VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Our physical body gives us visibility and function in the material world. When we die physically, we become invisible and we cannot pursue our ordinary activities in the material world. But this is all that changes!
VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (I Timothy 1:17)
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (I Timothy 3:16)
I do not know whether it is because we are approaching a worldwide holocaust, or because the war in the heaven has commenced, or I am getting old; whatever the reason, I am becoming more aware of the spirit realm. I remember Brother Elmer Fullerton many years ago said to the effect: "I had always believed I was going to die. Now I know I will walk right into glory."
We Bible students understood the old Assembly of God elder and prophet did not mean he would not die physically but that his conscious life would continue after he died physically.
When you stop and think about it, isnít this exactly what the Lord said?
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25,26)
In fact, Brother Fullerton claimed the Lord had begun to show him the new Jerusalem. Fullerton said if he could have just kept himself composed instead of yelling in tongues he could have seen the whole city.
Knowing Brother Fullerton I have no doubt it happened exactly as he said.
Well, this concept of not losing consciousness when one dies physically has been impressed on me of late.
I am beginning to understand our concept of being removed to another place when we die may not be entirely true for all peopleóperhaps for some.
It probably is true that the major difference between being alive physically and being dead physically is that of being visible or invisible. After we die we continue to live as always, with our memories and understanding. It is just that we are invisible, and so we cannot function as we did when we were visible.
For example, I am a pastor. When I die I cannot continue to pastor, simply because people canít see or touch me. Also the state government might have some legal problems with an invisible pastor.
However, if I should die while I am preaching, should drop dead from congestive heart failure for example, I will not go anywhere. I still will be standing behind the pulpit, although no one will be able to see me.
Where do I go from there? That depends on the Lord. I try to follow Him as closely as I can now, looking to Him for every decision I make. After I die, this is what I will continue to do. Only then I probably will be able to actually see Him most of the time.
Perhaps He will allow me to remain during the graveside and memorial services so I can extend comfort to grieving members of my family; for I do believe we can be comforted by saints who have gone on. There seems to be an abundance of anecdotal evidence that this occurs.
Maybe after that Christ will invite me to go with Him to where there is a need for me to be of help, either on the earth or somewhere in the heavens. I canít imagine He will have me do nothing; although I might be permitted to rest for a bit.
My point is this: conscious life continues. We need to know this if the Middle East situation blows up and we find ourselves in the midst of worldwide destruction. As I have said many times, we need to be citizens of two worlds so we do not go berserk if we see our family killed. We need to live in the reality of the spirit realm, realizing that people do not go anywhere when they die. They just become invisible.
Another reason we need to understand life goes on is as follows: numerous Christians are of the opinion that when they die they will become spiritual giants, ready to govern the nations; although today they may be quite immature and worldly. They must come to realize physical death will leave them unchanged.
As far as our sinful nature is concerned, we know sin dwells in our flesh, as Paul taught. Whatever impulses dwell in our flesh are spiritual, not organic; they will not go into the coffin with our body. Therefore this evil very well may accompany our soul and spirit when we lose our body. I know of no passage of Scripture that states we will be released from the bondages of sin by dying physically.
Also, our self-will shall remain intact. If we are willful and stubborn now, being disobedient to the Lord, when we die we still will be willful and stubborn, insisting on going our own way, being disobedient to Christ.
Why should we be different? Because we have become invisible? This is neither scriptural nor logical.
I remember once while in Bible school we had had an exceptionally uplifting chapel service. My faith was really high. We went into our New Testament Greek class. I had studied my Greek text and was prepared.
As I took my seat in the front row, my spirit lifted out of my body. I rose toward the ceiling. I was content to remain there, except for one small problem: I could not remember the Greek lesson. Although I was thrilled to be out of the body, I knew the responsible thing was to descend into my body and take part in the classówhich I proceeded to do.
I learned something from that experience. The information we have that is restricted to our brain remains with our body. But the information we have in our mind, such as the knowledge of the Lord, remains intact.
I knew where I was. I could see the people. I knew I was supposed to be participating in the Greek class. This tells me that when we become invisible, some parts of our consciousness will remain and some will be lost and may not be regained until the Day of Resurrection.
In Dr. Ritchieís book, Return From Tomorrow (Chosen Books, 1978), we note that memories can be a part of our punishment. Imagine what it would be like for the abortion doctor to have to live forever with the picture of aborted children in his consciousness!
What we are now we will continue to be when we become invisible.
