What happens when a Christian dies?

By Roger Carswell

The Book of Revelation graphically and dramatically describes events surrounding the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. At one stage John, the author, describes an interruption of seven angels who are sent to explain what is happening. One of these seven says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from now on.” God, the Holy Spirit, reinforces this with the words, “Yes, they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”

So the New Testament which begins with Jesus’ Beatitudes, ends with Beatitudes and Blessings for God’s people. And although the words were written for those who die in the Great Tribulation, they have been an assurance that has encouraged all God’s people who have stared death in the face. There are thousands of examples one could quote, but here is one. Donald Cargill. the Scottish Covenantor spoke his last words before being executed on the 27th July, 1681: “The Lord knows, I go up this ladder in less fear and perturbed of mind that ever I entered the pulpit to preach... Farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell all acquaintances and all earthly enjoyments; farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproaches and sufferings. Welcome joy unspeakable and full of glory. Welcome Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”

Death is an enemy. It is a great destroyer. In a foul swoop death takes all the aspirations of a person, the dreams of their heart and the memories of the mind. Death severs the ties that bind a person to their loved ones. Death’s work is relentless, cruel, and merciless. Yet God’s verdict concerning His children who die in the Lord is that that they are blessed of the Lord. How then, can that be? It is because of:

1.  Where They Are

Those who die in the Lord are in heaven. The Creator who made the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Alps, the rushing mountain streams, the brilliantly coloured autumn leaves, the carpets of wildflowers, the glistening fins of the fish and graceful gliding of the swan, as well as the lilting notes of a canary’s song and shimmer of a dew drop in the early morning, is the same Creator who has prepared our heavenly home. More than that the Lord Himself is the centre of heaven; to be there is to be in His presence.

Heaven is a place of no pain, hospitals, and grief. There are no broken hearts, homes, lives or dreams. There is no mental retardation, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, blindness, lameness or deafness. There are no fires, floods, sickness, death or war.

The Bible puts it like this, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new. And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.”’

Like a bird out of its cage, we shall be liberated from the drag of this mortal life.

2.  Who They Are With

Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” The Lord is the One who stood to welcome the first Christian martyr, Stephen. He will welcome safe home each of His children who have passed through the valley of the shadow of death.

All God’s people will be in heaven. Just imagine a place where all the saints of all time will be with the Lord Jesus, enjoying Him and unspoiled fellowship with each other. There is an illustration of this in John 12. When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter back to life, she sat up, opened her eyes and saw Jesus first Then, no doubt she would have seen her father and mother, and then Peter, James and John. First the Saviour, then her loved ones, then the other followers of Jesus —isn’t that how we will see each other in heaven?

3.  What They Are Doing

The Bible describes the citizens of heaven as praising and worshipping God. The rest, which is to be enjoyed, is not that of sitting on a cloud, but rather that of a sailor home from the seas, or a soldier home from the battle. They will work without weariness, and have responsibility with restoration. The immediate presence of Christ will be heaven for us. Jesus is never bored, and nor be will His children who are in His presence!

4.  How Long It Is For

Heaven is everlasting and eternal, which tells us of the quantity and quality of this home. At the moment of death, we are immediately received into the presence of the Lord.

Sleep after toil; port after stormy seas; Ease after war; death after life does greatly please.”

5.  Why They Are There

Sadly, it is possible to die with unforgiven sin, without God, without Christ and without hope. Jesus tenderly warned about hell for those who do not receive the pardon, which He purchased on the cross. Jesus took the sting of death, which is sin, on Himself on the cross. Christ carried the can for all our wrongdoing. He died so that all that cuts us off from God and would condemn us forever might be forgiven. Jesus conquered the conqueror death, by rising again from the dead. He has ascended to heaven and will one day return in glory, as Lord, King and Judge.

Our eternal destiny is not decided by the words of the parson at the funeral. And if a person does not believe in judgement, it does not alter the fact that every individual will stand before God as the judge. Those who are in heaven are there not through works of righteousness that they have done, but because of God’s mercy in which they have trusted.

Does the world say, “Blessed are the living”? God says, “Blessed are the dead, who die in the Lord.”

The 18th century Bible Commentator, Matthew Henry, expressed his confidence in words that he hoped would be read after his death by anyone who might unduly mourn his passing. He wrote:

“Would you like to know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansions prepared for me here. I am where I want to be - no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbour. My sowing time is done, and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest. Would you like to know how it is with me? I am made perfect in holiness. Grace is swallowed up in glory. Would you like to know what I am doing? I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the throne, and I am constantly praising Him. Would you know what blessed company I keep? It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect ... I am with many of my old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who have come here before me. Lastly, would you know how long this will continue? It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now. Therefore, weep not for me!”

http://www.theevangelist.org.uk/articles/what-happens-when-a-christian-dies