“TO DIE IS GAIN”
Sermon by Dr. J. Frank Norris
Let every head be bowed.
O Thou, Our Father, Thou who art from everlasting to everlasting, Thou whose years never fail and in whom there is no changing or variableness, the same yesterday, today and forever, the same God who was our fathers’ God and who will be the God of our children’s children to the end of eternity, Thou Who art the God of all power, the God of all justice, the God of all holiness, and the God of all mercy, we come unto Thee tonight and lift up our hearts to Thee in profoundest thanksgiving for Thy many blessings and goodness and mercy that have accompanied us through this year; as we look back we call upon all that is within us to praise and magnify Thy holy name. Whether it has been that we should walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Thy rod and Thy staff have been with us to comfort, protect and deliver; whether it has been that we should look into the open grave; Thou hast been gracious to give us the Promise of Him who said, “I am the resurrection and the life”; whether it has been to face difficult and humanly impossible tasks, Thou hast been with us, and Thy rod has been ready to stretch across impassable seas; Thy power at the command of faith has moved mountains. O Lord, we thank Thee that Thou hast been good to our Nation this year, in these trying and perilous times in the world’s history, we thank Thee that the ship of state has weathered many storms and that we are still safe and that we still can put our trust in God. O Lord, we thank Thee that Thou hast given us the Holy Bible whose sacred pages shine tonight with an added and resplendent glory when compared with the wisdom of men, when we see how the false philosophies of this world have failed to bring salvation to the multitude. And now, O Lord, as we stand tonight with bowed heads, after the shades of evening have come and as the midnight hour approaches and the old year gone – gone and gone forever – gone with its sorrows; gone with its tragedies; gone with its defeats; gone with its tears; gone with its sins; gone with its victories; gone with its smiles; the history that is made that shall last to the end of an endless eternity – O Lord, solemnize our hearts tonight and teach us to number our days; teach us to reckon how swift is time. But yesterday many of us who are here now, white with age, were little children around the fireside. Long ago father went to his reward, mother soon followed, and then brother, sister and in many cases perhaps only one remains – all rest yonder in the city of the dead, waiting for the trump of the Archangel to sound when the dead in Christ shall come forth. O Lord, help us tonight, with all of our mistakes and all of our sins and all of our weaknesses, to come unto Thee, for Thy mercy is great. Like as a father pitieth his own child, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. O, we bless Thy name that Thou art One that dost not judge according to our sins, Thou dost not regard us according to our iniquities. Thou dost not judge us as the world judges; Thou art ten thousand times quicker to forgive than any tender mother is to forgive her own erring child. 0, Lord, help us tonight to come unto that throne of rich grace, knowing that we will not be denied. Help us to come back to the Father’s house and leave the husks of the world and come to the table that is laden with good things. Help us to come and put on the robe of righteousness, to come and receive the ring, help us to come back into ,the Father’s house tonight. O, Lord, there are many prodigals here; many a man as he looks back over life with its mistakes and feels the wounds and scars in his heart, is struggling tonight after God; cause him to say, “I repent of every sin'”; break down his stubborn will, subdue his pride and help him to come just as he is, with all his past, present and future and say, “Lord, help or I perish.” Here are many tonight who have lived out of duty, away from God, away from the church, dear mothers with little children that God has committed to them – their gift from heaven – mothers that know the way of the world, mothers that shine in some social circle – that belong to different clubs, but they do not know what it is to set a righteous example before their children; they do not know what it is to read the Bible before their children; they do not know what it is to pray before them. And here are fathers tonight who profane the name of God before their children; they do not know what it is to open the Bible before them; they do not know what it is to talk about Christ before them. Help that father and mother to know that the day will come when they would give all the world if they could have them back once more. And now, our Father, we pray for the man that is discouraged; and who is there amongst us that does not have his discouragements and his defeats? Lord, God of Heaven, Thou the Great Comforter, wilt Thou reveal Thyself in Thy almighty power, in convincing power, in converting power, in saving power, this hour. Help Thy servant to preach to this great multitude of sinning and sorrowing souls. We ask for Christ’s sake. Amen.