There may be opportunities for growth and instruction in the spirit realm. This would have to be the case if all the members of the Bride are to come to perfection; for we certainly do not attain the stature of the fullness of Christ while we are enduring our discipleship on the earth, during our lifetime.
Before we go further, let me emphasize that we cannot be lazy and indifferent in this world and expect to make up for it when we die. If we have been unfaithful in the least, that is, while we are in our present body, we will never be entrusted with the greater.
I know many Christians are hoping when the Lord returns He will make them perfect. But consider the parables of the ten virgins and of the talents. In neither instance did the Lordís coming make them perfect. Rather, it revealed their foolishness and laziness.
Some will insist these two parables could never apply to Christians because we are "saved by grace." Well, if they do not, neither does the Lordís teaching about being born again apply to Christians. Jesus did not say that being born again applies to Christians and the parables of the ten virgins and the talents apply to the unsaved. It is time we ceased with our illogical, unscriptural games. We have morally corrupt, spiritually bankrupt believers to show for our willingness to distort Godís Word.
Having stated that we are not teaching we can neglect our salvation in this life and make up for our sinfulness in the next, let us proceed with further thoughts about becoming invisible, that is, about what happens when we die physically.
Notice the tense of the verbs in the following passage:
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, To Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)
"You have come."
"You have come."
"You have come."
Are we already living on Mount Zion? Will we still be living on Mount Zion after we die, abiding in our customary place in the Lord Jesus?
One time when I was a young peopleís leader in a church, I had a conflict with an elder of the church. I had a difficult time forgiving him. I knew I had to, so I knelt down and told the Lord I forgave the elder.
Instantly (although not clearly) I could see that I had come to Mount Zion. It was as though I was surrounded with a gallery of people.
It almost reminds one of the time Elisha enabled his servant to see the chariots that surround them.
Right now we are there. Right now we are in Christ at the right hand of God. Right now we are surrounded with many angels. Right now we are ministering in Godís Presence. The problem is, we cannot see what we are doing. It is invisible.
One time the Lord said to me, "All there is, is now."
I can see the wisdom of this more all the time. Right now what we are doing is eternal. Right now we can follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Right now we are receiving the rewards to the overcomer, although the full manifestation of at least some of them is reserved to the Day of Resurrection.
Right now we are standing on Mount Zion with the Fatherís name in our forehead. Right now we are standing next to the sea of glass mixed with fire. Right now we are singing the song of Moses and the Lamb.
The difference when we die will be that we then will be able to see the Lamb; see Mount Zion; see the sea of glass mixed with fire; see the harp we are playing (unless this is referring to the inner song we have).
Can you grasp the concept that life doesnít change just because we have become invisible?
Those who are following the Lamb afar off will still be following the Lamb afar off when they become invisible.
Those who are always interacting with Jesus will still be interacting with Jesus when they become invisible.
Notice the following:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
"Is now hidden."
If Christ has become our life, when He is made visible we also will become visible. But He has always been here, having the power of multiple presence, and some of us may have that same ability, being here and also off somewhere ministering in the spirit realm. The holy angels will blow the trumpet of God and gather us together so we can descend with the Lord.
And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:31)
The New Testament term translated "coming" often is the Greek word parousia.
Parousia seems to contain more of the idea of being present than it does a return from a great distance.
Heaven and the saints may be all around us as a great cloud of witnesses!
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, (Ephesians 2:6)
"Raised us up."
"Seated us with him."
Already having been accomplished.
Deeper-life teachers often refer to our "position" and our "experience." By this they mean God has spoken of our already being with Christ on the highest throne, and now it is our task by faith to bring our daily experience in line with the vision God has for us. I concur with this idea.
However, our position may be more literally true than we have understood. If our eyes were open we might see that weare seated with God in the heavenly realms in Christ. It remains true that our task by faith is to bring our daily experience in line with what already is spiritual reality.
I suppose most of us have pictured that when we die we go to Heaven, are given a mansion, walk on golden streets, and enjoy Paradise. I know this scene is not far from my own mind, even though I realize there is no scriptural basis for my belief.
I remember a fellow student in Bible school named Lester Freeman. Lester had a dream, or vision, of Heaven while he was very ill with ptomaine poisoning. What he saw was tents, like army tents, and a lot of activity. Maybe our after-death experience will be difference from what we expect!
