Question 86: What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?
A.: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls. Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.
Dr. Morecraft begins with a discussion of the perfection of the believers sanctification at death.
At death, the soul of the believer is then made perfect in holiness, when the life-long process of sanctification is completed. When the soul of the believer leaves this world, it arrives at perfection immediately. (382)
The believer’s physical body is glorified with the resurrection of the body at the Return of Christ (Rom. 8:18, 23). His soul is glorified with his physical death and entrance into the glory of Heaven, where he will be “present with the Lord.” (382-383)
Since the believer is perfected in holiness at death, several applications follow.
First, the believer should shake off any spiritual sluggishness knowing that “he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5)....The completion of the work of sanctification implies that sanctification has begun and is
gradually progressing. If nothing is begun, it is absurd to speak of a finishing stroke. ....
Second, the believer should be encouraged in his race and warfare in this life by remembering that he is not destined to run or to fight forever. ...
Third, knowing that God will eventually complete and perfect the work of sanctification, the believer ought never be discouraged or despairing about the final outcome of his life. (386-387)
Free access to the presence of God and to the Heaven of God is now open to all believers because of the reconciling death of Jesus Christ in our behalf. Believers’ prayers and worship enter the very Throne room of God. At death their spirits enter that Holy of Holies; and at the resurrection, with their renewed physical bodies reunited with their perfected spirits, they will live in the Holy of Holies with God
throughout all eternity, when Heaven and earth will be one (Rev. 21:1–3). (388)
The very moment a believer dies he enters the Holy of Holies, Paradise, the heavenly Home of God, the third heaven, the highest heavens, the immediate and glorious presence of God, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). (390)
At death the souls of believers, when they enter the highest heavens, will behold the face of God in light and glory, and after their resurrection on Judgment Day, when they, body and soul, shall be received into heaven, where they shall be… especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity (WLC, Q. 90). (392)
"One does not theorize about this from the sidelines: the beatific vision affects our life in the here and now every day.” 73. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ, 368. (394)
God’s face is seen by faith in the Word of God in this life and by perfected vision
in the next. (397)
Although the spirits of the believers go to be “at home with the Lord” upon death in perfect bliss beholding God, nevertheless, as the Catechism says, they are waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. (398)
In 2 Corinthians 5, the apostle Paul tells us that death is not the consummation and goal of salvation; rather it is resurrection and life. Even after death and before resurrection, believers, although perfected spiritually in holiness, still long for the goal and completion of the salvation Christ purchased for them and the Holy Spirit
began in them in regeneration. He says that as wonderful as life after death will be for the believer, it is still incomplete, and being without a resurrected physical body, it is a condition of “nakedness.” The human spirit without the body is unnatural. (401)
The whole person of the believer—body and soul—is united to Christ. Death itself cannot break that union with Christ either of the soul or the dead physical body. (402)
Believers will be raised from the dead because they are united to Christ, body and soul; and because He arose, so will they. (403)
Paul makes this case as follows:
First, Paul is rejoicing in the complete victory over sin and death Jesus Christ has won in history for His people. Christ’s resurrection from the dead was the great historical event that demonstrated that death was really conquered. It is the basis of the believer’s hope in his own resurrection and victory over the grave (1 Cor. 15:17–19).
Second, it is “through Jesus,” which is a more accurate translation than “in Jesus” in 1 Thess. 4:14, that is, through what Jesus has done, that Christians have peace and rest (“sleep” used metaphorically) in death and do not undergo the horrors of death.
Third, those who have died in Jesus before His Second Coming will have their share in the events of that great day. ...
Fourth, the one coming back on the Last day is none other than “the Lord Himself.”
Fifth, the Lord’s Second Coming will be one of majesty and glory.
Sixth, those dead bodies of believers will be raised from the dead before those who will be living on earth at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. (404)
The bodies of believers rest in their graves as in their beds, but the bodies of unbelievers are kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection
and judgment of the great day (WLC, Q. 86). (405)
However at various times in history the false doctrine of “soulsleeping” has made an appearance. It is the viewpoint, based on a literal interpretation of verses like those above, that after death the soul sleeps in unconsciousness until the resurrection. However, the verses we have mentioned, along with many others, do not teach that the soul falls asleep at death, but that the person who dies physically
falls asleep. Death can be described metaphorically in these words because of the similarity between a dead body “resting” in a grave and a living body asleep on a bed. Death for the believer is a break with this evil world around us, and therefore is a rest in peace from it. This language describing death as restful sleep could also
be used to remind us of the comforting hope of physical resurrection. (405-406)
On the last day, when Jesus returns and believers experience physical resurrection, the physical bodies of believers will be again united to their souls. (407)
Immediately upon death the souls of the wicked are cast into hell in continued conscious existence. (408)
According to the false doctrine of Annihilationism, there is no existence at all after death, conscious or unconscious....However, when the Bible speaks of the wicked dead being “destroyed” or as “perishing,” these words do not imply a reduction to nonexistence. (408)
Furthermore, (1) the Bible teaches that the wicked as well as the righteous continue to exist forever (Eccl. 12:7; Matt. 25:46; Rom. 2:8–10; Rev. 14:11; 20:10); (2) the wicked will suffer eternal punishment, which involves eternal consciousness of eternal pain which they receive as the just wage for their rebellion against God;
and (3) there will be degrees of punishment in hell for the wicked, while extinction of being or consciousness admits of no degrees (Luke 12:47, 48; Rom. 2:12). (409)
First, God does not annihilate anything He has created, howeverHe may change its form. ...
Second, wicked people often consider the extinction of being and consciousness a very desirable thing, when they grow weary of life. (409)
Immediately upon death the souls of the impenitently wicked are cast into hell fully conscious and alive, where they remain in torments and utter darkness. (409)