State Of Man After Death

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: “My husband died recently, and I just wonder exactly where he is now and if he knows what's happening here in our lives on earth.”

A chart in the back of my ASV New Testament shows Paradise and Torments separated by a “Great Fixed Gulf.” It is an attempt to graphically portray Luke 16:19-31, where Jesus puts Abraham and Lazarus in Paradise and the rich man in Torments. This intermediate state of the dead between death and the resurrection suggests that a separation has already occurred, based on how they lived in this life. Let us assume that the questioner’s husband was a faithful Christian. Then he would be in Paradise—a term that seems to be applied to heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7, but in Luke 23:43 is applied to the intermediate state by Jesus. Note that in Philippians 1:23, Paul expects to be with Christ when he departs or dies. In 2 Corinthians 5:6,8 Paul says that to be in the body (alive on earth) is to be absent from the Lord (Christ), but to be absent from the body (departed from this life) is to be at home with the Lord (in Paradise or heaven where the Lord is). 

Perhaps the idea of departed Christians being in Paradise and at the same time being in the presence of Christ is better understood if we view Paradise as a state of existence rather than as a geographic location. The state of existence is of a spirit or soul without a body; the body will be given in the resurrection, and until then the spirit is without a body but is nevertheless with Christ and conscious of blessings, and in Luke 16 is aware of things happening on earth. One’s spirit is "departed" but not "dead," for, in a real sense, the spirit or soul never dies. Only the physical body is dead, and the real "you" is your spirit, not your body. We do not know a lot of details about spirits; we do not even know how our spirit dwells in our body, but we know that it does while we live on earth, and that when it leaves our body the body dies (James 2:26). 

So the faithful Christian’s spirit is alive with Christ after his body is in the grave; he has no more use for his earthly body. When Christ comes back, departed Christians will come with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:14; 3:13) and will "rise" (be given new, spiritual, glorious bodies described in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50). I assume that in the meantime the departed are aware of what we say and of what's happening here. I know of no Scripture that would indicate otherwise; in Luke 16 Abraham and the rich man both seemed to know what was happening on earth, and the departed saints in Revelation 6:9-10 knew what was happening to their brethren on earth. Judgment day will not change the outcome that each person has determined for himself by the time of his death. Those who reject Christ judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46) or are judged (condemned) already, while those who accept Him are not judged (John 3:18). Judgment day will be a time for God or Christ to pronounce the final sentence, but for the dead, separation has already occurred. God does not need time to deliberate; He knows the outcome at death, or even before that. –2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730.

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