For a person who is interested in the Church being delivered from all blemishes and made perfect for Christ, it is troubling to realize most believers, it appears, have not come to such perfection in this world. In fact, many sincere, church-going believers are still gossiping and slandering up to the moment they cease to breathe.
It must be there are provisions made for progress in spiritual maturity after we die. I realize we will not be made sinlessly perfect by means of dying; neither is it true that at Christís coming He will wave a magic wand and we will be converted from our worldliness, lusts, and self-will and transformed into giants of truth and faithfulness. If such were the case, the Apostle Paul would not have stated so many times that if we sow to our sinful nature we are going to die spiritually and not inherit the Kingdom of God.
We definitely are going to reap what we have sown in this present life.
In connection with the thought of sinful believers dying and passing into the spirit realm, the following passage gives rise to speculation:
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:5,6)
Two thousand years ago the Apostle Peter stated that Christ was ready at that time to judge the living and the dead.
Then Peter continues by claiming that the Gospel was preached to those who are in the spirit realm that they might be judged as we are.
This makes perfect sense to me; I donít know if it does to you.
The fourth chapter of First Peter informs us that we are saved by fiery judgments. Suffering is designed to remove sin from us. This is why we have fiery trials. They are Divine judgment on us that we might be saved, that is, delivered from sin and made fit for the Kingdom of God.
So far so good. The righteous individual is saved with difficulty because of the pain and complexity of the interaction of Divinely imposed suffering and his appropriate responses.
But, consider the fact that Christ is judging the dead also. How is Christ judging the dead? He is judging them according to men in regard to the body. This seems to mean they are experiencing fiery judgments the same as we, just as though they were still living in a physical body.
As I said, this make perfect sense to me. But if we accept this concept as valid, that Godís elect are chastened after they die, it certainly changes the way in which we view life after death.
My own mother and father have been dead for many years. Sometimes they seem real to me. I can picture them rather clearly as I am writing. Yet, I have very poor visual memory. I could not remember the color of the walls of my bedroom if I did make a note of the color and say the word "white." (I think they are white. I am not in the bedroom at this time.)
I would never remember the color just from having lived in this house for a long time. I suppose there are other people like that also. Yet some, such as my wife, have an excellent visual memory.
Ibelieve my mother and father are suffering in the spirit realm. My father when he was elderly accepted Christ in the conventional manner, but his life did not change very much. I know my mother feared God. But neither my father nor my mother were dedicated disciples. So some correction is needed, I suppose.
I am not teaching purgatory. The concept of purgatory is that you have to make amends for your sins by means of penance. When the devout Catholic says ten Our Fathers to express remorse for having lied, he is making an atonement for his sin.
Making our own atonement is an unsound practice, now that Christ has made the one great atonement on the cross of Calvary. Do you agree with that?
Well then, how is what I am teaching different from purgatory?
It is different in that the believers do not suffer to atone for their sins. Rather, their suffering is just like ours on the earth. Various forms of suffering and tribulation transform us into the image of Christ, if we receive them correctly and do not blame the tools God uses.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4;1,2)
We do not expiate our sins by doing penance. It is true rather that our sufferings turn us away from sin. There is an uncrossable gulf between these two concepts. On the one hand we are attempting to do for ourselves what Christ already has accomplished. On the other hand we are experiencing Divine chastening that has as its purpose the creation of holiness in us.
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:10)
We may never have thought of our being chastened after we die, but one cannot just discard what Peter has written about the dead being judged in the same manner as the living. We cannot ignore the Scriptures just because they do not correspond with our traditions.
How else are we going to have an unblemished Bride? By imputation? I do not believe the Lord Jesus Christ wants a worldly, lustful, self-willed bride who is perfect by imputation? Do you?
When the Lord spoke of many lashes and few lashes He was referring to His servants. The lashes are probably not referring to Hell or the Lake of Fire but to suffering with a view to correction. And it does not seem likely that such correction would be confined to the present world. Does it to you?
So we Christians have some thinking to do about what happens to people when they die. If we still are teaching them they are going to fly up to Heaven in a "rapture" we are not basing our instruction on the Scriptures. We are leaving them almost totally unprepared for what they will be facing when they enter the spirit realm.
Perhaps you have read, as I have, of people who have been dead temporarily, and then have been revived. Maybe there had been a car accident.
There are two experiences that often are related by such victims. The first is that their whole life passes in front of them. The second is that they found themselves standing near their dead body and observing what was taking place.
