By Gary Ray Branscome
The words, These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal, tell us that after the last judgment, the righteous [those whose sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ, compare Romans 10:4 with 1John 1:7] will enter into eternal life (Matthew 25:46). Now the words, Today you will be with me in paradise, tell us that those who trust in Christ begin that eternal life at death (Luke 23:43). However, after the resurrection and final judgment they begin eternal life with their resurrected and glorified bodies. Of that life we are told that there will be, A new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). And, of that existence we are told, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes; and there will be no more death, or sorrow, or crying, neither will there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:3-4).
The words, We rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and the words, God, who is rich in mercy has raised us up together with Him, and made us sit with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, give us a glimpse of what God has in store for those who are saved (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:6). Paul says, I desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better (Philippians 1:23). John says of those who are with Christ, They will never again hunger, nor will they thirst; nor will the sun beat down on them (Revelation 7:16), for, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4). The Psalmist writes, In your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Psalm 16:11). And, Jesus prayed, I also want those, whom you have given me, to be with me where I am; and to see my glory, the glory that you have given me: because you loved me before the creation of the world (John 7:24). In short, The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). All of those statements tell us of the glory and blessedness that God has waiting for those who trust in Christ.
At the same time, the words, We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom that God ordained before the world to our glory, tell us that these truths cannot be known apart from Divine Revelation (1Corinthians 2:7). As it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those who love him (1Corinthians 2:9). For that reason, the truth that God has revealed to us in Scripture should never be confounded with the twisted and distorted ideas about the soul and heaven held by pagan philosophers and unbelievers. On the contrary, the Bible warns us that, The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and that, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25).
Although the heathen have always speculated about the immortality of the soul and life after death, all of their speculation is at best only a caricature of the truth. The sensual heaven of the Moslems and Mormons has more in common with sexual fantasy than the glory God has prepared for those who love Him. The Bible plainly says, In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are as the angels of God in heaven (Matthew 22:30). Furthermore, all who hope to gain eternal life apart from faith in Christ are deluding themselves. The words of the Apostle Paul, Strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, tell us that there is no hope of Salvation among the heathen (Ephesians 2:12; see Acts 4:12). Also, the words, Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this world? Hasnt God made the wisdom of this world foolish? tell us that there is more eternal wisdom in the heart of those who trust in Christ, than in all of the unbelieving philosophers (1Corinthians 1:20).
Historically, seeing God has been described as a beatific vision, that is, a seeing that is inseparable from supreme bliss. The words, You will show me the path of life: in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore, equate all the joy and pleasure of heaven with Gods presence (Psalm 16:11). The words of Job, After the skin worms have destroyed this body, yet in my flesh I will see God: Whom I will see for myself, my eyes will see him, not the eyes of someone else; though my reins are consumed within me, tell us that he believed in the resurrection and equated seeing God with salvation (Job 19:25-27). Christ said, Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God (Matthew 5:8). However, the words, Moses said, I beseech you, show me your glory But He [God] said, You cannot see my face: for no man shall see me and live, make it clear that no sinner can ever see God and live (Exodus 33:18-20). And no sinner ever shall! The words of the Psalmist, I will behold your face in righteousness: I will be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness, tell us that when the saved see God no sin will remain in them (Psalm 17:15). Furthermore, the words, What we are going to be like has not yet been revealed: however we know that, when He [Christ] appears, we will be like him; for we will see him as He is, tell us that we will be transformed by seeing Christ (1John 3:2). Therefore, seeing God involves far more than just seeing Him with our eyes.
In this life we only see God through His Word, a seeing that Scripture describes as, Like a dim reflection on a glass, but, as Paul puts it, Then we will see face to face: now I know in part; but then I will know even as I am known (1Corinthians 13:12). All who see God, having been cleansed of sin through the blood of the Lamb will never again hunger, nor will they thirst; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat, because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will feed them, and will lead them to fountains of living water: and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:14, 16, 17). And, because the devil who deceived them will be thrown into the lake of fire there will never again be any spiritual foe to interfere with their bliss (Revelation 20:10).
