Abide in Key Word Studies on Bible Doctrines
Biblical teachings for personal Bible study, daily devotions and sermon preparation with abiding principles and practical applications. Here is a dictionary of the rich terms used in the Christian vocabulary.
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Death and Heaven
Have you “entered into possession of the realities of eternity”? Have you learned how to look on the things, which are not “seen”?
Anyone can become preoccupied with the changes, chances, and circumstances in the realm of the things we “see” in time and space with our five senses. The things that are “seen” serve to keep us occupied and full of anxiety.
On the other hand, we become strong, resolute, steadfast and immovable when our eyes lift beyond the present circumstances and get eternity into our perspective. The inward man is renewed day by day as we behold the things unseen in eternity.
What would happen in our daily lives if we could sense the full weight of the invisible and eternal? What would happen in our lives if we got eternity into the picture of everything we did through out the day?
The apostle Paul admonished the believers in the church at Corinth to “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). What is the mark or goal upon which your eye is focused? The contrast is “keep one’s eyes on what can be seen,” and fixing the spiritual eyes of faith on the things that cannot be seen. What is the focus or concentration of your attention? Make the things unseen the goal on which your spiritual eyes are fixed.
The things “that are seen” are the world, the outer man, such as poverty, want, care persecution, trials, the physical and material things of this life (Matthew 6:24-34).
The things, which we cannot see, are related to the Kingdom of God, which are invisible, spiritual, the heavenly, without limitations of time and space. It includes the joy that will one day be the believers when he enters, and claims his inheritance in heaven.
The visible world is temporary, while the unseen is eternal.
What is the worse thing that can happen to you in this life? Many people would say a slow, long, lingering death. None of us would prefer that kind of separation of the body and the spirit. If we had our choice we would prefer a sudden, painless deliverance.
The apostle Paul said, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” The Living Bible paraphrased, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is better yet” (Philippians 1:21). “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (NET).
On one occasion when the apostle Paul contemplated death he wrote, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). These verses follow-up on 2 Cor. 4:17-18.
The apostle Paul reminds us of Jesus in John 14:1-3 where He prepares His disciples for His approaching death the next day. After He died and rose from the dead, He ascended into heaven, and is preparing a place for us.
Jesus Christ has conquered our greatest enemy, therefore lesser things in this life, should cause us minimal distraction.
What will happen the moment you die? Now that is a question that helps us get eternity into the picture.
Paul anticipates an eternity of glory after this present earthly life, in the resurrection body. In the preceding chapter the apostle was assured of a dwelling place in heaven, even if his earthly tabernacle should be destroyed. It is the state of the believer after death. It is a profound conviction of an eternal home with the Lord. It is the Christian’s hope. Paul expects to receive a glorified body before his physical death, but he also stresses what happens when the believer dies before Christ’s second coming. He knows that if his body should die he has an inheritance reserved for him in heaven. We know that if our earthly house perishes, we have an everlasting habitation in heaven. “Even if my sufferings should prove fatal, and my earthly house be dissolved, I have another habitation” (Charles Hodge).
The apostle Paul used a word for “striking down a tent” to describe our physical death. Our physical body is described as a tent, earthly house. It is an earthen vessel, a clay pot, fragile and temporary (2 Cor. 4:7).
Paul had referred to his mortal “body” (2 Cor. 4:10-11) as “wasting away” (2 Cor. 4:16). In 2 Corinthians 5:1, he compares it to a worn-out “earthly tent” soon to be “destroyed.” Christ incarnate tabernacled, lived, Himself in an earthly tent (John 1:14). Jesus Christ was God incarnate; He was God dwelling in a tabernacle of flesh. Jesus was God manifested in the flesh, for “in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9; John 2:19, 21; 2 Tim. 3:16). An earthly body is temporary, but a heavenly body is “eternal.” Therefore, Paul looked forward to the moment when he exchanges this earthly body for the resurrection body. One is a temporary tent and the other is an eternal body of glory.
“If our earthly house of this tabernacle were destroyed . . .” One day we will die, unless Jesus Christ comes before that event and we are immediately transformed by His presence at His Second Coming. This old house of clay will one day dissolve and return to dust. The apostle Paul did not say, “If I were to be destroyed,” or “If I were to be annihilated.”
