© Copyright 2005 by Tony Capoccia. This updated
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Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from
the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION,
©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio CD: www.gospelgems.com
Forever with the Lord
September 16, 1877
C. H. SPURGEON
“So we will be with the Lord forever.” [1 Thessalonians 4:17]
We know that these words are full of comfort, for the apostle says in the next verse, “Therefore encourage each other with these words.”
The very words of our text, it appears, were dictated by the Holy Spirit the Comforter, to be repeated by the saints to each other with the view of removing sorrow from the minds of the distressed. The comfort is intended to give us hope in reference to those who have fallen asleep [died as true Christians]. Look over the list of those, beloved in the Lord, who have departed from you, to your utmost grief, and let the words of our text be a handkerchief for your tears. Don’t grieve as those that are without hope, for your loved ones that died as true Christians are with the Lord though they are not with you, and in the future you will surely meet them again where your Lord is the center of fellowship forever and ever. The separation will be temporary; the reunion will be eternal.
These words are also intended to comfort the saints with regard to themselves, and I pray that they may be a remedy to any who are sick with fear, a matchless medicine to heal the heartache of all believers. The fact that your soul lives within a dying body is very evident to some of you by your frequent and increasing sicknesses and pains, and this, it may be, is a source of depression of spirits. You know that in a few years you will be gone to a place from which you will not return; but don’t be dismayed, for you will not go into a strange country all alone. “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” [Proverbs 18:24], who will not fail you nor forsake you; and, moreover, you are going home; and your Lord will be with you while you are departing, and then you will be with him forever. Therefore, though sickness warns you of the close proximity of death, don’t be the least dismayed; though pain and exhaustion makes your heart and flesh fail, yet don’t doubt your triumph through the Redeemer’s blood; though it should sometimes make your flesh tremble when you remember your many sins and the weakness of your faith, yet be encouraged, for your sins and weakness of faith will soon be removed far from you, and you will be in his presence where there is fullness of joy, and at his right hand, where there are pleasures forevermore. Comfort yourselves, then, both with regard to those who have gone before and in reference to the thought of your own departure.
Observe that the comfort which the apostle presents to us here may be partly derived from the fact of the resurrection, but not chiefly; for he doesn’t so much refer to the words “The dead in Christ will rise,” as to those in the next verse – “so we will be with the Lord forever.” It is a great truth that you will rise again; it is even a sweeter truth that you will “be with the Lord forever.”
There is some comfort also in the fact that we will meet our departed brothers and sisters when we all will “be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” It will be wonderful to experience the general assembling of the redeemed, never again to be broken up; the joy of meeting never to part again is a sweet remedy for the bitterness of separation. There is great comfort in it, but the main stress of consolation doesn’t lie even there. It is pleasant to think of the eternal fellowships with the godly saints above, but the best of all is the promised fellowship with our Lord—“We will be with the Lord forever.” Whatever else you draw comfort from, don’t neglect this deep, clear, and overflowing well of delight. There are other sources of joy in connection with the glory to be revealed, for heaven is a multifaceted joy; but still none can surpass the glory of communion with Jesus Christ, therefore comfort one another in the first place, and most constantly, with these words, “We will be with the Lord forever.”
I will view our text, in order to comfort us at this time, in three lights. I look upon it, first, as a continuance—we are with the Lord right now, and we will be forever; secondly, as an advancement—we will before long be more fully with the Lord than we are now; and thirdly, as a coherence—for we both are and will be with him in a close and remarkable manner.
I. I regard the text as A CONTINUANCE of our present spiritual state—“We will be with the Lord forever.”
To my mind, I think the apostle means that nothing will prevent our continuing to be with the Lord forever; death will not separate us, nor the terrors of that tremendous day when the voice of the archangel and the trump of God will be heard; by divine plan and arrangement all will be so ordained that “We will be with the Lord forever.” By being caught up in the clouds, or in one way or another, our abiding in Christ will remain unbroken. As we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so will we walk in him, whether in life or in death.
