The hope of the church, and of its members individually is Christ in His coming again. It is of urgent importance not only to hold this as truth, but to have it ever in reality and freshness before the soul.. With a wisdom that calls forth our admiration, Scripture is careful that this hope should not be in any measure obscured; and that the joy of departing to be with Christ should not displace the still deeper and corporate joy set before us in our Lord's parting words, " I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
That which concerns those who are absent from the body and present with the Lord does not occupy" a large place in Scripture. This has caused surprise to some dear saints. It need not surprise us however. For, besides the reason just given, which is surely most important, there is another: the few words that are said, say everything. Where is the heart which knows Christ, that desires more than " present with the Lord; " " with me in paradise?" Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the music of that heavenly voice, the beauty of that once marred face. Is it not enough to behold and to listen— to be with Him " who loved me and gave himself for me? " Enough, Lord, enough; we desire no more. In Thy presence is fulness of joy.
But there is the same comparative silence about the blessedness of those whom the coming of the Lord gathers from the tomb, and from the valley of the shadow of death. Details as to the shout and the trump, as to the glorious rising, and the instantaneous change, but for the whole eternity which lies beyond, a short line suffices:—" So shall we ever be with the Lord." Those who are anxious about the " occupations " of that thrice blessed scene, have need to look solemnly and searchingly into their title to be there at all. The one whose title is the precious blood of Christ—the one who knows what he owes to Him, will find every longing, and every hope fully satisfied in being with Him where he is to behold His glory. No words can pourtray such an eternity, none are needed when once the words have fallen on the heart, " so shall we ever be with the Lord."
"Absent from the body." We are bound by our bodies to a groaning creation. This condition falls. far short, of God's purpose; far, short, too, of the full result of the death of Christ. We wait " for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Redemption has indeed been accomplished, and "we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." But as regards the body, this redemption has not been made good. It will be; and the Spirit by which we are, sealed unto the day of redemption, is Himself the' earnest of this redemption. He is also in our souls " the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." But the adoption itself must extend to the body, for such is God's will, such the purpose of His heart; such. too, the fruit, ripe and Sweet, of the cross of Christ, "They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection " (Luke xx. 36),
For this, those who are "absent from the body" wait as truly as we do, and with an earnestness and intelligence to which we are, alas! strangers. But the, link with, a creation which groaneth and travaileth in pain is broken. Every link of _these ransomed spirits is now with Christ. "In this (tabernacle) we groan." Freed from the tabernacle, far from the body of humiliation, the spirit groans no more. Personal suffering, and suffering in sympathy are at an end. No pain of body can reach those who are 'at home with the Lord. The still deeper pain of mind and heart is, hushed to eternal 'rest. The last tear, not in personal sorrow only, or in family affliction, but in the fruits of sin which others reap, and for the dishonour of Christ in the church for which He bled—the last tear eternal love has wiped away. The " light affliction, but for a moment" is over, the " eternal weight Of glory " abides. The discipline of the wilderness was the expression of perfect love; that has done its work, the love abides alone.
"Present with the Lord." What did that happy spirit prove, whilst the weepers were still watching for another breath, as he entered .the joy of his Lord? We must ourselves be there to know. The rapturous vision, those unutterable words, that holy restful joy never entered the heart of man. And what was the joy of Christ in welcoming him there? Ah, here we must bow our heads and own that that joy is as measureless as the love that bowed in death to redeem the soul now, at length, and for ever, with Him!
But what a tale of blessedness! The joy. of the redeemed spirit " at home with the Lord " is henceforth lost in the deeper joy Of his Redeemer, his Lord and his God. Surely among the "unspeakable words" of that heavenly paradise are some even less " possible to utter" than: "Let us eat and be merry." Who shall say what that freed spirit feels as he witnesses the joy his entrance brings to the heart of the Lord Jesus!. Answer of ineffable sweetness to the sorrow of the cross! " He Will rejoice over thee with joy; he Will rest (be silent) in his love; he will rejoice over thee with singing."
It was Paul's to taste for a moment this supreme and unutterable joy of immediate communion with the joy of the Lord. He had no help from a " body of glory," but neither had he any hindrance from a " body of humiliation." " Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell." Like those who are, now "present with the Lord," he had no consciousness of his body. But every inlet and outlet, every power of his soul was filled with Christ, with Christ seen in His ineffable glory, with Christ heard in "unspeakable words."
But, unlike those now with Christ, Paul had to return to this valley of the shadow of death. Soon the heavenly vision closes, and he knows he is, in very deed, " in the body." The thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet, is there because of "the abundance of the revelations." How blessed the spirits who live in the " abundant revelations," and need no thorn! Happy souls.! No pride can ever touch them, no coldness of heart nor wandering of desire or thought. All, all is the rest of their: Saviour's presence, rest never to be disturbed! True, Christ will rise from the throne on which He sits, but they will never 'part company from Him. " Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Deepened and widened joys await them then. But the " abundance of the revelations" will never pass. The " unspeakable words" will never be memories of the past. With Christ is ever their place. " Unclothed " they are with Christ; " on the cloud " they are with Him; " clothed upon they are with Him. And when all the ways of God are accomplished, and He enters His eternal rest, they are still and ever WITH CHRIST.
Lord Jesus, 'Tis but "a little while," and we shall indeed be with Thee! Our full cup of eternal joy art Thou! But, oh! this glass through which we see darkly! Come, Lord Jesus, that we may see Thee as Thou art, and see Thee face to face. Till then, keep us for Thy Name alone!
" FOR TO ME TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS CAIN!"