The word “if” here does not indicate doubt as to the reality of death, but rather the uncertainty as to when this event will happen. It is not a question of if, but when. Life on this earth is temporary and we only need a “temporary dwelling.” In heaven we will need a permanent dwelling place. The earthly tent is a temporary dwelling which the apostle Paul uses for “our body here on hearth.” These physical bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth, and the use of this earthly tent will come to an end and be dissolved and return to dust.
We know that when the earthly tent dissolves “we have a building of God, eternal in the heavens.” The greater need has been taken care of by God. The real you is out of harm’s way and eternally secure if you have put your trust in Jesus Christ.
If you have never believed on Jesus Christ as your Savior, you do have good reason to fear the holy wrath of God. Every individual will die and then comes judgment. I have ministered to the dead and the dying on many occasions for many years. It only takes a mere nothing to end this mortal life. “The wages of sin is death.” One day we all die and it is always too soon for the unbeliever.
Death for the believer in Jesus Christ is but a mere shadow that falls across our life and passes over, and the sun shines again (Psalm 23:4). For the Christian life continues on the other side of “death.” The horror of death for the believer lies in being eternally separated from God in hell.
Do you look forward to the day when this human body will breath its last? No, I am not suicidal, and I am not depressed. Would it not be the greatest event in our lives if on our very best day, when everything is going beyond our fondest dreams, that suddenly we breathed our last breath and we were ushered into the wonderful eternal presence of our great God and living Savior Jesus Christ? That will be the greatest day of our lives!
This tent of an earthly body was created to serve a specific temporary purpose, and then pass out of existence. After it has served its purpose it will dissolve, and be “laid to rest.”
Death, for the believer in Jesus Christ, will usher in the very best. Death will bring and reveal to our wandering eyes the glorious palace of the King of kings.
When this earthly tent-house is gone we have “a building of God” eternal in the heavens with Jesus Christ. It is “not made by hands” meaning it is eternal, spiritual home in a glorified body, suited to the environment of heaven.
That does not sound like a purgatory. “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were destroyed, we have a building of God.” There is no perceptible interval between the dissolution of the earthly tent and entering on the heavenly house. As soon as the soul leaves the body it is in heaven, and waits the great resurrection day when the soul and the resurrected body are reunited (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). We can trust the Creator with the minor details.
Our heavenly body is “a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (NIV). This heavenly body reminds us of the resurrection body of Jesus (Mk. 14:58). We will receive a glorified resurrection body fit for heaven. It will be eternal, beautiful and full of glory. The Lord Jesus will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like His own glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Cor. 4:14). It will be free from sin and corruption and made ready for unbroken fellowship with God throughout eternity.
The prospect for the apostle Paul was immediate. Paul expected to go into his eternal house, which is in the heavens as soon as his earthly house was dissolved. "Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:8-10, NET).
The location where the redeemed are now gathered is wherever the glorified humanity of Christ is today. They are with Him, and behold His glory. The scenes in Revelation picture for us that place. At His ascension Jesus Christ sat down at the “right hand of Majesty on high” (Mk. 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3; 10:12). The “right hand of God” marks the honor and power of Christ. His presence marks a definite place. Where He is, we will be also with Him.
A. A. Hodge says, “As to the location of the place in which Christ and His glorified spouse will hold their central home throughout eternity, a strong probability is raised that it will be our present Earth, first burned with fire and then gloriously replenished (Rom. 8:19-23; 2 Pet. 3:5-13; Rev. 21:1)” (Commentary on the Westminster Confession).
The moment his soul left its body it would at once enter into “My Father’s house” of many dwelling places. Jesus is not going to lie to us! He has proven Himself trustworthy.
Paul did not say we would remain in a state of unconscious existence until the resurrection. “We know . . . we have a building of God.” We know that we have it. We possess the title to it by faith. “Faith is the title deed to the things hoped for” (Heb. 11:7). This confident faith is based on the great doctrinal truths presented in 1 Corinthians 15:34-54. “We have a building from God.” The verb “we have” is in the present tense because Paul is so certain of this future reality that he speaks of it as a perfect reality. Our permanent dwelling place in heaven is so real and assured in the apostle’s perspective that it is appropriately spoken of in the present tense. He speaks with conviction.