I understand the Apostle Paul to mean that we are with the Lord now, and that nothing will separate us from the Lord. Even now like Enoch we walk with God, and we will not be deprived of divine communion. Our fear might be that in the future state something might happen which would become a dividing gulf between us and Christ, but the apostle assures us that it will not be so, there will be such plans and methods used that “we will be with the Lord forever.” At any rate, I know that, if this is not the truth here intended, it is a truth worthy to be expounded, and therefore I don’t hesitate to expand on it.
We are with the
Lord in this life in a high spiritual sense. Haven’t you read, in the epistle
to the Colossians, “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”
[3:3]. Were you not, “buried with him in baptism and raised with him
through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”?
[Colossians 2:12]. Don’t you know what it is to be dead to the world in him,
and to be living a secret life with him? Are you not risen with Christ; don’t
you understand in some measure what it is to be raised up together, and made to
sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus? If you are not with him,
brothers and sisters, then you are not Christians at all, for this is the very mark
of a Christian, that they follow with Christ. It is essential to salvation to
be a sheep of Christ’s fold, a partaker of Christ’s life, a member of his
mystical body, a branch of the spiritual vine.
Separated from Christ we are spiritually dead; he himself has said, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” [John 15:6]. Jesus is not far from any one of his people; no, it is our privilege to follow him wherever he goes, and his loving word to us is, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” [John 15:4]. May he sweetly enable us to realize this. We are, dear brothers and sisters, constantly with Christ in the sense of remaining union with him, for we are joined to the Lord, and are one spirit. Sometimes this union is very sweetly apparent to us; “We know that we are in him that is true,” and as a result we feel an intense joy, even Christ’s own joy fulfilled in us. Yet, for the same reason we are at times bowed down with intense sorrow; for being in and with Christ we have fellowship with him in his sufferings, being made conformable with his death; this is such sweet sorrow that the more we experience it the better.
“Live or die, or work or suffer,
Let my weary soul abide,
In all changes whatsoever,
Sure and steadfast by your side.”
“Nothing can delay my progress,
Nothing can disturb my rest,
If I will, wherever I wander,
Lean my spirit on your breast.”
This companionship is, we trust, made manifest to others by its fruits. It should always be this way; the life of the Christian should be clearly a life with Christ. Men and women should see and listen to us and understand that we have been with Jesus, and have learned from him; they should see that there is something in us which could not have been there if it were not for the Son of God; a temper, a spirit, a course of life, which could not have come by nature but must have been created in us through grace which has been received from him in whom dwells a fullness of grace, even our Lord Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, if we are what we ought to be, our life will be spent in conscious communion, growing out of continued union with the Lord Jesus Christ, and if this is true, then we have that rich assurance, which is written by the beloved John, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father” [1 John 2:24].
We are with him, dear friends, in this sense too, that his
unchanging love is always set upon us, and our love, feeble as it is sometimes,
never quite dies out.
In both senses that challenge of the apostle is true, “Who will…separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord?” [Romans 8:39]. We can say, “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me” [Song of Solomon 7:10]. And, on the other hand, we also testify, “My lover is mine and I am his” [Song of Solomon 2:16]. He claims us and we claim him; he loves us and we love him. There is a union of heart between us. We are with him, not against him; we are in league with him, enlisted beneath his banner, obedient to his Spirit. For us to live is Christ; we have no other aim.
He is with us by the continued indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who
is with us and will be in us forever.
His anointing remains on us, and because of it we remain in Christ Jesus. He has sent us the Holy Spirit to represent himself, and through that divine Comforter he continues to be with us, and so even now we are with the Lord forever.
Our Lord has also promised to be with us whenever we are engaged in his work.
