Do Christians who die await the return of Christ before going to heaven?

Q. What happens to Christians when we die? Do we wait for the return of Christ before we are taken to heaven? This scripture is what prompted me to ask the question: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

Also, is it by default that as Christians we would be spared from hell if we believe in our God and that Jesus died for our sins and we pray for forgiveness and forgive the others? Or would we be vetted further?

In answer to your first question, I’d invite you to read the following post, which I wrote in response to a different but similar question and which I believe will address your concern:

Do the souls of believers “sleep” after death until the resurrection?

In that post I say that “all things considered, my overall sense from the Bible is that the soul of a believer does pass directly and consciously into the presence of God upon death.” However, I acknowledge that this is “a question on which people of good will who are equally committed to the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures have long disagreed. So we each need to be ‘fully convinced in our own minds’ but respectful of the other position.”

In answer to your second question, there’s another post on this blog that I can recommend. It, too, was written in response to a different but similar question, and I think it will speak to your own question:

Are we saved simply by believing, or are there works we need to demonstrate?

In that post I conclude that “if we claim to have been saved by trusting and believing in what Jesus did for us, we should reasonably expect that salvation to manifest itself in ‘works,’ not things we do to earn or secure our salvation, but things that flow naturally from it.” We will not necessarily be “vetted” by such things, but they do give us the opportunity to “vet” ourselves and confirm that the fruits of salvation are appearing in our lives.

I share some similar thoughts in this further post:

Don’t our works actually matter to God?

There I observe: “I think the simplest way to summarize the New Testament position on this subject is to explain that while it doesn’t teach we are saved by works, it does teach we are saved for works. That is, God has saved us so that we will be able to live in the way He has designed.” Once again, seeing these results in our lives can give us greater assurance of salvation, which is what I believe you are asking about.

I hope these leads are helpful to you.

How can we “esteem others” who aren’t living as they should?

Q. Paul writes in Philippians, “Let each esteem others better than themselves.” My question is, how can a born-again Christian esteem other members of the church when the majority seem to live like non-believers? They attend church on a regular basis, attend Bible class, and sing in the choir, but you know for a fact they are living like non-believers. Smoking, drinking, partying, going to clubs, gambling, using foul language, etc. If they are not doing these things, they still don’t seem to be living a Christian lifestyle. They never talk about the Lord, read their Bibles, witness to anyone, etc. They are just good church attenders. How can one esteem these people better than themselves?

God sees us not as we are now, but as the best we can be. And God relates to us that way as well—never giving up on us, always believing in us, forgiving us and giving us second chances.

I think Paul’s admonition in Philippians is an invitation for us to relate to our fellow Christians in this same way. Certainly if we saw others through God’s eyes, as the best they could be, and if we believed in them as God believes in them, we would have no trouble esteeming them as better than ourselves, recognizing the many ways in which we personally fall short.

Often Christians who are struggling just need a fellow Christian to come alongside them, encourage them, and believe in them. This is difficult for us to do when we regard others with human eyes, but if we ask God to give us a glimpse of them as He sees them, as their Creator, we will have a whole new perspective.

It’s great that you’re taking this admonition to heart and asking how you can live it out. I suggest that you start maybe with one person in your church and ask God to help you see them as He sees them. I believe this will have a revolutionary effect not only on your attitude and perspective towards that person, but on the influence you will have in their life. You’ll likely want to pray this for more and more people in your church as you see what God does in you and through you.

What does the Bible say about cleansing your chakras?

Q. What does the Bible say about cleansing your chakras or anything similar to that practice, if anything?

I’ll have to admit that I wasn’t really familiar with the practice of cleansing the “chakras.” I did an Internet search to find out more about it, and they are apparently considered, in the Hindu tradition, to be centers of energy in the body. But I also found many other people asking the same question you’re asking, and I particularly liked an answer that was given on Quora.com to the question, “Do meditation and belief in Chakras conflict with Christianity?” Here was the response from someone named Gavin Hurlimann:

“The Bible is silent about chakras because they are part of the inner tradition of Indian religion. Meditation however, is 100% encouraged by the Bible—as long as you meditate on what is good, acceptable & pleasing to the perfect will of God. The great King David said in Psalms, ‘I will also meditate on all Your good work, and talk of Your good deeds.'”

I think that answer put it very well, so I hope it is helpful to you.

 

Why should we recycle plastics if Jesus is coming back soon?

Q. A Christian friend of mine goes to a lot of trouble to recycle plastics because, he says, he doesn’t want them “sitting in a landfill for centuries.” But wouldn’t Jesus have come back long before then?

