ABSENT FROM THE BODY

Andy Hollifield 4-24-18
2 Corinthians 5:8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
Acts 7:55-56 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, (56) And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Acts 7:59-60 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (60) And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Psalms 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
I already had a topic for today but when I was getting ready to write, I just felt led to write on this subject. I have known several good, Godly people that have passed already this year. In the last couple of weeks especially, it seems like I have seen a lot on Facebook that have lost loved ones. By the time anyone reaches my age, they are already far too familiar with funeral homes and cemeteries. I am only 53 but it seems like every year those visits get a lot more frequent. I think we have had 2 in the last 12 months that I graduated high school with and between 12 and 15 since I graduated in 1983. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you are from, your level of education, the color of your skin, or even social status, death at some point touches all of us. It is hard to accept the finality and the sudden change in your life.
Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” That is one of the most comforting verses in time of death that I know of. The reason being because it doesn’t say that the angels are rejoicing, but it says “in the presence of the angels.” The difference is; Who is in the presence of the angels? It is the saints that have gone on before. The bible says in 1 Peter 1:12 “which things the angels desire to look into” speaking of the things that have been revealed to us by the Holy Ghost. Verse 10 of that chapter says, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.” The angels have not experienced salvation so why would they rejoice over something that they haven’t experienced firsthand. It is comforting to me just to know that the saints are in the presence of the angels. As the scripture above states; Stephen is one of those saints.
There is nothing that can fill the void left by the death of a loved one. The grace of God can be revealed to us more in that time than we have probably ever needed it before. His grace brings “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” The good thing about that peace is that the scripture says that it “Shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” “Shall keep!” Did you catch that? That is another one of those written guarantees from the Lord. God’s peace in a time when you shouldn’t have peace. You can’t understand in those times how you are even able to function but it is just that peace of God keeping not only your heart that is broken but also keeping your mind when you think you are going to lose it. I have looked back a lot of times since the death of my dad in 2007 and wondered how in the world I ever got through that day much less that week. It is simply because of that peace keeping me. That afternoon, my brother and I passed the time by recalling a lot of things we did growing up. Many of them we got caught at by dad and others we either got away with or he let us think we got away with it. We had a wonderful time just going down memory lane. My dad was my best friend and to be able to do that on his front porch on the day that he died is beyond my understanding. It is just that peace of God that I shouldn’t have had in that situation. Oh yeah, I had a lot of times and occasionally still do when I recall something and the missing hurts like a toothache but that peace and God’s grace just overwhelm me when I need it most. I often think of how he is one of those saints “rejoicing in the presence of the angels.” According to scripture, he hasn’t given a thought to me since he drew his last breath. The bible says Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” I am sure thankful that the heartache and sickness and sadness will be passed away. I would hate to think that my dad is there in the presence of God and his angels just missing his family. It don’t seem like it would really be heaven if that was the case.
I don’t pretend to know how they know when another sinner repents and is born again. That is why it takes faith because we can’t know or see everything. I just know that the bible says there is rejoicing when someone repents and that is good enough for me. I would like to think that my loved ones that are gone on know when I got saved or when my son got saved but I don’t know how all of that works and it don’t really matter. I just know that it is a land of rejoicing in the presence of the angels and around his throne and those saints are watching as the table is being set for that great marriage supper that is soon to take place when God raptures us out of here.
Just as sure as Stephen went to sleep and the Lord received his spirit, so he received our loved ones and will one day receive ours if we have been born again. Everyone that dies does not go to heaven. God is a just God and wouldn’t force anyone to go be with him when they die if they never wanted anything to do with him while they lived. We do read of the rich man in Luke 16 having a memory of his 5 brothers but we never read of Lazurus having any memories. The rich man was tormented in hell by his memories as well as the flames but Lazurus was comforted. It wouldn’t have been very comforting for him to be remembering the dogs licking his sores before he died. Stephen, the rich man, and Lazarus all show immediate life after their death. In Genesis 5:24 the bible says, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” In 2 Kings 2:11 we find the story of Elijah being taken by horses of fire and a chariot of fire by a whirlwind into heaven, I am comforted in the fact that God has no respect of persons (Romans 2:11). If he took all of these, whether by the grave or other means, to their eternal destiny that they chose, I am confident that he will one day take me. And, if I go before the rapture, I will be among those rejoicing around the throne. I am glad there is a promise for those who are “Absent from the body.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

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