(Choir sings Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah.)
DR. NORRIS: Now, my friends, you see why we want a choir platform that will hold seven hundred chairs, don’t you?
I call your attention to four short words – deeply significant words, found in the first chapter of Philippians, twenty-first verse – strange words – hardly to be believed; a contradiction, it appears. No other book ever made such an announcement: “To die is gain.” We have looked at death as a loss. We speak of losing our loved ones. Here comes this challenging statement, “To die is not a loss, but a gain.” In this first chapter of Philippians you will find many interesting things; in fact, the whole Epistle, the four chapters, are brim full and over-running with good things. In this first chapter you find Christ mentioned eighteen times. That was the theme of the Epistle. Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of Jesus Christ, by which I am crucified to the world and the world is crucified to me.” You will find the term, “The Gospel” – the good news of salvation-mentioned six times in this chapter. You will find joy, praise, rejoicing, mentioned six times. You will find where “Preach the gospel of Christ” occurs several times.
Another very interesting thing in this chapter occurs in the eighteenth verse. Paul says, “What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” There were those to whom this was written that were preaching the gospel through strife and contention; there were those that were not of his particular school of thought, or, as we would say, of his particular denomination. Paul was not a little man, he was big enough to write out of the Roman prison to the Church at Philippi: “Never mind what be their motive, never mind what be their desire; never mind if they do not belong to my particular school or sect, just so Christ is preached, I rejoice.” What a wonderful example is that statement to this present hour of strife and confliet and petty religious jealousies.
“To die” – in those two short words is summed up all there is of human history in the past. “To die” is written over the gate-
way of every Nation! Stand amidst the ruins of every people of the past, whatever might have been their views, religious, political, commercial or otherwise, this sentence, “To die” – whether you stand amidst the culture of ancient Athens or the power of ancient Rome, both alike had this sentence of death pronounced upon them. How eternally true is the word of God – the sentence passed upon all men – “It is appointed unto man once to die.” It is appointed unto the poor man to die; it is appointed unto the man of wealth to die-he may command his millions and hire the greatest medical advisers between the seas; he may travel abroad seeking to extend his days, but he is under sentence of death. The man that wears the crown and wields the scepter; the man who marshals conquering armies; the man who holds industry in his hands; the man who could combine with a few other men and stop every wheel of machinery – they may boast of all their power and all their fame, but over all hangs the one sentence – “To die.”
A few years ago I conducted a funeral here in one of the cemeteries – an old country preacher who had given his life to the service of God. There wasn’t enough left to buy his shroud and casket and a few friends gathered together and made up the money rather than have this old honored preacher buried at the hands of the state. It wasn’t a fine casket – just a simple ceremony – and as we stood around that grave – a few of us – and said the last words of honor and esteem concerning his life and career, somebody called attention to a cloud-reaching monument a few feet away – the costliest perhaps in the cemetery-and said, “Who is that?” And then somebody told who it was – there was a monument costing tens of thousands and as I stood there and looked at that new-made grave of the old country preacher, that didn’t have money enough to buy his shroud, and then looked at that monument that contained the remains of one of the richest men in this state, my first thought was one of rebellion at the injustice and the unevenness of 1ife, and then I said, “No, in death they are equal. In the resurrection both will come forth. Of their destiny we may not be sure, but, I said, all the wealth, all the marble that wealth could buy, did not stay the hand of death one second of time.”
I read the other day where the world’s greatest merchant prince – and he was truly a great Christian man – the owner of three of the greatest stores in the world, with other vast interests, and a man that had time enough and love enough to serve God and to build a great Sunday School, while he was becoming the world’s greatest merchant prince, yet he had to die – die like one of the janitors of one of his great department stores, O, death knows – has no respect for persons – death comes to the palatial home on the boulevard; death comes to the humble hovel in the back alley; death comes to the babe in mother’s arms; death comes to the strong young man ready to run his race; death comes to the old man, tottering on his staff; death knows no race, no color; it knows no religion, it waits for no man, it obeys no command – its demands are inexorable. You have a choice about everything in the world but there is one thing you have no choice over, and that is when you will die.