Ever since Jesus ascended to heaven, his followers have had the lively expectation that he could return at any time, and they have been right to have that expectation. But where would we be today if people living many centuries ago had said, “It’s all right if we do things that could permanently damage the environment, because Jesus could return at any time”? In the same way, we need to be concerned about the generations that will come after us if Jesus doesn’t return soon.

Beyond that, we express our faith in what we believe Jesus will do when he returns by the way we live as we are expecting him. Under the reign of Jesus, the physical creation will be healthy and beautiful. And because we believe that, we should everything we can to help it be as healthy and beautiful as possible even now. Otherwise, Jesus would have every right to ask us, “If you knew that this was what I was going to do when I came back, why didn’t you get started on it while you were waiting for me?”

When we say the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy kingdom come.” That means, among other things, “Lord Jesus, please come back soon and deliver this world from everything that’s wrong with it.” I personally hope that Jesus will answer that prayer and come back very soon. But whether it’s ultimately a long time or a short time, we should be cooperating now with what we recognize his program will be when he does return.

How can a woman who’s a natural fighter become a “woman of peace”?

Q. I have a question about something I was reading in Proverbs this morning:

She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

It is a common theme in Scripture that women of peace are to be praised.

How should a woman who desires to serve the Lord respond when we are natural fighters? I believe the Lord blessed me with a passion for defending others and standing for what is right, but how do I balance “her ways are of pleasantness, and all her paths are of peace” with the tenacity I have for fighting for what is right? Thank you!!

I believe that the much of the answer to your question is actually in the passage you were reading. It’s actually not a description of a “woman of peace,” but of wisdom. It begins:

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her . . .

However, I can understand perfectly why you applied it to yourself. First, wisdom is personified here as a woman. Second, at the end of the book of Proverbs there’s a memorable passage that begins:

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.

So it’s completely understandable that reading and meditating on this passage about wisdom got you thinking about how you could become more and more  a “woman of peace.” And as I said, the answer to that is in the passage itself. It’s part of the long opening address at the beginning of Proverbs that commends wisdom, which is defined as “the fear of the Lord.” And that is defined further as having so much respect for God, so much appreciation for his justice and power, so much devotion to God, that you don’t dare do anything that would be displeasing to him. As it says later in Proverbs, “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.” And as it says in Job, another wisdom book, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

On the one hand, losing your temper and giving in to destructive anger would certainly be something that was displeasing to God. Another proverb points out, “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” Proverbs contrasts giving in to anger with the fruits of the wisdom it is trying to teach: “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” There are many other passages, both in Proverbs and throughout the rest of the Scriptures, that warn of the destruction caused by giving in to anger.

On the other hand, allowing injustice to go unchallenged is also something that is very displeasing to God. In the book of Proverbs, here’s the very last thing we hear just before that description of the woman of noble character who’s more precious than rubies:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
    and see that they get justice.

So in the very same book of the Bible, we hear mandates both to be an even-tempered person who does not create conflict and to speak up to ensure justice. Indeed, the Scriptures equate opposing injustice with the “fear of the Lord.” When one of the Judean kings restored the worship of the true God, he appointed judges and told them, “Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.

So how can a person balance these two things? I think the right approach is expressed very well in Ephesians: “Be angry, but do not sin.” Anger does not have to be sinful. That is, it doesn’t have to be out-of-control and destructive. It can be controlled, focused, positive, and constructive.

We actually need to get angry in order to become motivated enough to do something about injustice. Injustice is usually entrenched in social arrangements and relationships. You can’t address it without “upsetting the apple cart” and threatening the privileges that some people are maintaining at the expense of others. It’s all too tempting to say, “I just won’t rock the boat, I don’t want to make anybody upset.”

So I’m quite delighted to hear that God has given you “a passion for defending others and standing for what is right.” It’s wonderful to hear of your tenacity. We need many more people like that in our world. If you get so upset by injustice that you become angry, that’s not a sin, that’s an emotion. And it’s an appropriate one. Just don’t lose your temper so that your anger is released in destructive ways rather than constructive ones.

Instead, recognize your anger as motivation. Let it be a positive force that gives you the power and the willingness to speak up and address entrenched situations of injustice and unfairness. Ephesians also tells us to “speak the truth in love” and so “grow to be like Christ in every way.” In other words, mature Christian character—”wisdom,” if you will—is exhibited in the capacity to speak necessary truths in a way that brings benefit and blessing to those around us, rather than destructively breaking relationships and tearing people down.

So that’s the challenge. Stay passionate for justice. Don’t lose a bit of that passion. But cultivate patience, graciousness, and kindness in your speech and actions. There is no contradiction between the two.

