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What Happens to Believers at Death?

by Pastor Steve

LBCF Chapter 31:1
The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous being then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, where they are with Christ, and behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies…

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 37 and Baptist Catechism Q. 40 “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?”
The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

Heidelberg Catechism – Q. 1 – “What is your only comfort in life and death?”
That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sin, and delivered me from all the power of the devil, and so preserves me that without the will of my Heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head, yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

The orthodox position of reformed churches is that believers are separated from their bodies in the intermediate state, but that one day body and soul will be reunited in the New Heavens and the New Earth. This blog concerns the soul of the believer during this “Intermediate State”. The one word that best sums up the intermediate state is “rest”.

Revelation 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”

The Scriptures teach the intermediate state is a place of rest and happiness. It is a place of waiting for the end of all things and the resurrection. But that doesn’t mean it is a place of inactivity.

  1. REST” in Scripture often refers to satisfaction in the midst of labor, or joy in accomplishment. Even in this world we find rest, not simply through sleep, but through changing the kind of work we are doing. In Heaven, our activity has no tiresome toil or painful labor.

    Boettner, “Much of our work today is misdirected, monotonous, repetitious and vain. But there, all the unpleasant features are removed and it is given a new direction, with new motives, and it is a joy to perform. Our work is no longer directed primarily toward ourselves, nor toward any creature, but toward God.”

    Rev. 7:15-17 shows us the believers in the intermediate state work and serve him in everything they do (and we do not know all of what they do) but everything they do, they do for Him.

  2. REST” has the idea of the end of sorrows. God wipes away the tears from their eyes. There is no longer any pain or loss. Why do we have so many troubles and trials in this life? One answer is, so we won’t be so attached to life as it is today. Almost every joy carries its own sorrow with it. One day it will not be that way. Our joy will be full. We get foretastes of that glory now. For the Christian, Heaven begins on earth because of the work of the Holy Spirit.
  3. REST” also carries with it freedom of that which is evil, from the temptations of this world and this flesh. It is perfect rest with God.
    It’s hard to know what life will be like as a spirit without a body. It’s something that is absolutely foreign to our experience. But, it is also something that we are absolutely assured is wonderful, fulfilling, exciting and glorious.

Yet even with all that there is yet a better day coming, the day of resurrection, the day when all things are made new. At that day all believers enter into the eternal state and begin a new life, in body and soul. We can now only vaguely begin to understand the eternal state, but we will make some observations upon it in our next installment.

Eye has not seen – nor ear heard – nor entered into the heart of man – those things which God has prepared – for those who love Him!

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