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The Heavens Open Up-OptimizedThe Day Christ Comes Back To Get Us

I made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior when I was a sophomore in high school. My uncle, who shared the Word with me, gave me my first Bible, the New Believer’s Bible New Testament (New Living Translation). I loved that Bible! It was so easy to read (partly because it was basically one step up from a paraphrased Bible) and it had helpful commentary.

As a new Christian, I was very excited because I was reading the Bible and understanding it well, and my enthusiasm was through the roof. I remember one occasion where I was invited to a college football game by another uncle and when he picked me up he noticed I had my new Bible. On any other day I would have thoroughly enjoyed watching the game, but instead (much to my uncle’s annoyance) I read my Bible on and off during the entire game. I just couldn’t get enough.

All was well with my new Bible until the day I read the commentary on this section of Scripture:

2 Corinthians 5:6-10
(6) Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.
(7) We live by faith, not by sight.
(8) We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
(9) So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
(10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

The commentary was titled “When Does a Christian Enter Heaven?” It reads:

“Some people teach that when we die we go into a state of suspended animation. Then later we are called into the presence of God. But this passage clearly explains that when a believer dies, he or she will go directly to heaven to ‘be at home with the Lord’…

The moment you take your last breath on earth, you will take your first breath in heaven. So don’t be afraid of death. Instead, enjoy your life in Christ on earth, and spend the rest of your time here introducing others to the one with whom you will spend eternity.” [1]

I loved reading about heaven and the hope of one day living forever with God Himself, and I was very pleased to learn that upon my death, there wouldn’t be a long waiting period; I would immediately be with God in heaven. Praise God!

But then I started thinking. If Christians are “aliens” in this world (1 Pet. 2:11), if the world is under the control of the Devil (1 John 5:19), if Christians are going to be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12), and if we are awaiting God to “call us home” to be with Him at the moment we die, why not run home? [2]

Suicide started to sound like a quick ticket home, as it seemed the sooner I got to be with God, the better. I never considered actually taking my own life, because I knew in my heart of hearts that death was not good. I had been to a few funerals, seen the tears, felt the pain, and knew there was nothing “good” about death. To my horror, I have since learned that more than a few sincere Christians have killed themselves because they thought they would go to heaven to be with God, Jesus, and their departed loved ones. Some have even killed others so they too could go. What that must do to God’s heart is hard to imagine. Amidst my theological enigma, I went to the Bible and studied the topic of death and its aftermath. First, I found it says that death is an “enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). How could it be an enemy if it took me “home” to be with God? Then I saw that John 3:13 says that “No man has ascended into heaven… (ESV) [3].” And Acts 2:34 tells us that is even true of David, who was a man after God’s own heart.

Among other Scriptures clearly stating that after death one is not conscious, I came across this rather shocking (at the time) verse:

Psalm 30:9
“What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

I saw that, as per Genesis 3:19, man’s body is basically “dust,” and after death each man returns to dust. It is not at death that one goes to be with the Lord, but when the Lord comes back for us. The following verses tell us exactly that:

John 14:2 and 3
(2) In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.
(3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

When do we go to be with the Lord? When he comes back. Notice that he did not say “when you die, we will meet in Heaven.” No, the Lord Jesus Christ has promised to come back and take us to be with him where he is (see 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Scripture figuratively refers to death as “sleep.” Where there is no consciousness, there is no awareness of the passing of time. Thus, for each Christian who dies, that glorious day of Christ’s appearing will be his next waking moment. Hallelujah!

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