R.I.P. (Part 2)

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 ESV).

Yesterday we began the series dealing with death and what happens to believers when this physical body dies. The first principle of note is that believers will be taken into the presence of Christ in heaven immediately. “Chrysalis” comes from the Latin chrysalis, which in turn is rooted in the ancient Greek χρυσαλλίς. It actually is a beautiful word that most nearly describes the word “gold.” Much of the time when the pupae emerges from the cocoon as a butterfly there is a golden hue in its wings. The release of Monarch butterflies has been used in weddings and funerals of late as symbolic of the freedom gained in death. This is the image to be gained from Jesus’ words to the thief in our reading today.

Christ is in heaven now (cf. Acts 1:2; 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7), and believers will go to be with Him. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise” (v. 23). And on two different occasions Paul spoke of death as ushering us into the presence of Christ:

  • But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake (Philippians 1:23-24).
  • Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord–for we walk by faith, not by sight–we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. (2 Corinthians 5:6-9).

So often we speak in terms of our loss, which is real; however, we unintentionally omit the mention of the deceased gain. Think of it. Given the choice, would you rather be a worm or a butterfly? The perspective changes. This is our foundation of hope and peace. Rejoice on their behalf as you shed your tears born of your pain!