That is a grand word of encouragement, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Matthew 28:20]. Don’t think, therefore, that it will be the first time of our being with Christ when we will see him in glory, for even now he manifests himself to us in a way that he doesn’t to the world. Hasn’t he often fulfilled his promise, we have heard the sound of our Master’s feet behind us when we have been doing on his errands; we have felt the touch of his hand when we have come to the forefront of the battle for his sake, and we have known that he dwells in us by his Spirit, and is with us by the power that accompanies our work for him, and the deeds which he has produced by the gospel which we have proclaimed. The Lord Jesus is with his church in her suffering for his name’s sake, and he will always be, for he never forsakes his saints. “Fear not, I am with you,” is as much a word of the Lord under the gospel as in Old Testament times. By the power of his blessed Spirit Jesus remains with us, and through this present dispensation he enables us to be “with the Lord always.”
But, my brothers and sisters, the time is coming when we will die, unless the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout before then. Surely, as we are actually dying, we will still be with the Lord.
“Death may my soul divide
From this abode of clay
But love will keep me near your side
Through all the gloomy way.”
Yes, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” [Psalm 23:4]. This makes dying such delicious work for the people of God, for especially then, our Jesus will be very near. By death they escape from death, and the moment the death process begins it is no more a death for them to die. When Jesus meets his saints the gloom of death ceases, for in a moment they close their eyes on earth and open them in glory. Beloved, there should be no more bondage because of the fear of death, since Christ is present with his people when they begin the death process that takes them from life to the grave. Jesus strengthens them on their death bed. This has been a great joy to many departing saints.
I remember the account of a believer who was dying, who was attended by another Christian, and observed him whispering to himself while dying, and his Christian friend, wishing to know what his last words were, placed his ear against the dying man’s lips, and heard him repeating to himself again and again the words, “Forever with the Lord, Forever with the Lord.” When heart and flesh were failing, the departing one knew that God was the strength of his life and would be his forever, and so he chose for his soft, low-whispered, dying song, “Forever with the Lord.”
After death, we will remain awhile in the separate, disembodied state, and we will know in our soul what it is like to be still with the Lord; for the apostle said, “when we are away from the body we are at home with the Lord” [2 Corinthians 5:8].
The dying thief was promised that on that very day he would be with Christ in paradise, and such will be our lot as soon as our souls have passed out of this house of clay into that wondrous state of which we know so little. Our pure spirits will “come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, [and] to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, [and] to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, [and] 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]. Who is dismayed when such a prospect opens up before them?
This body which will fall asleep, though apparently it will be destroyed, yet is it not true that it will only slumber for awhile, and then awake again and say, “When I awake, I am still with you” [Psalm 139:18]. For the Christian, death is constantly described as sleeping in Jesus; that is the state of the saint’s earthly body through the interlude between death and resurrection. The angels will guard our bodies; all that is essential to complete the identity of our body will be securely preserved, so that the very seed which was put into the earth will rise again in the full bloom of beauty which becomes it; all, I say, that is essential will be preserved intact, because it is still with Christ. It is a glorious doctrine which is stated by the apostle in the first epistle to the Thessalonians, the fifth chapter, at the ninth and tenth verses, “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”
In due time the last trumpet will sound and Christ will come, but the saints will be with him.
The infinite providence has so arranged that Christ will not come without his people, for “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” [1 Thessalonians 4:14]. The saints will be with Jesus when he comes as they are now. Our souls will hear the shout of victory and join in it; the voice of the archangel will be actually heard by all his redeemed, and the trumpet of God will be sounded in the hearing of every one of his beloved, for we will be with Jesus all through that glorious transaction of being reunited with our bodies.
Whatever the glory and splendor of the Second Coming will be, we will be with Jesus in it.
I am not going to give you glimpses of the revealed future, or offer any suggestion as to the magnificent history which is yet to be written, but most certainly there will be a final day of judgment, and then we will be with Christ, the judge's assistants, with him on that day. We have already been acquitted, thus we will take our seat on the judgment bench with him. What did the Holy Spirit say through the apostle—“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” [1 Corinthians 6:2-3] The fallen angels, to their shame, will in part receive the verdict of their condemnation from the lips of men and women, and thus vengeance will be taken on them for all the harm they have done to us. Oh, think of it; amidst the terror of the tremendous day of judgment you will be at peace, resting in the love of God, and beholding the glory of Christ, and “so you will be with the Lord forever.”