The fact that their whole life passes in front of them reminds us of the frailty of the time-space environment we live in. The spirit realm is much more powerful in that time and space do not force their constraints on us as they do here.
Here you are. You are going about your business. Then you are notified you have incurable cancer.
You spend some time in the hospital, you then are sent home to your own bedroom. Finally you are ministered to by hospice workers, either at your home or at an institution.
Soon you will become invisible in this world, but not in the next. Your eyes will be opened. What you will see then will depends on your life now. There will be no dramatic changes.
If you are a fervent Christian, walking with the Lord, you will continue to walk with the Lord. You may be permitted to stay close to your loved ones for a season, and then probably will be called away to a place of refreshing and then of service. Others will be sent to minister to your loved ones, so you need not worry about them.
Do you remember how Moses and Elijah discussed with Christ His approaching death? These two men of God were very interested in the atonement Christ was about to make for it would have a direct effect on them.
If you are a nominal church member, but basically a person of integrity, you will be brought to a place of instruction, as I see it.
If you have been a devout Catholic, you will gently be made to understand Christ, not the Virgin Mary, is to be worshiped. Mary and Joseph will worship Christ as their Lord, just as you and I do, just as His brother, the Apostle James does, with no difference.
If you have been a devout Muslim, and Christ has accepted your person, I think you will be given a chance to acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior. When you die there will be no paradise with dancing girls. Mohammed will not be regarded as a prophet. Jesus Christ will be seen as the supreme Lord.
Many young Arab boys and girls are being trained to hate the Jewish people. Some give their lives in an attempt to kill Jews. I hope God will make a place for them, after they die, to learn about Jesus. It seems a shame that young people, who otherwise would have led productive lives, have been persuaded to sacrifice themselves in order to kill Godís chosen people.
Sometimes I am aware of the other world. Several months ago a prominent Muslim warrior was killed in battle. I asked the Lord if I might be shown his location in the spirit realm.
I do not insist what I saw was of God. But suddenly there appeared before me a fierce man. He was standing alone on a plain. There seemed to be nothing else there, no houses, no trees. It was barren.
He was angry. He said, "I have been lied to."
Whether or not this was a true perception I do not know. It was not what I expected. But as I reflect on it, it seems not unlikely that such truly is the case with him.
He was lied to. Will God have mercy on him and give him a chance to accept Christ? I do not know. God is the Potter and He does what He will with His vessels. We have neither the wisdom nor the strength to challenge Godís righteousness.
Although Christian teaching, if I understand it, would never countenance such a warrior being given a chance after death to receive Christ as His Lord, I know of no passage in the Bible that would prevent it.
We of today have a lot of ideas that need to be reviewed, not in terms of our traditional reasoning and axioms but in terms of clear passages of Scripture kept in context.
There is no scriptural passage of which I am aware that states one cannot accept Christ in the spirit realm. In fact, the third chapter of First Peter informs us that Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison. Why would He preach to them if they would not be allowed to receive Him as their Savior? Does God play foolish games with people?
Will the people of the world stand before God to be judged, as is commonly taught, the righteous and the unrighteous, only to hear that it does not matter how they have behaved because "there is no salvation except in Christ"? They never have heard of Christ, most of them. Some of them have heard of Christ but the behavior of church people has left them with a feeling of disgust toward the Gospel. Thus with our teaching we have made the so-called "white-throne judgment" a farce! No fair-minded person would ever accept such a judgment as righteous! Neither would the Lord!
We Christians have some weird, unscriptural, illogical ideas, when you think about it!
Most people who have been born on this planet have never heard of Christ. Are they all doomed to the Lake of Fire? Why couldnít they be permitted to receive Christ in the spirit realm? After all, Abraham is in the Kingdom of God. Yet if he were to receive Christ and be born again, it had to be after he died!
Cornelius the centurion gave alms. God saw his righteousness and brought the messengers of Christ to Him.
If people have never heard of Christ, and are condemned to Hell because they never have received Christ, then I think we have injustice being practiced. And I know God is not only just, He is merciful.
There are people today who claim babies go to Hell if they are not baptized in water and suddenly die. In a Christian school of my acquaintance a teacher maintained that aborted children, fetuses slain in the womb, go to Hell because they never received Christ as their Savior. This pained one of the children whose mother had had an abortion. Can you imagine!
We must never let our religion take precedence over conscience and common sense. When we do, we are a fanatic. God never does! Jesus never does, as we see how He behaved while on earth. But the Pharisees continually violated conscience and common sense because of their religion.