“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”
How many who in the strength of life and health one year ago, tonight their bodies await the resurrection hour and their spirits have either gone home to be with God or to the place of darkness and despair. Who knows-who among this great audience of several thousand people tonight – who knows that when December 31, 19– shall arrive, who will be missing from here? Who knows but that the wife that sits by your side will be yonder before the throne; that the husband that you love, whose name you bear, who is the father of your children, will be under the sod? Who knows but that the baby that you caress and love this day, before another year shall come around, that baby will be taken out in a little white casket and all that you love and adore will be laid in the ground. Oh, how weak is man; how helpless is he!
Now, then, here comes the statement, “To die is gain.” It would be enough if we would take this view of it – that we are through with sin; that we are through with sorrow; that we are through with poverty; that we are through with injustice!
Before going further I want to call your attention to the condition of things-the state of the world and of religion when Paul wrote this text. He wrote it at a time when faith in immortality was practically unknown. Cicero, of all the great Romans who lived in that day, was the only one that had faith in the life beyond the grave. Reading some of those old Roman historians you will find in their works epitaphs expressing unbelief in the life beyond the grave. On a grave of a child five years old this epitaph was Written: “To the unrighteous gods who robbed me of my life.” A young girl of twelve this was her epitaph: “I lift my hand against the god who has deprived me of my innocent existence.” Sallust, relating the speech of Julius Caesar on Cataline, quoted him as saying: “I am opposed to putting the traitor to death, because that form of punishment is too mild, since beyond the grave there is neither joy nor sorrow.” Pliny, the historian says: “What folly it is to renew life after death. Where shall created beings find rest if you suppose that shades in hell and souls in heaven continue to have any feeling? You rob us of man’s greatest good-Death. Let us rather find in the tranquillity which preceded our existence the pledge of the repose which is to follow it.”
Yet in the midst of this pagan infidelity, Paul, out of a Roman prison, says: “To die is gain.” Christ is risen! He could say to that child of five whose epitaph denied the existence beyond the grave, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And that same blessed Lord comes tonight and says to every vacant chair and every broken heart: “I am alive for evermore.” The divine message tonight says to every sorrowing life, to every grief-stricken soul, “The tomb is empty, He is not here, He is risen.” The thing that makes the religion of Jesus Christ separate, distinct and divine as no other religion ever was or ever can be divine, is the glorious, indisputable fact of the resurrection from the dead. He arose the most certainly established fact of human history. If He did not rise, what became of His body? If He did not rise, why did not Rome prove it to be a fraud? Yet they went through the then known world and in that day, they said He rose and declared that they had seen Him after His resurrection. If He did not rise what motive was there – what power was there that moved these. plain, simple men and women to stand before rulers and kings and emperors and governments, and lay their heads on the block for the sake of their belief? If He did not rise, what motive was there back of their lives that enabled them to lay down their lives by the millions without questioning and with songs of triumph and rejoicing?
Out of this life is one thing; into another is another thing. It isn’t all to be out of something, but thank God, it is indeed something – it is into something. Somebody has well said of the changed life:
“Out of the distance and darkness so deep,
Out of the settled and perilous sleep:
Out of the region of shadow and death,
Out of its foul and pestilent breath:
Out of the bondage and wearying chains,
Out of championship ever with stains:
Into the light and the glory of God,
Into the holiest made clean by His blood:
Into his arms – the embrace and the kiss –
Into the scene of ineffable bliss:
Into the quiet the infinite calm,
Into the place of the song and the Psalm.
Wonderful love that has wrought all for me,
Wonderful work that has thus set me free.
Wonderful ground upon which I have come,
Wonderful tenderness, welcoming me home.
Out of disaster and ruin complete,
Out of the struggle and dreary defeat,
Out of my sorrow and burden of shame,
Out of the evils too fearful to name,
Out of my guilt and the criminal’s doom,
Out of the dreading, the terror, the gloom –
Into the sense of forgiveness and rest,
Into inheritance with all the blest;
Into a righteous and permanent peace,
Into the grandest and fullest release,
Into the comfort without an alloy,
Into a perfect and confident joy:
Wonderful holiness, bringing to light
Wonderful grace, putting all out of sight.
