Friday, January 23, 2015

Believers Will Live With Jesus Forever

. . . so we will always be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 
After his resurrection, shortly before he ascended to heaven, Jesus gave some final instructions to his disciples, and promised them this: 
. . . I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20 ESV
How is it that Jesus, who would soon leave his disciples behind and return to his Father in heaven, could also pledge to remain with them always? The answer to this question comes in another of Jesus' promises to them: 
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17 ESV)
The ascended Jesus continued—and continues now—to dwell with his people through the presence of his Holy Spirit within them.

Perhaps I should have titled this post Jesus Will Live With Believers Forever. That's more like what Jesus says in these verses. But he also told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them, and eventually, he would bring them to be with him (John 14:2-3). Both statements are true: Jesus lives with his disciples now and they will eventually go to live with him.

In Death

The apostle Paul writes that in everything that happens—and he includes a long list of possible harrowing circumstances—Christ's love, and so Christ himself, is with the believer (Romans 8:35-39). Nothing in this world separates us from him, not even our death, because when we die, we to go be with him where he is.

At the moment of death, our soul separates from our body and goes to heaven to be with Jesus. The process of dying will undoubtedly be difficult, but "[a] Christian," J. I. Packer writes, 
may rightly think of his death-day as a date in Jesus' diary: when the appointed time comes the Saviour will be there to lead His servant into the light of His own nearer presence and closer communion.1
Christians call this heavenly fellowship with Christ experienced by the souls of believers who have died the intermediate state, because this is where the believer lives between their death and their resurrection.

And this is more or less the sum of what we know about this place where our souls wait for our resurrection. The Bible doesn't tell us much, and despite all the popular so-called "heaven tourism" books, scripture is our only source of true information about the intermediate state. What scripture does say is that being a soul in heaven is better than being a body and soul united together in this fallen world (Philippians 1: 21-23), because in heaven we will be "at home" with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8). We will be with Jesus in a way that's nearer and better than the way he is with us now. What's more, at death, our souls are "made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23). There is no more struggle with sin, for God makes us completely holy intermediate state.

A believer, then, can face death with joy, knowing that what comes on the other side is better than what we experience here as we live sin-wrecked lives in a sin-spoiled world, because we will be with Jesus, closer to him than ever.

In Resurrection

The intermediate state, wonderful as it will be, is not the best there is. We were created in the image of God as body and soul. Our existence in heaven will be lacking something we need—a body. We will still be looking forward to something more and better. In heaven we will be longing for the day of Christ's second advent, for our resurrection when we receive our glorified bodies and for the beginning of our life with Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth.

It's then, finally, when everything we need and want will be given to us: a new body, a new earth, and a reunion with all saints we've loved as they are resurrected with us. But most important, we will see God face to face, and live in his never-ending presence (Revelation 21:1-4; 22:1-5).
In the face of God we will see the fulfillment of all the longing we have ever had to know perfect love, peace, and joy, and to know truth and justice, holiness and wisdom, goodness and power and glory and beauty. As we gaze into the face of our Lord, we will know more fully than ever that "in your presence there is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11).2
Believers will have full and eternal joy because they will see God's face and live in his presence forever, and never again want anything else.

Learn More
  1. Study 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Hebrews 12:22-23; Revelation 21:1-4; and Revelation 22:1-5. 
  2. Read up on the intermediate state and the new heavens and new earth in your favorite systematic theology. In Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, these are chapter 41 and chapter 57. You can read from Berkhof's Systematic Theology online: Physical Death, The Intermediate State, and The Final State
  3. Read the entries on the general resurrection and heaven in J. I. Packer's Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs
  4. Listen to Wayne Grudem teach about Death and the Intermediate State and The New Heavens and New Earth.
1] 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Knowby J. I. Packer, page 203.

2] Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, page 1164.

This post is the last in a series of posts with sixteen truths every Christian woman should know. Here's a list of them all.
  1. God Has Spoken (posted at the True Woman Blog) 
  2. God Is Three and God Is One
  3. God Is Who He Is
  4. God Had a Plan
  5. God Created the Universe
  6. We Are Made in God's Image
  7. We Are All Sinners
  8. God Saves
  9. The Son Came
  10. Jesus Lived and Died
  11. Jesus Is Risen
  12. Jesus Is Lord
  13. We Must Believe
  14. Believers Have New Life
  15. Believers Belong
  16. Believers Will Live With Jesus Forever

1 comment:

  1. Becky, this was truly wonderful! Heaven looks sweeter every day. Thank you!