First, the communion in glory that believer have with Christ in this life. This section is divided into two sub-sections, each covering one question.
Question 82: What is the communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A.: The communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is in this life, immediately after death, and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment.
In Question 65, we learned that the members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with Him in grace and glory. Our communion in grace with Christ is the result of that union and fellowship we have with Christ by virtue of the accomplishments of His work as the Mediator of the Covenant of Grace, redeeming us from our sins and reconciling us to God. (345)
The communion in glory which believers have with Christ is the highest honor we are capable of receiving from God. It begins in this life (Q. 82), in the enjoyment of foretastes of the life to come (Q. 83), continues after death into the eternal bliss of the immediate presence of God (Q. 86), and is perfected with resurrection on the Day of Judgment (Q. 87–90). (347)
(1) All believers in Christ without exception have the common experience of gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord by faith. (2) For the person who has turned to Christ in faith, the veil of sin that blinds the unbeliever from seeing and appreciating the Divine glory of Christ is removed forever. (3) To gaze upon God’s glory “with unveiled face” is to gaze upon it without intermission or interruption, continually and forever. (4) Believers behold “the glory of the Lord… as in a mirror.”...(5) To gaze upon Christ’s glory in the gospel by faith is “progressively
to be transformed into that image. The effect of continuous beholding is that we are continuously being transformed ‘into the same image,’ that is, into the likeness of Christ—and increasingly so: ‘from glory to glory.’”5 (6) The glory of Christ in the gospel seen by faith will never fade or diminish.... (7) Until that day we gaze upon it by faith only “as in a mirror.” 5. Hughes, Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 117–18. (347-348)
A.: The members of the invisible church have communicated to them in this life the first-fruits of glory with Christ, as they are members of him their head, and so in Him are interested in that glory which he is fully possessed of; and, as an earnest thereof, enjoy the sense of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, and hope of glory;
as, on the contrary, sense of God’s revenging wrath, horror of conscience, and a fearful expectation of judgment, are to the wicked the beginning of their torments which they shall endure after death.
All people experience something of the life to come in this life before death. Those outside Christ sometimes experience, before they die, a frightening sense of God’s vengeance and wrath for their sins, horror of conscience, and a terrifying expectation of judgment to come, all of which are the beginning of their torments
which they shall endure after death. ...
Believers in Jesus Christ experience in this life the firstfruits of glory with Chris...These foretastes” or firstfruits of glory include:
(1) Peace of conscience...
(2) Hope of glory...
(3) An exhilarating sense of God’s love for them...
(4) Joy in the Holy Spirit... (349-352)
These foretastes of glory to come are communicated by Christ to believers in this life, because they are members of Him their head, and so, in Him, are interested in that glory which He is fully possessed of, and as an earnest [guarantee] thereof....Several important ideas are presented here that must be explained.
First, the old word, communicate, when used theologically in this context means “to bestow blessings that flow from our unionand communion with Christ.”
Second, to speak of believers as members of Him their head, is to speak of their covenantal and vital union with Christ, their Covenant Head and Representative as described in Romans 5:12–15, which is the basis of all the blessings communicated to them from God.
Third, to say that in Him believers are interested in that glory which He is fully possessed of is to say that believers have “an interest” or “a share” or “a part” in that resplendent glory of which the exalted Christ is in full possession since His resurrection....
Fourth, these firstfruits which we have described as “foretastes” are also “guarantees”—an earnest thereof. (352-353)
To begin then, question 84: Shall all men die?
A.: Death being threatened as the wages of sin, it is appointed unto all men once to die; for that all have sinned.
“[I]t is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
Four truths should be noticed in Hebrews 9:27. (1) Death is a Divine appointment. (2) Death is a Divine appointment all mankind will meet. (3) All people die once, and not several times....(4) After death comes the judgment of God—heaven for the righteous, hell for the unrighteous. (357)
The key to faithful Christian living is in Psalm 90:12: “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”....Is this numbering of our days a morbid act that leads to despair? No! It includes the following:
First, as we live out our short lives in this world the focus of our faith must always be on God and our covenant relation to Him in Christ. ...
Second, we must live each moment for eternity. ...
Third, we must wait on God, “for a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it is passed by” (Ps. 90:4). ....
Fourth, since our sin is the cause of so much suffering in this life, and since it alienates us from God, we “dare not toy with it, but must overcome it by conscious battle as we rely on the Holy Spirit for… power. We must flee sin and, with undivided hearts, pursue holiness in its place. ...
Fifth, we must rejoice in God’s covenanted mercy to us His people in Christ...
Sixth, we must constantly depend upon God to bless us in this life, and with the psalmist pray, “And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; Yes, confirm the work of our hands” (Ps. 90:17). ...
Seventh, we must “number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12; emphasis added). (358-360)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23).
