Eternity

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Part Twelve - The Eternal State

 

There are many ideas regarding what will eventually happen to us after we die. However, there is only one source that gives us an authoritative answer; the Bible. Since there is no testimony from any person who has died and returned, therefore we have no alternative than to turn to the God of Creation. Let us seek God’s answers on a few of the most common questions asked about the future. 

Question #1: Is there existence after death? 

This is an important question to ask because if we when we die we pass from existence, then what is the purpose of being alive in the first place. To know the accomplishments of life and to have family and friend and then to pass from existence, of what value was it to have had these life experiences? If all that I have is this life then life is a miserable tragedy. Paul indicated this when he wrote:

1 Corinthians 15:32, “If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" NKJV

However, the Scriptures declare that life is not the end of existence. Death only involves a change in our existence. In James 2:26 we are told that death is the departure of the soul of man from the physical body. This takes place when the body is no longer fit to house the soul. Though the body dies and returns to the dust of the ground, the soul of man goes on in its existence.

Question #2: What is existence after death like?

This question is best answered by the account our Lord gave about Lazarus and the rich man (19-31). Those who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation are ushered by the angels into heaven. Those who do not believe (Jn. 3:18) are sent directly to hell, a temporary place of spiritual torment where they await their resurrection, judgment, and eternal punishment. Jesus was very clear on this point when He stated:

John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” NKJV

In essence all who die will be resurrected back to their bodies. The difference in future resurrections is not the process of resurrection but rather the destiny of the one resurrected. Those who have a part of the first resurrection go on to everlasting life. to rule and reign with Christ forever (Rev. 20:4-6; 22:5). A little over a thousand years later all those who did not believe in Christ for salvation will be raised to face the White Throne Judgment of God (Rev. 20:11-14). Here they will be judged by their works to determine their degree of punishment and will be cast along with hell and death into the everlasting lake of fire. It is a place where they will experience the searing pain of unquenchable fire and suffering that will cause them to gnash their teeth and cry out in anger toward God. (Mk. 9:48; Matt. 8:12)

Question #3: Will the Saints spend eternity in Heaven?

This is something that has been preached from the pulpits of most churches but it does not align with the facts. The Saints time in heaven will be limited for it is not their eternal home. In Revelation 19:11-20:6, the Saints will be returning to earth with the Lord to rule and reign with Him for 1000 years. After the millennium is over, this earth and heaven are destroyed and they are replaced with a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21-22). There the Saints of God will go to live on a level far superior to anything they have ever known in this life. Someone has said rightly, “imagine the best day you have ever lived and multiply it a 1000 fold. Now you have an idea of what every day in eternity will be like.” Heaven will not be dull but rather every day will be just as exciting and new as the day before.

Question #4: When the Saints enter heaven, will their memory of this world pass away?

Those who hold that all memories of this world will be wiped clean cite the words of John.

Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." NKJV

It is their position that the former things will pass away speaking not only of the old earth and heaven but all memories of the past. How could we be totally free of pain, suffering and death unless we no longer have any remembrance of them? However, after taking a closer look at this passage in the original language I found that John was not calling for a complete erasure of our memories. What John is saying is that death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be absent in the new earth. The reason for their absence centers on the destruction of their causes, “the former things,” which will pass away along with the old world. With the causes gone, so also are the consequences. By removing these things from the new earth, he in essence dries every eye. However, this does not necessary mean we will no longer ever remember anything about the old world and our past. Let me give some additional reasons for this conclusion

1) We will never forget Christ’s work on the Cross: Would God take away from our minds the wondrous work and love that He showed by dying on the cross? If we are to eternally remember what our Lord did then we must eternally remember that we were sinners saved by grace. A part from some remembrance of the old world and man’s fall would we any longer recognize Him as the Savior of our souls? Note what Paul writes:

Ephesians 2:4-7, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" NKJV

The word Paul uses for "ages" literally means in the "eternity" to come. If I understand this correctly, God's saving work in which He took hopeless sinners and turned them into Saints worthy of a place in heaven will be an eternal testimony to all of His great grace. If we do not have some remembrance of who we were and what Christ did for us how could we fully appreciate our Lord and Savior? A couple of other passages all support this idea.

2 Timothy 2:10, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” NKJV

1 Peter 5:10-11, “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” NKJV

2) The eternal covenants of God: God made everlasting covenants with Israel and the Church. If they are of an eternal nature of what value are they if all remembrance of them passes away? For example, Genesis 17:8, 48:4 declares that God gave the land to Israel as an everlasting possession. What is the value of that promise if the Lord suddenly removes all remembrance of His promise and the significance of the land given?

Hebrews 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” NKJV

3) The division of distinct groups in Eternity: God makes a distinction between the Church Saints who live in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 9) and the Jews who receive the eternal inheritance of their land (Gen. 17:8) and the nations and their kings (Rev. 21:24-26; 22:2) who will inhabit the rest of the earth. What significance will there be if there is not some remembrance of what took place in the past that brought about this distinction?

4) The hope of the resurrection: According to 1 Thes. 4:13-18, one of the great hopes we have as Christians is that we will someday be restored with all family and friends who have gone to heaven before us. To me to have my memory erased of who were members of my family in this life and what they meant to me destroys the joy of this hope.

5) The Saints eternal rewards and inheritance: The rewards and inheritance that the Saints receive are eternal in nature.

Hebrews 9:15, “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” NKJV

Titus 3:7, “that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” NKJV

1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” NKJV

If the Saints memory of what those rewards and inheritance represents is erased, will they not also loose a great deal of their significance and value. It’s like winning the Super Bowl and getting the coveted Super Bowl ring. Then the player has an accident in which all past memory is suddenly gone. He still has the ring and it is nice to look at it, but the real meaning and value of that ring is now gone. It is now just a pretty ring and nothing more.

6) The lasting memorials: God intends for us to remember our roots as witnessed in the description of the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:12-15, “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” NKJV

The fact that God places the twelve names of the Tribes of Israel upon the gates and the names of the Apostles on the foundations is an indication God wanted the inhabitants of the new earth to perpetually remember them. To appreciate what these names represented one must also remember who they were and how God used them.

In conclusion, there are many mysteries yet to be revealed about the future new earth and heaven in which all the Saints will live. It is truly a future worth looking forward too! That is, of course, if you have placed your faith in the one and only Savior of mankind, Christ Jesus (Jn. 14:6). Many today are attempting to get to heaven through man made religion and good works but in doing so they will eventually perish for all eternity (John 3:18) in a place of great punishment and suffering. What do you look forward to the moment you die? If you have not put your faith in Christ Jesus, today is a great time to do so!