Union with Christ in the covenant of grace—who can understand it? Who fully comprehends Paul’s confident assertion, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms with Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6)? Or who can say exactly what it means for those who die in Christ that “they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4)?
For us in whom dwells the Holy Spirit to seal us unto the day of redemption, the promise of our resurrection as the fruit of his resurrection is comprehensible. But the glory that will be revealed in us when death, the last enemy, will be destroyed is more glory than our dull hearts can contain, let alone fully understand. No wonder our memorable Professor John Murray underscored that our union with Christ is mystical.
It is a certain hope. As surely as Christ rose the third day, so surely shall we be raised up in the last day. In this hope the saints of all the ages lived. In and for this hope the martyrs laid down their lives “so that they might gain a better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35). And this hope tells us that, for us who are in Christ, our resurrection is a necessity. Salvation once begun will be completed until the day of Jesus Christ! For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (1 Cor. 15:53).
What, then, should Christ’s triumph over death mean to all mankind? It gives a solemn warning to all who are not his people. Some earthly pleasures (all gifts of God’s common grace)—are but death in the end. Like the rich man in our Lord’s parable (Luke 16) who lived in luxury every day, these may say, “This is the life!” But they will die and be buried. And, should they lift up their eyes toward heaven and complain of their torment, heaven’s answer will come back with dismal finality, “In your lifetime you received your good things ... and you are in agony.” The end of all joy forever!
The faithful in Christ Jesus know that for his sake “we face death all day long; we are considered [by a Christ-hating world] as sheep to be slaughtered.” But “in all these things we are more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:36–37).
Whether we are young, in our middle years or facing the end of our pilgrimage, we need to live confident that we will see Jesus one day without a veil between us. For “we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We each shall be like him in the possession of our new name—that perfected character by which each of us will be unique but also will bear his perfected likeness. We shall be like him in the perfection of our resurrected bodies which can never again know corruption. And we shall be with him in the new heavens and earth—the ultimate paradise of God!
This is a life of sharing his victory over death and the grave, sharing his glory in that unloseable condition for which God chose us before the foundation of the world.
Most of my life on earth is over. I’ve lived (though feebly) by that hope all these years. Many of those with whom I’ve labored through the years have been felled by the Great Reaper. But I have joy! Two or three times in recent years I’ve had a brief but overwhelming sight of the glory that awaits me. I perceived enough to know that my true home is with Christ in that world where death, with all its plagues, can nevermore enter.
“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed .... Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:51–52, 58).
New Horizons, April 1988. The Rev. Lawrence Eyres faithfully served as a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from 1938–1993.