So what happens when we die? How do we understand this “next step” in all of our journey? Do we just “go to sleep” until Jesus comes for us? Do we go through a dark tunnel toward the “light?” When death comes, as it will to us all, just what will happen?
Understand that the believer need never fear death. While some may come into their last days of life on earth with a measure of pain and suffering, the prospect of death for the believer should bring nothing but joy and anticipation… sorrow ends. Pain stops. Tribulation and suffering are over forever. The former things pass away. Life everlasting lies before us. When we die we are “absent from the body and present with the Lord”… instantly (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). And so will we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
These are redeemed souls… faithful men and women who have walked with the Lord and died in this lifetime… grandparents, parents, spouses and friends… who are now in the presence of Christ. We hear their worship and see their joy in places like Revelation 4 and 5. They are “with the Lord” but have not yet received their greatest reward… their eternal, glorified, resurrected bodies. They know nothing but unending, limitless joy in the presence of the King.
But those saints who are now in Heaven are in a state of waiting until all has been completed and they will not be glorified completely until every believer has finished their race. “So does that mean they’re just disembodied ghosts or spirits floating around up there now,” we may wonder? Not at all. It just means that the final state that we will live in for eternity has not yet been accomplished because it will happen for all of us together!
How do we know it hasn’t happened for them yet? Go to the cemetery. If their graves are still there and intact or you know where their ashes are… it hasn’t happened! It will be in that same body you knew and loved that the final state of those who have gone before us will live… as will we… but glorified and perfected.
People in Heaven are not ghosts, not disembodied spirits… and yet even in Heaven what we shall be finally is not yet revealed… even in them. Only in Christ has our final state truly been seen… what we will all one day be. He is the firstfruits. (1 Corinthians 15:23) We are the remainder of the harvest. And we await the final day of glorification when we will be like Him…
… for we will see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
FOR MEMORIZATION: The Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:16
FOR REFLECTION: Correctly understanding what will happen to us at death will bring us comfort and deliver us from unnecessary fear and dread. The greatest comfort we can know is to know what eternity holds for those who love Christ.