, when we die, we are consciously and immediately in the presence of our Savior in heaven.

The Bible is clear that after death, two literal destinies await all humanity: eternal life and eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ receive everlasting life. When a believer dies, her body remains in the grave, but her soul is consciously and immediately taken into the presence of Jesus. Our soul’s immediate destiny is heaven, since Jesus himself ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11) and is presently there preparing dwelling places for us (John 14:1-3).

One passage that makes it clear we are conscious with Jesus after we die is Revelation 6:9-11. There the souls of tribulation martyrs in heaven ask the Lord how long it will be until their righteous blood is avenged. Apparently without resurrected bodies yet, they are still fully conscious, having speech and recollection.

That we are immediately with Jesus after death is implicit in at least two passages: Jesus’ words to the dying thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43), and Paul’s conviction that “we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Neither Jesus nor the apostle foresaw centuries of separation while our bodies lay in graves, awaiting the final resurrection. Rather, they anticipated an immediate reunion!

We can anticipate that as well. Though without our physical bodies, we will be able to commune with Jesus, with Abraham, and with believing loved ones who have preceded us to heaven.

Second, when Jesus returns, we will receive our resurrected bodies and live with him forever in the new heaven and new earth.

The cornerstone of all eschatological hope is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. At that moment, not before, believers in Jesus will receive their resurrected, immortal bodies: The dead in Christ will be raised and living saints will be caught up (“raptured”) to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:15-17). All who see Christ face to face shall, in that moment, become like him (1 John 3:2).

Our resurrection bodies are not merely immortal duplicates of our present ones. Consider Paul’s analogy of the wheat seed (1 Cor. 15:35-38). A mortal body is like the seed, while an immortal body is like the full-grown plant. Both are physical, with an intrinsic continuity between the two. But what a difference between the seed and the plant in appearance, in attribute, and in potential! If we presently have the capacity to recognize our loved ones, that ability will be magnified, not lessened, in the immortal state.


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