THE STATE OF THE SOUL AFTER DEATH
Part 1 of 3
THE state of the soul after death is a subject which deeply interests us all. The rejection of the coming again of Christ to receive the saints, and to judge the earth, before the end of the world, and the losing sight of the distinctive importance given to the resurrection in the New Testament, has given in the common evangelical faith, and that where sound in the main, an absolute character to the vague idea of going to heaven, exclusive of all other conception of happiness and glory. But Scripture spoke too plainly of the Lord's coming and the resurrection of the saints, to allow the thought of going to heaven when we die to maintain the absorbing place it held in the minds of the pious. Strange to say, going to heaven is not spoken of in Scripture, unless in the one case of the thief upon the cross going to be with Christ in paradise. Not that we do not go there; but the scriptural thought is always going to Christ. Since He is in heaven, of course we go there; but being with Christ, not being in heaven, is what Scripture puts forward, and this is important as to the state of the spiritual affections. Christ is the object before the soul, according to the word, not simply being happy in heaven, though we shall be happy and in heaven. I speak of it only as characterizing our habits of thought. Poor human nature is apt to fall into Scylla to avoid Charybdis. It is apt, too, to follow its own thoughts, not simply to receive the word of God. There was a reaction, and the recovered truth of the Lord's coming and the first resurrection obtained an importance in some minds, which eclipsed the going to heaven when we die, too vague, and too little formally scriptural, to satisfy those awakened to search the word. It was stated that the soul sleeps, is unconscious, till the resurrection, even by some who, in the main, were sound in the faith; while with others this notion carried them on to deny not only the immediate bliss of the departed, with Christ, but that we ever went to heaven, and what constitutes distinctive Christian hope. Alas! soon very many were led to deny the fundamental doctrines of the gospel.
My object now is not to enter into controversy with these last, who deny the immortality of the soul; it has been done, and done very effectually, by more than one; my object is to give a plain scriptural statement and proof from Scripture, that there is immediate happiness with Christ for the departed Christian. It is an intermediate state, and so, as to His position as a man, is Christ's though He be in glory. The departing Christian waits for the resurrection of the body-and then only will he be in his final state in glory. Men speak of glorified spirits, Scripture never. The purpose of God as to us is, that we should be conformed to the image of His Son, that He may be the firstborn among many brethren. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." " As we have borne the image of the earthy, so also we shall bear the image of the heavenly." This was exhibited for a moment when Moses and Elias appeared in glory with Christ at the transfiguration. (See Rom. 8: 29; I John 3: 2; I Cor. 15: 49; Luke 9: 28-36.) This, and to be for ever with the Lord, received to Himself in the Father's house, is our eternal state of joy and glory. This latter part is seen also in the account of the transfiguration, in Luke, where they enter (Moses and Elias) into the cloud whence the Father's voice proceeded. (See also I Thess. 4:17.) But this is our eternal state, when Christ shall have come and received us to Himself raised, or changed into His likeness, when our poor earthly body shall have been fashioned like His glorious body; Phil. 3: 21. God hath wrought us now already for this selfsame thing, and given to us the earnest of the Spirit; 2 Cor. 5: 5. To be with the Lord and like the Lord for ever is our everlasting joy, and that the fruit of God's love, who has made us His children, and will bring us into the mansions prepared in our Father's house. Two things belong to us: first, to be like and with Christ Himself; and, secondly, to be blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Him. Redemption has made this ours; but we are not in possession. We have only the earnest of the Spirit, though God has wrought us for that selfsame thing.
The first point, being like Christ, we have already spoken of, though what has been cited there introduces us with scriptural authority, to the second - so shall we ever be with the Lord. But I add here other proofs of the second point, namely, that our portion is in heavenly places. It is distinctive of believers who have believed and suffered with Him. God, we are told, will gather together in one, under Christ, all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; Eph. I: 10. So we read all things were created by Christ and for Christ (Col. I: 16,20); all things will be put under His feet as man; Heb. 2; I Cor. 15: 27,28; Eph. I: 22. But we read in Hebrews 2 that all things are not yet put under Him. He sits now on the Father's throne, not on His own; Rev. 3: 21. God has said, Sit at my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. He is (Heb. 10) expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. The time will come when not only all things in heaven and earth will be reconciled (Col. I: 20), but even things under the earth, infernal things, will be forced to recognise His power and authority. Every knee shall bow to Him, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, the despised and rejected of men, is Lord, to the glory of God the Father; Phil. 2: 10, II. For this we must wait. But in this gathering of all things in heaven and earth under one head, Christ, our part is in heavenly places, and as it is our portion now in spirit, so it will be our part in glory. Nor is there any real separation between these two. Of course we are not in glory now, there is no need to insist on that, but that is our calling now, that which we are redeemed to, and wrought for, and wait for. Now we have the treasure in earthly vessels, and groan, being burdened. When we are out of the body groaning is over, and we are with Christ in joy; when He comes we shall have a body suited to that heavenly place, we shall be in glory. Thus (Eph. I: 3), " He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (2 Cor. 5: I), " We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens"; Philippians 3: 20, " Our conversation [citizenship, our relationship in life as Christians] is in heaven"; and in the same chapter, verse 14, where you have' high calling: the true force of the word is calling above, as may be seen in a Bible with a margin. We are called to be up above there. So, in Hebrews 6: 19, 20, we read that Christ is entered within the veil, that is, heaven itself; chapter 9: 24, and as our forerunner. So, Hebrews 3, we are partakers of the heavenly calling. As united to Christ by the Holy Ghost, we are sitting in heavenly places in Christ - not with Him yet, but in Him, that is our place. So, when the Lord comes, He gathers, indeed, as Son of man, out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity. But the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Hence, Moses and Elias not only are manifested in glory on earth, to shew the state of the saints in the kingdom, but they enter into the cloud, God's dwelling-place, whence the Father's voice came.