Howard Mooney - Life After Death

Will the fellowship with Christ, that has meant so much to us here on earth continue beyond the grave? Will it be ours in the interval between death and the resurrection?

 

There are two words that would make this a little easier for us to understand: "With Christ." If we enter into fellowship "with Christ" here on earth, we can have the glad assurance that that fellowship "with Christ" may continue between death and the resur­rection, and then afterwards "with Christ" throughout the eternal ages. The children of God do not go to the ultimate and final Heaven at death. That ultimate and final Heaven will be theirs at the resurrection. The question that troubles most of God's children is: What is the condition of those who have gone before, between death and the resurrection?

 

First of all, I would like you to turn over and read John 1:39, "and abode with Him that day." That was the beginning of their fellowship with Christ. John the Baptist had pointed out the Lamb of God to them that day. Mark 3:14, "And He ordained twelve that they should be with Him." The beginning of their fellowship with Christ is referred to in John 1. Here a year later, we read that He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach." Matt. 28:20 gives the same promise..."Lo I am with you always even to the end of the world." John 14:23..."and we will come unto Him and make our abode with Him." John 15:1-8, the figure of the vine and branches suggests the same thought. The close and intimate relationship with Christ: Luke 24:13-16.."Jesus Himself drew near and went with them." Acts 4:13..."they took knowledge that they had been with Jesus."

 

I Corinthians 1:9, here Paul stated that the purpose of the gospel is to bring us into fellowship with Christ, "fellowship of Jesus Christ, our Lord." Revelations 3:20, "I will sup with Him and He with me." I John 1:2-4, "With His Son, Jesus Christ." There are quite a few verses all dealing with this one experience, fellowship with Christ - here on earth - "They abode with Him." "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." The promise in John 14 that He will make His abode or dwelling place with us, and then that passage in Luke 24:  where Jesus drew near and went with them. A little later on they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked to us by the way?" In Acts we read of those who took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.

 

I Corinthians 1:9 shows the purpose of the gospel call, "Called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." I John 1:3, "that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ." The ideal Christian life is a life in fellowship with Christ. They were in fellowship with Christ and that's the only foundation with each other, for fellowship.

 

If it's possible for us to have fellowship with Christ in this life and enjoy that fellowship, and for others to recognize that fellowship is really ours, the question naturally arises, "Does death put an end to fellowship with Christ?" When a child of God is called from this scene, what does the Scripture teach us with regard to their experience? Did the fellowship that meant so much to them in life, end at the grave, or are there Scriptures which encourage us to believe that the fellowship in the great beyond is deeper and sweeter and more enjoyable than any fellowship "with Him" that the children of God know of this side?

 

II Corinthians 4, Here we have some verses that give Paul's outlook as he thought of the future. Note verses 17 and 18. Evidently in the midst of his afflictions (because that is what he is talking about) the thought of a more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, thrilled him and enabled him to see the value of living his life for the things that are not seen, "For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." Then, in the 5th chapter, verses 1-9, last part of verse 8 is the thought that is associated with the 1st verse: "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." That's clear and definite.

 

In the 1st verse he says, "We know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" - eternal home. It's a little difficult to get the real meaning from the authorized version here, but the thought is, that in thinking of death, Paul says it's just like this: It's leaving a tent for a house or building. Nobody would like to live in a tent for life. Exchanging a tent, temporary dwelling place, for a permanent abode. Verse 8 says it would simply mean to be sleeping the interval between death and the resurrection, a period of unconsciousness, which is not true. Paul tells us here it means absent from the body, present with the Lord. A definite conscious experience with Him, with whom they walked and talked when here on the earth. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."

