THE STATE OF THE SOUL AFTER DEATH
Part 3 of 3
It is not dispensational, like Matthew, but grace and present grace, and heavenly grace, by the gospel, the present state of things. It answers, as far as it goes, to the testimony of Paul and the Acts. Now the poor thief, while a most bright and eminent instance of the power of grace and faith, confessing Christ as Lord, when everything contradicted it, naturally did not go in knowledge beyond his countrymen. He was sure that He who hung upon the cross would come in (not into) His kingdom, and prayed that Christ might remember him then, in blessed confidence in Him. The Lord's answer was, according to the whole tenor of the gospel, You shall not wait for that. I bring salvation by grace; to-day, this selfsame day, you shall be with Me in paradise, the fit companion of Christ in blessedness. This, then, is the portion of the departed saint, to be with Christ in blessedness, absent from the body, and present with the Lord. I am aware of the miserable subterfuge, by which it is attempted to read it - verily, I say unto you this day, thou shalt be with Me in paradise. It not only destroys the whole characteristic point of the passage, according to the tenor of the Gospel it is found in, but it perverts the order of the passage, as it destroys its sense. "To-day" is at the beginning of the phrase, to give it emphasis in answer to when Thou comest. There is the solemn assertion, " Verily, I say unto thee." To add' to-day' to this is simply puerile, destroying withal the allusion to the request of the thief, who only hopes to be remembered when Christ should come in His kingdom. No, says the Lord, with the solemn' verily' which He used, you shall not wait till then, this day you shall be with Me. What is the sense of" Verily I say unto thee this day"? It destroys the solemnity of the assertion, but" Verily I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise" more than fulfilled the hopes of the thief, and revealed to us other than earthly joys, when we leave this world to depart and to be with Christ. The wickedness of the Jews, as an instrument, fulfilled the promise in breaking his legs, as it did that in which the work of redemption was accomplished, which gave the poor thief a title to be there. Such, too, was the expectation of Stephen, when. death arrested his course here. He saw Christ and looked to Him to receive His spirit. Did He receive it? And was it only to put an end to his service and joy alike, and put him to sleep?
The intermediate state, then, is not glory (for that we must wait for the body. It is raised in glory, He shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them like His glorious body); but it is blessedness where no unholy evil is. It is being with Christ Himself, the source of joy ineffable. The hopes and" always confident" of Paul, of Stephen, were not disappointed, nor did the assurance given by the Lord to the thief fail of fulfilment. I ask if the bright hopes spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5, Philippians I, in Acts 7, and the Lord's words to the thief, for any honest mind, can mean going fast asleep, and knowing nothing? When the Lord described the state of the rich man and Lazarus, did it mean that either the wicked or the just were asleep, and knowing nothing? I shall be told it is a figurative description. I admit it fully; but it is not a false one, and it is not a figure of men going to sleep and knowing nothing. But, further, if 2 Corinthians 5: 6-8 means being happy with Christ, it means being happy with Him when we die. Death is the subject spoken of, for the apostle had despaired of life (2 Cor. I); and absent from the body, and present with the Lord, is not resurrection, it means leaving the body, not taking it; departing and being with Christ is not His coming and raising or changing us to be in glory. The apostle is speaking there again of death, remaining here, or leaving the world. It was dying which was gain; Phil. 1: 21. Life and death are in distinct contrast in verse 20, and then analuo is used for dying (v. 23), as is analusis; 2 Tim. 4: 6. The attempt to apply analuo or analusis to Christ's return, because it is used for breaking up from or leaving a festival, is a poor conceit, contradicting the express statements of the passage. The word means disuniting or destroying what is united, and so is used for death. Neither Philippians I nor 2 Timothy 4 leave a trace of doubt in the matter. The effort to pervert Luke 23: 43 and Philippians 1: 20-23 is only a proof that the force of the passage cannot be got over, and the character of the effort to set them aside betrays itself.
How a spirit enjoys Christ we cannot tell as to the manner of it, but there is no difficulty whatever. My spirit enjoys Christ, now, in spite of the hindrance of the poor earthen vessel it is in, and though now we see Him not, yet rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It is not my body which enjoys Him now, but my soul spiritually, with the hindrance of the earthen vessel, and absent from Him, then without the hindrance of the earthen vessel, and present with Him. The believer may rest perfectly assured that, departing from the body, he will be present with the Lord, and if His presence is joy to him, that joy will be his. No one would be more anxious to press the Lord's coming, and our waiting for Him, and the importance of the resurrection. I would urge it, as I have urged it, on the saints, and indeed upon all, in its due place; but not to weaken that all live to God, even if they are spirits in prison, nor the excellent joy and blessedness of being with Christ when we depart, that to die is gain. It has justly cheered and shed heavenly light on many a dying bed, and yet will, if the Lord tarry; and the scripture is as plain as to the happiness of the saint on his departure as to his being with Christ, far better, as to joy, than the most successful service here, as it is that Christ will come and take all His saints to be with Him for ever in glory, like Himself; though the latter is the full and final state of eternal blessedness, when the marriage of the Lamb withal shall have come, and when we shall be for ever with the Lord.
Collected Writings of J. N. Darby vol 31