WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE?

GLORIFICATION

The doctrine of glorification is the end, the purpose, the goal and the objective of everything that God is doing, has done, and will do in redemptive history. Like Abraham, as Christians we are vagabonds on the earth. This is not our real home and we are rather looking for heaven, of which maker God is and has eternal foundations. This should be an all-consuming passion for us.

So-called Christians today seem to have a rather diminished interest in the things of heaven. They have a sort of self-esteeming, Narcissistic materialistic man-cantered approach to the Christian faith and a minimal understanding of all that is prepared for those who are God’s. They do not have a grip on the wonderful demand that is laid upon us in Colossians 3 to set our affections on things above and not on things on the earth. Not only is hell missing in our evangelical curriculum, but so is heaven.

Hope that is seen is not hope. We were saved in hope and we should live eagerly in anticipation of the fulfillment of that hope. That, of course, is referring to our heavenly hope. We should be pursuing, as Paul did, the prize that awaits us in the upward call.

If you think about heaven, our Father is there, our Savior is there, our redeemed family is there, our names are written there, our life is there, our inheritage is there, our citizenship is there, our reward is there, our treasures are there, our eternal peace is there, eternal satisfaction, and eternal joy.

People are called to believe in Jesus today for strange reason like wealth or to boost the numbers of heads in the congregation. But the issue is to believe in Jesus to escape hell and enter heaven. There really is no promise that when you believe in Jesus you will never again have anxiety, emptiness, sorrow, or trouble. On the other hand, often the unconverted also seem to have more interest and more curiosity about whatever comes after death than believers do.

1 Peter chapter 1 gives us a good basic understanding of glorification. Verse 13 says, “Fix your hope, set your hope completely.” Do not put your hope on anything in this world. If you have hope in this life only, you are miserable. “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Upon the appearing of Jesus Christ or your meeting Him when you have died, when He is fully disclosed to you, you will be given the greatest gift of grace and that is eternal perfection in heaven. Future grace, which is final grace. It is just as much grace as your redemption, regeneration, conversion or justification was grace. It is just as much grace as your sanctification is grace as God continues to shape you through the Spirit of God into the image of His Son Jesus Christ even though you are sinful. Your future glorification is the greatest and consummate act of grace.

It is in the process of coming about. One way to look at that is in John chapter 14 where Jesus was preparing to leave this world, and said to His disciples, “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I’ll come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you may be also.”

God is in the process of getting heaven ready for every individual believer. God is working that plan out even now, preparing you for your final grace and preparing heaven for when you arrive. This grace is our promised glorification.

In the book of Romans, we read that salvation actually broken down into three parts, justification (the time when you have believed and were saved from the penalty of sin), sanctification (the ongoing process by which God delivers you from the power of sin), and the final element of salvation, when you are delivered forever from the presence of sin.

Now let us look at future glorification. What are the components that bring this about? Number one, death, as the Apostle Paul says, “O death, where is your sting? O grave, or death, where is your victory?” Jesus Christ conquered death both for Himself and for all who believe in Him. And therefore the sting of death which is sin is removed. And so we do not fear death, we anticipate death. You enter into this glorification through death. The wages of sin is death and we all died spiritually in Adam and we all became susceptible to physical death because of Adam’s sin. Death is every man’s penalty for sin. It is appointed unto man once to die, as explained in Hebrews chapter 9.

NOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE?

Your physical mortal body is corruptible and stays on earth and decays, dust to dust. The soul goes on into eternity because the soul is eternal. Once God creates a living soul, that soul lives forever. Neither the believer nor the unbeliever is simply just going out of existence. That is true of even angels. Fallen angels are doomed to an eternal Lake of Fire and holy angels are to enjoy the bliss of heaven forever. The wicked will live forever in hell and the righteous will live forever in heaven.

Immediately that the consciously goes into eternity in the condition that will never change. There is no remediation going on or a place where you can go and kind of make up for your sins. Nobody can even pray for your souls to be saved at this point.

In Revelation 14:13 it said, “I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on that they may rest from their labors but their deeds follow with them.'” Whatever you are in life is exactly what follows you forever in eternity.

The death of the unsaved is horrific. It is described that way all throughout the Bible. The death of the wicked is a tragedy because it is eternal. Proverbs 11:7, “When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish and his hope will perish.” There is nothing to look forward to, nothing to hope for, perpetual sin and wickedness without relief. In Proverbs 14:32, the wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.

The death of the wicked is called the second death in Revelation 21:8. The death of the wicked means eternal punishment, as mentioned in Matthew 25:46 and elsewhere. Eternal destruction from the face of the Lord, 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Mark 3:29, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” A sin that perpetuates itself everlastingly. The death of the wicked is described as casting them into an eternal Lake of Fire, Matthew 25, Revelation 20, casting them into an abyss or a pit, casting them into outer darkness, Matthew 8:12, torment in Revelation 14. The death of the wicked puts them under the wrath of God, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Romans 2:5, where the anguish will produce everlasting weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, back to Matthew 8:12. This is then physical, spiritual and eternal death.

