Self-redemption is impossible. No amount of philanthropy, sacrifice, or self-righteousness can make up for the deficit of holiness all of us were born with. We all came to Christ when we recognized our sinful state and accepted through faith His sacrifice for us. Salvation, the born-again experience, happens when we believe Jesus’ dying proclamation from the cross that, “It is finished.”
Somehow, once saved many of us forget that we could never earn it. Somewhere on discipleship road, we find ourselves in the cul-de-sac of works. Having recognized Christ love for us and accepting it in gratefulness at our salvation, we soon turn to trying to earn it. This performance trap leaves us open to the fear of being disowned by our Father and cast out by our Lord. Thankfully, neither is possible.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.
30 I and my Father are one. KJV
“Any man” and “no man” includes us. Once we have willingly climbed into His nail-print hands we will remain there forever. No one else can take us off and we can’t push His embrace away. When we accepted the blood of His purchase price, we became His. No one takes property away from the King of the Universe. He is the strong man none can bind or overcome.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. KJV
As the beloved of God, we need to learn how to be loved. Marriage is the living model of the mystical body of Christ. “No man hates his own flesh,” Pau said, “but feeds and cherishes it.” Divorce and neglect are not in the Lord’s engagement or wedding plans. We belong to Him and He will be taking care of us for eternity.
1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. NKJV
The resurrection of our spirit man happened when we were saved. The resurrection of our bodies will be the ultimate outworking of what God has already given us in our hearts. We died and were raised with Christ. Our life is hidden in Him.
1 Corinthians 15:16-19
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. KJV
A state of oblivion in death—be it thought of as soul sleep or time skipping [link to part 5]—is only possible if Christ didn’t get out of the grave. Since He did, this means that the dead will rise, our faith is not in vain, and we are no longer in our sins. And those who are fallen asleep, the ones who have departed this life, still have hope in Christ. Our brethren in heaven live in the conscious expectant hope of the full measure of their redemption, the resurrection of their bodies in incorruptible glory.
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. KJV
Since there is hope in the afterlife, then it stands to reason that there are promises left the fulfillment of which has not been seen. If judgement and reward came to the saint upon physical death, what hope is left after this life? No, judgements and rewards cannot come upon death because the full impact of the deeds done in our bodies cannot be weighed out until the day of salvation is done.
2 Tim 4:1, 6-8
4 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. KJV
Paul’s testimony above is that judgement and reward come on “that day,” the day of His appearing, not the day of our departing.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. KJV
When we die, we rest from our labors. The only opportunity we have to impact the world for the kingdom of God is while we are in our bodies. Because our actions (both good and bad) were done in our body, they must be judged in the body. This is one of the reasons why there has to be a physical resurrection. But though we have rested from our labors, our labors have not rested. The impact of our actions continues to resound through history.
How many people do you think the Apostle Paul has reached for Christ because of his obedience to write down the revelation that Jesus Christ gave him? What about Matthew? John? How are they to be judged for their full reward before this phase of the history of the church is complete?
What about apostate ministers whose writings have led and continue to lead people astray? How is a just God to punish wickedness fairly before the full import of that wickedness is manifest? No, time must roll out and then roll up for the scroll to be complete and be entered into the record at our judgment.
We need not be concerned that an intermediate state puts the departed saints in some sort of duress. I believe they know more than us how truly beautiful, merciful, and just the Lord is. Seeing Him clearly without our physical eyes in an intermediate state will still be more joyful than beholding Him now through the dark glass that obscures our sight.
Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord
He is with us in life, we will be with Him in death. His love will not allow our absence.
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.
8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. NKJV
Christ rules over the land of the living and the dead. We do not die to ourselves, but to Jesus. He is with us as much in death as He ever is in life. Where Christ is, there is life. If we are with Christ when our bodies die, our spirits must be alive.
1 Thessalonias 5:9-10
9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. NKJV [Emphasis added.]
Jesus altered death when He walked through it. Before He took the keys of death and Hades, all who died went to the realm of the dead, Sheol. Old Testament descriptions of the underworld and those in it reflect weakness and a state of near non-being. But Christ changed that when He took captivity captive. When He died, His soul went to Hades so ours would never have to. Because we are His, we live with Him in life and death.
What maintains our integrity of consciousness when we die? With what body does the departed saint give expression to his thoughts and reflect on his life as it relates to his Lord? None other than the body of Christ, our house in heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:1-8
1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,
3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while 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, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. NKJV
Our spirits are currently clothed in an earth suit. Death will not strip our spirits bare because we will be clothed with the heavenly temple, the Godhead and the body of Christ. We are in His hands now and forever in His hands we shall be for nothing can come between us and His love.