Wonderful wisdom devising the way,
Wonderful power that nothing can stay.
Out of the terror of being alone
Out and forever of being my own:
Out of the hardness of heart and of will,
Out of the longings which nothing can fill:
Out of bitterness, madness and strifc,
Out of myself and all I called life:
Into communion with Father and Son,
Into the sharing of all that Christ won:
Into the ecstacies full to the brim,
Into the having of all things with Him:
Wonderful lowliness, draining my cup:
Wonderful purpose that ne’er gave me up.
Wonderful patience, enduring and strong,
Wonderful glory to which I belong.
Out of my poverty into His wealth,
Out of my sickness into pure health:
Out of the false and into the true:
Out of the old man, into the new:
Out of what measures the full depth of ‘lost’
Out of it all, at infinite cost.
Into what must that cost correspond,
Into that which there is nothing beyond,
Into the Union which nothing can part,
Into what satisfies His and my heart.
Into the deepest of joys ever had,
Into the gladness of making God glad.
Wonderful Person whom I shall behold,
Wonderful story then all to be told.
Wonderful all the dread way that He trod,
Wonderful end, He has brought me to God.”
Gain a New Body
To gain, to die! It is gain from every standpoint. The first reason I would mention to you is because we have a new body. The greatest curse that could be pronounced upon any of us tonight is that there should come a decree from the skies above saying that man shall live forever in his flesh. Now think about that. Live forever in this body! To live forever in this body with its frailties; to live forever in this body with its sin; to live forever in this body with its pain; to live forever in this body with its sickness – who would want that curse? Then is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul said, “Now, if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind; and bringing me in captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ my Lord!” For this body of disease, this body that is burdened, this body that is perishing – God giveth it another body as it has pleased Him.
Another reason why it is gain to die is because we gain heaven. Lose earth and gain heaven! Mr. Moody, dying, the last words he said as they bent over his couch were: “Earth is receding; heaven is approaching.” Jesus said in His last farewell message to His Disciples: “Let not your heart be troubled: Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” What wonderful words! By the only One that could say it – “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house” – the word “house” means “Home” – the sweetest word in the English language, yea, in any language, is the word “home” – what tenderness – what association – “In my Father’s home” are many mansions” – there are no back alleys; there are no dilapidated shacks – you can talk about your brownstone fronts on your fine boulevards – those of us that have not had that fortune or misfortune to have them – but, my friends, the hour is coming when every son of God shall have a mansion in the skies.
A VOICE: Hallelujah, praise the Lord.
“When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
Ii bid farewell to every fear
And wipe my weeping eyes.”
A VOICE: Amen!
Jesus said, “If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” What wonderful words! Where else outside of the Bible can you read such wonderful words?
I want to call your attention to this fact – he didn’t say, “I go to prepare a condition”; He didn’t say “I go to prepare a state” but He said, thank God, “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there ye may be also.” Amen! Sometimes people ask where is heaven. Sometimes they wonder where it is-whether it is in midair or on what star. I don’t know where it is – the only thing that satisfies me is that wherever it is, my Lord is there and that is enough for me. (Amen.)
A Place of Knowledge
Heaven a place – a place of knowledge. “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly” – and oh, how dark, how dark it is – “But then” – face to face” – now I know in part, then I shall know even as also I am known.” How limited the vision! When the little wife with children three, four and five years old tugging at her skirt, takes up the baby and takes its hand and places it on the cold dead face of father, husband, breadwinner and protector, and goes yonder to the cemetery and lays him away to rest and comes back home, she says, oh why, oh why, oh why? Only day before yesterday I saw three little girls – they stood side by side as mother was laid away to rest, and as I looked at the youngest child – just a little child-my heart went out, and I said what thoughts go through the mind of that baby girl? She wonders why the best friend a little girl can have on this earth, its mother, why she is taken and this child is left motherless in this old, cold, cruel world – why, oh why? We will never understand until we know as now we are also known.
