QUESTION 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
ANSWER. 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.
Q. 1. Why are the persons spoken of in the answer, called believers?
A. Because they have been enabled, by grace, to credit the truth of God in his promise, and to embrace the good that is in it, Heb. 11:13.
Q. 2. What is the difference between believers, and others, in their death?
A. Believers die in virtue of the promise of the covenant of grace, in which death is made over to them unstinged, as a part of Christ's legacy, 1 Cor. 3:22; whereas all others die in virtue of the threatening of the covenant of works, Gen. 2:17, having the sting of death sticking fast both in their souls and bodies.
Q. 3. What is the sting of death?
A. The sting of death is sin, 1 Cor. 15:56; and the curse is the inseparable companion of sin, Gal. 3:10.
Q. 4. What security in law have believers against the sting of death?
A. Christ's receiving it into his own soul and body, as their Surety, that they might be delivered from it: wherefore the promise of victory over death, made to him, Isa. 25:8, secures the disarming of it to them, 1 Cor. 15:57.
Q. 5. How many fold are the benefits which believers receive from Christ at their death?
A. They are twofold; such as respect their SOULS, and such as respect their BODIES.
Q. 6. How does it appear that the souls of believers exist in a state of separation from their bodies?
A. From the Lord's calling himself the "God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," long after their death, as an evidence that their souls were living; for "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living," Matt. 22:32; and from the death of believers being called a departure, 2 Tim. 4:6; intimating that the soul, upon its separation, departs only from the earthly house of this tabernacle, to a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, 2 Cor. 5:1.
Q. 7. Are the souls of men absolutely and independently immortal?
A. No; God only is so, 1 Tim. 6:16 -- "Who only hath immortality."
Q. 8. In what sense then are souls immortal?
A. In that, as to their natural constitution, they are incorruptible, having no inward principle of corruption, but remaining in a state of activity after the death of the body, Heb. 12:23 -- "The spirits of just men made perfect."
Q. 9. How do you prove the immortality of the soul from the nature of it?
A. In its nature, it is a spiritual, immaterial, or incorporeal substance: and, therefore, where there is no composition of parts, there can be no dissolution of them, Luke 24:39 -- "A spirit hath not flesh and bones."
Q. 10. How are we sure that the soul shall never be annihilated?
A. From the promise of everlasting happiness to the righteous; and the threatening of everlasting misery to the wicked, Matt. 25:46 -- "These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal."
Q. 11. What are the benefits conferred upon the SOULS of believers, upon their separation from their bodies?
A. They are made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, Heb. 12:23; Philip. 1:23.
Q. 12. How does it appear, that the souls of believers are not made perfect in holiness, while united to their bodies in this life?
A. From the remains of corruption and indwelling sin which cleave to the best of the saints of God, while in an imbodied state, Rom. 7:23, 24.
Q. 13. In what consists that perfect holiness which is conferred upon the souls of believers at their separation,
A. Not only in a perfect freedom from all sin, as to the very being of it, Rev. 21:4, but in a perfect likeness and conformity to God, 1 John 3:2.
Q. 14. What comfort may the believer have, in the prospect of the separation of his soul from his body?
A. That as sin made its first entrance into him at the union of his soul and body, so it shall be for ever cast out at their separation; in which respect, among many others, death is great gain, Phil. 1:21.
Q. 15. Why must the souls of believers be perfectly holy at their separation?
A. Because nothing that defileth can enter within the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, Rev. 21:27.
Q. 16. What is the necessary concomitant of the soul's perfect holiness?
A. Perfect and uninterrupted communion with God, 1 John 3:2.
Q. 17. Where is this perfect and uninterrupted communion to be enjoyed?
A. In glory, 1 Cor. 13:12.
Q. 18. When do the souls of the saints pass into glory?
A. As they are made perfect in holiness immediately upon their separation, so do they likewise immediately pass into glory.
Q. 19. Why is it said in the answer that they pass immediately into glory?
A. To show that the fiction of a middle state, between heaven and hell, invented by the papists, has no manner of warrant, or foundation in scripture.
Q. 20. How do you prove from scripture, that the souls of believers, upon their separation from their bodies, pass immediately into glory?