There is, moreover, to be an earthly, Millennial (1,000 years) reign of Christ.
I cannot read the Scriptures without perceiving that there is to be a millennial reign [that is, a 1,000 year reign], as I believe, on the earth, and that there will be new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell. Well, whatever that reign is to be, we will reign with Christ, who said, “To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations – 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' – just as I have received authority from my Father” [Revelation 2:26-27]. And, “[I] have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” [Revelation 5:10]. The Lord Almighty will reign gloriously.” And, we will be partakers in the splendors of the latter days, whatever they may be, and “So we will be with the Lord forever.”
The particular incident of the text does not exhaust the words, but you may apply them to the whole story of God’s own children. From the first day of the spiritual birth of the Lord’s children, until they are received up into the third heaven to dwell with God, their history may be summed up in these words, “we will be with the Lord forever.” Whether caught up into the clouds or here below on this poor afflicted earth, in paradise or in the renovated earth, in the grave or in the glory, we will be with the Lord forever. And when the end comes, and God alone will reign, and the mediatorial earthly kingdom will cease, and ages, ages, and ages will pass by, but “we will be with the Lord forever.” The immortal saints will be with their covenant Head, and like him be free from sorrow. All tendency to sin will be gone, as will be all fear of change or death; their intimate communion with their Lord and each other will last forever,
“Blessed state! beyond conception
Who its vast delights can tell?
May it be my blissful portion,
With my Savior there to dwell.”
I think the text looks like a continuation of what has already begun, only rising to something higher and better. To be with Christ is life eternal; this we have already, and will continue to have, and “so we will be with the Lord forever.”
II. Secondly, most assuredly, brothers and
sisters, the text is A GREAT ADVANCEMENT—“So we will be with the Lord forever.”
It is an advancement of this present state, for however spiritual-minded we may be, and however near we may feel to our Lord Jesus, yet still we know that while we are present in this body we are absent from the Lord. This life, at its very best, is still comparatively an absence from the Lord, but in the world to come we will be perfectly at home. Today, we cannot, in the highest sense, be with Christ, for we must, according to the apostle’s own words, “…depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” [Philippians 1:23]; but there we will be forever looking upon his unveiled face. Earth is not heaven, though the believer begins the heavenly life while he is still on it. We are not with Christ as to location, nor as to actual sight, but in the land of glory we will be.
And it is an advancement, in the next place, on the present state of the departed, for though their souls are with the Lord yet their bodies are subject to corruption.
The grave still contains
the blessed dust of the fathers of Israel, and scattered to the four winds of
heaven the martyr’s ashes are still with us. The glorified saints are with the
Lord but not as completely as they will be someday, when the grand event will
occur of which Paul speaks, the body will be reanimated.
This is our glorious hope. We can say with the patriarch Job – “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes -- I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” [Job 19:25-27]. Don’t you know brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God? That is, as they are; “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” [1 Corinthians 15:54], and then will the entire humanity, the perfected humanity, the fully developed humanity, of which this humanity is as it were nothing but a dried-up seed, be in the fullest and divinest sense forever with the Lord. This is an advancement even upon the present heavenly state of departed saints.
And now let us consider what this glorious condition will be like when we are advanced.