This verse is the triumphant conclusion to Romans 6. It maintains the contrast between sin and grace by emphasizing the contrast between “wages” and “free gift.” (361)
The point is that death is neither a normal nor a natural aspect of human life. There is nothing natural about it. It is an enemy. It is the consequence of our sin. (361)
Sin, death and the curse of the law have been overcome in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—“O death where is your sting? O death where is your victory?… thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:55, 57).
The Catechism makes the point, not only that death is the wages of sin, but that also all men die, for that all have sinned. (363)
A.: The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of further communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon.
The concern of this answer is the reason for and nature of PHYSICAL DEATH for BELIEVERS. Its concern is not spiritual death, because God’s people are raised from spiritual death in regeneration...Nor is the concern of Answer 85 eternal death, for the eternal death and condemnation believers deserved was borne by Christ in
their place... (364)
Physical death tears apart the unity of human beings as God’s image-bearers. It rips apart the physical and the spiritual in the human being, which is healed only in physical resurrection on the Last Day.
"[Physical death] is never an annihilation, though some sects represent the death of the wicked as such. God does not annihilate anything in His creation. Death is not a cessation of existence, but a severance of the natural relations of life. Life and death are not opposed to each other as existence and non-existence, but are opposites only as different modes of existence.… Death means a break in the natural relations of life."32 Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 668. (365)
The Bible speaks of continued personal consciousness and living spiritual existence after the death of the physical body. Paul said that “to be absent from the body” for the believer is “to be home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). In this blissful state, a believer is fully conscious, “longing to be clothed” with his resurrected physical
body (vs. 2), looking forward intelligently for that resurrection as the final completion of his eternal redemption (vs. 4). (365)
Immediately upon physical death the spirit of the person who died goes either to heaven or hell. For the believer the moment his spirit leaves his body in death, he is immediately in the blissful presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). (366)
Although death is to be considered an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26), because of Christ it is advantageous for the believer....Because Christ has made satisfaction for the sins of His people, death for them is a complete dying to this present sinful condition
and a transition into the immediate, direct, and glorious presence of God in Heaven. (367)
"It is quite evident that the death of believers must be regarded as the culmination of the chastisements which God has ordained for the sanctification of His people. While death in itself remains a real natural evil for the children of God, something unnatural, which is dreaded by them as such, it is made subservient in the economy of grace to their spiritual advancement and to the best interests of the Kingdom of
God. The very thought of death, bereavements through death, the feeling that sickness and sufferings are harbingers of death, and the consciousness of the approach of death,—all have a very beneficial effect on the people of God. They
serve to humble the proud, to mortify carnality, to check worldliness and to foster spiritual-mindedness...." 35. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 670–71. (368)
The Puritan, John Owen, entitled his book on the death of Christ, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, for so it was. (369)
Death will not finally triumph over believers. Someday, when Jesus returns, death will ultimately cease to be. (370)
Christ’s death, resurrection, present triumphant reign and glorious second coming spell death for death. Death is an enemy and “the last enemy” at that. Death is already in the process of dying and being destroyed because of Christ’s redemptive, restorative work. Death is already being “abolished,” it is already being robbed of its power. Its sting has already been lost for Christians, so that neither it, nor the grave, has any victory over us now or ever (15:54–58). (371)
Because God has justified those who believe in Christ for salvation, the sting of death, which is sin, and the power of sin, which is the Law, have been overcome and removed from them. The justified person is no longer liable to the condemnation of the Law because of Christ who satisfied the claims of the Law against him,
thereby delivering him from the consequence of his sin, which is death. (372)
All the afflictions believers suffer in this life, including physical death, come from God as their Father in Christ, who chastises them out of fatherly love for them. (374)
No human being, not even a believer in Jesus, will, nor can, be free… perfectly from sin and misery in this present life. Sin remains in the best and most godly of human beings, with which they must do daily battle. At death the battle is over, and the victory over sin is complete. After death there shall be in the believer no trace of indwelling sin that plagued him before death. (374)
First, Heaven itself makes the declaration of blessedness for all who die in the Lord. God Himself promises to bless all those who die in the Lord before death, at death and after death.
Second, those “who die in the Lord” are those who persevere as “saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).
Third, “From now on” or “from henceforth” does not imply the Roman Catholic doctrine of limbrus patrum, that Old Testament believers who had died were in a shadowy afterlife abode other than the bliss of Heaven or the agony of Hell until they had been freed from that place and heaven opened to them by the death and resurrection of Christ. ...
Those who die in the Lord “rest from their labors,” in direct contrast to the worshippers of the Beast, for whom there is “no rest day and night” from the torments of hell. (377)
In order for the believer to enter the eternal glory, “the perishable will have the imperishable” and “the mortal will have immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). In other words, frail, mortal and corruptible man is not able to bear the splendor of that eternal glory which is reserved for him in Heaven, for no mortal man can look into the
glorious face of God and live. (378)