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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Future of the Believer

New Jerusalem

by Dennis Pollock

If you are in Christ Jesus, the Bible reveals that you have an incredible future. Not just a pleasant future, not merely some nice prospects of a slight improvement in your situation, but an amazing, spectacular, astounding, marvelous, beyond-belief future. The Bible declares that no eye has seen nor has any ear heard, nor has it entered into the imagination of the most positive and optimistic dreamers who ever dreamed, the beautiful and eternal existence that awaits those who love Jesus. And yet the inspired Scriptures go on to say that these things are revealed to us by the Spirit of God. No, He doesn't give us all the details, but the Holy Spirit has included enough in the word of God to encourage us when we become weary, and to uplift us when depression tries to clamp its icy fingers around our heart.

The essence of the Christian hope is summed up in the concept of Heaven. Those who reject the gospel often try to make light of heaven. Here are a few quotes from some folks who apparently didn't take heaven too seriously:

  1. My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with. -- Oprah Winfrey
  2. Whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse. -- Isaac Asimov
  3. In heaven, all the interesting people are missing. -- Friedrich Nietzsche
  4. Go to heaven for the climate, and hell for the company. -- Mark Twain

Of course we might expect as much from unbelievers. But strangely Heaven barely gets honorable mention in many churches these days. A Time Magazine cover story made the point that hardly any modern mainline minister ever preaches about heaven any more. The writer observed, “Heaven is AWOL from most churches.” A United Methodist spokesman called heaven too controversial to discuss. A Washington preacher considered the matter of heaven to be a geographical issue undeserving of his attention. Many pastors feel that their congregations want answers for their here and now problems and struggles, and that preaching about heaven would be irrelevant and boring to most people.

Testimony of the Scriptures

The New Testament is replete with references to an afterlife for those who put their trust in Christ:

  1. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.'' (Philippians 3:20)
  2. "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name." (Matthew 6:9)
  3. "But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:20)

It would seem that God feels an accurate and solid view of Heaven is good for you. To think about your future with God in eternity is not wasteful pie-in-the-sky daydreaming; it is as healthy to your spirit as fruits and vegetables are to your body. C. S. Lewis put it eloquently: "Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither."

On the Other Side

The question which men and women have always grappled with, and which the Bible plainly addresses is this: “What happens when you die?” We know all about what happens before people die. In every biography of great men and women we learn of their last days: what they said, what they did, the disease that finally took their lives, and so on. Some die with a great and profound declaration on their lips and others die saying something as mundane as, “I don’t feel so good.” The monstrous dictator, Joseph Stalin, died just after looking up toward the ceiling with a look of horror on his face, pointing at some unseen terror. John Wesley died shortly after saying, “Best of all, the Lord is with us.” Most of us who have sat by the bedside of a dying parent have vivid memories of what they said and did in their final moments. But once death occurs a curtain is drawn. What were their first experiences after death? Who did they see; what did they do, how did they feel? Philosophers, theologians, religious leaders, and others have made suggestions and offered possibilities, but how can we be sure that they are correct?

Christians believe the answer to this mystery can be found in the pages of the Bible. Let us start with the words of the apostle Paul, a man who by his own admission was “caught up to the third heaven” at one point in his extraordinary life and ministry. Paul had a lively and passionate desire to go to heaven and he makes his reasons quite clear, writing: "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). In Philippians he writes: “For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Strangely, Paul’s great desire for heaven was not so that he could escape the beatings, harassment, and reproaches of his persecutors. Nor did he yearn for heaven so that he could see his Mama or Uncle Bob. Paul was eager to go to heaven so that he might be with Jesus his Lord, who had so captured his heart and transformed his life. This should be the attitude of every Christian. And from these words we learn that upon our death, we shall immediately be with Jesus. There will be no “sleeping of the soul,” no long period of unconsciousness. One moment we will be staring into the concerned and saddened faces of our loves ones; the next moment we shall behold the smiling and loving face of our Savior. This is the glorious future of every man, woman, and child who has experienced the new birth and then passes over the chasm of death into that abode Jesus has prepared for us.

Jesus on the mountainIn Revelation we learn that Heaven is a place of comfort and consolation. We are told: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). Interestingly, the Bible teaches us that our first experience of heaven will not be our final state in eternity. When Grandpa died and went to be with Jesus, it was his spirit that ascended into the heavenly realm. His body stayed behind, to be buried or cremated. After a funeral service, the body was placed in the ground, or the ashes scattered somewhere, and we had a meal together with our loved ones, eating potato salad and trusting that our departed loved one was happy and well. And if he died in Christ, so he was and is. But Grandpa is not quite complete. Although his spirit is in heaven, God intends to eventually raise Grandpa’s body from the grave and re-clothe him with that body, albeit in a much improved and perfected version. Jesus is called the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20), which means that there must be something more to come. If there is a "firstfruits" there must also be a "lastfruits." Jesus’ resurrection was the prototype, a demonstration of the resurrection of all believers on the day of Christ.

A Physical and Tangible Eternal Home

Jesus declares: “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…” (John 5:28, 29). This will be the ultimate state of the believer. We shall be clothed in perfect bodies no longer susceptible to the weaknesses and miseries of our present bodies. We learn this from the “no more” promise of Revelation: “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

This is clear proof of the tangible nature of eternity for the believer. We will have physical bodies, and therefore there must be a physical universe in which we will live. We will not be disembodied spirits sitting on clouds, playing harps, bored to tears, and wishing we could have our old lives back. A resurrection of our bodies would be meaningless unless we were to live in a physical world of some kind. The bodies we will possess will be similar to our present ones, but certain features will be missing. The sin nature, that inner urge to do wrong with which we struggle all our lives will be entirely eradicated. We will no longer struggle to live upright lives; righteousness will be perfectly natural to us. Secondly we shall experience no sickness, weakness, aging, or death. We will look and feel as strong and fit at one billion years of age as we did on that first resurrection day.

Not only will we receive new and improved bodies; we shall be given a brand-spanking new home in which to live. Peter writes: “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). In the book of Revelation, John sees a vision of this, and writes, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). With all the sin, sadness, pain, misery, tears, and bloodshed that has stained and defiled our present earth, God will see fit to do away with it altogether and replace it with a new one where there will never be a single tear or a solitary drop of blood to ever fall upon it.

As Roman soldiers drove heavy nails through the hands of Jesus and hung him on a cross, God was creating a way for you to enjoy this incredible eternal abode we call Heaven. Hanging by those nails Jesus took our sins, and paid for our forgiveness. Three days later the Holy Spirit infused His body with life and God raised Him from the dead, guaranteeing divine justification and a reservation in Heaven to all who will receive Jesus by faith.

A Myth about Heaven

The most persistent myth about heaven is that we will sing constantly there, non-stop, 24/7. This sounds pretty spiritual, but if most of us were completely honest, a never-ending songfest, lasting throughout eternity is not really our idea of paradise. But when people read in Revelation of praise and worship, they often assume that singing will be our primary task there. However the Bible does not say that we will sing forever. In Revelation 22 we read, “And they shall reign forever and ever.” We are destined to reign with Jesus Christ over a redeemed world and universe. We do not know all that this will entail, but it surely means more than a song service that never concludes. Men and women were designed to work, to accomplish tasks, and to take pleasure and satisfaction in the fulfillment of them. When Adam and Eve were created they were put in a garden and given work to do. God never commanded them to sing songs to Him all day long, every day. Paul writes, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12). Not “We shall sing with Him,” but “We shall reign with Him.”

The best way to picture our eternal state is to imagine what our nation would be like if certain things were missing. Picture the United States (or Kenya or India, or your own nation) if there were no crime at all – no thieves, no bullies, no rapists, no embezzlers. Now add to this picture by removing all sickness. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, birth defects, and every other sickness and physical malady are gone forever. Hospitals are all torn down or converted to museums. Now take away tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and create a mild climate with perfect rainfall all year round. Remove depression, anger, quarrels, misunderstandings, and loneliness. Such is the heavenly home Jesus has prepared for those who trust in Him and follow Him. Now add to that the very presence of Jesus, living and ruling in our midst. And stretch this out to last for a trillion, trillion years, which will make up merely the introductory phase, for in truth it shall continue forever and ever.

Sounds a little outlandish, doesn’t it? And yet Jesus, the ultimate Expert and Authority on all things eternal has assured us that this is precisely the future that awaits those who belong to Him. Believing this, let us follow Paul's admonition: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

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