A Place of Joy
Then again, it is a place of joy. In the midst of our sorrows we have this: “Likewise I say unto you there is joy in heaven.” Joy! That is the keynote of heaven. They are singing the Hallelujah chorus there all the time.
“And one of the elders answered saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?
“And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.
“For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them into living fountains of water: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
(A woman shouts.)
Yes, Sister, there will be shouting when we join the white-robed, blood-washed host of the redeemed in glory.
A Place of Holy Fellowships
That is the joy, my friends.
Again, it is a place of holy fellowship. “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the East and West, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
That will be a great day when we meet Abraham, when we meet Isaac, and Jacob-oh, how much fellowship there is between us and Jacob, and old Joseph, what a time we can have when we strike hands with him and congratulate him for leaving his over coat with the woman who tried to blackmail him; what a great time when we meet Moses; what a great joy when me meet that soldier that unsheathed his sword and commanded the sun to stand still and stopped the moon in the valley of Ajalon and never ceased the battle until he conquered the promised land – old Joshua; what great joy there will be when we meet the shepherd king to whom God gave the promise of everlasting dominion. What great joy there will be when we meet Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Mark, Paul, Silas, Barnabas and all the great company gone on before with our fathers and mothers and every son of God that has trod this earth below! That is the company we will strike hands with!
A VOICE: Hallelujah!
Will Know Each Other
Will we know each other there? Will we know our loved ones there? Will we be strangers in a strange land? Will we be something else? My friends if we should be changed into something else-if there was such a thing as transmigration of souls then heaven would not be heaven to us. If we were not to be there, what we are here, minus sin, corruption and wickedness, then it would not be heaven. Thank God we are the same. Listen to what the word of God says: “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars: For one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.” For one star differeth from another star. You may go out and look at them and talk to them, and laugh at them, and sing with them, and they will laugh and wink and sing back to you, but you can not find any two of them alike.
You may try and you may search the heavens with that hundred-inch lens on Mt. Wilson, the largest in the world, but you will find that one is larger than the other, that one’s light is more brilliant than another-that one appears more distant than another – you will never find any two alike. Paul said thus in the resurrection every soul is the same, is the same personality, is the same individuality, yonder on the other side of the resurrection – the same there as it is on this mundane sphere. Our fathers will still be our fathers; our children will still be our children; our wives and husbands will still be our wives and husbands. But somebody says didn’t Jesus say that we are not married, neither given in marriage in heaven ? Yes, He did say that. There will be no fleshy relations there; they will be spiritual, wholly and absolutely. Will we know each other there? Didn’t Moses and Elijah appear on the Mount of Transfiguration,” and didn’t they recognize Moses, and didn’t they recognize Elijah? Why, certainly they did. They were not something else – they were what they had been on this earth. Jesus after His resurrection was the same Christ that He was before, minus his blood. His blood had been spilled on the cross and he arose from the tomb without the element of blood, but He was the same Lord. Mary Magdalene, the first to see Him after His resurrection, and out of whom the devils were cast, cried out, “Rabboni, Rabboni,” “my Master, my Lord,” when she saw Him. When Peter saw Him he recognized Him, though he had not been true to Him, had denied him, and Doubting Thomas – thank God for Thomas – he said, “I won’t believe it, I can’t believe it” – and I don’t blame him for it – he says, “I can’t understand how the grave would open and a man should come forth. I know you people are honest. I know, Peter, you and John think you are telling the truth – I don’t question that; I know you women are good women, but I can’t believe it and I won’t believe it unless I put my hand in the scar, and I see with my own eyes,” and here stands Doubting Thomas, trembling, and the Lord in all His resplendent resurrection glory, with great infinite tenderness and compassion, says, “Thomas, you doubt me, come here,” and he pulls aside his robe and says, “Put your hand here in this scar,” and when Thomas saw that scar he fell at the feet of his risen Lord and said, “My Lord, my God, I can doubt no more.” He was the same Lord that he had seen walking on the Sea of Galilee; He was the same Lord that he saw reach over and take the five loaves and two fishes and break, bless and feed the hungry multitude; He was the same Lord that he saw take hold of that leper and make his flesh white and clean like unto that of a baby’s cheek; he was the same Lord that commanded the tomb to give up its dead. My friends, the word of God tells us that Jesus Christ was the first born of them that slept. And He arose from the dead as your husband is going to rise, and as your boy that sleeps yonder under the poppies of France is going to rise; the sea will give up her dead and the dead shall come forth because Jesus Christ rose from the dead and was the same man, the same Lord.
