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 the 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 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 and that He might send them forth to preach."  Matthew 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 suggest 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, Paul stated that the purpose of the gospel is to bring us into fellowship with Christ, "fellowship of Jesus Christ, our Lord."  Revelation 3:20, "I will sup with Him and He with me."  1 John 1:2-4, "With His Son, Jesus Christ," here on earth.  "They abode with Him."  Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them."  The promise in John 14:23 is He will make His abode or dwelling place with us.  Then the passage in Luke 24:15, "Jesus drew near and went with them."  A little later on they said in verse 32, "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."  1 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 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 that any fellowship "with Him" that the children of God know on this side? 
 
  
11 Corinthians 4:17-18, we have some verses that give Paul's outlook as he thought of the future.  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 II Corinthians 5:1-9, the last part of verse 8 is the thought that is associated with the first verse.  "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."  That is clear and definite.  In the first 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 is a little difficult to get the real meaning from the Authorized Version here, but the thought is, that in thinking about death, Paul says it's just like this, "It is leaving a tent for a house or building."  Nobody would like to live in a tent for life - exchanging a tent or temporary dwelling place for a permanent abode.  Verse 8 says it would simply mean to be absent from the body to be present with the Lord.  There are those who say that death means sleeping in the interval between death and the resurrection, a period of unconsciousness, which is not true.  Paul tells us 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." 
 
  
Philippians 1:23, two things stated in this testimony of Paul that are very good in this connection. "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.  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, the fellowship that begins with Christ and, in time, continues beyond the grave.  Philippians 1:23, "having a desire to be with Christ which is far better."  This answers the 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 started 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 it is altogether untrue. 
 
  
If, to Paul, death meant gong to be with Christ, and it was to be far better than any experience he had had on earth with Christ, it could not 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 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.." (Hebrews 12:1).  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 closer and more intimate fellowship than they knew on earth, then 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?"  There are two pictures in Luke 16 - Lazarus in Abraham's bosom and in verse 25 Abraham said, "Son, remember."  If the man taken to a lost eternity has memories of what took place on earth, it isn't unreasonable to think the child of God will also take to the other side memories of experiences here.  What is Christ doing for us now?  Revelation 5 - what is the unfinished work of Christ, the uncompleted work?  It is intercession, Revelation 8:3-4 and Revelation 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 Revelation to the prayers of the saints (Revelation 6:9-10).   
 
  
I Thessalonians 4:15-18 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 pray for them which are asleep (shall not in any way have advantage over those who have fallen asleep).  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 is in II Corinthians 4:14, the resurrection and the second coming take place together. 
 
  
Christ comes - those who have been with Him during the interval between death and His coming, will be given resurrection bodies.  Those who are alive and 
remain will be changed.  Philippians 3:20 is very suggestive.  It says, "For our conversation is in heaven."  What we have here is the Old English word for "our manner of life."  Those of you who have a marginal reading will notice it says, "Our commonwealth" or our citizenship is in Heaven, but another translation is even better.  The translator gives the thought of Paul better than any other translator, "For we are a colony of Heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ."  Philippi was modeled after a city of Rome in a foreign land.  We are also modeled after another country, Heaven, and we are looking for the Saviour from Heaven, who will come to take us to be with Him forever.  "For we are a colony."  We will be given new bodies, a body not subject to diseases.  "Who will change our vile bodies."  What kind of a body are we going to have in the resurrection?  There is a pattern, "a body like unto His glorious body." 
 
  
Will we know each other in Heaven?  Will we renew on the other side the friendships and fellowships that meant so much to us on this side?  I cannot conceive of Heaven apart from recognition.  We would have no interest in going there if we did not have some hope of meeting those whom we have loved on earth, and discussing with them some of the experiences we passed through on earth, recognition.  Jesus, in His resurrection body, was recognized by the marks on His body, His hands, His feet, His side, His brow, and will be recognized throughout all eternity by these marks.  They knew Him.  They recognized Him, and if we are going to have in that future kingdom resurrection bodies after the pattern of His body, we will carry with us our individuality, our personality; you will be you, Paul will be Paul, James will be James, Mary will be Mary, and you couldn't conceive of individuality apart from recognition and renewal of friendships and fellowships that meant so much to us on this side of the grave. 
 
  
Colossians 3:4, I John 3:1-3, it is a good thing to be in the Family now, but it will be infinitely better later on in the future.  Hebrews 11:13-17, "for He hath prepared for us a city."  In Revelation 21:1-5, we read about that city - a description given of that city - in verse 22 to the end of the chapter, "there shall be no need of light there," and that shall remain forever and ever.  That takes us from earth to Heaven.  Fellowship with Christ begins here and continues beyond the grave - during the interval between death and the resurrection.  At the resurrection, the children of God who have gone before and have been with Christ, some for 1,000 years and some 2,000 years and more, will get resurrection bodies.  "Those who remain will be changed in a twinkling of an eye to be forever with the Lord and shall be given the City four square," Revelation 21:16.  Now, do you think the Lord is through with His people when He takes them home?  Don't you 
think He will have a job for them throughout the ages?  Don't you think we are now qualifying for a more fruitful and greater service in the life beyond?  His servants shall serve Him."  So the life of service doesn't end at the grave, or with the resurrection; it opens the door to greater service and more satisfying service in the world to come.  I only want to make three points: 
 
1.  The ideal Christian life is a life in fellowship with Christ now. 
2.  At death, that fellowship continues. 
3.  At the resurrection, that fellowship will be greater. 
 
  
The Gospel message is a call into the fellowship with Christ.  When death takes place, the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved; it is exchanging a temporary tent for a permanent dwelling place.  Paul says, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain."  We mourn over those who have gone before, but we would not wish them back.  Their experiences are now better, far better than any experience they have known here on earth.  And that experience, that fellowship will be perfected at the resurrection when we get our new resurrection bodies and are able to have a closer and more intimate fellowship through the years to come.  Heaven wouldn't be Heaven if we didn't take with us our individuality.  Jesus said in Matthew 22:32, "God is not a God of the dead but of the living" speaking of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.).  If Abraham will be Abraham, Isaac will be Isaac, etc., it is reasonable to believe that you will be you, and I will be me.