We will be with
the Lord in the strongest possible meaning of that language. So with him that
we will never think of earthly things again, will have no more desire to go
into our office in the city, or into the workshop, or into the field; we will
have nothing to do but to be engaged forever with Jesus in such activities that
will have no tendency to ever take us away from communion with him. We will be
so much with him as to have no sin to cloud our view of him; our understanding
will be delivered from all the injury which sin has produced in it, and we will
know Christ even as we are known. We will see Jesus as a familiar friend, and
sit with him at our marriage feast. We will be with him so as to have no fear
of his ever being grieved and hiding his face from us again. We will never
again be made to cry out in bitterness of spirit, “Oh, that I knew where I
might find him.” We will always know his love, always return it, and always
swim in the full stream of it, enjoying it to the utmost. There will be no
lukewarmness to mar our fellowship. Jesus will never have to say to us, “You
are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” [Revelation
3:15]. We will never have to cease from fellowship with him, because our
physical body is exhausted; the vessel will be strengthened to hold the new
wine. No doubts will intrude into our rest, neither doctrinal doubts nor doubts
about our interest in him, for we will be so consciously with him as to have
risen thirty thousand miles above that gloomy state.
We will know that he is ours, for his left arm will be under our head and his right arm will embrace us, and we will be with him without any danger of being removed from him. The chief blessedness seems to me to lie in this, that we will be with him forever. Today we are sometimes with the Lord in conscious enjoyment, and then we are away from him, but in heaven it will be a constant, unwavering fellowship. No break will ever occur in the intimate communion of the saints with Christ. Here on earth we know that our good days and precious Sundays, with their sweetest joys, must have their evenings, and then come the work days with the burden of the week on them; but in heaven the Sunday day of fellowship is eternal, the worship endless, the praise unceasing, the bliss unbounded, “with the Lord forever!” We talk of a thousand years of reigning with Christ? What is that compared with being “with the Lord forever”? The millennium is little compared with “forever”—a millennium of millenniums would be nothing to it. There can come no end to us and no end to our bliss, since there can be no end to him—Jesus said, “Because I live, you also will live” [John 14:19].
“With the Lord forever”—what will it mean?
I remember a sermon on this text by a notable preacher, and the main points were as follows—“Forever life, forever light, forever love, forever peace, forever rest, forever joy.” What a chain of delights! What more can a heart imagine or a hope desire? Carry those things in your mind and you will get, if you can truly understand them, some idea of the blessedness which is contained in being with the Lord forever; but still remember these are only the fruits, and not the root of our joy. Jesus is better than all these. His company is more than the joy which comes out of it. I don’t care so much for “life forever,” nor for “light forever,” as I do being with “the Lord forever.” Oh, to be with him! I ask for no other bliss, and cannot imagine anything more heavenly. Why, the touch of the hem of his garment healed the sick woman; the sight of him was enough to give life to us when we were dead in our sins! What, then, must it be to actually be with him, consciously, and always? To be with him no more just by faith, but actually in his very presence forever? My soul is ready to faint with overwhelming joy as it drinks in a very small sip of the meaning of this thought, and I dare not venture further. I must leave you to reflect on this in your souls, for it needs quiet thought and room for free indulgence of holy imagination as you allow your soul to dream of this unending joy. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” [1 Corinthians 2:9-10].
“O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I will be near and like my God;
And flesh and sin no more control
The sacred pleasures of my soul.”
We love to think of being with Jesus in the way in which our text especially suggests to us. We are to be with the Redeemer forever, not as Jesus the Savior only, but as the Lord. Here we have seen him on the cross and lived in this manner; we are with him now in his cross-bearing and shame, and it is good; but our eternal companionship with him will enable us to rejoice in him as the Lord. What did our Master say in his blessed prayer? He said, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” [John 17:24]. It will be heaven to us to be with him forever. Oh, how we will delight to obey him as our Lord! How we will triumph as we see what a lord he is over the entire universe! And what a conqueror he is over all his enemies! He will be more and more the Lord to us as we see all things put under him. We will forever hail him as King of kings, and Lord of lords. How we will adore him there when we see him in his glory. We worship him now, and are not ashamed to believe that the Man of Nazareth is the “very God of very God;” but oh, how his deity will shine on us with infinite brilliance and splendor when we come near him. Thanks be to his name, we will be strengthened to endure the sight, and we will rejoice to see ourselves in the full blaze of his glory. Then will we see what our poet endeavored to describe when he said—
“Adoring saints around him stand,
And thrones and powers before him fall;
The God shines gracious through the Man,
And sheds sweet glories on them all.”
