By C.G. “Colly” Caldwell
A few weeks ago a fine Christian ate dinner with us. A month or so earlier we had stood together at the grave of his beloved wife and said goodbye to one of the finest women any of us has ever known. At dinner the discussion was fascinating. It moved briskly from topic to topic often including comments on spiritual matters and things that have happened among brethren in years past. Suddenly, however, our guest became pensive and quiet as he had done before on other evenings since his wife left us. After a moment he looked up and said, “Colly, where do you think she is?” I responded, “You know where she is. She is with God. Your question is more: What is it like where she is?” Of course he knows where she is! He is a man of great faith and he has no doubts of his wife’s love for Christ. His question is asked by all who are left behind.
Dwelling with God Promised
The wonderful promises of Scripture form the basis of our comfort and our hope in such times. John reported, “I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God'” (Rev. 21:3). Can you imagine living in the actual presence of God? Nothing makes men feel more important, nor is more satisfying and exciting than to be in the presence of a great person (the President, the “official,” the “maestro,” the “star,” or the “hero”). How much more to be in the presence of God Almighty, the powerful Creator and Owner of the universe. And we are not discussing simply shaking his hand or speaking for a moment at a ceremonial occasion where he moves on hardly noticing us. We are talking about living with him in all the luxury of his home throughout eternity.
Dwelling with God Believed
After gathering material for this article, I spoke on the subject at Citrus Park. A dear brother who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer talked with me after the lesson and expressed his anticipation indicating that he will know about all this very soon. He believes!
Paul also had faith that he would go to be with the Lord when death came. “For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). To be with Christ is to be in the presence of God. Stephen, “being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!'” (Acts 7:55-56) When they rushed to stone him, Stephen cried out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Our spirits are taken into the care and keeping of God when they leave our bodies. We do not lie in the grave. We do not cease to exist. We are alive and well in the presence of God. Believe it!
Dwelling with God Described
I encourage the brethren at Citrus Park where I worship regularly, and all the brethren who invite me to preach, to read the book of Revelation. Among other great objectives, it seeks to comfort Christians who suffer themselves and whose loved ones have suffered . . . many to the point of death. The greatest comfort Jesus could give those aching hearts was to secure their faith in the fact that they and their loved ones would be with God. God is powerful. God is caring. God loves us more than any other person. Listen to some of the clucs John gives to the meaning of “dwelling with God” in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation (1-7) and in other sections of the book.
God welcomes us into his presence to begin a new phase of our relationship: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adornedfor her husband” (Rev. 21:1-2). In another place John said, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14). And again he said, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
God will identify us with himself personally. “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God'” (Rev. 21:3). “They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:4). “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. Arid I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (Rev. 2:17). At marriage, the greatest identifier is the husband’s giving his new wife his name, . . . and the wife’s taking his name as her own. God in a special way will identify with us.
God will take care of us, comfort and provide for us forever. “And God will wipe away every tearfrom their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). “He who has an car, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). “For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17)
God will make all things new and perfect for us. “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful'”. (Rev. 21:5). “New” things are special and they generally pose fewer problems for us. A new home has no plumbing problems, doors don’t creak, and the roof does not leak. When God says, “I will make all things new,” he is saying, “It will all be right! You will be with Me!” Later John said, “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Rev. 22:3).
God will glorify us as his own children. “And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son'” (Rev. 21:6-7). That glorification includes a “crown of life.” “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Paul anticipated that same “crown of life” and in his valedictory to Timothy expressed belief that God would give it to all who “have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). “Then I heard a voice from heavun saying to me, Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on'” (Rev. 14:13).
Dwelling with God Conditional
It is important that we consider our future state. That existence without God is unthinkable. That existence with God, however, is conditioned upon our “dwelling with God” now. Most passages in the New Testament which speak of our “dwelling with God” or “abiding in God” discuss our present relationship with the Lord. While “dwelling with God” eternally is “far better” (Phil. 1:23), “dwelling with God” here is the only satisfying and fulfilling way to live until that time. John explained it this way: “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn. 4:12-16). “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'” (Jn. 14:23). There will be no “dwelling with God” eternally unless we “dwell with God” now. God help us to have his presence with us to befriend us and share life with us now so that we may eternally be able to look upon his face.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 20, pp. 621-622
October 17, 1991