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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Saturday Afternoon, October 8, 2011

We are here today for the funeral of a woman in our church who has been a Christian for many years. It is natural for us to think about what happens to a Christian after death. There is so much in the Bible on this subject that we could not possibly cover all of it in the few minutes we have at this service. But I am going to give you a sketch of the three main events that face a Christian at the time of death. I am purposefully leaving out some of these events for the sake of time, but here are the most prominent things that happen to every person who dies as a true Christian.

I. First, the Christian’s spirit goes immediately into Christ’s presence.

Please turn in your Bible to II Corinthians 5:8.

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8).

The moment a Christian dies his spirit goes immediately into Christ’s presence. The Apostle Paul spoke of his “desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Dr. Henry Thiessen pointed out that the Christian’s body is said to “sleep” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14; Mark 5:39), but “the soul…enters into full communion with his Lord” (H. C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971 edition, p. 271). “The…believer certainly goes into the immediate presence of Christ when he falls asleep [in death], Philippians 1:23; II Corinthians 5:6-8” (ibid., pp. 339-340). Jesus said to the converted thief, who was dying on a cross next to His, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). It is proper, then, to speak of Christians, at death, going immediately to be with Christ in “paradise.” Yet the Bible only gives us a glimpse of what “paradise” will be like. Paul spoke of being “caught up to the third heaven…up into paradise” in a vision (II Corinthians 12:2-4) – but Paul was forbidden to relate the words he heard there. It is certain that Christ is there, seated at the right hand of God (Romans 8:34). We are given a glimpse into paradise in the Book of Revelation, in such passages as Revelation 6:9-11,

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Revelation 6:9-11).

Just as the converted thief went immediately into paradise when he died, to be with Christ (Luke 23:43), so the spirits of all true Christians will enter there at death to be with the Saviour.

II. Second, the Christian’s body goes into the grave, awaiting the Rapture.

Please turn to I Corinthians 15:51-54.

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:51-54).

Don’t be surprised if the resurrection of Christians’ physical bodies seems like a mystery to you. After all, the Apostle Paul himself called it a “mystery” (I Corinthians 15:51) – something that we would not know if God had not revealed it in the Scriptures. We will “not all sleep” – that is, not all of our bodies will go into the grave. But in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, all of the bodies of the dead and living Christians will be “changed” and “raised incorruptible.” At this point the spirits and resurrected bodies of the dead will be reunited. We are not told in the Scriptures exactly what our resurrected bodies will be like. The Apostle Paul said,

“...we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body...” (Philippians 3:20-21).

And the Apostle John said,

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”
      (I John 3:2).

In His resurrected body, Jesus could be seen and touched. He could eat and talk. He could be recognized as well (Luke 24:36-43). We are specifically told that He was not a spirit, but that He had a “flesh and bone” body (Luke 24:39) – and yet His body was no longer limited. He was able to appear and reappear, even when the doors were locked. So, it is enough to say, “When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (I John 3:2).

Now turn to I Thessalonians 4:13-17.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:13-17).

We are not to sorrow hopelessly, as unbelievers do, when a friend or loved one dies (4:13). We are to believe the word of the Lord, the Holy Scriptures, which tell us that Christ Himself will descend from Heaven (v. 16). The bodies of dead Christians will rise first (v. 16b). Then the bodies of living Christians will be “caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17). This event is usually called the “rapture” – which means “to be caught up,” or “carried away.” The term comes from the very words “caught up” (v. 17). There can be no question whatever that these verses speak of the “catching up” of the bodies of both the dead and living Christians “to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17). At this time the spirits and resurrected bodies of dead Christians will be reunited.

I am deliberately leaving out several things here – such as the bema judgment and the marriage supper of the Lamb – because I want to cover only three main topics in this brief funeral study.

III. Third, the Christian, in his resurrected body, will return to this earth to reign with Christ.

Please turn to Jude 14. This is the most ancient promise of Christ returning with His saints.

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (Jude 14).

The number 10,000 is figurative. It includes all true Christians, as Zechariah 14:5 says,

“And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee” (Zechariah 14:5).

“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22).

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

And please turn to Revelation 20:6.

“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).

Christ will descend from Heaven to the Mount of Olives, from which He ascended (Acts 1:11-12). Christians will descend with Him to rule and reign over the earth for 1,000 years.

Our sister was sick for a long time, unable to walk, in a wheelchair. But when Christ returns, she will come down to the earth with Him in her glorified body, walking and leaping and praising God in Christ’s 1,000-year Kingdom! Dr. John R. Rice said it all in his hymn, “When Jesus Comes to Reign.”

Sorrow and sighing shall flee away,
   When Jesus comes to reign.
Eyes of the blind will be opened then;
   Tongues of the dumb shall sing.
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away!
   Flee away that glory day!
Garden of Eden restored that day!
   When Jesus comes to reign.

Lame men shall leap as young deers, for then
   None will be sick or sore.
Deserts will bloom and the thorns and briars
   Shall curse the earth no more!
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away!
   Flee away that glory day!
Garden of Eden restored that day!
   When Jesus comes to reign.

Kingdoms shall fall, and old Satan’s rule
   Shall end with all its tears.
Righteousness fill all the earth, and peace
   Reign for a thousand years.
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away!
   Flee away that glory day!
Garden of Eden restored that day!
   When Jesus comes to reign.
(“When Jesus Comes to Reign” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980;
     altered by the Pastor).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Revelation 20:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“When Jesus Comes to Reign” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

I.   First, the Christian’s spirit goes immediately into Christ’s presence,
II Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; I Thessalonians 4:13-14;
Mark 5:39; Luke 23:43; II Corinthians 12:2-4; Romans 8:34;
Revelation 6:9-11.

II.  Second, the Christian’s body goes into the grave, awaiting the Rapture,
I Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21; I John 3:2;
Luke 24:36-43, 39; I Thessalonians 4:13-17.

III. Third, the Christian, in his resurrected body, will return to this earth
to reign with Christ, Jude 14; Zechariah 14:5; Daniel 7:22;
Revelation 5:9-10; 20:6; Acts 1:11-12.