We will be with the Lord forever, and his Lordship will be most on our minds. He has been raised into glory and honor, and is no longer able to suffer shame.
“No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more;
For hell itself shakes at his word,
And all the heavens adore.”
III. Now we come to our third point, and will
consider what, for want of a better word, I entitle A COHERENCE.
Those who are acquainted with the Greek language know that the “with” here is not the Greek word meta, which signifies “being in the same place with a person,” but the Greek word used here is the word sun which goes much further, and implies a coherence, the two who are with each other are intimately connected. Let me show you what I mean.
We are to be with the Lord forever; now, today, the Christian’s life is just like the life of his Lord, and so it is a life with Christ. He was in all things with his brethren, and grace makes us to be with him. Just quickly reflect on your spiritual experience and your Lord’s life, and see the parallel. When you were newly born as a Christian you were born as Jesus Christ was, for you were born of the Holy Spirit. What happened after that? The devil tried to destroy the new life in you, just as Herod tried to kill your Lord; you were with Christ in danger, early and imminent. You grew in stature and in grace, and while grace was still young, you amazed those who were around you with the things you said, and did, and felt, for they could not understand you; just like when the young boy Jesus went up to the temple and shocked the teachers who gathered around him. The Spirit of God rested on you, not in the same measure, but still as a matter of fact it did descend on you as it did on your Lord. You have been with him in the waters of baptism, and have received the divine acknowledgment that you are indeed a son of God. Your Lord was led into the wilderness to be tempted; and you too have been tempted by the devil. You have been with the Lord all along, from the first day until now. If you have been by grace enabled to live as you should, you have walked the separated path with Jesus; you have been in the world, but not of it, holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Therefore you have been despised; you have had to take your share of being unknown and misrepresented, because you are in the world just as he was in the world. “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” [1 John 3:1]. Just like Jesus was here to serve, you have been with him as a servant, you have carried his yoke and counted it an easy load. You have been crucified to the world with him; you know the meaning of his cross, and delight to bear it after him. You are dead to the world with him, and wish to be as one buried to it. You have already in one way partaken of his resurrection, and are living in newness of life. Your life-story is still to be like the life-story of your Lord, only painted in miniature. The more you watch the life of Christ the more clearly you will see the life of a spiritual man depicted in it, and the more clearly will you see what the saints’ future will be. You have been with Christ in life, and you will be with him when you approach your death. You will not die the atoning death which Christ died, but you will die feeling that “it is finished,” and you will breathe out your soul, saying, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Then our Lord went to paradise, and you will go there too. You will enjoy a rest where he spent his interval in the disembodied state. You will be with him, and like him, and then like him you will rise when your third morning comes. “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence” [Hosea 6:2]. “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise” [Isaiah 26:19]. “A cloud hid him from their sight,” [Acts 1:9] and a cloud will receive you. You will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and you will be with the Lord forever, in the sense of being like him, walking with him in experience, and passing through similar events. That likeness will continue forever and ever. Our lives will run parallel with that of our Lord.
Think then, beloved, we are to be like Christ as to our character; we are to be with the Lord by sharing his moral and spiritual likeness. Conformed to his image, we will be adorned with his beauty. When the mother of Darius saw two persons entering her pavilion, she being a prisoner bowed to the one whom she supposed to be Alexander. It turned out to be Hyphestion, the King’s favorite. Upon discovering that it was Hyphestion the lady humbly begged Alexander’s pardon for paying homage to the wrong person, but Alexander answered, “You have not mistaken, Madam, for he is also Alexander,” meaning that he loved him so much that he regarded him as his other self. Our Lord looks on his beloved as one with himself, and makes them like himself. You remember, brothers and sisters, how John bowed down before one of the angels in heaven. It was a great blunder, but I dare say you and I will be likely to make the same mistake, for the saints will be so much like their Lord. Remember that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” [1 John 3:2].
