By: Ted Camp, Silent Word Ministries
What happens after death? Science, evolution, theories, cults, and opinions do not have the answer. The Bible is the only absolute source to teach about eternity, Heaven, and Hell. First, those “in Christ” have hope after death. Secondly, those “without Christ” have no hope.
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (dead), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope...For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout...and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thess. 4:13-18).
Notice it does not say the “dead in the church” but the “dead in Christ.” These are comforting words of hope for all those “in Christ.” There are no comforting words for those “without Christ.”
Henry Van Dyke wrote, “I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!” I respond, “Gone where?” Then I realize that it is gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just as the moment when someone at my side says: “There she is gone!” There are other voices ready to take up the glad shout from the other shore: “Here she comes!” And that is dying.”
In some foreign countries they do not say “He is gone, but he has arrived.” One man said to a husband, “I’m sorry you lost your wife.” The husband replied, “I did not lose her, I know exactly where she is.” Some think that death is the end of life, a grave, or an eternal sleep.
Paul said, “The time of my departure is at hand” (II Cor. 4:6). You cannot have a departure (ETD) without an (ETA) arrival. Departure (ETD) means you are leaving one port, but will later arrive (ETA) at another port. Death for a Christian is described as a departure from this shore, and an arrival to be present with the Lord.
There is one verse that teaches exactly what transpires for a Christian after death. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:6-8).
When I attended Dade County High a teacher called the roll each morning. Students were either absent or present. As your name was called you said, “present.” Silence meant you were absent. At the time of death for a Christian, he will remain silent here on earth, but he will shout “present” with the Lord in Heaven. This is what happens at death for a Christian.
“When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.” What about you? What happens at death for someone not “in Christ?” Well, that is another story with a different ending. These are Words of Wisdom.
Ted Camp is director of Silent Word Ministries, a worldwide ministry to the deaf based in Trenton. E-mail him at TC@silentword.org to be added to the email list for weekly articles or phone (706) 657-8000.