Since you’re reading Proverbs already, if I could give you a challenge, it would be to notice all the places in the book that talk about restraining your speech and your temper, record them somewhere, and think about how to put them into practice. (“Practice” means that you might not get it perfectly the first time! But every time you try, you’ll get experience that will bring you closer to where you want to be.) But also notice the places that talk about doing what’s right and maintaining justice between people, and meditate on those as well. Pray that God will build the qualities of patience and graciousness into your life even as you expand and pursue your passion for justice and fairness.

The very fact that you’re asking about this says to me that God is already at work in you to bring about a balance between passion for justice and gracious speech that will make you even more effective in your walk with him and service to him. So may God bless you as you seek to cooperate with the work he has already begun in you!

How to get these blog posts by email

Q. Do you email a newsletter?

What I believe you’re asking is how to get these blog posts by email. When you’re looking at any post or page from the blog, there should be a link at the bottom right that says “Follow.” If you click on that link, you’ll be given the chance to provide an email address. WordPress will send you an email at the address you provide asking you to confirm that you wish to subscribe to this blog. If you confirm, from then on you’ll get each post by email. I hope that’s helpful, and thanks for your interest.

What is a wounded spirit?

Q. My question is about the proverb, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” What is a wounded spirit? I cannot find any other reference in Scripture to a “wounded spirit,” but it seems as though it would be important. Generally, the word “wounded” means an injury coming from a source outside the self. I have read commentaries that claim this wound comes from God—which, if true, is a wound to my own spirit. I need enlightenment and hope you can help. Thank you.

Given your concerns, I think it’s important to clarify right up front that this proverb isn’t saying anything about God. It’s an observation about the human condition. It’s saying in essence that emotional suffering is much harder to endure than physical suffering.

The proverb actually gives the reason for that. When we’re sick—the most likely meaning of “infirmity” here—our “spirit” allows us to “manage.” (That’s how I’d translate the term that the King James Version renders as “sustain.” The same term is used in Psalm 112 to describe those who “manage their affairs with justice.”) That is, if we have hope, courage, and determination, we can make it through an illness with grace and dignity. But if our spirit, the very faculty we depend on to make it through tough times, is damaged itself, this proverb asks, how will we ever manage?

The word translated “wounded” in the KJV refers to the condition a person is in after being struck or beaten. Other translations render it as “broken” or “crushed.” But since it’s referring to something that happens to our “spirit,” it should be taken figuratively rather than literally. It’s describing how the events of life can come along and “beat us down,” and then we are so discouraged and despairing that we feel as if we just can’t make it.

And so I think we do well to ponder the question this proverb poses: How will we ever manage? The implied answer seems to be that we need others to come alongside us and strengthen us from the outside, because we can no longer do that for ourselves from the inside. And while there’s a clear mandate throughout Scripture for us as people to help our fellow humans in this way, and to expect and accept their help ourselves, the Bible also portrays God as actively helping those who are in this situation.

I’m not sure, either, if there’s another reference to a “broken spirit” in the Bible, but there certainly are other expressions that seem synonymous. Psalm 147, for example, says that the Lord “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” The word translated “broken” here means “shattered,” and “heart” is roughly a synonym for “spirit.” So the Lord does not wound our spirits or break our hearts; just the opposite. He heals them.

Significantly, the “servant of the Lord” figure in Isaiah says that the Lord has anointed him, among other things, to “bind up the brokenhearted” and “comfort all who mourn.” Jesus applied this Scripture directly to himself at the beginning of his ministry when he read from the scroll of Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue. (The selection he’s portrayed as reading doesn’t specifically include the parts about binding up the brokenhearted and comforting those who mourn, but it was characteristic of the time to cite part of a passage as a way of referring to it all.)

So the mission of Jesus is intrinsically involved in ministering to a wounded spirit or broken heart. In his own teaching, Jesus promised that those who mourned would be comforted. He also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The proverb we’re discussing asks who can “bear” a wounded spirit; the image is of something too hard to carry. So the idea of Jesus wanting to lighten the load of those who are “heavy laden” applies directly.

About the only place from which I can imagine someone might get the idea that God would wound the human spirit is the passage in Isaiah that says of the servant of the Lord, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” The term translated “smitten” here is basically the same root, with a variant spelling, as the one translated “wounded” in the proverb. But the whole point of the passage in Isaiah is that we were wrong to think that the servant was wounded by God. Particularly from a New Testament perspective, we can see that instead God was in Christ, enduring this suffering on our behalf—not inflicting it on us.