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The Intermediate State #2

13/02/2020

The Intermediate State 2

In our last study we found that people are more than just a physical body – that we have a soul, and that soul lives on after death.  We looked then at the time between the death of a Christian, and the second coming of Christ, when we will be reunited with our resurrected bodies.  So we needed to ask where we would be during that time of waiting, and what we would be doing, and whether we would be conscious.  There are a couple more questions that people often ask about life after death, like,

Can we communicate with the dead?

Will we know each other in heaven?

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1 Do / Can dead people communicate with the living?  Read Deuteronomy 18:9-15. Can we talk to our dead relatives and friends?  Are they watching over us, protecting us?

You’d be surprised how many people see nothing wrong with going along to one of these ‘psychic readings’ that you see advertised in hotels from time to time. After all ‘seances’ are seen frequently on TV and they seem harmless enough, and your never know, maybe uncle Jimmy will come through with the results of the next greyhound race

Don’t be fooled.  Many of the so-called ‘psychics’ are just frauds, people who do ‘cold readings’ making suggestions that anyone could agree to, and then introducing bland generalities.  But aside from the theatrics, there are some people who are serious about trying to speak to dead people.

  • The ‘Spiritualists.’  There are people who claim to ‘believe in God’ and who call their gatherings a ‘church’ and yet attempt to make contact with the dead. Their vague beliefs are in way similar to Christianity. Their main article of belief is this mushy statement that  ‘The core belief of the religious philosophy of Spiritualism is that God exists within and around everything. We are all children of God and each one of us are part of one family.’ A statement like that marks the difference between this kind of ‘church’ and Christianity. They believe that you can communicate with dead people, so they invite ‘mediums’ to come and participate in their meetings, run ‘spiritual awareness’ courses, hold seances… What does the Bible say? Deuteronomy 18:10  
  • The Roman Catholics.   We often observe a degree of superstition among Catholics when it comes to death and dying.  Could that be because, institutionally, the Catholic Church believes that we can communicate with dead saints?  They will tell you, of course that they don’t worship saints, but that they ‘venerate’ them.  But they do invoke the help of the saints, they pray to the saints and ask for their help.  There used to be a whole column of classified ads in the Belfast Telegraph, full of ‘miraculous prayers’ or one saint or another.  Every one of them was a guaranteed cure for some illness, or an answer to some prayer.  Biblically, all of them were untrue.  So,
    • Do the departed saints hear our prayers?  No, not according to Job 14:21   Isaiah 65:16  Ecclesiastes 9:10. 
    • Do they ‘intercede’ for us?  No, God has his own methods of intercession, Romans 8:26  Romans 8:27.  Romans 8:34.   1 Timothy 2:1  Hebrews 7:25   Paul is adamant that there is no-one to stand between God and us but Jesus.  1 Timothy 2:5.  
    • Should we ‘venerate’ them?  Certainly not!  The difference between ‘veneration’ and worship is so small, that ‘veneration of the Saints’ leads us into the sin of idolatry.  God specifically rules against such worship in Exodus 20:4  
  • The RIP Protestants.  Have you ever seen some of your friends on social media sites responding to the death of a friend by typing ‘RIP.’  The phrase is from the Latin ‘requiescat in pace’ – Rest in Peace.  It is part of a Catholic prayer for the repose of the departed, – a prayer for dead people, yet protestants are more frequently using it.  They are the people who claim to be protestants but have little understanding about God, or the bible or protestantism, so they thoughtlessly mimic the superstitions of Rome.  Many of them will have beliefs that more akin to a Disney movie than to truth.  They will believe that the dead are ‘watching over us’ – that they walk beside us, or guide us or even talk to us.  Again we can see from the Scriptures that none of this is true.
    [What about Hebrews 12:1?  There are ‘witnesses surrounding us’, and encouraging us in our faith, so surely this is to teach us that the dead saints watch over us, and encourage us in our Christian faith?  But the idea of a witness (μαρτυρων) here is like a TESTIMONY rather than a WATCHER.  (AMP: a cloud of witnesses who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness,). Think of these witness as giving testimony in the courtroom, witnessing to what they have seen and done, rather than being in the situation where they are seeing and doing.  As they testify of their faithful lives in the pages of scripture, we are encouraged by their testimony.  In that sense, ‘bearing witness’ they compass us about and encourage us.]

The biblical conclusion is that the dead are not watching us, not listening to us, not protecting us, and not trying to reach us.  We can no more contact them than they can contact us, and any appearance of such contact is either fraudulent or demonic.

