Where We Go When We Die
January 26th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
WHERE WE GO WHEN WE DIE
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-26-75 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you on the radio as you share with us this early morning service in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Where We Go When We Die, a message on the intermediate state. For an explanation of you who are our guests today, last Sunday morning at this hour I brought the concluding message on the general epistles, the catholic epistles: James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. And before I begin the series of sermons prepared on the Book of Isaiah, I have been asked next Sunday to prepare a message in keeping with our week of Jewish fellowship, so it will be on Jesus, Jew and Jerusalem. And this Sunday, a Sunday that was picked out long time ago, I have been asked to prepare a message on the intermediate state, Where We Go When We Die. What happens to us? What does God say will be our estate, our fortune, our future, our life immediately when we die?
It is the purpose of God, explicitly, plainly, and emphatically revealed in the holy Scriptures, it is the purpose of God to, and using scriptural language, to redeem the whole purchased possession. For example, the Apostle Paul will write in Ephesians 1: , "We have been sealed by the holy Spirit of promise." Devil is not going to get us, kept by the power of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit. He calls that Holy Spirit the "earnest of our inheritance" until the redemption of the whole purchased possession.
What does he mean by, "we have this Spirit of God, a "down payment," an "earnest" until the redemption of the whole purchased possession?" What He refers to is this that is the sublime and heavenly plan of God for us, that not only are we to be saved, regenerated, born again; he uses the word "redemption, redeemed." Not only are we to be bought back unto God, purchased, not our own, bought with a price, not only are we to be purchased to God, redeemed in our spirits, in our souls, regenerated in our hearts, not only that but, it is the purpose of God to redeem all of us, every part of us, every piece of us.
And a part of me is this body. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is the house, the tabernacle of my soul. And God says it is My heavenly, sublime purpose, not only to redeem the spirit, the soul, the heart, but also the whole man – all of me. Paul expatiates on that in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans. [verse 22] He said that the whole creation "groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now," all of it, the stars, the planets, the suns, blasted, destroyed, fallen and certainly this planet earth. And not only so, but we also, we groan within ourselves, we who are saved, regenerated, groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, namely, the redemption of the body.
Our spirits, though saved, our souls, though regenerated, yet we still live in the drag of this mortal body. I am a dying man, and the mortality of the flesh, and the corruption of the spirit, and all of the things of the pride of flesh assail me, attack me, rest from me things that I grudgingly do before God. I just can not live a beautiful and a perfect life. My heart may want to, my spirit may long to, but I am dragged down by this house of clay. Sometimes I am in pain, or ill, or sick, groaning within myself, waiting for the redemption of the body. This is Paul’s little word there in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans.
So it is God’s purpose that we be completely redeemed. As Adam was made a beautiful and perfect house, body, in which his soul was deposited, the whole man shall be restored, the spirit on the inside and the body, the house we live in, on the outside.
Now it is very fact, very manifest that there is an interval of time between the day of my conversion, when I was regenerated and saved and born again, there is an interval of time, between my conversion and the redemption of this body. The body is not redeemed, as the apostle, until the resurrection. If we tarry, until Jesus comes in the rapture, we will be transformed, immortalized in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump. But if we fall into the grave before the Lord comes, then that glorious redemption of the body will be when we are raised from the dead.
But it is very manifest that, between the time that I am regenerated in my heart and the day of the great resurrection in the coming of Christ, there is an interval of time. In the case of an Adam, or a Noah, or an Abraham, a Moses, it has been thousands of years. Now what is that intermediate state and how is it that God prepares for us? And where do we go before that consummation, before this resurrection from the dead, before the redemption of this whole purchased possession? What of that time period, that intermediate state? That is the message this morning.
First, there is a life of the spirit, just as there is a life of the flesh. God is spirit, and God lives; He is a Somebody, God. The angels are spirits. Hebrews 1:14 describes them as ministering spirits sent to encourage and help us who are the heirs of redemption, salvation. Angels have being and presence and personality. God has being and presence and personality. Yet, both are lives in the spirit. So with us, when we are translated we are no less persons, people, personalities, conscious, and when we die we are with our Savior even though we are souls, spirits, without a body; like God, like an angel, we are with Christ. We are with Him now somewhat, the veil of the flesh separating us in the mortal, carnal body. But when I am out of this body I shall be with Christ fully and wholly and completely.
In the 2 Corinthian letter, chapter 5, speaking of our home for which we wait, a house, a tabernacle not made with hands. He says even though we do not have that body, that redeemed body when we die, yet, he says, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, that we might be present with the Lord."
That is a play on two beautiful Greek words. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be ekdÃ©meÃ³, "as to the body," that we might be endÃ©meÃ³, "with the Lord." EkdÃ©meÃ³ means, "to go abroad." EkdÃ©meÃ³ means, "to be away from home." He says we are willing rather to be ekdÃ©meÃ³ in the body, "to be absent from the body," that we might be endÃ©meÃ³, "that we might be at home," "present with the Lord." When I die, therefore, I am ekdÃ©meÃ³ as to the house in which I live, but I am ekdÃ©meÃ³, I am at home with Jesus.
