome relief (Psalm 17:15).
The Scriptures tell us plainly that God’s saints, as soon as they die, enter into heaven, and that death for the believer is a welcome relief. But, 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 in limbo. They are not floating around in the air. Their souls 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 (Hebrews 12:22-23).
Our House in Heaven
In 2nd Corinthians 5:1-8 Paul tells us several things about the believer’s death and entrance into heaven. Death is the dissolving of this earthly body. This body is of the earth. It is only suitable for the earth. It must return to the earth. And the dissolution of this body is no cause for sorrow. Richard Baxter wrote, “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 because its work is done.” It will be like tearing down a tent to move into a house.
In heaven we shall have another house for our souls. — “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” houses, dwelling places. Whatever our house in heaven shall be, it shall be a house not made with hands, a house prepared by Christ, and a house suitable to our life in glory.
As soon as this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, we shall enter that house Christ has prepared for our souls in heaven. There will be no lapse of time, no delay between the dissolving of this body and our entrance into our house in glory. This is not a matter of conjecture, but of certainty. “We know,” Paul says. We who are taught of God know these things by the revelation of God in his Word, by the earnest of the Spirit (v. 5), and by virtue of our faith in Christ (v. 7). What happens to the believer after death? Do you ask, “Where have our departed friends gone?” They have gone to heaven. They have gone home. They have gone to be with Christ!
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