 

2 Will we know each other in heaven?  Read Luke 16:1-9

Our second big question, and one that was important enough to be given consideration by several great reformed commentators and writers…

  • A first, important question.  Is is even right to WANT to know each other?  I only ask the question because of the opening question of the Shorter Catechism.  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  Psalm 73:25-26. To speak colloquially, if I’m running around with my old mates in heaven, will that not be a distraction, to take my eyes off God?  I’m supposed to be enjoying HIM, not my earthly friends.  So, will I really want to have friends in heaven?  The answer is yes and here’s why:-  
    • God created us to be social beings.  Perhaps the best analogy of this is the MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB, where we will gather together at a great celebration with Christ.  Can you imaging going to a wedding meal and it being without friendship and conversation.  Richard Baxter, ‘I know that Christ is all in all, and that it is the presence of God that makes heaven to be heaven, but yet it much sweetens the thought of that place to me that there are there such a multitude of my most dear and precious friends in Christ’.  (The Saints Everlasting Rest.) 
    • God is glorified in our fellowship.  That is true here, – Jesus tells us that where there are two or three people met in his name, he is in their midst, -He joins in our fellowship together and is glorified in our midst.  No less so in eternity. Matthew 8:11   
  • The reformed view.  There is CERTAINTY on this issue.   J. Herman Bavink,  ‘The hope to see one another in heaven is entirely natural, genuinely human, and in harmony with Scripture. That ought to enhance our anticipation of heaven, because we know we will meet others who have gone before us’.  The reformed answer to the question of whether we shall know each other in heaven is a resounding YES!  There is a wealth of biblical pointers; here’s just a few:-
    • Luke 16:23   Obviously, in eternity, the rich man recognised Lazarus, a man he had known on this earth.
    • Luke 16:9  That’s an interesting verse!  Help others in this life, especially do them good spiritually.  Imagine if you invest time in praying for a sinner, and that sinner comes to Christ, or if you give some of your hard earned income to support a missionary, and that missionary winds a soul for Christ, and later on when you get to heaven, those sinners, who have been saved in this life will recognise you, and welcome you home with gratitude for your faithfulness!  They will KNOW YOU!  In that way we are laying up treasure in heaven.
    • 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20,   Paul looked forward to meeting the other believers in heaven, and taking pleasure in their company.
    • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.   At the second coming/resurrection there will be restoration of broken fellowship. 

J C Ryle: There is something unspeakably comforting, as well as glorious in this prospect… Our beloved friends who have fallen asleep in Christ are not lost —  but only gone before. …They are sure to come together again when this world has passed away. … These eyes of ours shall once more look upon their faces, and these ears of ours shall once more hear them speak. Blessed and happy indeed will that meeting be — better a thousand times than the parting!

 

3 Some observations and considerations.

Finally, just a few questions some people raise from time to time:-

  • Is there FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY in heaven?  I’ve got this iPad – it used to be that when you opened your iPad you typed in a password, then on the next generation you placed your thumb on a button and it read your print, but now, when I open my iPad it scans my face and recognises me!  Amazing!  So how will that work in heaven?  If in the time between death and the second coming, our bodies are in the grave, and our soul/spirit lives on, how can we recognise each other when we will have no face!  Surely we’ll have to wait until after the second coming, when our bodies have been resurrected and our natural facial recognition is available again.  But can’t souls recognise each other?  isn’t there more to us to recognise than just physical appearance?  What of the angels, who are spirits, and who recognise each other?  The angel who appeared in Daniel’s dream recognised another angel, Michael, when he came to encourage him.  Daniel 10:10-13.   
  • If we know and recognise our earthly friends in heaven, wont we MISS our earthly friends who are not in heaven?  Won’t that make us unhappy?  yet we know that there is no sadness in heaven, no tears, no death…  and in heaven our will is in complete conformity with the will of God, because there is no sinful, wilful rebellion there, – so God’s will is our will.  Because of that any friendships in this world which are outside of Him will surely lose their meaning.  We will not miss anyone.
  • What about marriage?  What about that verse in Matthew 22:30,    Are we all single in heaven?  Certainly not!   Graham Scroggie, ‘If I knew that never again would I recognise that beloved one with whom I spent more than 39 years on the earth, my anticipation of heaven would much abate. To say that we shall be with Christ and that that will be enough is to claim that there we shall be without social instincts and affections which mean so much to us here. Life beyond cannot mean impoverishment, but the enhancement and enrichment of life as we have known it here at its best’.  It’s simple. God ordained marriage for a reason; to provide man with a help-mate, for mutual company and support, but most to REPRODUCE – to replenish the earth.  You won’t need to REPLENISH HEAVEN!  So while the family circle will be reunited in heaven the dynamic is changed, as generations of loved ones dwell together with the Lord in eternal harmony and worship.  Just imagine your whole family living together with no family splits or rows!

Of course, all of these considerations are predicated upon one simple thing.  The only people we will meet in heaven will be those who are the redeemed of the Lord.  There will be no-one in heaven without Jesus, who said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.” For, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life!” Revelation 21:27

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