Christ will rejoice over his saints covered with the glory which his Father has given him. He will not be ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. His poor people, who were so full of sickness and weakness, and mourned over it so much, they will be so much like him that they will be easily seen to be his brothers and sisters. We will be with him in the sense that we will be partakers of all the blessedness and glory which our adorable Lord now enjoys. We will be accepted together with him. Is he the dearly loved one of the Father? Does his Father’s heart delight in him? Behold you too will be called [“delightful”] Hephzibah [2 Kings 21:1], for his delight will be in you. You will be dearly loved by the Father. Is Jesus endowed with every sort of blessing beyond conception? So will we be, for he has “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” [Ephesians 1:3]. Is Christ exalted? Oh, how he is lifted up to sit upon a glorious high throne forever! But you will sit on his throne with him and share his exaltation as you have shared his humiliation. Oh, the delight of being joint heirs with Christ, and with him in the possession of all that he possesses.
What is heaven?
It is the place which his love suggested, which his genius invented, which his payment
provided, which his royalty has adorned, which his wisdom has prepared, which
he himself glorifies; in that heaven you are to be with him forever. You will live
in the King’s own palace. Its gates of pearl and streets of gold will not be
too good for you. You who love him are to live with him forever—not near him in
a secondary place, as a servant lives in a little cottage near his master’s
mansion, but with him in the same palace in the capital city of the universe.
In a word,
believers are to be identified with Christ forever. That seems to me to be the
very life and essence of the text; with him forever, that is, identified with
him forever. Do they ask to see the Shepherd? They cannot see him in perfection
except as he is surrounded by his sheep. Will the King be noble? How can that
be if his subjects are lost? Do they ask for the bridegroom? They cannot
imagine him in the fullness of joy without his bride. Will the Head be blessed?
It could not be if it were separated from the members. Will Christ be forever
glorified? How can he be if he will lose his jewels? He is a foundation, and
what would he be if all his people were not built upon him into the likeness of
a palace? O brothers and sisters, there will be no Christ without Christians;
there will be no Savior without the saved ones; there will be no Elder Brother
without the younger brothers and sisters; there will be no Redeemer without his
redeemed. We are his fullness, and he must have us with him. We are identified
with him forever. Nothing can separate us from him. Oh, joy, joy forever. Hallelujah!
“Since Christ and we are one,
Why should we doubt or fear?
If he in heaven has established his throne,
He will also establish his [bride] members there.”
Now let me
give you three practical applications of our text:
1. One word is this—This being “with the Lord” must begin now.
Do you wish to be forever with the Lord? You must be with him by becoming his disciple in this life. No one will be with the Lord in the future who is not with the Lord here on earth in this life. See to it, all of you listening to this message, see to it, lest this unspeakable privilege would never be yours.
2. Next, every
Christian should seek to be more and more with Christ in this life, for the growth
and glory of your life lies there.
Do you want to experience heaven on earth? Be with Christ here. Do you want to experience eternal bliss in this life? Know it by living now with the Lord.
3. Next, you
must clearly know how to attain a way of life that is with the Lord.
If you want to be saved, sinner, you must be “with the Lord.” There is no other way for you. Come near to him, and lay hold of him by faith, and faith alone. Life lies there. Come to him by a humble, tearful faith. Come at once.
what is it like to be without the Lord?
What is it like to be against the Lord? For it comes to that, Jesus said, “"He who is not with me is against me” [Matthew 12:30]. To be forever without the Lord, banished from his love, and light, and life, and peace, and rest, and joy! What a loss this will be! What must it be like to be forever against the Lord! Think of it; forever hating Jesus, forever plotting against him, forever gnashing your teeth against him; this is hell, this is a time of infinite misery, to be against the Lord of love and life and light. Turn away from this fatal course. Believe in Christ: “Kiss the Son, lest he is angry and you are destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” [Psalm 2:12]. Amen.
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