Now, on the other hand, the death of the righteous is only physical. The righteous has a refuge when he dies. That refuge, of course, the presence of God. It is not spiritual for they have spiritual life permanently. And so when the Bible describes the death of the righteous, it calls it eternal life, eternal rest, eternal glory, eternal peace, eternal joy, eternal communion with God in a state of ever-expanding bliss. In fact, the death of the righteous catapults them into what the Bible calls paradise. It is a kind of perfection, a kind of longing. It is something that we would love to see.
To the thief on the cross, in Luke 23, Jesus says, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise.” The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:4 says, “I was caught up in to paradise.” The Apostle Paul went into paradise after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He went there, heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak. It was a place of indescribable glory, joy and satisfaction.

In the letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2, verse 7, John says, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to believers, to Christians, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God.” The overcomer is the one who puts his faith in Jesus, John tells us in the fifth chapter of his first epistle.

We also learn from Revelation 2:7 that in the paradise of God is the Tree of Life. If you follow that to chapter 22 in Revelation, you are going to run into the Tree of Life again. Chapter 22 verse 1, “He showed me, this is a glimpse of the final heaven, the new heaven and the new earth, the final glorious heaven of heavens…he says it has a river of the water of life, clear as crystal coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street on either side of the river was the Tree of Life.” Here the Tree of Life is in heaven of heavens, the holy city, the capital of the eternal state.

For Christians death is glorious, eternal gain. Apostle Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He said, “I would rather depart and be with Christ for that is very much better, yet I’ll remain here if it’s necessary for your sake.”

WHAT IS LIKE BEING IN HEAVEN?

The Bible describes it as deliverance from all sin, all trouble, all pride, all lust, all temptation, all care, anxiety, disappointment, fear, labor, suffering, sorrow, weariness and more. it is perfect holiness, perfect purity, perfect happiness, perfect satisfaction, perfect honor, perfect dignity, perfect freedom to enjoy everything that God has prepared. And especially, perfect love given to God and to all who are in His presence and perfect love received from God and all who are in His presence. Therefore perfect fellowship with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the holy angels and all the saints. And it’s even more than that, as much as glorified humanity can be like incarnate deity we will be like Christ. First John 3:2, “When we see Him we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” The Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love Him.” It’s really incomprehensible.

So we do not fear death because death is not the end, it is the beginning. Death is not a sad event; death is a joyous event because this is what ushers us into that which God has prepared for us to enjoy forever.

THE RAPTURE AND OUR GLORIFIED BODIES

A few people don’t die. I mean, really a few. Enoch did not die, he took a walk with God one day and walked right into His presence, so says Genesis 5:24. Hebrews 11:5 comments on it as well. Elijah did not die; a chariot came out of heaven, picked him up, and took him to heaven. Pretty rare.

Now apart from those, there will be some others who will not die and they are described in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Verse 15, “We say this to you by the Word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord … will not precede those who have fallen asleep, for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, with a trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” The first thing that is going to happen is that the dead bodies of believers are going to come out of the grave and then, verse 17, “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus shall we always be with the Lord.” This is the Church of Jesus Christ alive at the time when the Lord raptures His redeemed Church. He will gather the bodies of those who have already died and then He will collect those who are alive and take them to heaven.

On the way up there will be a total transformation. In 1 Corinthians 15: 51, Paul says, “I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep … but we shall all be changed.” When the Rapture takes place, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised imperishable, or incorruptible, and the ones who are alive, we shall be changed. And this perishable will become imperishable, and this mortal will become immortal.

THE SEPARATED STATE

Body and soul are separated. The body is in the grave and the soul or the spirit is with the Lord for the believer. The body to dust and the spirit to God.

In Acts 7, Stephen is being crushed under the stones of those who are murdering him. As he was stoned he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He knew there was no intermediate state. He knew that his spirit was going immediately into the presence of the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1, “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 5:8 he said, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” No middle place. So when a believer dies, instantaneously they are in the presence of the Lord. Until the resurrection, the soul exists without a body.

Heaven is the place of the spirits of righteous men made perfect. Revelation 6:9 pictures the Tribulation, it says, “Under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and they were crying out with a loud voice, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true will You refrain from judgment in avenging our blood?'” So here you have souls praying, spirits occupying heaven, the bodies are not yet there.

So heaven right now is filled with the spirits of the just who have been justified by faith and are now perfect in the presence of God. In the dimension of heaven there is no time.

RESURRECTION OF THE SAINTS

The spirits and the souls now in the presence of the Lord, enjoying all the full perfection that a spirit can enjoy, are still not complete because they do not have their bodies. Romans 8:23 says that there Is a groaning among us, waiting for the redemption of our body. There will actually be a body. Paul says, “This corruptible shall put on incorruption. This mortal shall put on immortality.”

