In our previous article, we noted that one of the meanings for the Greek word rendered as “departure” in 2 Timothy 4:6, which Paul uses to speak of his imminent death, is a metaphor derived from a ship that is preparing to set sail for a voyage, such as by hoisting its anchors or undoing its lines.
So though we might figuratively speak of the Christian’s departed soul as having taken a voyage to Paradise, how is the soul literally transported when that time comes?
Actually, that is seen to be an even more comforting thought! For the Bible shows that it is the angels of God that will carry that soul to that wonderful place of bliss.
Though some would call it a parable, it really appears to be more of an account that the Lord gives of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. For in viewing all the other passages that are parables of the Lord, never do we see anyone mentioned by name as we do in Luke 16 with Lazarus.
The Bible declares that when Lazarus died, he “was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom...” (v. 22). Being in Abraham’s bosom symbolizes being where Abraham is in Paradise, a place of great bliss where righteous souls are temporarily taken to at death to await the final judgment. Being spiritually affiliated with Abraham connotes blessings. For “...those who are of faith...are sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7) and “are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (v. 9). And, surely, with the exception of the Sadducees, Jews would have no trouble in believing that Abraham was in Paradise -- and not only in Paradise, but also, according to Siegfried Goebel, that to the Israelite, Abraham would seem to be “the personal centre and meeting-point of Paradise.” Goebel also writes, “’To be in Abraham’s bosom’ is a designation, common elsewhere in Jewish theology, for the fellowship of dead believers with Abraham in Paradise. ...Hence this hope is to be gathered to Abraham, and to be permitted, in fellowship with him, to enjoy paradisaic bliss” (The Parables of Jesus: A Methodical Exposition, p. 239).
It can also be pointed out that the idea of being “in Abraham’s bosom” is based on a practice that was common at that time in which people would recline on their sides to eat and rest their head on the bosom of another. For instance, “There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, ‘Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.’ He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’” (Jn. 13:23-25).
According to Adam Clarke, “The Jews of those days, at their suppers, reclined, supported by their left arm, on couches placed round the table, as the Greeks and Romans did. On each couch there were two or three persons; and the head of one of them came near to the bosom of him who reclined above him on the same couch” (from Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible for John 13:23).
But what we want to focus on are the angels who had carried Lazarus to Paradise. What a beautiful thought that is! The saint need not worry about how to get there, after departing this life.
Angels are said to be “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). How helpful they are.
But notice, too, another service they will have to render for those who are not redeemed by the blood of Christ:
In the Lord’s explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares, the harvest is representing the end of the age; and the reapers will be the angels whom Jesus will send forth; “and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41,42). How extremely terrible and tragic to be one of those who will be gathered out and cast into that place of punishment!
Paul also speaks of this time “...when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed...” (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
What the angels will do with the lost is certainly quite a contrast with what they will do for the redeemed.
Let us, therefore, submit our lives (by our faith and obedience) to Jesus Christ; so that when the angels come for us, we will also be carried to that beautiful place of bliss where Abraham is and all the departed saints! For that is truly what God wants for everyone -- but we must be willing to meet His terms and do so, if we want heaven to be our eternal home (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Rom. 10:17; Jn. 8:24; Acts 17:30; Mark 16:16; Rev. 2:10).