I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. — Psalm 116: 9
The bride of Christ is united in the same faith—both here and in the beyond.
We prepare ourselves for the next divine service for the departed, in which the sacraments can also be dispensed upon souls from the realms of the beyond. By receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, they also receive the opportunity to belong to the bride of Christ, because they are called to become first fruits.
Fellowship of the dead and the living
Let us be aware that the beyond is present in every divine service that we celebrate here on earth! Through the sermon, the Holy Spirit addresses both the living and the dead. This not only applies to the dead in Christ, but also to those souls who are to receive the sacraments in the service for the departed. Thus the dead do indeed “walk before the Lord in the land of the living”.
God’s offers of salvation
All human beings are in the hand of God, and His offer of grace applies to all of them. This is something Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 44–45). Following His death on the cross, Jesus’ sermon to the contemporaries of Noah who were in prison (1 Peter 3: 19–20) also attests to this, and the first epistle of Peter also mentions that the “gospel was preached also to those who are dead” (1 Peter 4: 6).
Just as is the case for the living, the prerequisites for souls in the beyond to receive the sacraments include recognition and a believing longing— in addition to the election of God. It is to this end that they prepare themselves in the regular services in which they—along with us—are granted access to word and grace.
We can be a help to them through our intercession, but also in our endeavours to conduct ourselves in accordance with the example of Jesus Christ.
If the desire arises in such souls to follow Jesus Christ and prepare themselves for His return, they can experience God’s will to save and profit from His offer of salvation: some will receive baptism with water, while others will experience Holy Sealing.
In accordance with the invitation of Jesus Christ, they then partake of the body and blood of Christ at the Lord’s table, and thus share in His life and nature.
The dead in Christ
The dead in Christ, as well as those souls who received the sacraments only after their death, prepare themselves for the return of Christ just as we do. Together the living and the dead will be caught up to meet the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4: 17)
Attaining salvation requires faith
Those who long for salvation in the beyond must, together with us and the dead in Christ,
- Believe in the truth of the gospel; namely in the victory of Christ, His return, and the resurrection of the dead.
- Give the Holy Spirit room within themselves.
- Fulfil the same tasks, namely to love others and proclaim salvation in Christ to them.
- Carry the same longing in their hearts, namely: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service in preparation for the upcoming departed service held on 26 June 2016 at Midrand Congregation.