Sometimes the Bible will refer to that as being in paradise. Three times is that word "paradise" used. It is a Persian word built from the idea of a beautiful, spacious, emerald, fervent park, paradise, park. Three times is it used in the Bible; when the thief, the malefactor who repented as he was crucified with the Lord, and said to Jesus, "Lord, wilt Thou remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom?" And the Lord replied, "Truly, truly, verily, verily, do I say unto you, today, sÃ©meron, this day, thou shalt be with me in paradise," [Luke 23:43] absent from the body, ekdÃ©meÃ³, present with the Lord, ekdÃ©meÃ³.
That word is used a second time in 2 Corinthians 12 when Paul says, "I knew a man," talking about himself," who was caught up into the third heaven." Then in the next verse, verse four, he says, "I knew a man," talking about himself, "who was caught up into paradise." So paradise is the third heaven. The first heaven, where the birds fly, and the clouds roll by, and the second heaven, where the starry universe, the Milky Way, the sidereal spheres, and the third heaven, where Jesus is, and where the saints are; "I was caught up into paradise."
The third time that word is used is in Revelation 2:7, when the Lord says to the church at Ephesus, "He that overcometh, be faithful, he that overcometh will I give the right to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." In the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation, verse 2, when John sees the river of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb, and on either side of it and in the midst of the street, on that river of life he saw the tree of life whose leaves are for the healing of the people.
So I know from that, that the tree of life is in the City of God, the New Jerusalem called Paradise, and there are God’s redeemed saints when they are ekdÃ©meÃ³, absent from the body, and ekdÃ©meÃ³, at home with the Lord. They are in that beautiful city, the New Jerusalem called the Paradise of God. And in this intermediate state there do they rest in blessedness and in comfort and in quiet, waiting for the great consummation of the age, the resurrection of the body when Jesus comes for His own.
For example, when Lazarus died, in the story of Dives and Lazarus, he was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom, another name for paradise. And there, the Book says, he was comforted, this beggar who was so wretchedly poor that when the dogs came and licked his sores, it felt refreshing to him. Nobody would touch him. Nobody ministered to him. It was just something precious to him that a dog would come and be nice to him. This Lazarus who was so wretchedly poor, in paradise, he is comforted.
In Revelation 14:13 it writes, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." Is that not the opposite of what we think? Ah, how fortunate these who are alive. How unfortunate these who die. God says the opposite. "Blessed, makarios, happy are those who die in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
In the sixth chapter of the Revelation [verses 9-11] in the opening of the fifth seal, the sainted seer saw the souls of those who had laid down their lives for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. And he saw them under the altar, that is, the altar where the blood was poured out in sacrifice. In symbol he sees them, their lives poured out unto death for the testimony of God and for the word of Jesus Christ. And they cried – blood has a voice, blood cries – and the blood of Abel cried unto God from the ground. Blood has a voice. It cries. "And they cried unto God, Lord, how long? How long?" This is that intermediate state. How long, how long? And white robes were given, and God says,
Rest for awhile, until these that are to lay down their lives also have been martyred, and then, and then at the consummation of the age, at the resurrection of the dead, in the great judgment day of Almighty God, you will receive your final and ultimate reward.
There is a life with God in heaven, even though we are ekdÃ©meÃ³, out of the body. Now one other thing so briefly, how we need so much time! What of the recognitions of immortality? It is a most meaningful word that the apostle writes in that familiar thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians:
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, understood as a child, thought as a child: but now that I am taught, when I did not know these things I looked upon as a child in wonder, but when I became a man, mature, taught, I put away those childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly, dimly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
[1 Corinthians 13:11-12]
The Greek has a word ginÃ³skÃ³, "know." But it also has another word, epiginÃ³skÃ³ which means, "to know by experience," which means, "to recognize." For example, in the twenty-fourth chapter in the Book of Luke and the sixteenth verse is the story of the Lord Jesus walking by the two on the way to Emmaus, and "their eyes were holden that they should not epiginÃ³skÃ³ Him." Now in the thirty-first verse of that same twenty-fourth chapter of Luke it says, and when the Lord seated at the table to break bread with them at supper time, at even tide, when He said the blessing, "their eyes were opened, and they epiginosko, they recognized Him."
So let us translate the word exactly as Paul uses it, not ginÃ³skÃ³, but epiginÃ³skÃ³, "recognition." "Now I see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known," recognition, to be somebody recognized, the recognitions of immortality. Gabriel says to Zacharias, Gabriel says, "I am Gabriel, who stand before the presence of God." [Luke 1:19] He has a name. He is somebody, though he is pure angelic spirit. "I am Gabriel."
Jesus, when He appeared to the apostle Paul, to Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus said, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." [Acts 26:15] In the twenty-second chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 22:16], He says, "I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches." There is no complete life without that recognition of mutuality. If I am not known; I am not alive. It is the response of recognition that completes my life.
For example, a naturalist can know this earth. He can know its mountains, and its rivers, and its continents, and its rocks. He can even know its insects, and its animal life. He can know it all! But it does not know Him. And that is not life, according to the Word of God.
