In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Last time, we saw that Christians share glory with Christ in this life. But what about in the next life?
When believers die, they do not go to purgatory or into some form of soul sleep (an unconscious existence that ends when Christ returns).
Rather, when Christians die, they enter into what is known as an intermediate state. There they enjoy glory with Christ until judgement day when the new heavens and the new earth are created and they will receive new resurrection bodies.
Jesus promises such an intermediate state when he speaks to the thief on the cross who trusted him. Luke records: ‘39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
Also, the apostle Paul says in his letter to the Corinthian church that he would rather be die and be with God: ‘We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 5:8).
Moreover, Jesus also speaks of the glory experienced in the intermediate state when he tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus: ‘19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us’ (Luke 16:19-26).
Thus, Christians do not simply share in Christ’s glory now. When they pass from this world, they will immediately enjoy glory with Christ.
So do you believe in Christ and expectantly look forward to the glory you will shortly enjoy? Or do you continue in a state of unbelief, as the rich man did in Luke 16, and are awaiting torment?