One blogger has erroneously argued from the Old Testament that, when we die, we unconsciously sleep in the grave until the resurrection. For example, he cited:
· For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? (Psalm 6:5)
Indeed, before the Cross, the OT saints were not able to go into the presence of God, whose righteousness had not yet been satisfied by the death of His Son. It was this death that had brought the ultimate payment and cleansing even to the OT saints:
· For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:13-15; ESV)
It is only when our conscience has been cleansed that we can come into the presence of our Lord:
· let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
Without the Cross and this cleansing, the souls of OT believers could not be with the Lord:
· And all these [the OT saints], though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39-40)
All of this changed at the Cross when the veil of the Temple had been torn asunder, signifying that the way into the presence of the Lord was now open! Consequently, the souls of OT saints, which had been in the grave, now emerged (and I think rose to be with the Lord):
· And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:51-53)
Where then did these saints go afterwards? It would seem that had gone to be with the Lord in their spirit along with the NT saints (Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-17; 14:13), who are now our witnesses:
· Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of [OT saints described in chapter 11] witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
The New Testament gives us explicit evidence that our soul goes to be with our Lord at death. Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man portrays the fate of two souls after death and before the resurrection. While Lazarus went to be with the saints, the rich man went to a place of torment (Luke 16).
Jesus assured the thief on the cross:
· “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
This would be without his physical body. Nevertheless, he would be with Jesus in a place of conscious and blissful paradise.
When Stephen was being stoned to death, he cried out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). This exemplary saint had been convinced that he was going to be with the Lord in spirit.
Paul wrote of his confidence that, when he’d die, he’d go to be with the Lord:
· For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians 1:21-25)
· Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
To be away from the body meant to be consciously with the Lord. Often, when the term “sleep” is used, it refers to being with the Lord:
· who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might LIVE WITH HIM. (1 Thessalonians 5:10; 4:13-17)
We only sleep from the perspective of the world. Instead, to “sleep” is now to actually “live” in His presence.
I find these verses comforting. More importantly, the fact that we go to be with the Lord at death is Biblical.