“So long, Thy power hath blessed
Sure it will lead me on;
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent,
Till the night is gone;
And with the morn those angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since and lost awhile.”
A Place Where Jesus Is
Lastly and briefly, heaven is a place where Jesus is, as I told you a moment ago. Now, I want to help you so you will never get confused on this question where the soul goes at death. Here is one scripture so clear you needn’t be misled, Second Corinthians, Fifth Chapter, Sixth and Eighth verses.
Put it down – Second Corinthians, Fifth Chapter, Sixth to Eighth verses: “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight.) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” We are always confident – what words of victory – knowing that whilst we are in the body we are absent from the Lord. Two places for the soul and only two. First at home in this body; second, out of this body, then where? Out of the body – present with the Lord. Is there any third place? Is there any half-way house? Is there any soul-sleeping period there? In the body-away from Christ; out of the body, present with Christ. Let the word of God speak-take the word of God for what it says – don’t flock to these mediums and seances at two dollars per, to find out what the departed spirit is doing. (Amen.) Nowhere is it taught in the word of God that the dead can come back. David wept as he walked the floor when his child was dying. The child dead, he put off mourning. Why? “I know where he is gone. I can’t bring him back, but I can go to be with him.” Thank God, I don’t want my loved ones back to this old world. (Amen.) I don’t want them to see the things of this world, and God in His grace has a better place for them than this earth, in the Father’s house in the mansions above. That is where they are and we will be with them, but they will not come back to this earth.
Where Does the Soul Go?
Where does the soul go at death? The Scriptures leave no doubt on this all – important and supreme question. Oh, that we would study the Word of God; that we would search the Scriptures; that we would open our hearts like Lydia by the seashore, and attend to the things of divine wisdom; that we would sit like Mary at the feet of the Master and listen to His words; that we would turn from the wisdom of the world to the wisdom from above.
“To depart and be with Christ!” How much stronger, how much clearer could the Word of Scripture be?
“And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Listen! He, by whom all things were made and without Him was not anything made that was made, says to the dying thief, “This day” – not tomorrow, not a million years from now, not through the soul-sleeping route – but “This day” and “with me.”
“Where I am, there ye may be also.” Dwell on this Scripture. What else can it mean but one thing? Why spiritualize it? Why allegorize it? Why not take it at just what it says? It can not say but one thing – Where the Lord is, there we will be also.
“Bring with him.” Another statement of Scripture. Notice, “With him” – “with him” – “with him.” That’s where our loved ones are; that’s where our children are; that’s where the saints who have gone before are – “With him” in glory.
“Blessed are the dead which died in the Lord.” “In the Lord.” How wonderful! How glorious! There is no death, there is no darkness, there is no sin, there is not even a shadow to them that die in the Lord.
“Into His Heavenly Kingdom.” Will preserve them into His Heavenly Kingdom. Is it any wonder then that the Apostle Paul, as he faced death at the hands of his Roman executioners, could shout in the same breath, “to whom be glory forever and ever.” He is leaving earth, he is leaving chains, he is leaving prisons, he is leaving the body of death, he is leaving false brethren, he is coming home to the Heavenly Kingdom.
“Ever be with the Lord.” Nowhere else to be, no other state, no other condition, no other place, for ever and for ever beholding his face in the land that hath no need for sun, moon or stars.
“In Abraham’s bosom.” The Jewish conception of the heavenly paradise. A conscious state, a personal state. What fellowship, what tenderness, what association!
