At Home with the Lord
The New Testament answers the very important question about whether Christians at the point of death are in heaven or not with the comfort of the fact that they are “away from the body and at home with the Lord.” The Christian life is not interrupted by death. Yes, at the point of death, the Christian passes into the nearer presence of God. But we shouldn’t confuse this with the whole idea of resurrection. The resurrection of the body will happen at the time of the renewal of all things when Jesus returns.
There’s an urgent need for us to be clear on this. Too often, at funerals, I hear a minister referring to the deceased as now enjoying a body that is free from disease and infirmity. This may bring great comfort to the bereaved, but I don’t believe it is the teaching of the Scriptures.
Paul reminds us in Romans 8 that the whole of creation is now groaning as in childbirth awaiting the future resurrection of all things. That is the time we will receive our resurrection bodies in a raised world. In the meantime, however, in the very same chapter, we are also reminded that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ—not even death.
And so that is the tension. At the point of death, we do pass to be with Jesus. But as we read in 1 Thessalonians 4, we are awaiting that time when the dead will come with Christ and the dead in Christ will rise first. And so we will join with them in the clouds. And so Jesus’s resurrection is the first fruits of what will follow.
Wherever Jesus is, there we will be at home with him.
At the second coming we will be raised, we will receive our resurrected, transformed body, but in the meantime, we are away from the body but at home with the Lord. Now what does that look like? Well, questions abound for me as well. It won’t be a time of moral refinement, it won't be like the idea of purgatory. But it will be at home because wherever Jesus is, there we will be at home with him.
Ian K. Smith is the author of Not Home Yet: How the Renewal of Earth Fits into God’s Plan for the World.
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