Q37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
A: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness (Heb. 12:23), and do immediately pass into glory (Phil.
1:23); and their bodies, being still united to Christ (1 Thess. 4:14), do rest in their graves (Isa. 57:2) till the resurrection
I. To die is gain for the Christian (Phil. 1:21). The intermediate state denotes the state between this life and the rejoining of the glorified body at the resurrection.
A. As men live differently so they die differently also. Death is the greatest gain for the Christian, but the greatest loss for the unrepentant.
B. Scripture describes two types of death: physical and spiritual.
1. Physical: the separation of the soul from the body (Gen. 25:8; cf. Matt. 22:31-32; Ecc. 12:7).
2. Spiritual: the separation of the soul from God (Matt. 8:22; Eph. 2:1).
a. When Adam sinned death passed to all men (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 5:12); regeneration is described as a passing from death to life (1 Jn. 3:14).
II. Benefits received at death respecting the soul: perfection and immediate glory.
A. Perfection in holiness. In regeneration the Christian gets a new nature (2 Pet. 1:4), and though indwelling sin remains, at death he is perfected (Heb. 12:23).
1. Perfected in freedom from sin (Eph. 5:27); from its commission (Rev. 21:27). The “body of death” shall go out with the death of the body (Rom. 7:24).
2. Perfected in holiness (Eph. 4:13): understanding, perfect illumination (1 Cor. 13:12); will perfectly upright and responding (Matt. 26:41; Rev. 21:27).
B. Glory is immediately enjoyed. Death is birth into glory (Lk. 23:43).
1. Glorious place: heaven (2 Cor. 5:1), the Father’s house (Jn. 14:2), where God’s glory illuminates (Rev. 21:23); glorious society of saints (Heb. 12:23), in the presence of the Trinity (Jn. 17:24); glorious state of rest and perfect blessedness (2 Cor. 5:1) which is inconceivable (1 Cor. 2:9).
2. Immediately after death the saint enters glory (Lk. 16:22-25; 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:1-2, 8; Phil. 1:23), a place of conscious peace and rest (Isa. 57:1-2; Heb. 4:9). There is no “soul-sleep” or “purgatory.”
a. Soul-sleep (“conditional immortality”) is a Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, which they define as: “[Soul] of man represents the whole man, and not a particular part independent of the other component parts of man’s nature…. We, as Adventists, have reached the definite conclusion that man rests in the tomb until the resurrection morning” (Questions on Doctrine, 515, 520). The grave is described: “The grave is not a place of consciousness. Since death is a sleep, the dead will remain in a state of unconsciousness in the grave until the resurrection…” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 353).
(1). Conditional immortality results in annihilationism. God gives to the redeemed immortality, but the rest sink into nothingness.
(2). An individual may be said to “sleep” at death (Matt. 27:52; Jn. 11:11; Acts 13:36). Those “asleep” God intends to bring with Christ at the Second Coming (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
b. Purgatory is a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church: “[A] place or state in which are detained the souls of those who die in grace, in friendship with God, but with the blemish of venial sin, or with temporal debt for sin unpaid. Here the soul is purged, cleansed, readied for eternal union with God in Heaven” (Catholic Theology). Suffering in purgatory is two-fold: physical pain and separation from God. This is necessary because complete satisfaction for sins has not been made. Length of suffering determined by degree of sinfulness and can be shortened by prayers, the merits of others, and the mass. “All who die…imperfectly purified…undergo purification (through a purifying fire), so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (Catechism Catholic Church, 1030-31). [Verses “supporting” purgatory: Job 1:5, 18; 1 Cor. 3:14-15; 1 Pet. 1:6-7.]
(1). The Catholic Church has two classes of sin: venial, a small offense incurring only temporal punishment; mortal, serious sin incurring eternal punishment.
(2). Bible has no two-fold class of sin (Ja. 2:10). Every deviation deserves a curse (Deut. 27:26; Ga. 3:10).
(a). God forgives sin through Christ’s blood (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 1:3; 1 Jn. 1:7), which is sufficient (Heb. 9:13-14, 22, 26).
(b). Does this sound like temporal punishment (Ezek. 18:20; Matt. 25:41; Rom. 6:23; 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Rev. 20:14)?
(c). After death comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
III. Benefits received at death respecting the body.
A. Death cannot harm the Christian: the body is still united to Christ (1 Thess. 4:14); the body cannot be held there forever (Job 19:26; 1 Cor. 15:26, 54-56).
1. Death is gain for the grave is the body’s place of rest (Isa. 57:1-2), from all the troubles and afflictions of life (Rev. 14:13), and persecution (Job 3:17).
A. Use, of knowledge.
1. Soul-sleep and purgatory are false doctrines.
2. Death is gain to the Christian, but loss to the ungodly. Christ passed through death, conquering it and removing the fear from the believer (Heb. 2:14-15). The ungodly at death faces judgment (Heb. 9:27).
B. Use, of testing.
1. Are we ready for death?
2. Have we prepared those within our sphere of influence to meet their Creator (cf. Ezek. 33:8-9)?
C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.
1. Sinners. Death is imminent, certain, and will separate you from ever being able to come to Christ. The soul will be separated from God for all eternity. Flee to Christ now (2 Cor. 6:2).
2. Saints. Press after perfection in holiness which you shall obtain (Phil. 3:13-14). Do not let the toils or troubles of this world discourage you for they will pass away, nor sorrow over the godly who have died, as if there is no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The believer’s dying day is his best (Ecc. 7:1).