A. The soul of that certain beggar, named Lazarus, was immediately, upon its separation, "carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom," Luke 16:22:in like manner the soul of the thief upon the cross was immediately glorified; for, says Christ to him, "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise," Luke 23:43; and Stephen, among his last words, prays, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," Acts 7:59; plainly intimating, that he firmly believed his soul would be with Christ' in glory immediately after death.
Q. 21 What is that glory into which the souls of believers immediately pass?
A. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him," 1 Cor. 2:9. However, since naked discoveries of the heavenly glory, divested of earthly resemblances, would be too bright for our weak eyes; such is the condescension of God, that he has been pleased to represent to us heaven's happiness, under similitudes taken from earthly things, glorious in the eyes of men.
Q. 22. What are the similitudes by which this glory, into which the souls of believers immediately pass, is held forth in scripture?
A. It is compared to a kingdom, Luke 12:32; to a "house not made with hands," 2 Cor. 5:1; to an "inheritance incorruptible," 1 Pet. 1:4; and to a "better country," Heb. 11:16.
Q. 23. Why is the heavenly glory compared to a kingdom?
A. Because of the fulness of all spiritual and eternal good, of which the saints are there possessed; and the glorious dignity to which they are advanced, Rev. 1:6 -- "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father."
Q. 24. Why is it called a house not made with hands?
A. To signify the unspeakable excellency of the heavenly mansions, above the most stately palaces built by the hands of men.
Q. 25. Why is it said to be an incorruptible inheritance?
A. To intimate, that the happiness of the saints will be of an unfading nature for ever, 1 Pet. 5:4 -- "Ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."
Q. 26. Why is it called a better country?
A. To show that there is no comparison between "the things which are seen, and are temporal, and the things which are not seen, and are eternal," 2 Cor 4:18.
Q. 27. What benefits do believers receive from Christ, at death, with respect to their bodies?
A. Their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection, Isa. 57:1, 2; Job 19:26.
Q. 28. How does it appear that the bodies of believers in their graves remain still united to Christ?
A. The union was with the person of believers, of which their bodies are a part; and this union being indissoluble, it must still subsist with their bodies in the grave, as well as with their souls in heaven, Isa. 26:19.
Q. 29. How may believers be assured of this from the union between the two natures in the person of Christ?
A. Because, as at the death of Christ, though his soul was separated from his body, yet neither the one nor the other were separated from his divine person, but remained as firmly united to it as ever; so neither the soul nor body of the believer shall be separated from Christ by their separation from one another at death, but both of them remain indissolubly united to him for ever, Rom. 8:38, 39.
Q. 30. What is the difference of the grave to the righteous and to the wicked?
A. To the one the grave is a resting-place; but to the other it is a prison-house, where they are kept in close custody for the judgment of the great day, Dan. 12:2.
Q. 31. Why are the bodies of the saints said to REST in their graves?
A. Because their graves are like beds of ease, where their bodies lie in safety, till they shall be awakened in the morning of the resurrection, Isa. 57:2.
Q. 32. How is their resting in the grave expressed in scripture?
A. By "sleeping in Jesus," 1 Thess. 4:14; intimating, that they sleep in union with Jesus, and that his Spirit keeps possession of every particle of their dust, which he will quicken and rebuild as his temple at the last day, Rom. 8:11.
Q. 33. How long will they rest in their graves?
A. Till the resurrection of all the dead at the great day, John 5:29.
Q. 34. How may believers be assured of receiving these promised benefits from Christ at their death?
A. They may be assured of them, upon this ground, that the promises of these benefits to them are all ingrafted upon the promises made to him, as their glorious head, before the world began, 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2.
Q. 35. Upon what promise made to Christ, is the promise of disarming death, to the dying believer, ingrafted? Hos. 13:14 -- "O death, I will be thy plagues."
A. It is ingrafted upon the promise made to him, of complete victory over death, Isa. 25:8 -- "He will swallow up death in victory."
Q. 36. Upon what ground may believers be assured that their souls, at death, shall immediately pass into glory?
A. The promise of transporting their souls into heaven, immediately upon the separation from their bodies, (Luke 23:43 -- "Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise,") is ingrafted upon the promise made to Christ, that when he should make his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed, Isa, 53:10.
Q. 37. Upon what promise made to Christ is the promise of destroying death, to the dead believer, ingrafted; Hos. 13:14 -- "O grave! I will be thy destruction?"
A. It is ingrafted upon the promise made to him, of the resurrection of his mystical members, Isa. 26:19 -- "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust."