Jesus and the future: Heaven and hell (Part 11)

After Christ’s return and Judgment Day, the eternal states of heaven and hell begin.  Let’s look at descriptions of hell first.

In hell,  unbelievers will experience damnation and eternal separation from God in both body and soul. Hell is pictured as a place of weeping and gnashing teeth (Matthew 8:12), where both body and soul will be tormented and destroyed (Revelation 14:11; Matthew 10:28). Yet what’s worse, beyond this emotional and physical torment, is the total separation from God for all time.

2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 declares, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” No one can comprehend total separation from God, because everyone has the blessings of His creation here on earth.

For example, we have family and friends. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus said, “‘He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’” What’s more, the Spirit, the Good News, and the Church are accessible to all. But no more after Judgment Day; unbelievers will be totally separated from God then. Imperfect beings cannot be in a Perfect Being’s presence. But there is a way to be with God—through the Way, Jesus (John 14:6). No one comes to the Father except through Him.

The eternal state of the new heaven and new earth was promised in Isaiah 65:17. “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” The old heaven and earth, corrupted by sin, “will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21). It will be destroyed by fire, according to 2 Peter 3:12-13. “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

The Creator will destroy His creation by fire. This could mean raining down fire such as Sodom and Gomorrah experienced, or splitting His creation’s atoms apart, like the process of fission releases energy. In any event, the main point is this: God and man are face to face again in the “home of righteousness.” And Jesus brings us to that home.

Christ said in John 14:2-3, “‘In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’” This will be a state of exaltation, where believers’ souls and bodies are with God in heaven for eternity. Because we are in God’s presence, heaven will be perfect. Nothing impure will ever enter it, because death and the devil are destroyed (Revelation 20:10; 21:27). Revelation 7:15-17 describes it beautifully:

They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Pictured as a wedding banquet (Matthew 25:10), heaven is a celebration of Jesus’ rescue of His bride, the Church. Revelation 19:6-7 says, “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Both Old and New Testament passages (Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:32) portray the intimate relationship between God and His people as a bride and groom. That’s why earthly marriage will no longer be necessary—we will be focused on God alone (Matthew 22:30). Yet not focusing on God and what He has revealed is exactly why some will not be saved.

 

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July 16, 2014

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