Contemplation of New Life. (5:1-10) - Page 4 of 6 (series: Lessons on 2 Cor.)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

There are four main views of the “intermediate state:”
1. Soul sleep—This view is held by Seventh-Day Adventist and Jehovah’s Witnesses. They believe that the soul rests in unconsciousness or oblivion until the resurrection. They base this view on verses where death is referred to as “sleep” (See Acts 7:6; 13:36; 1 Co. 15:6; I Thess. 4:13-15, and even Jesus words in John 11:11). Some have modified this view to say that believers are “with Christ,” but not in a conscious state. However, Scripture teaches the believer’s immediate presence with the Lord at death in Jesus’ words in Luke 23:43 to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” and in His final prayer, “Father, I entrust My Spirit into Your hands!” Stephen, the first Christian martyr said this right before he died, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
2. Purgatory—This is the Roman Catholic view that at death those who have died in their sins and rejected Christ go to Hades for eternal punishment; those who have died in a perfect state of grace go directly to heaven. Those who are not spiritually perfect go to purgatory for a refining process and purification of sin. This view has developed largely from church theologians and church councils rather than the Bible itself, although 1 Co. 3:15 has been used by Catholics to justify this view: “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
3. Immediate resurrection—This view states that at death there is an immediate separation from the earthly body and an immediate reclothing or reconstituting of the resurrection body. Proponents teach that in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul believed in the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming and fully believed that believers would see it in their lifetime. After Paul’s brush with death and the reality that he might die before He returns, Paul explained what would be the case for those who died in the interval. Romans 8:19 and Colossians 3:4 are used to argue that believers are already resurrected but will be “revealed” or glorified at the Second coming.
4. Incomplete resurrection—This view is the most commonly accepted view of Paul’s words in the New Testament. There is a conscious, personal existence for the believer after death. At death, a believer goes into a place and condition of blessedness. The time interval between a believer’s death and the full resurrection of the body will be imperceptible to the Christian. No anxiety or discomfort will mar this condition. Most do not believe this will be a bodyless existence because of Paul’s teaching that he abhorred nakedness (5:3-4). However, it is true that the body will not be in its complete and final form because Paul points to a future resurrection as a specific event (Phil. 3:20-21{18; 1 Thess. 4:16-17{32), as does Jesus (John 5:25-29{33). At death we will assume a different expression or condition of the bodily self; then at the Second Coming this will be exchanged or reconstituted as the resurrection body.

In the final analysis, Christians can only affirm exactly what the Bible says:
1) When a believer dies, he or she will be with Jesus (Phil. 1:23{12). Believers will not float in a limbo state. Instead, they will have a personal encounter with the Savior.
2) When Jesus returns in all his glory, all believers will be given heavenly bodies that will be perfect and will last forever (1 Co. 15:51-54{24; I Thess. 4:16-18{32). A believer’s life in eternity will involve some type of bodily existence. We have the example of our Lord’s resurrected body as He appeared on earth.
3) The Spirit imparted to believers in this life not only guarantees that they will be resurrected to eternal glory but also begins that transformation within believer’s souls (4:16{3; v. 5).

Although this verse, along with others, has provoked much speculation, Paul’s point is abundantly clear: A believer’s destination—his or her eternal home with Jesus—should inspire confidence and courage in the face of Life’s difficulties. Although Christians may moan under the strain of life’s difficulties, their problems should never push them to despair. Like a woman in labor, believers endure the pain and suffering joyfully because they know it is temporary and will lead to something much better: a perfect and eternal home.

9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

The idea here is that we are to make an effort to please Him in everything we do. Paul has expressed his desire to remain alive until the Lord returns; and he has stated that he is willing to die before He returns, since death would bring the great privilege of more open fellowship with the Lord (vs. 6-8). Yet these things he must leave in the hands of God. But he can and must make it his aim to be well-pleasing to the Lord; the assurance of God’s grace and help never leads Paul to relax his own active effort to be faithful and obedient: “No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Co. 9:27).

We are accepted in the Beloved. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians, “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6). Being accepted in Christ is my standing before God. God sees me in Christ, and He is made unto me all that I need: wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Co. 1:30{1). He is my perfection. God sees me in Christ, and I am complete in Him. You cannot add anything to completeness. When a person has 100 percent, that person has all of it. We who are believers have Christ, and we are accepted in the Beloved. Accepted in Christ is the standing that all believers have before God.

To be well-pleasing to Him is a different thing. This has to do with our state and refers to the way we live our lives. Do we live for Christ? Are we ambitious to be accepted of Him? To be ambitious to be accepted of Christ certainly does not mean that we are to crawl over everybody and step on them in order to get to the top. I am afraid we have people in Christian work who are like that because they want to make a name for themselves.

There is an ambition that is selfish and worldly, but there is also holy ambition that honors the Lord. Paul’s great ambition was to be well-pleasing to Jesus Christ. The Judaizers ministered to please men and enlist them in their cause; but Paul ministered to please Jesus Christ alone. A man-pleasing ministry is a carnal compromising ministry; and God cannot bless it. Paul asked the Galatians to evaluate his ministry, whether it pleased man or God: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

The word which has been translated “well-pleasing” is used several other places in the New Testament, and each of these references help us understand what it is that pleases the Lord. It is well-pleasing to Him when we present our bodies to Him as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), and when we live so as to help others and avoid causing them to stumble (Rom. 14:18). God is well-pleased when his children separate themselves from the evil around them (Eph. 5:10), as well as when they bring their offerings to Him (Phil. 4:18). He is pleased with children who submit to their parents (Col. 3:20), as well as saints who permit Jesus Christ to work out His perfect will in their lives (Heb. 13:20-21).

Sometimes we think that our ambition should be to do something great for God. God says that He wants us to be His servants. That’s all. You and I need to come to the place where we can say, “Lord, just take me and make me and break me and do with me what You will.” God gave this word through Jeremiah: “And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them . . .” (Jer. 45:5). That’s putting it plain enough, isn’t it? Dear reader, are you trying to get great things for yourself? Oh, there are a lot of ambitious preachers and a lot of ambitious laymen and a lot of ambitious Christians—but with selfish ambition. Do you really want to be God’s servant? If you do, then you can accomplish something for which He will be able to reward you. To be honest with you, I’m beginning to become just a little worried about this. I want to make sure that I am His servant.

There is nothing wrong with Godly ambition. “And so I have made it my aim (ambition) to preach the gospel . . .” was Paul’s testimony in Romans 15:20; it was his godly ambition that compelled Him to take the message to where it had never been heard. Paul commanded the Thessalonian believers to “study be ambitious to be quiet” (1 Thess. 4:11). If believers, who are led by the Spirit, would put as much drive into Christian living and service as they do athletics or business, the Gospel would make a greater impact on the lost world. A new Christian once said, “I want to be as zealous for God as I was for the devil,” and his life was greatly used by God.

I am going to have to stand before Him someday and give an account of my service—and so are you. This should motivate us to serve Him acceptably.

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