Pastor's Corner

The death of a Christian lady

by John Crotts

I recently stood at the graveside of a sweet Christian lady.

Although the funeral home had done its job, the main service had been conducted; the casket was in place, prepared to be lowered into the earth, something was not right. The lady was not there.

Where had the lady gone? Where is she right now? Have you wondered about the location of a loved one that has passed on too? Although we talk of heaven in generic terms, doesn't the Bible reveal anything more specific?

Actually, it does, but it may surprise you.

This lady was a Christian. She came to the place of seeing her sinfulness and rebellion against God. Instead of fighting against that sight, as many do in their pride, she repented. She put her trust in the Lord Jesus, who out of his amazing love and grace offered her a complete pardon based on his death on the cross and resurrection. She took it and became a follower of Jesus.

When she died, this Christian woman experienced the temporary removal of her spirit — or soul — from her body. That is why a body in the casket never looks quite right. The real person truly is never there.

As a believer’s physical eyes close in death, their spiritual eyes open to behold the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ. While in prison considering the implications of a possible death sentence, Paul wrote, “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). If his body left the prison to be laid in the ground, Paul knew his spirit would be going to a different place and seeing a different person!

He told the Corinthians, “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8). The reason Paul could somehow view death as advantageous over a continuation in this world is that he would be with Jesus. That is to say, his spirit, probably in some sort of bodily shape, would be with Jesus.

This state of being is exactly what this lady entered into at this exact moment. She is with Jesus. The Bible seems to indicate that this is sort of a temporary heaven or Paradise. Jesus told the repentant thief that died on a cross next to Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

I say it is temporary, because the Bible clearly reveals more to come in that final place for believers. The section that gives us the most detail about the temporary Paradise is II Corinthians 4:16-5:8. I would encourage you to read these paragraphs for yourself in a Bible.

The setting is the sufferings of life in these bodies. Paul contrasts our outer bodies wasting away with our inner selves being renewed.

He goes on to speak of groaning in a tent — which has nothing to do with camping in Georgia in the summer. He also talks about being naked and then being further clothed.

Paul’s point is that we were made to have bodies. The time between a believer’s death and entrance into Paradise, and the final resurrection when Jesus comes back is considered a temporary time of nakedness.

Obviously, this is a metaphorical nakedness, where a person’s spirit is disrobed from his or her body. While this woman is rejoicing to be with Jesus, she may well have a sense that everything is not complete. So while I was thinking about her body in the casket, wondering at the incompletion, she may have been having similar thoughts, although in Paradise.

When Jesus returns, he will resurrect this lady’s body—the very body in the casket that I was staring at. Jesus will use up the stuff of her body, but will renew it completely and then reunite it with her spirit—all this will occur in an instant.

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:15-17).

God created the world, and he said that it was good. When Adam and Eve sinned, the world fell under a curse — which it is enduring to this day. When the Lord returns, the world will be redeemed and resurrected — just like our bodies will be resurrected.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:18-23).

The capital city on this renewed earth will be New Jerusalem, brought down from above (Revelation 21). There will be no more curse. It will be better than Eden.

It will be heaven on earth.

This lady will be there. I will see her again.

All real Christians will be with us as well. We will all be with Jesus, basking in the light of the glory of God.

Will you be with us? Heaven is not for good people, because really there are none that truly qualify. Heaven is for perfect people. But the only way you can qualify is to repent of your badness — and your inadequate good works — and trust in Jesus and his substitutionary work for sinners on the cross.

He makes the ultimate deal. He trades his perfection for your sins.

The resurrection of Jesus proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus’ deal is absolutely reliable. His resurrection also proves that death is not the end of the story for people. We will also be raised. Then we will all meet God.

The only question is will you meet your savior or your judge? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31).

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