“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”
What victory for the patriarch Job, out of the nadir of despair, out of the darkest and deepest of soul gloom, up to the highest heights of Old Testament revelation. He sounds the note, he sends a ringing hallelujah through the ages, “I shall see God.”
“As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be like him when I wake with Thy likeness.” This was the climax of King David’s joy. It was his aim, his hope, his ambition, his joy; to him heaven was a reality and a certainty. Others may have their wealth; others may have their crowns, but “as for me, I will behold thy face,” the face of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The eighth chapter of Romans is so full of comfort, of strength, of message, compassing the whole divine purpose in redemption. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Think of it! “Children” – but it is more than that. “Heirs of God!” – but it’s more than that. It’s joint-heirs with Christ! Whatever is His is ours. All of His glory is ours. He took our shame, our sin, and we take His glory and righteousness. He was with us on earth and we are with Him in glory. It would be a new day to every one of us if we would study Paul’s arithmetic, “reckon,” calculate, pile up-pile up all the sufferings of time together and bring them up, of every age, of every experience, pile up all the sickness, pile up all the poverty, bring all the heartaches, pour out rivers of tears, count the disappointments, all are not worthy, are not equal, are not even to be weighed against, are not even to be compared with the glory, the glory that shall be ours when we shall look on His face.
“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world; that we should be holy, without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” Predestination! Not a hard doctrine. It is a glorious doctrine. Children, before Him in love! Predestination begins in eternity and ends in glory.
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” “Sit together” – not in unknown places, not in regions of darkness, but in heavenly places. “In Christ Jesus”; “That in the ages,” and the ages to come the glory in heaven is to show the exceeding riches of His grace, His abounding grace, His marvelous grace toward us. It means to be with Him in glory.
Listen at another Scripture on the destiny of our departed dead before whom the whole family in heaven and in earth is named. What a picture! The whole family, “the general assembly, the church of the first born, which are written in heaven and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,” part of the family on earth, the rest in glory. The separation is only for a while. The narrow veil of death is between us. But saints are living on the other side as truly as they are living on this side, and while we are in sorrow here, they are in glory there.
“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.” “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Are we hoping for an unknown state? Are we hoping for a soul sleeping state? Are we hoping for the spirits of the departed where there is no recognition? No, we are hoping for that place where the Lord is; where our loved ones are; where we will know each other. Because Christ, the hope of glory, is formed within us. “Whether we are awake or asleep, we shall live together with Him.” “Wherefore, comfort yourselves together.” That is, whether living in the flesh, or whether the body is asleep, we live, we live with Him and shall see Him as He is.
We have the “promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” How real is the life now. So real life is the life hereafter. It is life eternal and not life for a day. If the life beyond the grave is a dream, so the life here is a dream; it the life beyond the grave is unconscious, so the life here is unconscious, but blessed be His name, “He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me” – he that heareth, indicative mood – at this present time, “hath everlasting life.”
The Scriptural proof of the destiny of our beloved dead would not be complete without calling in the testimony of the immortal 11th chapter of Hebrews, God’s Westminster Abbey, of the heroic, of the faithful. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Enoch is the same now that he was on earth, minus the corruptible element. He walked with God here on earth. He lives in glory in His presence. He is one of the great cloud of witnesses who admonishes us, who cheers us, who urges us on, who inspires us to run the race and win the crown.
Here was good heroic Deacon Stephen, the first martyr, preaching the word of God. And the whole crowd tried to get him to retract his teaching and he wouldn’t do it. He told them how to come to Christ and when they heard of the resurrection they gnashed their teeth and they rushed upon Him, and His body was bleeding and crushed under their blows, he prayed, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” and then looking up he saw heaven’s gates swing ajar and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Everywhere else we find Christ in heaven we find Him sitting, but here Stephen sees Jesus standing on the right hand of God. When anybody comes to your home, an honored guest, what do you do?-do you go and sit down and call, “Come on in?” No, you go to the door and you stand and say, “I am glad to see you, walk into the parlor; here, take this chair, the best in the house.” Here is the king of glory, the Lord of Lords. He is looking down on earth and He sees Stephen fall under cruel blows and stones of his persecutors, and Jesus says to angel and archangel, to cherubim and seraphim, “Stephen is coming home,” and all the angels get their harps and Jesus rises at the right hand of the Majesty on high, and heaven’s gates swing ajar as the spirit of the martyred and glorified Stephen comes home to receive his crown of righteousness for giving his testimony. And so the heritage of every redeemed soul on this earth. (Amen.) Jesus reveals Himself to us in the hour of death. Oh, then, my friends, how tragic for an unsaved man to die!
