THE STATE OF THE SOUL AFTER DEATH
Part 2 of 3
It is thus clear that as God will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven and on the earth, our part is to be like Christ in glory, and with Him for ever, and that in heaven itself, blessed with all spiritual blessings (as Israel with temporal ones) and in heavenly places (as they in earthly). If we are joint-heirs with Him (Rom. 8: 17), we have what is yet better, to dwell in the Father's house where He is gone. Hence it is clearly and distinctly expressed (CoI. I: 5), that our hope is laid up for us in heaven, and Peter tells us (I Pet. I: 4) that an inheritance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, is reserved in heaven for us. All this clearly shews our blessings are where our hope enters, where our forerunner is gone; what our glory is, celestial, not terrestrial. We shall bear the image of the heavenly, and shall be for ever with the Lord. He has gone to prepare a place for us in the Father's house, and will come again to receive us there to Himself. He has declared, " Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." One might expatiate on the blessedness of this, the wondrous place given to us, that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus! but my object now is to give the scripture statement of our blessedness, and the proofs of it. What I have said gives our calling the same throughout, from the moment we are called, to the glory of eternity. There is no other, there is "one hope of our calling." God has called us to His own kingdom and glory; we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Their Father's house is the home of His children. But this has not told us, in distinct statements, what the intermediate state is, though it has shewn us, as a general principle, where all our blessing is, what redemption has obtained for us. The God of all grace has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus; wondrous love! but an integral part of Christ's own glory, for what is a Redeemer without His redeemed? And once I believe that the blessed Son of God has died for me as man on the cross, nothing that a creature whose life He has become, can have is too great, as the effect of it.
The whole object of the Epistle to the Hebrews is to shew that our portion is heavenly, in contrast with the Judaism which was, and, when Israel is restored, will be, earthly. They had a high priest on earth, because God sat between the cherubim down here. Such a High Priest became us; holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens: why? because our place and portion are with God there. Our place and calling are in the heavenlies. All had to be suited to this; the excellence of the sacrifice and the service of the priest. But how far does the word of God shew us our intermediate state, between the time of our being in this tabernacle, in which we groan, and having it glorified, when Christ comes, and shall change our vile body, and fashion it like His glorious body? Once we have understood the previous passage, and that our calling and portion are heavenly, all is simple and plain. Our citizenship now and always is in heaven. How far we enjoy it when we die is the only question-more than here, or less? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto Him (Luke 20: 38), though dead for this world, they are for Him as alive as ever, and so for faith. But it is alleged they sleep. There is no ground for this whatever. Stephen fell asleep, that is, died. It was not his soul fell asleep after death; those which sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him (1 Thess. 4: 14), but these (v. 16) are the dead in Christ. Some have fallen asleep, that is, had died (1 Cor. 15: 6), the same word as sleep in Jesus, in I Thessalonians 4. This is contrasted with being alive, in Thessalonians, with remaining to this present, in Corinthians. It is just simply dying, and a beautiful expression to shew they had not at all ceased to exist, but would wake up again in resurrection, as a man out of sleep. This is clearly determined in the case of Lazarus; John II. The Lord says, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. They thought it was taking of rest in sleep; then said He plainly, Lazarus has died. That is, sleep means plainly dying, and awaking is not awaking the soul, as if it slept apart, and so leaving it, but bringing back from the state of death by resurrection. A Christian's falling asleep is neither more nor less than dying; a soul's sleeping is a pure invention. People living upon this earth fell asleep; that is, they died. That is what it means in plain speech, and nothing else, and we do learn clearly in Scripture the state of those who die in the Lord. Paul knew that God had wrought him (and he speaks of it as to all Christians, as their common faith) for glory, and did not wish to die (be unclothed) as if weary, but that mortality should be swallowed up of life.
Christians have Christ as their life, as they have Him as their righteousness, and, this being so, as to death itself (2 Cor. 5: 6), they are always confident, knowing that whilst they are at home in the body they are absent from the Lord. Life, eternal life, in Christ they have, but here it lives absent from the Lord, in the earthen vessel; when it leaves the poor earthen vessel, which makes it groan, being burdened, it will be present with the Lord. Is that better or worse, and where is He? Is it, though it has already the Holy Ghost as the power of life, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, going to sleep, and knowing nothing? Is that the confidence he had, who saw such a power in this life in Christ, that he was not, as his object, looking to die, but mortality to be swallowed up by it; yet, when it lost the tabernacle which made it groan, it was not capable of anything else! And remember Christ is our life; because He lives, we live. Have we lost our connection with Him when we die? Does He sleep in us? Again (Phil. I) Paul was in a strait betwixt two, to depart and be with Christ, which was far better, dying-mark what he was speaking of gain, though living with Christ. That is, he, having the blessed joy of knowing Christ was his life, and living entirely for Him, so that it was worth his while to stay, yet found it far better, gain, to go to sleep and know nothing of Christ or anything else! not having a thought of Christ or possibility of serving Him, his desire, as to his own joy, was to go to sleep, and know nothing of Christ at all. Is it not perfectly evident, that when he speaks of being with Christ, and of its being far better than serving Him here, though that was worth while, he speaks of the joy of being there? Who would think, if I spoke of the satisfaction and gain of going to somebody, and being with him, I meant I was going to be fast asleep, and not know I was there? But we have more: the Lord declares to the thief, who alone of all men, in that memorable hour, confessed Him, that he should be with Him that day in paradise. Was it not happiness He promised him, being with Christ and in paradise? Does that mean that he should be fast asleep, and know nothing? I ask if it be not supremely ridiculous, and flying in the face of the very point of Christ's words. The statement occurs in Luke, who, all through his Gospel, after the first two chapters, which are consecrated to the poor pious remnant who waited for Christ, and give a most lovely picture of them - God's hidden ones in the midst of rebellious and unbelieving Israel - after these chapters, I say, the Evangelist gives the testimony of divine grace in the Son of man, and the present state. He proceeds with the genealogy of Christ up to Adam, and then unfolds, all through his Gospel, the grace that in the Son of man blesses man, and blesses him now, and in a heavenly way.