What unbound joy and inner peace to know that when the believing sinner dies in Christ, he goes into the immediate presence of our Lord forever. I will rest my eternal soul in the hands of my Savior. We have a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens with our Lord and Savior.
Believers in Jesus Christ are people in the “know,” writes A. W. Pink. “They know that their Redeemer lives (John 19:25). They know that they have passed from death unto life (1 John 3:14). They know that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28). They know that if their earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, they have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1). They know that one day they shall see Christ face to face and be made like Him (1 John 3:2). In the meantime they know whom they have believed, and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which they have committed unto Him against that day (2 Timothy 1:12).” How do we know? “They have proven for themselves the trustworthiness of God’s Word which affirms these things” (The Divine Inspiration of the Bible).
In a short time, the believer would be clothed with a body fit for eternity. Our perfected spirit shall dwell in a body specially prepared and adapted to its eternal glory in heaven for all eternity. It will be fashioned according to the glorious body of our Lord Jesus Christ. It will be a resurrected body without limitation of time and space. We are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.” O glorious day that will be. Our soul has been regenerated, but our body waits for the resurrection of the dead.
Second Corinthians 5:4 is a restatement and expansion of what Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:1-2. This earthly “tent” is our mortal human body. We do not want to get rid of our earthly body, but we do want to have the heavenly one put on over us, so that what is mortal will be transformed by life. Paul does not want to die, but rather to put on the spiritual body while he is still alive in his physical body. He wants the Lord Jesus Christ to return and transform his physical body before He dies.
Of course, this physical body will die, unless Christ comes first. We need to fix our eyes not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What we can see lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.
When we die we shall be welcomed into our Father’s house in heaven. The house God builds in heaven is eternal because human beings did not build this house.
Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for the believer.
Jesus promised us, “I go to prepare a placed for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am you may be also.” There is a place for you if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Our Lord always accomplishes what He purposes to do. He will not fail us now. He has a special dwelling place for each believer.
We know that our physical bodies here on this earth are like tents. And when we die, God will give us a house in its place, which is not made by human beings. God Himself makes it, and it will last forever.
We have this “building from God” because Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life.” When we die we will be absent from this body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8).
What about those who are alive and wait on the earth for the coming of Christ? “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
From the very moment we were saved by grace though faith in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit has made our body His dwelling place on this earth. When death comes to this physical body we can be most assured that our dweller will find a permanent and perfect rest for our souls.
When this physical earthly body is dissolved we will have a new body in heaven. How do we know this to be true? It is because Jesus died and rose from the dead.
Jesus Christ died and paid an enormous price to save my soul, and He is not going to waste His investment. Jesus is not going to be in glory and leave me behind! He paid too much for me! (1 Peter 1:18-19)
How do you live above the chances, changes, and circumstances in this life? Get eternity into the picture. The worse thing we can possibly lose is this tent of flesh and bone. What is it that we gain? We are ushered into the presence of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Oh to fall asleep in this life, and wake up in the presence of God in heaven and to be at home with Him.
What an eternal weight of glory when we see Jesus. He has prepared a permanent dwelling place for His people. What will it be like to open our eyes in heaven?
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Will I see You today?
1. Because Jesus Christ lives we know that death cannot claim us. “Because I live,” Jesus said, “you shall live also” (John 14:19).
2. When our tent is taken down, we need not fear. When the believer dies, the body goes to the grave, but the spirit goes to be with Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:20-25).
3. When Jesus Christ returns for the redeemed, He will raise the dead bodies in glory, and body and spirit shall be joined together to spend eternity in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:35-38; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
4. The Christian already enjoys a foretaste of the life everlasting. We are citizens of two worlds. The glory of this life foreshadows the “sheer glory, which is the reflection of the greater glory to come.”
5. Our salvation is not considered in terms of the immortality of the soul apart from the body, but of the total person (1 Corinthians 15:42-57).
Abiding Principles and Practical Applications
2 Corinthians 4:17-5:1-10; Matthew 6:24-34; John 14:1-3, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:34-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
For Further Study
Seated with Christ in Heaven
Message by Wil Pounds and all content on this page (c) 2005 by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973, and 1995 Update by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
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"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)