Life After Death
Will the fellowship with Christ, that has meant so much to us here on earth, continue beyond the grave? Will it be ours in the interval between death and the resurrection? There are two words that would make this a little easier to understand: With Christ, if we enter into fellowship with Christ here on earth, we can have that glad assurance that, that fellowship with Christ may continue between death and the resurrection, and then afterwards with Christ throughout the eternal ages. The children of God do not go to the ultimate, and final, heaven of death! That ultimate, and final, heaven will be theirs at the resurrection. The question that troubles most of God’s children is – What is the condition of those who have gone before, between death and the resurrection?
First of all, I would like you to turn over and read John 1:39 – He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. – . . . and abode with Him that day. That was the beginning of their fellowship with Christ. John the Baptist had pointed out the Lamb of God to them that day.
Mark 3:14 – And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, -He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him. . . The beginning of their fellowship is referred to in John 1. Here, a year later, we read that He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him and that He might send them forth to preach.
Matthew 28:20 – Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. – Here, Jesus gives the same promise . . .and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
John 15:1 – I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. 2 – Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purged it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 – Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 – Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. 5 – I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. 6 – If a man abides not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 – If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 – Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so, shall ye be My disciples. – The figure of the vine and the branches suggests the same thought, the close and intimate relationship with Christ.
Acts 4:13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.
John 14:23 – Jesus answered and said unto him, if a man loves Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. –
Luke 24:13 – And behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 – And they talked together of all these things, which had happened. 15 – And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus Himself drew near, and went with them. 16 – But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him. – A little later on they said in Verse 32 – And they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures? –
Acts 4:13 – Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, by Whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. – Here Paul stated that the purpose of the Gospel is to have fellowship with Christ, the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord. This verse shows the purpose of the Gospel call.
1 John 1:3 – That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. -There were quite a few verses dealing with this one experience, fellowship with Christ, here on earth. They abode with Him. The ideal, Christian life is a life in fellowship with the Father and the Son. They were in fellowship with Christ and that’s the only foundation with each other for fellowship. If it’s possible for us to have fellowship with Christ in this life, and enjoy that fellowship, and to have others recognize that fellowship is really ours, the question naturally arises . . . Does death put an end to fellowship with Christ?
When a child of God is called from this scene, what does the Scripture teach us with regard to their experience?
Did the fellowship that meant so much to them in life end at the grave, or are there scriptures which encourage us to believe that this fellowship in the great beyond, is deeper and sweeter and more enjoyable than any fellowship with Him, that the children of God know on this side?
2 Corinthians 4:17 – For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a, far, more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory; 18 – While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. – Here we have some verses that give Paul’s outlook as he thought of the future. Evidently, in the midst of his afflictions, because that is what he is talking about, the thought of a, more, exceeding and eternal weight of glory thrilled him, and enabled him to see the value of living his life for the things that are not seen. He says: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 5:1 – For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 – For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 – If so, be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 – For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. 5 – Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, Who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 – Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 – (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)
8 – We are confident, I say, and willing, rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 – Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. –
The last part of Verse 8 – simply means that to be absent from the body is to present with the Lord. There are those who say that death means sleeping the interval between death and the resurrection, a period of unconsciousness. This is not true. Paul tells us here that it means absent from the body but present with the Lord. This is a definite, conscious experience with Him.
Revelation 3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. – I will sup with him and he with Me. This is Jesus saying I will sup with you and you with Me.
They walked with Him in the Way. This verse shows us, unmistakably, that the fellowship that began with Christ in time, continues beyond the grave.
Philippians 1:20 – According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now, also Christ, shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. – 21 – For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 – But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 – For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better: – 24 – Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. –
There are two things stated in this testimony of Paul’s that are very good in this connection. He says – To be with Christ, which is far better. I am in a strait betwixt two. I don’t know exactly which to choose. I would like to go. I am willing to remain. Departing, or leaving, this earthly home, this tabernacle, means departing to be with Christ. This answers the question of what the condition of our brethren is who have gone before, during the interval between death and the resurrection. The latter part of this verse tells us, which is far better. – When Paul was thinking about death, he was thinking about going to be with Christ. When he was thinking about this experience, he said, it’s going to be far, far better than any experience I have known upon this earth. Sometimes, we are inclined to think this sounds too good to be true. It is stated here that Paul believed it would be far better. Here is a man near the end of life – face to face with the last enemy, awaiting his trial knowing sentence of death may be passed, and not knowing how soon execution may take place.
He says: in Philippians 1:20 – one thing reigns supreme in Paul’s heart that Christ shall be magnified in my body. – To him death couldn’t be gain, if what lay beyond was not something better than had been experienced on earth. He says for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Verse 21). We, usually, associate death with loss; eternal loss. Paul associated it with eternal gain. So, when somebody comes to you and says that during the interval between death and the resurrection we are in a condition of unconsciousness, that is the First Day’s and the Seventh Day Adventist’s teaching. This verse alone, proves that this is altogether untrue.
If to Paul, death meant going to be with Christ, and it was to be far better than any experience he had on earth with Christ, it couldn’t be a state of unconsciousness.
Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, – The picture Paul had in mind when he wrote this was the Roman arena, which is comparable to the stadium in Tacoma.
All around are the witnesses. The runners are in the bottom of the arena. The picture here is, that those who have gone before are interested in the race. They are still interested in the race. We run, and we can be comforted and encouraged by that thought. I cannot believe that those whom we have loved, who have gone long since, are less interested in our welfare, in our running, than they were here on earth. I like to believe they are MORE interested than ever, and they are spectators of our running. The thought I want to leave here is this – We cannot think of Christ watching us, taking note of how we run, we cannot think of Him, ALONE, but as an interested spectator, and as those who have gone before, are with Him. They are enjoying a closer and more intimate fellowship than they knew on earth. It isn’t unreasonable to allow the thought to rule in our minds that they, too, are watching and interested.
