All people have a resolved future and eternity under the authority of Jesus Christ. We cannot see it’s establishment completely; but our God does. (Isaiah 46:9-10)
As I said in this Sunday’s message, we may find ourselves in conflict or confusion with what the Bible reads about the future and eternity. Yet, our faith assures us that God can be trusted; that we and our families can follow Him without fear of what’s to come.
The message from this week focused on the facts of eternity. I set these as the things we know for sure. What we know about the future and eternity should thoroughly change how we live now. (Romans 1:20-21)
We know that people are going to live forever; either with Jesus in eternal life or apart from Jesus in destruction. We believe that eternal life is “heaven” and and eternal destruction is “hell”; real places of permanent existence.
Much can be said about heaven and hell from exploring popular views to what the Bible actually says. So on Sunday, to be brief, I handled these subjects in a fairly light fashion. Here I’ll go into a bit more detail about heaven and hell and give you some resources to help you expand upon these subjects.
In order to better understand heaven and hell, we must step back from the everyday and think about the grander story being shown to us.
Think of it this way…
God’s story about “the people of earth” has a beginning, middle and end. God’s story answers the big questions we have about our origin, life’s purpose, it’s meaning and our destiny.
In the beginning God created a family with the intention of loving and serving His children who’d love and serve Him by choice. He didn’t want robots. He didn’t want love or obedience by demand.
Choice (or free will) has it’s consequences. God knew people’s free will would cause brokenness in the world. All of His created people would be lost in the chaos and fracture of their choices. He knew we would need to be rescued in order for His vision of family to come to life.
So God provided His Son Jesus Christ. The only way for us to be saved.
Today, we find ourselves in the midst of a world wide rescue effort. The message and love of Jesus is resounding throughout God’s creation. Those who respond, are saved, those who don’t remain lost.
Those who are saved enjoy, in life on earth, a pre-cursor of the vision of God’s family to come eternally. This is just the beginning for the true Church. Those who ultimately reject God are now experiencing all of God’s family vision they ever will. God is graceful and just to all people in both their acceptance or rejection of Him. Yet, there’s still work to be done; there’s still time for people to accept Jesus.
In the end, God will close this narrative by realizing His vision of family. Those who’ve accepted Him will be welcomed to His presence forever. Those who’ve rejected Him, will not.
While the rescue is happening now, those who pass from this earth having accepted Jesus Christ are present with God until the rescue effort has ended. (This is the current heaven, Luke 16:22-24, 23:43, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8)
Those who pass from life now having rejected Jesus are held, in conscious torment, until the time when the rescue effort has ended. (This is the current “hell” or “sheol” as in the Old Testament, Luke 16:22-24, Proverbs 30:16)
Once the rescue effort has ended; when God finally realizes His dream of loving and serving a family that loves and serves Him willingly, all will be recreated and resurrected.
God will bring forth a new heaven and new earth. Unlike it is now, the connection between the two will be without boundary. God’s presence, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be with His Church in a place made specially for us to exist and thrive forever with Him. (This is the eternal Heaven and Earth, Revelation 21:1-4)
What about those who’ve rejected God?
Tragically, they will be cast into eternal destruction. An everlasting torment reserved for Satan (a real angel who rejected God with no possibility of redemption) and his angels. It’s described as a lake of fire, a place where pain and suffering exist forever. (This is eternal Hell, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9, Revelation 20:10-15)
When we are in the everyday mode of life, heaven may not seem appealing compared to life here and hell may not make much sense in light of a loving God. The questions of our origin, purpose, meaning and destiny fade to the background when the normalcy of life blocks our vision. When we step back and look at the big picture, then the future and eternity, heaven and hell, become clearer as we consider God’s work from beginning to end.