So it is today with some Christians, who hold that a sinful, self-serving individual will be brought to Paradise while some unfortunate beggar with a good heart, in some foreign land, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. The difference is, the self-serving individual "accepted Christ" while the beggar never heard of Christ. Such judgment defies conscience and common sense, but it is common among Christians.
When Christ advised us to have salt in ourselves, He meant to avoid religious thinking that goes against conscience and common sense. "Salt" is the understanding of God and people, including generous helpings of mercy, compassion, a broad awareness of and sympathy with the painful, confusing condition of people on this cursed earth, and a ready sense of humor.
If a person lives a worldly, sinful, self-centered life, and yet has called upon Christ to save Him, he no doubt will go to a severe place of punishment and be saved by those fires.
If a person hears the Gospel, and then rejects Christ, he or she is lost. When that individual dies he or she will pass into eternal darkness, perhaps into the fires that give no light.
Lazarus was in Hell for no reason other than being selfish. That he was not thoroughly wicked is revealed in his concern for his brothers.
Even Judas expressed remorse, although he did not realize he had betrayed His Messiah. Yet Christ said it would have been best for him had he never been born.
The truly wicked are sent immediately into the deepest Hell, to unimaginable torment. The demons will be there to greet them and lead them away the moment they die.
My thesis is, we will not be surprised when we die except for the fact that there will be few surprises. What we are we are, and shall continue to be.
Those who are stepping along with the Lord Jesus will continue to step along with the Lord Jesus.
Those who are occupied with the world will find themselves frustrated, when they die, because they will not be able to satisfy their covetous desires. They will be disappointed, if not terrified, by the fact that they cannot find Jesus, especially if they have been church members.
The church members who have slandered and accused one another, freely engaging in gossip, will face an frowning Christ, when they die because they had joined forces with the accuser, Satan.
Those who have behaved in a vile manner, molesting children, betraying those who trusted them, will be in agony as they are forced to witness the results of their behavior, the destruction of those who had trusted them.
The Christian believers, expecting to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant," although they have not been good and faithful servants, will be disappointed as they find themselves among a great crowd of people who are waiting for the resurrection. Jesus is not in sight, just as He was not in sight as they pursued their worldly ways, trusting in grace to bring them to Paradise.
All of this we have described above takes place when we become invisible: that is, when we die physically.
When the Lord returns He will raise His firstfruits from the dead, and then the remainder of mankind at a later time. We will receive our eternal reward when we are raised from the dead, not when we die and become invisible. Each person will be clothed with that which he or she has done during his or her lifetime on the earth.
The present world is a real world. The spirit world is a far, far more real world. The present world is a place of testing to see how we will behave when we are trusted with a better environment. One day the present world, the physical world, will be inhabited by the righteous spirit realm, just as the Lord Jesus was filled with all the fullness of God while He yet was on the earth in a mortal body.
The greatest mistake any individual can make is to clutch the present world as though this were the best God can do. It is not the eternal world. It is only the valley of the shadow of death. The true world is invisible in the present hour.
So enter eternity now. Whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die. It is true that his present body will fall asleep, but it will be awakened in the Day of Resurrection.
Whatever you are, you are. However you behave, you will continue to behave. The extent of your fellowship with God and Christ will continue without any change at all. The only difference that will take place when you die is that you will be invisible and will not be able to perform the tasks that require a visible, physical body.
Your eyes will be open. You will enter a state of glory corresponding with your spiritual maturity. If you have been faithful to Jesus, He will be there to greet you and guide you, just as He does now.
No doubt there will be people you then will be able to see, children, grass, flowers, animals; you will be able to touch things and perceive with spiritual senses.
It may be true that your physical death will prove to be one of the least significant of the events of your life on earth. Your conscious life will continue after your body ceases to function.
I trust my few words will cause you to live now just as you hope to live in the spirit realm after you die. If you wish to have fellowship with Christ after you die, then cultivate fellowship with Christ now. If you hope to live with the saints after you die, then live with the saints now. If you hope to experience righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit after you die, then lay hold on righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit now.
If you desire to live with wicked people and the demons after you die, then live with wicked people and the demons now. If you enjoy the things of Hell and hope to go there when you die, then embrace the things of Hell now.
If you want to experience the remorse of having your loved ones regard you with sorrow and shame after you die, then betray them now.
It kind of makes sense, doesnít it!