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Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
I recently wrote an essay titled “’Til I See You Again.” Our cherished Christian hope is that when we die we will go to be with loved ones. Yet, there is not one passage of the New Testament that to my knowledge tells us that when we go to Heaven we will be with our loved ones.
In the fourth chapter of the Book of First Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul, when he wrote to comfort Christians concerning their deceased loved ones, Paul never once said that they would go to the deceased loved one when they died. Rather, he emphasized that the deceased would return with Jesus and they would see him or her at that time.
The assumption here is that both the anxious believer on earth and the returning saint would be leading the life of victory in Christ. We know this from the expressions “fallen asleep in Him”; and “the dead in Christ.”
Before we proceed, let me explain why these two expressions are important. The standard of discipleship in America is below the Bible standard of “abiding in Christ.” How often do we hear it preached that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.” Not very often, I’m afraid.
To be “in Christ” is not referring to someone who at one point in time had “accepted Christ.” Rather, it is speaking of those who present their bodies a living sacrifice, having brought their thoughts into subjection to Christ; who having been transformed by the renewing of their mind, are not conformed to the pattern of the world but are finding God’s perfect will each day.
To live by the Life of Jesus means to be presenting to Him at all times our thoughts, our words, and our actions. Every decision is to be brought to Him. By continually referring to Him throughout the day and night we live in His Presence. This is the normal Christian life. This is what it means to abide in Christ; to be “in Christ.” And, if we die while abiding in Christ, we have “fallen asleep in Jesus.”
I am afraid that not too many American “Christians” in the present hour are living by the Life of Jesus. They are good people, certainly, but I don’t believe they understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I hope I am incorrect in this.
So I have been pondering why there is not one passage in the New Testament about our going to Heaven to be with our loved ones when we die.
There is an expression in the Old Testament that states “someone was gathered to his people. I think one time a while ago I counted this statement seven times.
Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there. (Numbers 20:26)
Now this could mean that Aaron went to be with his mother, father, and other relatives. Or it could mean he went to be with other Israelites who had died.
It is interesting to note that Samuel, when he had been brought up by the witch of Endor, told Saul that Saul and his sons would be with Samuel the next day. That is not exactly how we picture being gathered to our people.
Because you did not obey the LORD or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the LORD has done this to you today. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. (I Samuel 28:18,19)
We understand the current teaching is that when Christ ascended He brought up to Heaven those who had been confined in the lower parts of the earth. I believe this is true, because Paul was caught up to Paradise in the third Heaven. Stephen saw Christ at the right hand of God in Heaven.
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55)
So it may be true that there are happy families in Heaven and that family members are caught up to be in that circle when they die. However, the New Testament does not teach this.
For example, consider the following three verses:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (Revelation 6:9)
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God. (Revelation 15:2)
The three verses above do not resemble our current tradition that our deceased family members, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Jane and Uncle Andrew, are all at the family homestead waiting for us to join the family group.
We find nothing in the New Testament that tells us the condition of our deceased family members, whether Christian or not. We are confident, however, that if they have been true disciples they are with the Lord Jesus.
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)
However, notice the following verses:
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:38-43)
Flesh and blood do not enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom separates people. Can you see that in the passage above? People working together, probably the closest of friends. But they were divided by Jesus coming in His Kingdom.
The Kingdom is a sword. It divides between father and son; mother and daughter; husband and wife.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:34-39)
Our preaching today in America is so saturated with the philosophy of Humanism that the above words of our Lord come as refreshing rain on parched soil.
Our family relationships are formed during our present life on the earth. These relationships often are very powerful, such that when one or the other dies, the remaining person suffers greatly.
Actually the deceased may be in a far better place with Jesus. So our weeping is not for the dead child or sweetheart, it is for ourselves because of our loss.
As Paul told us in First Corinthians, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Our familiar relationships are based on flesh and blood. We understand, therefore, that relationships will be reestablished according to our position in the Kingdom of God. This is “death” to our soul, isn’t it? But it is what the Bible teaches.
We can understand from this what Jesus meant by saying if we save our life we will lose it. If we lose our life for His sake and the Gospel’s, we will find it. And how wonderful our new life will be, even though our relationships may be changed around according to the Divine calling on each person.
The title of the present essay is “Mixtures.” What do “mixtures” have to do with our discussion of relationships after death?
Notice the following verses from the Old Testament:
Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (Leviticus 19:19)
The verse above may seem unusual. What does God care if we wear clothing woven of two kinds of material, or plant a field with rye and barley? What is God telling us by this law?
God is telling us that He does not like mixtures. He does not like people who are lukewarm, that is a mixture of hot and cold. The Lord wants His Kingdom clear, simple, unmixed, straightforward.
This causes me to believe that when people die, the angels sort them out according to what kind of person each one is. Like are grouped with like.
When you stop and think about it, this makes sense. Those believers who are a hundredfold in their devotion to the Lord Jesus will be grouped together. They live by the Life of the Lord. They are one in Spirit, in mind, in attitude, in faith. There is perfect harmony.
There are Christians who are not as fervent; not as faithful; not as consecrated. They would not fit with the first group. When the first group were seeking to press further into the knowledge of Christ, the second group would be spending part of their time serving Christ; part of their time in worthless practices.
You can see these two groups in any Christian church.
