Jack Carroll - Relationship with Christ after Death - Avondale, 1944

December 3, 1944

Will the relationship 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, and will it deepen beyond the resurrection? There are two words that would make it a little easier for us to remember—“with Christ.” If we enter into fellowship “with Christ” here on earth, we can have the glad assurance that fellowship may continue between death and 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 resurrection?” First of all, I would like for you to turn over and read John 1:39—“He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Christ that day; for it was about the tenth hour.” They “abode with Him.” That was the beginning of their fellowship with Christ. John the Baptist had pointed out the Lamb of God to them in verse 36 and 29. Verses 35-40—“abode With Him that day.” Their fellowship with Christ began 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.” Matthew 18:20 gives us the same thought—the presence of Christ, fellowship with Christ. In Matthew 28:20, you will note the promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto 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 the branches suggests the same thought –the close intimate fellowship with Christ. Luke 24:13-16—“Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” Acts 4:13—“They took knowledge of them; that they had been with Jesus.” I Corinthians 1:9—here Paul states that the purpose of the Gospel call is to bring us into fellowship with Christ—the fellowship of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Revelation 3:20—“I will sup with Him and He with Me.” I John 1:1-4—“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.” “They were ordained to be with Him.” “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I the midst of them.” The promise in John 14 -- that He will make His abode, His dwelling place, with us; and then that passage in Luke 24, where “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.” A little later on they said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while we communed with Him?” In Acts 4:13—“They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 1:9—is the purpose of the Gospel call. They were called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord, and in this verse in 1 John 1, “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 is the only true foundation for fellowship with each other—fellowship with Christ and then fellowship with each other.

If it’s possible in this life for us to have fellowship with Christ and to enjoy that fellowship and for others to recognize that fellowship is really ours, the question naturally arises, “Does death put an end of fellowship with Christ?” When a child of God is called from this scene, what does the Scripture teach us with regard to this experience? Does the fellowship that meant so much to them in life end at the grave, or are there Scriptures which encourage us to believe that that fellowship in the great beyond is deeper and sweeter and more enjoyable than any fellowship with Him that the children of God knew on this side? 2 Corinthians 4—here we have some verses that give us Paul’s outlook as he thought of the future. Note verses 17 and 18. Evidently in the midst of his affliction (because that is what he is writing about) the thought of “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” thrilled him and enabled him to see the value of living his life for things which are not seen—“for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Then in 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, in the last part of the eighth verse is the thought that is associated with the first verse, “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” That’s clear and definite. In the first verse, he says, “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” It’s 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’s leaving a tent, a temporary dwelling place, for a permanent abode. It’s exchanging a tent for a building.” Nobody would like to live in a tent for life; it’s exchanging a tent, a temporary dwelling place for a permanent abode. “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens”—an Eternal home. Verse 8 says it would simply mean, “absent from the body, to be present with the Lord.” There are those who say the interval between death and the resurrection is a period of unconsciousness, that death means sleeping—a state of unconsciousness. Now Paul tells us here it means absent from the body, present “with the Lord.” It is a definite conscious experience of fellowship with Him whom they walked with and talked with here on earth—absent from the body, present with the Lord.”

Philippians 1—two things stated in this testimony of Paul are very good in this connection. Read verse 20-24; “…to be with Christ which is far better.” “I am in a strait betwixt two”—I don’t know just exactly which to choose; I would like to go—I am willing to remain. Departing—leaving this earthly house, this tabernacle, means departing to be with Christ. The same thought is, “They abode with Him.” He says, “I will sup with you, and you with Me”; “I will make my home with You.” “They were with Him in the way…” This verse shows us unmistakably that that fellowship that begins with Christ in time will continue beyond the grave.

Philippians 1:20-23— “Having a desire to be with Him, 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 particular 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 of this experience, he says, “It’s going to be far better,” far, far better than any experience he had known upon earth! Sometimes we are inclined to think that this sounds too good to be true. It is stated here. Here is a man nearing the end of life, face to face with the last enemy, awaiting his trial, knowing the 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 could not be gain if what lay beyond death 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 loss with death—eternal loss. Paul associates death with eternal gain, “For me to live is Christ.” “I am in a strait betwixt two”—so, when anybody 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 conclusively that it was to be far better than any condition he had experienced on earth. With Christ 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 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 long since are less interested in our welfare, in our running, than when they were here on earth. I like to believe they are more interested than ever, are spectators of our running. “Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” Luke 16—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 if those who have gone before are with Him and are enjoying a closer, more intimate fellowship than they knew upon earth, it isn’t unreasonable to allow the thought to rule in our minds that they, too, are watching us and are interested. Here the question may arise, “Do we take with us 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 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.

