Living Well, Dying Well
“Enoch walked faithfully with God, and then he was no more, because God took him away. -Genesis 5:24
It is said there are only two certain things in life: death and taxes. But for at least two who lived previously, these two never knew death. Enoch and Elijah never passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, according to the Bible. Moses, though, dying at the age of 120, appeared with non-dying Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus and three of His disciples many years after they had walked on Earth. Moses, with Elijah, obviously appeared as himself.
What did Paul really see in heaven? As far as we know absolutely, only two purely human persons ever saw into heaven before dying: The Apostles Paul and John. But that was through events supernaturally accomplished by Jesus Christ for both Paul and John. Others have not experienced this from what Scripture tells us. Paul’s depiction of heaven, of which he did not tell us much, is that it was not relevant or even obvious to him that he was “in the body or out of it; it was quite the same.
Then, there are those believers and unbelievers who will still be living when Jesus returns and history as we know it comes to an end. They will not die, but together with the rest of previously-lived humanity, will face Judgment. Then their future will be made clear as related to us in Matthew 25.
You do not know experientially what transpires immediately upon your death. When that death will occur is yet a mystery to you, but not to God who knows every day of your life ordained for you. We do know Whom we trust and that His promises are true. But believers have not experienced what “life will be like immediately beyond their final breath.
Paul’s memory of fourteen years of his “third heaven experience parallels entirely what he experienced in life; though beyond his imagination, it was not a “strange experience to him. Moses and Elijah conversed with Jesus as naturally as they had known Him on Earth, as the visible One, the eternal Word, the divine expression of the Triune God; this is before He took on eternal flesh in His incarnation in the womb of His mother, Mary. I rather think, though, that Moses and Elijah were aware of Jesus’ life and ministry on Earth up to that point.
Enoch’s life is characterized in Genesis as “walking faithfully with God. Such is “living well concisely defined! And then it says God took him, snatched him up to heaven. Is this not what similarly happens to the believer who trusts in Jesus, walks with God, dies, and then is immediately with Him in Paradise? Enoch’s experience is somewhat different, for he appears not to traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but the result is apparently the same. The three disciples saw Moses and Elijah and apparently recognized them conversing with Jesus on the Mount, obviously as natural as life itself.
Receiving an eternal body as described in 1 Corinthians 15 comes later for all believers at once, but life in Paradise before that is still something entirely recognizable. The conclusion to be drawn from all these “windows into the plan of God is for each of us to live well by walking today with God, and thus dying well, being immediately with the Lord and also with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
There is no fear in this. The challenge and the goal for you now is to “walk faithfully with God in the strength of the Righteous One, Jesus, and then traverse with Him the Valley of the Shadow of Death, which He Himself did. Living well by faith promises dying well.
“Jesus lives and death is now but my entrance into glory. Courage, then, my soul, for thou hast a crown of life before thee; thou shalt find thy hopes were just. Jesus is the Christian’s trust.
(5th verse of Christian Gellert’s hymn, “Jesus Lives, and So Shall I, 1757)
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