Here, the question may arise – Do we take with us our memory beyond the grave? There are two pictures in Luke 16. One was Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom.
Luke 16:25 – But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receives thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. –
Abraham said, “Son remembers”. If the rich man took to a lost eternity memories of what took place on earth, it isn’t unreasonable that the child of God will also take to the other side, memories of experiences here.
What is Christ doing now? Revelation 5 – What is the unfinished work of Christ? The uncompleted work? It is intercession.
Revelation 8:3 -And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which was before the throne. 4 – And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God out of the angel’s hand. –
Revelation 6:9 – And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony, which they held: 10 – And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
1 Thessalonians 4:14 – For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. 15 – For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 – For the Lord, Himself, shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise, first: 17 – Then we, which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so, shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 – Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
This deals with what will take place when Christ comes back. It says that if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we, which are alive and remain shall not prevent them which are asleep. We shall not in any way have advantage over those who have fallen asleep. That is the meaning here. Here, he is dealing with two things, the coming of Christ and the resurrection, the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection of those who have gone before.
When Christ comes who will come with Him? They have been with Him from the hour of death. Now, when He comes, He will bring them with Him, and those living will be changed.
1 Corinthians 15:51 – Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 – For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 – So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 – O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 – The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
The same thought as 2 Corinthians 4:14 -Knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus and shall present us with you. – The resurrection and the second coming take place together. When Christ comes, those who have been with Him during the interval between death and His coming, will be given resurrection bodies. Those who are alive and remain will be changed.
Philippians 3:20 is very suggestive. It says: For our conversation is in heaven; . . .Those of you who have marginal reading it says commonwealth or our citizenship in place of the word conversation, which is the Old English meaning. It doesn’t refer to our talking one to another but is the 16thcentury word for Our manner of life. The translator gives the thought of Paul, better than any other translator: For we are a colony of heaven, from whence we look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Philippi was modeled after a city of Rome in a foreign land, a country haven. We are looking for the Savior from heaven Who will come to take us to be with Him, forever. For we are a colony. We will be given new bodies. It will be a new kind of body, a body not subject to diseases.
Philippians 3:21 – Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. – There is the pattern.
Will we know each other in heaven?
Will we renew on the other side, the friendships and fellowships that meant so much to us on this side? – I cannot conceive of heaven apart from recognition. We would have no interest in going there, if we did not have some hope of meeting those we have loved on earth and discussing with them some of the experiences we passed through on earth. Jesus in His resurrection body was recognized by the marks on His body, His hands, His feet, His side, His brow. He will be recognized throughout all eternity by those marks. They knew Him. They recognized Him, and if we are going to have in that future Kingdom, resurrection bodies after the pattern of His body, we will carry with us our individuality, our personality. You will be you and Paul will be Paul and James will be James and Mary will be Mary. You couldn’t conceive of individuality, apart from recognition and renewal of friendships and fellowships that meant so much to us on this side of the grave.
Colossians 3:1 – If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ seated on the right hand of God.
2 – Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 – For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
It is a good thing to be in a family, now, but it will be infinitely better later on, in the future.
Hebrews 11:13 – These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 – For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 – And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from where they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 – But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city. 17 – By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and He that had received the promises offered up His, Only, Begotten Son, –
For He hath prepared for us a city. There is a description of that city beginning in Verse 22 – By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23 – By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24 – By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 – Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 – Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. 27 – By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 – Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 – By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30 – By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 – By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 – And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 – Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. 34 – Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 – Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 – And others had trials of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 – They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 – (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 – And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 – God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
There shall be no need of light there. Revelation 22:5 – And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. – There shall be no need of light there and they shall reign for ever and ever. That takes us from earth to heaven.
Fellowship with Christ begins here, and continues beyond the grave, during the interval between death and the resurrection. At the resurrection the children of God, who have gone before, and have been with Christ, some 1,000 years, some for 2,000 years or more, will get resurrection bodies. Those who remain will be changed in the twinkling of an eye to be forever with the Lord and shall be given the city four-square.
Revelation 21:16 – And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. –
Now, do you think the Lord is done with His people when He takes them home? Don’t you think He will have a job for them throughout the ages? Don’t you think we are now qualifying for a more fruitful and greater service in the life beyond?
Revelation 22:3 – And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: His servants shall serve Him.
So, the life of service doesn’t end with the grave or with the resurrection. It opens the door to greater service, more satisfying service in the world to come.
I am only wanting to make three points.
1 – The ideal Christina life is a life in fellowship with Christ now.
2 – At death that fellowship continues.
3 – At the resurrection that fellowship will be greater.
The first is that the Gospel message is a call into fellowship with Christ.
When death takes place, the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved. It is exchanging a temporary tent for a permanent dwelling place.
Paul says, For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. We mourn over those who have gone before, but we wouldn’t wish them back, because their experiences, now, are better, far better, than any experience they have known here on earth, and that experience, that fellowship will be perfected at the resurrection, when we get our new resurrection bodies and are able to have a closer and more intimate fellowship through the years to come. Heaven wouldn’t be heaven if we didn’t take with us our individuality.
Jesus said in Luke 20:38 – For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him. God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.
Matthew 22:32 – I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. –
If God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then it’s reasonable to believe that you will be you, and I will be me.