Summary: Luke 23:39-43. Immediately after death, all believers enter into the presence of Christ, where they await final glorification.
ONE MINUTE AFTER YOU DIE
HEAVEN, HELL, & WHO WILL GO WHERE
JOY IN THE PRESENCE
- As you know, we have been taking a glimpse at the subject of what happens after we die. There is so much that could be said concerning this topic; and indeed, we will spend our lives studying the Scriptures and still not know everything – so we have attempted to get to the nuts and bolts so to speak. What are the basic things we must know about death, and more specifically what happens after death?
- Our look at the first half of the answer to that question led us to the topic of Hell. A most unpleasant subject, Hell as it is described in Scripture should have caused us to squirm in our seats a bit. You will remember that upon death the souls of unbelievers are send to a place of torment, where they await final judgment. Then, in the future when Christ returns they will be resurrected, given eternal bodies, judged according to their deeds, and cast into the lake of fire where they will be tormented consciously forever.
- Now it needs to be recalled as we turn our attention toward believers and our destiny, that we die for the same reason unbelievers die. Just as unbelievers experience physical death because of sin, believers will experience physical death because of sin. That statement in Hebrews 9 that I referenced that says “...it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment...” applies to us as believers in Christ as well as those without the Savior.
- Now the sequence of events after death for believers is very similar to that of unbelievers. The destinations are drastically different; but the overall order of things is quite comparable. Just as unbelievers enter an intermediate state upon death, believers do so as well. Again, the intermediate state describes the time period between a person’s death and Christ’s return.
- So I will make a blanket statement about this state for Christians even as I did for the unsaved: For the unbeliever the statement was this: Everyone who dies without Christ as Savior is immediately sent to a place of torment where they await final judgment. But for those who know Christ, the outlook is infinitely brighter: Everyone who dies with Christ as Savior is immediately sent to the presence of Christ, where they await final glorification.
- There are three key differences in those statements. The first difference, obviously, is that one group dies without Christ as Savior and the other with. The second difference is that those who died without Christ are sent to a place of torment, but the those who die with him are sent to his presence – and this is the difference we will highlight today. The third difference is that while unbelievers await final judgment, believers await final glorification – and we will explore that next time.
- So let’s zoom in on that second difference, then. While unbelievers are sent to a place of torment upon death, believers are sent to the presence of Christ.
- That those of us who know Christ as Savior immediately meet him upon death is quite clear in the Bible. While the wicked are constantly described as being cast away from God in judgment, the righteous are described as anticipating fellowship and communion with God for eternity.
- One of the best examples of this is found in Luke chapter 23. Turn there if you would.
- In Luke 23 we find one of the most important events in the life of Jesus occurring: his crucifixion. Christ has just been condemned to death, he has made his way, with the help of Simon the Cyrene, to Golgotha (which is Aramaic for the place of the skull), and he is nailed to a Roman cross and hoisted between two criminals.
- He is being mocked and scorned even as he is taking the sin of the world on his shoulders. And even one of his fellow sufferers begins to scream at him. Look at Luke 23 beginning at v.39:
Read Luke 23:39-43
- One criminal is railing against Jesus. Literally, the text says he is blaspheming Christ. He is screaming evil, profane, and impious words to the Son of God – doubting his ability to save himself and them. But the other criminal, by the grace and Spirit of God, recognizes who he’s hanging next to.
- He asks Jesus to remember him when he enters into his kingdom. And Jesus responds saying that the wait for this thief was shorter than he probably expected. On that very day, that thief would be with Christ in paradise.
- I want us to notice something very important about Jesus’ response to this thief, and then we are going to look briefly at some other Scriptures to clarify some things. I want us to notice before we go any further, that: