Great Days in History (Part 7): The Day of Eternity

Great Days in History

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

In the previous lesson we discussed the final day when the Lord will return in judgment. But what happens after life on earth is over? Let us consider what the Bible teaches about the day of eternity.

The Background

This world will be destroyed – As we noticed in the previous lesson, the Lord is returning for a final day of judgment in order to judge the world. Regarding this day, Jesus said, “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another” (Matthew 25:32). After the judgment, the wicked will “go away into eternal punishment” and the righteous will go “into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The wicked will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15) and “God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” where we will “always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17).

We can see from the passages above that the eternal destination for both the righteous and the wicked will be somewhere other than this world. The reason for this is because this world will no longer be here. Notice what Peter wrote:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

This world is not changing when the Lord returns; it will cease to exist. With this, time will also cease. Time began on the day of Creation (Genesis 1:1-5). However, God – the Creator – is eternal: “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2). Before the first day, He had already existed without beginning from eternity. When this world is destroyed, all will return to this existence beyond the bounds of time.

Our bodies will be changed – When Paul wrote to the saints in Corinth about the resurrection, he explained, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Since life after the judgment will last for eternity and our bodies – in their present state – are not designed to last that long, they will have to be changed. Paul continued:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54).

While John acknowledged that “it has not appeared as yet what we will be,” he assured us that when the Lord returns “we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2). Even the wicked will have bodies that have been changed since “their torment” will last “forever and ever” (Revelation 14:11) in the place where the “worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). Once we reach the day of eternity, our bodies will have been changed into a state which will be suited for those surroundings.

Where we spend eternity will depend upon how we have lived our lives – We discussed this in more detail in the previous lesson. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). Will we do “good deeds” or “evil deeds” while here on the earth?

The Events on That Day

The wicked will face eternal torment – In describing the fate of those who would be punished by the Lord when He returns, Paul wrote, “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Jude explained that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah served as “an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Some have the misguided notion that hell can be enjoyed. They think of it as the domain of Satan; therefore, since the devil tempts us with things we might enjoy in this life, they believe we will find enjoyment there. However, hell is not the domain of Satan. Paul described the devil as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). His domain is here, not in hell. Hell has been prepared not as a place for Satan to rule, but for him to be punished. Jesus explained that this place of “eternal fire” had been “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

There is no reason for us to want to go to this place of punishment – not even for the company. Many rationalize that they should prefer to go to hell because their friends and family will be there. However, Jesus told of a rich man who found himself in a place of torment after death and he wanted to send a message to his brothers to warn them not to come to the same place (Luke 16:27-28). The prospect of being in that place with his loved ones was no comfort to him.

The righteous will be in the presence of God – After “the dead in Christ…rise,” Paul said that those “who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The promise of being with God for eternity was something that would provide “comfort” for the brethren in Thessalonica and for us today. John described the scene in heaven as a place of paradise in the presence of God:

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).

When the righteous reach this home with the Lord, they will be comforted after enduring all of the hardships of this life: “And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

The righteous will enjoy rest – John wrote, “And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Write, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!”’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ’so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them’” (Revelation 14:13). However, the fact that those who “die in the Lord” will enjoy “rest” implies that we are to be working for the Lord now. Those who belong to the Lord are to be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

Key Lessons

God will reward those who follow Him – As we have already seen, those who “die in the Lord” are blessed because “their deeds follow with them” (Revelation 14:13). These are the ones who have practiced “good deeds” leading to “a resurrection of life” (John 5:29). Those who follow the Lord will be rewarded by Him.

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26).

Jesus told His disciples, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). This promise was not just to the ones who would be commissioned as His apostles. Rather, this promise is for all of us. Jesus is “to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). The Hebrew writer also said, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We must have faith that the Lord will reward us with an eternal home in heaven with Him.

God will punish those who refuse to follow Him – In describing the final judgment against the wicked, Paul explained that Jesus will return “dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Throughout the Old Testament, God has shown His willingness and ability to punish those who were disobedient. Paul highlighted several examples of this with God’s own people when he wrote to the church in Corinth:

Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ’The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:5-11).

Since God is willing and able to punish those who do not submit to His will, we must fear Him. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Right now, God is being patient with us, giving us time to make our lives right with Him. He is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

However, we need to be sure we are taking advantage of His patience. There is a temptation to respond to God’s longsuffering with a casual attitude toward sin, concluding that we will always have time later to make corrections. Yet Paul warned, “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). We are not to “continue in sin so that grace may increase,” but instead we must “consider [ourselves] to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:1, 11).

This is for eternity – As we discussed in the previous lesson, judgment is final (Matthew 25:46). Whatever hardships we face in this life are short by comparison. Paul wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Despite the severe hardships Paul faced in this life (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), he was able to refer to all of these things as “light affliction” in view of eternity.

Whatever pleasure we experience from sin is fleeting. Moses recognized this and, therefore, was willing to “endure ill-treatment with the people of God [rather] than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Because everything in this life is temporary, we must not allow anything in this life (good or bad) to hinder us from serving the Lord.

This has always been God’s plan – God chose to redeem a people for Himself “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). The sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which was necessary in order to redeem us from sin, was likewise known beforehand. John referred to Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, KJV). Before time began, God’s intention was to have a people with Him for eternity.

We usually think of this world’s history as being so long and vast, yet it is just a blip in God’s eternal purpose. As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus about “the mystery” that was given to him “by revelation,” (Ephesians 3:3), he explained that God’s “eternal purpose [was] carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11). Many people think of God’s purpose being to bless them in this life. While He certainly does bless us here (cf. Acts 14:16-17; James 1:17), the Scriptures teach that His plan since the beginning has been to deliver us through this life on earth into eternal life in heaven.

Conclusion

We think of everything in this life in terms of time (when, how long, until, etc.). Yet time is temporary. There is a day of eternity that awaits us. No matter what happens in our time on earth, we need to make sure we are preparing for what is coming next.


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