The heavenly blessing that all Christian believers will enjoy consists not only of the fact that we will never again have to experience the suffering brought on by sin, but also of great joy and pleasures for evermore in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11).
Concerning the things that we will never again suffer, Isaiah says, The Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth (Isaiah 25:8). And, again, They will not hunger or thirst; nor will the heat or sun strike them: for He who has mercy on them will lead them, and guide them to the springs of water (Isaiah 49:10). In the book of Hosea we read, I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are your plagues; O grave, where is your destruction (Hosea 13:14). [See also Rev. 21:4; 1Cor. 15:26 and 55-57; Rev. 2:7, 11; Rev. 7:16-17; Matt. 22, 30.]
Concerning the positive blessings of heaven, the words, We know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away, tell us that our intellect will be enlightened (1Corinthians 13:9-10). The words, Who will transform our vile bodies, and make them like His glorified body, tell us that sin will be removed from our nature (Philippians 3:21). The words, When the dead rise. The body that is sown in corruption; is raised in incorruption, it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power, it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. As there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body, also speak of our resurrection body (1Corinthians 15:42-44). The words, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, assure us that our spiritual bodies will be incorruptible and immortal (1Corinthians 15:52-53). And, the words, To give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for grief, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, tell us of the beauty, joy and happiness that will belong to all who are saved through faith in Christ (Isaiah 61:3).
In addition to all of those blessings, we will dwell in the presence of God which is the greatest blessing of all. The words, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men, and He will live with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them, and be their God, tell us that God will dwell among us (Revelation 21:3). Jesus said, If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back, and take you with me; so that where I am, you may be also, and If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him (John 14:3, John 12:26). The Apostle Paul said, We have courage, and would prefer to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord (2Corinthians 5:8). In the book of Hebrews we read, You have come to mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels (Hebrews 12:22). And, the words, So shall we ever be with the Lord, tell us that we will never cease to be in Gods presence (1Thessalonians 4:17). [See Luke 23:43, John 17:24, Phil. 1:23, Matt.8:11, Luke 13:29.]
Because all who are saved through faith in Christ will dwell in Gods presence, they will all be equally happy and blessed in every way. However, the words, Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens; and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever, seem to indicate that there will be degrees of glory (Daniel 12:3). The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-23) may also indicate this, however, the words, Whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life, (John 3:16) tell us that no one who trusts in Christ will ever be cast into outer darkness: where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). Regarding this, there is much that we do not know, but we do know that there will be no envy among the saved for sin will no longer be part of our nature.
While the Bible portrays heaven as a place, (John 14:2) we should not think of it as a physical place. Because God created the physical universe, He transcends the universe. At the same time, because He is present everywhere angels are in His presence even when they are doing His will on earth, and Christ was in heaven at the same time He was on earth. As it is written, No one has ascended up to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, even the Son of man who is in heaven (John 3:13). And, again, The angel said, I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19). [See Matt. 18:10.]
Because it is only those who are justified through faith in Jesus Christ who are saved, ministers need to be faithful to their calling lest any be lost through neglect. Moreover, Because Christians often endure hardship and persecution in this world, we all need to keep our eyes on Christ, and the promise of eternal life that is ours through His death burial and resurrection. Walking in that faith we have Gods own assurance that He will keep us by His grace. As it is written, What shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am convinced, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39) [See John 3:36, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:47, Acts 26:18, Ezek. 3:18-19, 2Tim. 2:23-26 and 4:1-2, 1Tim. 4:15-16, Matt. 18:15-17, 1Cor. 5.]
ALL GLORY TO GOD ALONE
If you have found understanding in the pages of this book, and been blessed by reading it, know that the wisdom it imparts was not revealed to me because I am especially wise, but to help you to grow in faith and understanding. I am just an ordinary believer that has spent many years in prayerful study of Gods Word. [See Daniel 2:30.]
Gary Ray Branscome