When God saw the man living alone in the paradise of Eden, He said, "It is not good." [Genesis 2:18] And He made for him somebody like him who could talk to him, and love him, and respond to him. "And He took her out of the side of Adam, brought her to the man. " And Adam said, ‘Her name will be ishah, because she was taken out of ish.’" [Genesis 2:18-22] The purpose of God was, when He saw the man in a world that did not recognize him, He said, "It is not good; it is not complete," and life is not complete if there is not response, recognition, somebody knows me.
I heard the craziest thing. I was speaking at a conference out in California with the pastor of the First Methodist Church in Houston. And he said, "A man came up to me and asked me, ‘Who is the greatest president in your opinion that the United States ever had?’"
And he said, "Lyndon Baines Johnson."
And the man who asked the pastor that said, "Lyndon Baines Johnson? That’s the greatest president of the United States?"
He said, "Yes, sir."
The man said, "Well, what makes you think Lyndon Baines Johnson is the greatest president the United States ever had?"
He said, "Because one day he came up to me and held out his hand, and said, ‘Hello, there, Doctor Charles Allen. I’m glad to see you.’" And the preacher said, "There never has been a president before or since that ever came up to me and said, "Hello there, how are you, Charles Allen?"’
Now, he had a point. He had a point. To be recognized, to be known, is to have life and to me it is annihilation if I am not known. If God does not know me, and you do not know me, and I do not know you, and I do not know God; it is in the recognition that our life is complete.
Does God see we know each other? Why, bless your heart! There has never been a deviation from that; Saul recognized Samuel immediately, at a glance, when his spirit was brought back from Glory. David said, "And the child that died, he cannot come to me, but I shall go to him." [2 Samuel 12:23] The Lord Jesus said to Mary and Martha, "Thy brother shall rise again." [John 11:23] What? He is not a non-entity? He is not an unnamable spirit? No, he is their brother. "Thy brother," Jesus said to Mary and Martha, "Thy brother shall rise again." The Lord said to that malefactor, "Today thou shalt be with Me in paradise." [Luke 23:43] It presupposes recognition, today. And our Lord Himself was recognized by the voice, by the scars, by the way He folded a napkin, and by the way He said a blessing, the same Lord Jesus.
I must close. One other thing, in my experience I have found, I have learned – this is no arid fact, nor is this an extraneous doctrine, it is something of personal experience and life – in reading about Lottie Moon who for forty years had been a missionary with her P’ingtu Christians, when she died, the nurse by her side said that Lottie Moon, just before she died, clasped and unclasped her hand in recognition as the Chinese do, and called the names of P’ingtu Christians who had been
[AUDIO SKIPS AND SLOWS; INAUDIBLE]
My mother, old, old mother, eighty-six years of age, invalid for seven years, had a heavy brain hemorrhage. I went to see her just before she died, and mother said to me, "Son, did you see my father?"
I said, "Why, no, Mother."
"Did you see my mother?"
I said, "No, mother."
"Did you see my brother, Joe?"
"No, mother. No." They had been dead fifty, sixty years.
She said, "Why, son, they were here; they were, I saw them."
"Mother, you saw your father, your mother, brother Joe?"
"Yes, son. I saw them. And son, you must see them, too. You must not go back till you visit with them." I put my arm around her old shoulders, and I said, "Do not worry, Mother. I will see them, too. I will see them, too." That can be repeated a thousand times just before God’s saints are translated, how many times will they say, "Look, I see the face of Jesus." Or, "Look, my old and blessed mother. Look, there is dad. Look, look." This is the goodness of God to us.
As the scriptures say, "He has prepared some better thing for us," ekdÃ©meÃ³, absent from the body, endÃ©meÃ³, present with the Lord. The minute I close my eyes to this life and to this world, I open them in the presence of the angels of heaven. That is why the Book will say, "Makarios,, happy, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." [Revelation 14:13] That is why the apostle facing execution said, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is a gain." [Philippians 1:21]
Our time is far spent. On the first note of the first stanza, to give your heart to Jesus, to come into the fellowship of the church, to answer a call of God to your life, as the Spirit shall press the appeal, answer, "Here I am, Lord. Here I come." Make it now. Do it now, while we stand, and while we sing.
GO WHEN WE DIE
A. Purpose of God to
redeem the whole possession
B. The earnest of our
inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14)
All creation groans (Romans 8:22-23)
C. We and the creation around
us will be fully redeemed
II. The interval
A. Between time my soul
is regenerated and body re-created
1. May be brief
for some; long for others
III. The life of the spirit separated from
A. It is possible for
the spirit to have life and cognition (Hebrews
B. For the saved
entry into paradise (Luke 23:43, 2 Corinthians
12:2, 4, Revelation 2:7, 22:3)
A state of blessedness (Revelation 14:13, 6:10)
A. We will know even as
God knows us (1 Corinthians 13:12, Luke 24:16,
have names (Luke 1:19, Acts 26:15, Revelation
22:16, John 10:3, Genesis 2:18)
2. We will
recognize each other (2 Samuel 12:23, John 11:23,
B. Our Lord recognized
as Himself after the resurrection
1. Lottie Moon