 

Philemon 1:  Two things stated in this testimony of Paul that are very good in this connection. Read verses 20 and 24. "To be with Christ, which is far better. I am in a strait betwixt two." I don't know exactly which to choose - I would like to go. I am willing to remain. Departing - leaving this earthly home, this tabernacle, means departing to be with Christ, the same thought as, "They abode with him." They were ordained to be with Christ.. He says, "I will sup with you and you with me." "I will make my home with you." They walked with Him in the way. This verse shows us unmis­takably, that the fellowship that begins with Christ in time continues beyond the grave. Philemon 1:21-23, "having a desire to be with Christ, which is far better." This answers that question of what is the condition of our brethren who have gone before, during the interval between death and the resurrection. The latter part of this verse tells us, "which is far better." Those of you who have looked up other translations of this passage, know it puts it just a little stronger than here. It says, "which is far, far better." When Paul was thinking about death, he was thinking about going to be with Christ, and when he was thinking about this experience he says, "It's going to be far, far better than any experience I have known upon earth." Sometimes we are inclined to think this sounds too good to be true. It is stated here.

 

Here is a man near the end of life - face to face with the last enemy, awaiting his trial, knowing sentence of death may be passed, and not knowing how soon execution may take place, but he says, "one interest reigns in my heart, that Christ might be magnified in my body." Death couldn't be gain, if what lay beyond was not something better than had been experienced on earth. He says, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." We usually associate death with loss, eternal loss. Paul associated it with eternal gain. "For me to live is Christ." "I am in a strait betwixt two." So when somebody comes to you and says that during the interval between death and the resurrection, we are in a condition of unconsciousness, that is the Seventh Day Adventist and First Day Adventist teaching; this verse alone proves that this is-altogether untrue.

 

If to Paul, death meant going to be with Christ, and it was to be far better than any experience he had on earth, with Christ, it couldn't be a state of unconsciousness. Hebrews 12:1, The picture Paul had in mind when he wrote this was the Roman arena (comparable to the stadium at Tacoma) - all around are the witnesses, the runners are in the bottom of the arena. The picture here is that those who have gone before, are interested in the race, still interested in the race. They are watching as we run, and we can be comforted and encouraged by that thought. I cannot believe that those whom we have loved, who have gone long since, are less interested in our welfare, in our running, than they were on earth. I like to believe they are more interested than ever, are spectators of our running, and "wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses." 

 

The thought I want to leave here is this - We cannot think of Christ watching us, taking note of how we run, we cannot think of Him but as an interested spectator, and as those who have gone before, are with Him, and are enjoying a closer and more intimate fellowship than they knew of on earth, it isn't unreasonable to allow the thought to rule in our minds that they too are watching and interested. Here the question may arise: "Do we take with us our memory beyond the grave?" Here are two pictures in Luke 16. Lazarus in Abraham's bosom and in verse 25 Abraham said, "Son remember," If the rich man took to a lost eternity, memories of what took place on earth, it isn't unreasonable that the child of God will also take to the other side, memories of experiences here. What is Christ doing for us now? Revelations 5, that is the unfinished work of Christ - the uncompleted work? It is intercession. Revelations 8:3-4 and Revelations 6:9-10.

 

If Christ, our Great High Priest, today is an intercessor, pleading our cause before the Throne, surely it isn't unreasonable to believe that they too are remembering us before the Throne. This isn't the Roman Catholic idea of "praying for the dead," but the New Testament idea of those who have gone before, praying for the living. The Roman Catholic idea is: We will pay so much to the priest and he will pray for those who are dead. The New Testament idea is that those who have gone before are making intercession for us, having fellowship with Him in that intercession, and that seems to be the reference here in Revelations to the prayers of the saints. Revelations 6:9-10.

 

I Thessalonians 4:15-18. This deals with what will take place when Christ comes again. It says: If we believe that Jesus died and rose again - we which are alive and remain-shall not prevent them which are asleep (shall not in any way have advantage over those who have fallen asleep, that is the meaning here). Here he is dealing with two things, the coming of Christ and the resurrection - the second coming of Christ, and the resurrection, and he says there will be those living on the earth when Christ comes, and those who have gone before. When Christ comes, who will come with Him? They have been with Him from the hour of death. Now when He comes, He will bring them with Him, and those living will be changed. I Corinthians 15:51-56. The same thought as in II Corinthians 4:14. The resurrection and the second coming take place together.