Revelation 5—what is Christ doing for us now? What is the unfinished work of Christ, the uncompleted work? It is intercession. Verse 8, Revelation 8:3-4, Revelation 6:9-10: If Christ, our great high Priest, today is our intercessor, pleading our case 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 “prayers 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 money 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 me to be the reference in Revelation to the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 6:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18—deals with what will take place when Christ comes again. It says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we which are alive and remain shall not prevent them which are asleep.” That is the meaning (shall not in any way have an advantage over those that have fallen asleep. That is the meaning here). Here he is dealing with two things—the coming of Christ and the resurrection, and he says there will be those living on earth when Christ comes; and those that have gone before when Christ comes, who will come with Him. This is the second coming of Christ and the resurrection.) They have been with Him, and those living will be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-56— has the same thought as in 1 Corinthians 4—the resurrection and second coming take place together when Christ comes with those who have gone before. Philippians 3:20—when Christ comes, those who have been with Him during that 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.” It is difficult for us to understand that, because the word “conversation” that we have here is the old English word for our “manner of life” and doesn’t refer to our talking to one another. It is the old 16th Century word for our manner of life. Those of you who have a marginal reading will notice that it says, “Our commonwealth” or “our citizen­ship is in heaven.” Another 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 a Roman colony, so Paul with that thought in mind says, “We are a colony.” Philippi was modeled after the city of Rome in a foreign land. The thought Paul had was that God’s people are like part of the mother country; the mother country is Heaven, and we are looking for the Saviour from Heaven, who will come to take us to be with Him for ever. “We are a colony! We will be given new bodies, a body not subject to disease—who shall change our vile bodies.” What kind of a body are we going to have in the resurrection? There’s the pattern—“A body like unto His glorious body.”

Will we know each other in heaven? Will we renew 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 had not some hope of meeting those whom we had loved on earth and of 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 hands, His feet, His side, His brow. He will be recognized throughout all eternity by those 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, and Paul will be Paul, James will be James, and Mary will be Mary! You couldn’t conceive of individuality or personality apart from recognition, so that in the great beyond will be that recognition and the renewal of friendships— fellowships that have meant so much to us on this side of the grave.

Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:1-3. He says it’s a good thing to be in the family now, but it will be infinitely better later on, in the future. Hebrews 11:17—“For He hath prepared for them a city.” Revelation 21:1-3—we read about that city and a description is given of that city from verse 11 to the end of the chapter. We read about that city, and from verse 22 to the end of the chapter—“There shall be no need of light there.” That shall remain forever and ever. That takes us from earth to heaven.

Fellowship with Christ begins here, continues beyond the grave, and during the interval between death and the resurrection. At the resurrection the children of God who have gone before and been with Christ, some for a thousand years, some for two thousand years or more, will get resurrection bodies. Those who remain will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, to be forever with the Lord, and they will be given the city foursquare, they shall be forever with the Lord.

Now, do you think the Lord is through with His people when He takes them Home? Don’t you think we are now qualifying for greater, more fruitful service in the life beyond? “His servants shall serve Him.” So, the life of service doesn’t end with the grave; with the resurrection, it opens the door to greater service, more fruitful service, more satisfied serving in the world to come!

I am only wanting to make three points: first, the ideal Christian life is a life in fellowship with Christ now. Second, at death that fellowship continues. Third, at the resurrection that fellowship will be greater. The first thought is that the gospel message is a call into 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, and to die is gain.” We mourn over those who have gone before, but we wouldn’t wish them back, because their experience now is better—far, far better than any experience they had known here upon earth, and that 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 our individuality! Jesus said, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If Abraham will be Abraham, Isaac will be Isaac, etc., then it is not unreasonable to believe that you will be you and I will be me!