I don’t want to pass judgment on any man – would not do that. You saw in the papers the other day where Lemp, of St. Louis, the millionaire brewer, committed suicide – a man worth more than seven million dollars. My heart pitied the poor unfortunate man, as I read that, and I laid the paper down and I said, “Poor unfortunate man, but oh, that business; oh, that business – what a curse is the curse of liquor, how many tears have you caused, how many homes have you wrecked, how’ many lives have you blasted, oh he entered the place of his doom, how many poor unfortunate victims who met him there and said, “You sent me here.” As we look back over the homes that have been wrecked, mothers that have been crushed, men that have committed suicide, girls that have been ruined-they sold his beer over the counter of the brothel, and many a poor girl took her last swirl into dissipation, intoxicated by the product that made his millions; I wouldn’t live his life and I wouldn’t want to die his death. I close with this word. There is nothing like personal testimony. One morning many years ago, now nearly twenty, my telephone rang – a long distance call.
“Yes. Is that you, sister?”
“Brother, if you expect to see mother alive, you better hurry.”
I looked at my watch – only had a few minutes to catch the southbound Katy, but I saidI will get there. When they rushed me down to the station I saw the train backing out, and the best I could do was to jump on the blind baggage. I said, “I will ride this to the next station,” and when I got to the next station I got on the coach, and when I reached the place they met me, and I said, “Is she still alive?”
“Yes, and calling for you.”
I was the oldest and the first born, and there is a peculiar tenderness that every mother has for her first born child and for the baby, too, and when I walked in she was sitting propped up in a big arm chair, her breath was short, the only way she could breathe – her sight was gone; death had closed her eyes forever to this world, but her hearing was still good and her speech, though faint, was still clear. I rushed up and said, “Mother!” and she said, “Frank, Frank, my boy, you got here.” And I said, “Yes,” and I fell down by the side of her chair and she reached out her hand and found my head and rested her hand upon it. Oh, I had felt the touch of that hand a thousand times! It felt familiar; it had touched my brow when I was racked with pain, tossing with fever, it had been the best friend that I had ever had and now it was on my head for the last time, and I looked at her, and I said, “Mother, do you see me? Do you know me?” and she says, “My boy, I can not see you, but I can feel your face,” and she put her thin, emaciated hand all over my face and said, “Yes, I have felt of that face when you were a baby; I felt of it all through the years, but, son, I am going home this morning. They have come for me. Do you hear that music? Do you hear that music?” And I said, “Mother, I don’t hear it,” and she said, “My son, don’t you hear that music?” and I said, ‘”No, I don’t hear it,” and she said, “Oh, I wish you could hear it. Never heard such music in this world,” and I said, ‘”Why is it, mother, I can’t hear it?” and she says, “Oh, I hear it and they have come for me, and I will have to go. Good-bye. Son, preach the old gospel on. It is just like I taught it to you. It is good in life; it is better in death. Preach it on until you come home to mother and God,” and she fell asleep in Jesus, and as I looked at the little silent form, still and cold in death, and planted the kiss of my love on her brow what a face she had; what a character she had; what iron she had, what a heart, what a soul, what character! Oh, God, give us women like that-I said, “She has gone home, and some of these days I shall go to be with my Lord and then I will see mother just like I used to see her, without her sorrow, without her weakness, without her affliction, but in Glory with all that have gone on before.
Let us pray.
(There were ninety-seven professions and additions to the church.)