"It seemed not as a dream, and yet I stood beside heaven's gate. Its mighty hinges were loosed; and upward, from earth's tribulation, came a soul, whose passport, signed in Calvary's blood, prevailed. Around the golden threshold's verge I saw the dazzling of celestial wings thronging to welcome it. The towering form of an archangel bore it company up to God's throne!"

"TODAY shall you be with me in paradise."—Luke 23:43

WHEN shall I be admitted into this glorious Heaven—to pluck for myself the Grapes of Eschol, and enjoy the sweets of the true Land of Promise? Does the hour of death usher me at once into the mansions of my heavenly Father? or is there some intermediate state of purification, preparatory to being introduced into the presence of the Lord? Is the disembodied spirit destined meanwhile to remain in dream-land—a condition of unconsciousness and torpor—until awakened by the trumpet of God, along with the risen and glorified body, on the resurrection morning?

We have already seen, in a previous Meditation, that the Bible answer is explicit. We may return for a little, to ponder the same comforting theme. There is an "immediate entrance." The same moment in which I close my eyes on a world of sin and suffering, I open them in glory! Whenever I pass through the swellings of Jordan, my feet shall touch the shores of "the better country;"—that day I am "with Jesus in paradise!"

Paul's verdict, as we previously noted, is conclusive: "Having a desire to depart and to BE WITH CHRIST," (Phil. 1:23.) Can we suppose he would have expressed this longing desire to leave his work—to abandon his apostleship—to forego the delight of winning souls to Jesus—if his spirit, in leaving this earth, was to slumber in a state of inaction and unconsciousness until the 'day of God'? We can conceive of no other possible consideration but the thought of being ushered into the immediate presence of his Lord, that could make it to him a "gain to die." Nothing BUT this instantaneous beatific vision and fruition could have led him to add the strong assertion, "which is far better," (Phil. 1:23.)

Again, how does he speak of the dissolution of the earthly tent ("tabernacle")? He seldom speaks more confidently. His words are expressed in the authoritative and confident formula of a creed, "We KNOW that if this house of our earthly tabernacle is dissolved, We HAVE a building of God," (2 Cor. 5:1.) The pin is taken out—the cord is slipped—the tent is down! But "immediately" a nobler and more imperishable structure rises—"a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens!"

Why would he urge, in another place—as an incentive to believers to run the Christian race—that they are gazed upon by a cloud of sainted witnesses, (Heb. 12.,) (mentioned in the previous context,) if "the spirits of the just" remain in a state of unconsciousness until the final resurrection?

Can we suppose that Stephen, as he gazed upwards from his martyr-pillow on "the general assembly and church of the first-born," uttered an unanswered prayer, when he said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"? (Acts 7:59.) No, rather, when he saw his Lord "standing at the right hand of God," can we think the beautiful comment of Chrysostom an unnatural one, that the Savior rose and stooped from His throne, to receive with outstretched arms the spirit of the first of that "noble army of martyrs," who were afterwards to "praise Him?"

Our blessed Lord's own teaching is all confirmatory of the same view. It was no mere accidental embellishment, surely, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, but an essential part of the truth it was intended to convey, when the angels are represented as carrying the spirit of the beggar into Abraham's bosom; and His words here to the dying thief are themselves (independent of all other proof) sufficient to set at rest this comforting assurance, that the gate of death and the gate of glory are one!

Vision adds its attestation to parable—for the ransomed multitude are represented now in glory, "standing before the throne" with "palms in their hands," (Rev. 7:9.) Thrice blessed thought! The uncaged spirit will all at once fly upwards to nestle in the golden eaves of Heaven! The saint, when he enters glory, can say, in the words of one of earth's inspired songs regarding the death-bed he has just left, "I laid me down and slept—I awaked, for the Lord sustained me!" (Ps. 3:5.) "This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven!" (Gen. 28:17.) "Faithful souls," says Richard Baxter, "no sooner leave their pinions of flesh, but angels will be their convoy, Christ, with all the perfected spirits of the just, will be their companions, heaven will be their residence, and God their happiness." No wonder that Paul with such a blessed certainty could say, "We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord," (2 Cor. 5:8.)

It is true, indeed, that though "the souls of believers are at death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory," their full and perfect glorification does not then take place. The great coronation-day of the Church triumphant must come, before the saint ("complete in Christ") is invested with all his purchased privileges. The body until then, slumbers in weakness and dishonor. Its reunion with the spirit must take place—the grave must be rifled of its treasures—before the Divine Victor has reaped in all His trophies, and the believer receive full investiture of his rights. A writer beautifully speaks of the "blessed dead," as "a silent and veiled company, like the gathering worshipers of earth resting side by side until the bells cease, and vacant places fill, and all begin to sing one anthem." But be their present intermediate condition (shall we call it) what it may, they are with Christ—that is enough.

"With me!" Safe in the presence of their adorable Redeemer. The needle at last fixed true to its pole—all the old earthly vibrations and oscillations at an end. The ship, with all its tossings over, has reached its port, cast anchor in "the Rock" within the veil! The sun-flower drooped only for a moment in the evening of life, as the death-shades fell over it. But the morning of glory dawns—The Sun of Righteousness shines; and in His "unsetting beams" the leaves expand again, in unfading and undying glory. "With ME!" Christ in our nature, our Friend, our Brother! We are happy on earth in the presence of those who have befriended us, and given us proofs of kindness and affection. Who has ever been friend or brother to us like Jesus? ETERNITY is a solemn word. Death ushers into an untraveled country. The soul mounts in its arrowy flight into a region which "eye has not seen, nor ear heard." But Christ is there; and that assurance inverts it with a home-like aspect. I need not fear the fords of Jordan, when there is a well-known voice heard on the farther shores—"Fear not! It is I! Be not afraid!" (Matt. 14:27.)

Let me look forward, then, with bounding heart, to the hour of death, as the hour of my entrance on endless bliss, the birthday of eternity. Oh, if there was "joy in heaven among the angels of God" at the hour of conversion, what will it be at the hour of glorification! If God the Father even on earth has joy in seeing His returning prodigal; what will it be when He welcomes him to his everlasting home! "He will rejoice over him with joy; He will rest in His love; He will rejoice over him with singing," (Zeph. 3:17.) The Redeemer utters His intercessory prayer over the death-bed on earth, "Father, I will that this one whom you have given me be with me where I am, to behold my glory." The prayer is heard—the angels are sent down—and, swift as the volleyed lightning leaps from the cloud, THAT HOUR, and forever, he is "with Jesus in paradise!"