Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord
All across this world every day, approximately 150,000 people pass from time into eternity. That's just over 100 every minute and almost 2 every second. Up until now, at least, all these people have one thing in common: they are not us. Today, for most of us, death is somebody else's problem. One day this will not be the case. One day we will all take our stand in that long line of people waiting for that, the most personal of all moments. What will it be like?
With it's characteristic brevity and clarity, Question 37 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism helps us here: "What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?Answer: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their gravest till the resurrection.
At death, the souls of believers are made perfect in holiness. That is to say every vestige of sin, every stabbing sense of shame, every trace of guilt will vanish from our souls instantly and forever.
Absent from the body, we will be instantly present with the Lord (2Cor 5:8). There will be no in-between moment when we are neither here nor there. We do immediately pass into glory. The moment we are gone from here, we will arrive there. We will close our eyes on this life and open them to the glory of our Savior. There, we will see Him. And seeing Him, we will be like Him forever (1John 3:2). Our sin and the corruption from which it flows will not survive the sight of our meeting with Jesus. We will look at Him and He will look back at us-- and what He sees will be immediately lovely in His eyes, only lovely, altogether lovely, always lovely. How pleased He will be to see us. How happy we will be to see Him. Sin, guilt, and shame will all be a memory, slipping into the review mirror of eternal regression. We will leave it all behind us. We will never pass this way again. Our past will never come back to haunt us.
Sin, however, will not be the only thing we leave behind. For a while, at least, we will leave our bodies behind as well. "Our bodies being still united to Christ do rest in the graves until there resurrection." Two things to note here: First of all, our bodies matter to Christ. He did not merely die to redeem our souls from hell. He died to redeem our bodies for heaven. We cannot live a full life without them. Just like with Adam's pre-Eve experience in the garden of Eden. It was a lonely hearts club. Even though he was a perfect man, in a perfect place, with a perfect relationship with God, there was something distinctly not good about him. It was not good for him to be alone. Well can't we make a similar statement about our souls. It is not good to absent from the body. I am not sure what life will be like as a naked spirit in the presence of God, the Father of Spirits. Please don't misunderstand me, it will be glorious, no doubt about that, just not as glorious as one day it will be when are reunited with our old friend, the body. This is the second thing to note here, Though we might struggle to believe it when we first enter the glory, our experience of heaven will only get better and better. As wonderful as it will be to home in Spirit. It will be very much better to walk about the New Heavens and earth. To see these things with our eyes. To consider them with our minds. To discuss them with our mouths. To feel them against our skin. Glory, glory dwellers in Immanuel's land!
So take courage, my brother, my sister, Christ is coming for you soon. When He does, what others see on earth might look very much like death, but what you will see will look like life, abundant life, endless life!. Jesus put it best when He said, "He that believeth in me shall not see death." He will not allow His holy one to undergo decay. He will make known to us the path of life. In His presence there is fullness of joy. At His right hand there are pleasures forevermore.