Then there are those who believe in Christ, that He is the Son of God, but they spend their life in the things of this world. They may attend church. However, they are not disciples. They do not bear a true witness of the Lord. Sometimes it appears they are making progress. Then back they go into their worldly pursuits.
Then we come to those who never heard of Christ. Among them there are some fine people; some ordinary people; and some scoundrels. The angels will sort them so that fine, honorable people are with fine, honorable people.
The decent, ordinary people will be with like minds. The scoundrels will be placed with scoundrels. This is God’s perfect justice. They all can abuse each other. The angels will watch to see if any of them repent and want to be decent.
As for those who know of Christ, or who at one time have made a profession of Christ, as we said before, some become real servants of Christ. Many are sixty-fold so to speak, not quite up to the saints who live in full victory.
Then there are the casual church attenders. There are millions of them in America. They do not give a clear testimony of Christ, and that is why our government is becoming increasingly immoral.
We can see that these different kinds of people may be in our own family. It is easy to understand why the family group would not be reunited upon death. They are a mixture. God does not enjoy mixtures. He through His angels will place each person in the group where he or she belongs, regardless of family ties.
What we gain from this understanding is to not let ourselves idolize any individual. We have to die to the idolizing of people. Even when they are marching in the same rank as we, our relationship must be through Christ—even with husband and wife.
Think of a triangle. We are not to relate to one another directly across the base line. Our relationship to that person must go from us up to the apex of the triangle, which is Christ, and then down through the other leg of the triangle to the other person.
To become wildly infatuated with some person is to succumb to idolatry, to bondage. Nothing good will come from this infatuation, only anxiety, jealousy, despair, rage, and perhaps physical harm. It is not healthy. It will come to a bitter, disappointing end.
I know that people, who obviously are staunch Christians, have had out-of-the-body experiences in which they have seen loved ones, and they go to live together in homes. Husband and wife are united happily.
I do not understand why the New Testament does not tell us about such family scenes so we can look forward to them with joy. I know Heaven is a very large area–larger than any idea we have. Not everyone will be in the army that descends with Christ in the Day of the Lord.
There will be millions of people in the spirit world who are not in the army of the Lord. This does not mean, according to my understanding, that all of these people are in Hell.
It may be true that numerous people in the spirit world are not in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God does not include flesh and blood relationships. Once we enter the Kingdom, relationships are established by role and rank in the Kingdom, not by flesh and blood.
The new relationships will be much more glorious and fulfilling than ever were true of flesh and blood relationships. They very well may be eternal. What God joins together is joined together, perhaps for eternity.
So we have a wonderful hope. But it is not a perpetuating of flesh and blood relationships. I believe it may be true that relationships that originate in flesh and blood may be modified in some manner by the Spirit of God so that now they are eternal relationships. That very well could be the case.
It may not be the type of relationships we are accustomed to but will be designed in different ways that will be infinitely superior to what we have known now.
I am speaking of the Kingdom in particular, the royal priesthood, God’s elect, Christians, members of the Body of Christ. As far as their inheritance is concerned, which consists of the saved people of the nations, it may not be the same at all. The admonition in Leviticus to “not plant your field with two kinds of seed” was addressed to Israel, God’s elect.
Perhaps the saved from the nations will in many instances resume their familiar relationships.
I am writing “Mixtures” to God’s nation of priests, the Christian people, not to the Gentile nations. My purpose in writing this essay to Christian people is so they will not permit themselves to be so bound with human relationships that they are not free to make Christ and God their primary focus of adoration.
Jesus wants His elect to be able to accept roles and ranks in the Kingdom that are new and surprising to them, without any attempt to cling to the former relationships. They must be able to forget the things that are past and press forward into the inner resurrection, and finally the outer resurrection, as the Apostle Paul taught us.
Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father’s house. The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. (Psalms 45:10,11)
The above verses have to do with our next life in the Kingdom of God. They are not suggesting that we should neglect our family in the present world! To hide ourselves from our own flesh and blood is to displease God. Some religious people have done this, and it is wickedness. We have family responsibilities and we must honor them, as God helps and guides us.
The new freedom of those in Christ in the spirit world will include a new type of organization of people. The Lord would have us to be free and filled with righteousness, love, joy, and peace. Our present system of relationships sometimes includes frustrations and irritations. God has something better than this for us.
God may permit situations to develop in which we are freed from human relationships. This especially may be true of people who are called to a high rank in the Kingdom. But all of this occurs by the wisdom of God. There is little we can do about it except to be sternly obedient to God, trusting that in His love and goodness toward us He is leading us into a wonderful place.
The Lord Jesus spoke to us about purity of heart:
See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you. (Luke 11:35,36)
I believe the meaning of this verse is that we are not to permit any indecision to dwell in us. We are to embrace what is righteous and firmly denounce and renounce that which is not God’s will for us.
As we seek to enter the rest of God, into that state of being in which we are looking to Jesus for every word, every thought, and every action, the Holy Spirit assists us. He divides between our soul and spirit, the joints and marrow of our bones, and the thoughts and intents of our heart so we can perceive the spiritual death that is in us.
Then the Spirit will help us to put that which is not of God to death, as we choose the good and reject the evil.
We never can rest in God as long as there are mixtures in us of sin and righteousness. When the impurities and impure people have been separated from them, then the righteous shall shine in the Glory of their Father.
God works with us, line upon line, command upon command. There is no hurry. He is fashioning us into the image of His Son and bringing us into His rest.
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 7:1)