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“I Would not have You to be Ignorant”
1 Thessalonians 4:13
The souls of believers, redeemed sinners, men and women who have been made righteous before God in Christ, the souls of God’s saints return to God at death. Our departed brothers and sisters, as soon as they closed their eyes in death, opened them again in glory. There they shall remain until the second coming of Christ.
Then, when Christ comes again in his glory, he will bring them all with him, raise their bodies from the dust, and reunite their bodies and souls and spirits in resurrection glory. Believers yet living when Christ comes again shall then be changed, glorified, caught up into glory. Thereafter, we shall forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Though hell is as real as heaven and damnation as real as salvation, I here say little about the horrible state of the wicked and unbelieving after death. They shall immediately, as soon as they close their eyes in death, wake up in the torments of the damned in hell.
If you are yet without life, without faith, without Christ, and thus without hope, be warned. The wrath of God is upon you. If you die without Christ, you must be immediately and forever damned. To die without Christ is to die without hope.
For the believer, things are different. The believer, as soon as he dies, is alive forever. His soul immediately goes home to God in heaven. The Word of God, when speaking of the believer’s death, always represents it as an immediate entrance into heavenly blessedness and glory.
Actually, for the believer, death is not death at all, but the beginning of life. Our Lord said, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:26). God’s elect never die. The death of the body is the liberty of the soul. And as soon as our souls are freed from this body of sin and death, we shall enter heaven.
Walking in Uprightness
When the righteous perish from the earth, they live in uprightness forever, “each one walking in his uprightness” (Isaiah 57:1-2). When the righteous die, they are taken away from evil, enter into a world of peace, and rest in their beds. Their bodies rest in hope in the grave, in hope of the resurrection. Their souls rest in the arms of Christ, their Redeemer. Our departed friends have entered into everlasting rest (Hebrews 4:9-11). There they walk in their uprightness. God reckons the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us in justification and imparted to us in sanctification, to be our righteousness. And he makes it ours perfectly and experimentally in heaven. There our departed brethren walk in their uprightness, in spotless purity and holiness, in shining robes of bliss and glory. As soon as a believer dies, he is carried by God’s angels into heaven, Abraham’s bosom, the place of endless comfort (Luke 16:22-25).