THE RESURRECTED BODY OF THE SAINTS

Now in the New Testament we get a bit of a description of what the body is going to be like for the righteous, while we have no description of the body for the unrighteous. Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Look at verse 21, “who will transform the body of our humble state.” Our bodies will be transformed, metamorphosed into conformity with the body of His glory. So the way to understand the body of our glory is that it will be like the body of His glory, it will be like His resurrection body. Jesus moved around, went through walls and through doors that were shut. He could speak, He could move, He could be touched and even the scars that He had from the cross could be seen and felt. He ate. This is the glorious body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

JUDGEMENT AND REWARD OF THE SAINTS

Preservative against temptation. Listen to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians chapter 5, we have as our ambition whether at home or absent to be pleasing to Him for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (not the White Throne Judgment) and there we will be recompensed for what we’ve done whether it’s good or useless, our works are going to be burned up as wood, hay, stubble, or they’re going to be preserved like gold, silver, precious stones.

The saints are going to face a judgment and a time of reward, not condemnation.

RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED

Right now the dead wicked are suffering in their spirit and in their soul without their resurrection bodies. But Jesus said in John 5:28, “Do not marvel at this, an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice.” Jesus had the power to give life to the bodies of all who have died in the history of the world and all will come forth. Some to a resurrection of judgment.

Bodies of the the souls that are damned will dwell. In Revelation 20, it is described that there will be a Great White Throne judgement, which is the final judgment of the wicked. Verse 11, “Saw a great throne,” says John, “Him who sat upon it from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.”

“And brought before that throne,” it says, “are the dead, the great, the small, that’s the significant, the insignificant, standing before the throne, books were opened, another book was opened, the Book of Life, and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds, the sea gave up the dead which were in it.” All the bodies of the wicked that have ever died will have to be newly created by God. They will all be judged and thrown into the Lake of Fire. There will need to be a kind of glorified human body to go along with the damned soul so that the tortures of hell are fully felt for the unregenerate.

In Acts 24:15, Paul said, “There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” For the righteous, a new body fit for glory. For the wicked, a new body fit for suffering, remorse and sin.

The Old Testament saints new about it. Job said, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God whom I shall see for myself and not another.” In Daniel chapter 12 there is a wonderful prophetic promise of the coming resurrection of the Old Testament saints and many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

THE FIRST RESSURECTION

Now the Bible describes this as the first resurrection. And the first resurrection actually has four components. First of all is the primacy of the resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “In Him we live, because He lives we live.” The resurrection that we receive comes through the power of Christ demonstrated in His own resurrection and of all who would ever be raised, He is the prototokos, the premier one. So the first phase, the first feature of the first resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Secondly comes the Rapture of the church. This is imminent, it could happen at any time and no prophetic things need to take place before this. We live in expectation. As reference; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4:13 to 17, and John 14:1 to 6. At that point, the dead in Christ in the church will be raised and they will receive their glorified bodies and those who are alive at that time will be metamorphosed on the way up in a split second.

The third component will be at the end of a period called the Great Tribulation, a seven-year period of divine judgment in the world that follows the Rapture of the church. At the end of the seven-year period will come the resurrection of the Old Testament saints as prophesied in Daniel chapter 12. It comes at the end of the time of Tribulation and it comes immediately preceding the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. If you follow the flow of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, you know that the resurrection of the Old Testament saints is in preparation for the glory of the Messiah which will be revealed in the world. At that time also Tribulation saints will be resurrected, who died under the reign and the terror of Antichrist. And any who are alive will go in their physical body right into the final element, the millennial kingdom. And anyone who dies in the millennial kingdom would be instantly metamorphosed, instantly transformed. There will be no resurrection to wait for.

After that at the end of the millennial kingdom there will be a rebellion by Satan. Satan’s rebellion is eliminated immediately by the Lord Himself and all the wicked are judged and Satan and his hosts and all those who followed him are cast into the Lake of Fire. God at that point destroys the creation, the Great White Throne takes place and then He creates a new heaven and the new earth, the final dwelling place of the glorified embodied righteous spirits. This is the final grace. This is the future grace.

If you go through your life and don’t expect much, then you’ll have less disappointment. To wish for heaven is to love God above all and to desire Christ above all. To wish for heaven is to long for pure fellowship. To wish for heaven is to hate sin and the weakness of the flesh. To wish for heaven is to resent Satan and his world system. To wish for heaven is to long for perfect holiness and perfect joy. Set your affections on things above, certainly not on things on this earth, and you will say with John, Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I’m coming quickly,” Jesus said, “behold I’m coming quickly,” verse 20 again, “I’m coming quickly.” And Johns says, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”

First John 3 says, “He that has this hope purifies himself, even as He is pure.” It has a purifying effect to live in excited anticipation that you are going to see Jesus face-to-face knowing that He knows everything about you.

The world is going to be full of trouble, but listen to what it says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Second Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart … because the inner man is being renewed day by day.” How do you do that? “Because momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” The more they do to me, the bigger the weight of glory becomes. The more I am faithful and the more I am persecuted and abused and the more I suffer for the gospel, the greater will be my eternal glory. We look not at the things which are seen but at the things that are not seen for the things that are seen are temporal, the things which are not seen are eternal.

David said it this way, “I will be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness.” “The bride eyes not her garment but her dear bridegroom’s face. I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace. Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand, the Lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel’s land.”

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