TBU: The Bible Unpacked: Comprehensive Edition

II. The Afterlife

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Chapter 15  Part II

The Afterlife

The believer’s hope is largely based on God’s wonderful promises for his people concerning the afterlife, the life begun by their resurrection from death. At the center of these promises is the final, everlasting phase of God’s relationship with his people. In contrast to these wonderful promises are the teachings about the horrific eternity that the ungodly face.

The New Creation

The Bible speaks of the present heavens and earth passing away. Correspondingly, the Bible says that God will create new heavens and a new earth – a key part of which appears to be the new Jerusalem, where God and Jesus Christ will dwell with their people. In association, God will renew all things. See also the introductory comments below on: . . . The devastation of the heavens and earth in association with God’s judgment of the wicked; and God’s people will live in the new Jerusalem.

The present heavens and earth will pass away . . .

Matt 24:35  [Jesus:] Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.  NET

. . . The devastation of the heavens and earth in association with God’s judgment of the wicked

2Pet 3:7, 10-12  [Peter, to believers:] Now by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire and are being kept for the day when ungodly people will be judged and destroyed. … 10But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. On that day the heavens will disappear with a roaring sound, the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be exposed. 11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, think of the kind of holy and godly people you ought to be 12as you look forward to and hasten the coming of the day of God, by which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved and the elements will melt with fire.  ISV

God will create new heavens and a new earth

2Pet 3:13  [Peter, to believers:] But, according to his [God’s] promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides.  NET

Commentators differ on whether Scripture speaks of the creation of an entirely different heaven and earth, or a renewal of the old heaven and earth. The former seems the more likely, with the previous subsections seemingly supporting this view. However the verses in the following subsection could be interpreted to support the latter. In either case, this new creation will be free of any corruption – moral or otherwise – and will exist in harmony with God.

God will renew all things

Matt 19:28  Jesus said to them [his disciples], “I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  NET

Rom 8:20-21  For the creation was subjected to futility – not willingly but because of God who subjected it – in hope 21that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children.  NET

The “glorious freedom” (v. 21) would appear to encompass freedom from decay and anything harmful.

God’s people will live in the new Jerusalem

Rev 21:2, 27  [John, describing a vision:] And I saw the holy city – the new Jerusalem – descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. … 27 …but nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.  NET

Note that a number of other verses in the remainder of this chapter are also from Revelation 21-22 (cf. Rev 21:10-11, 23-26 ⇓), in which John describes a vision of the new Jerusalem.

Note: The new Jerusalem is linked with the renewed Jerusalem prophesied in the OT

Rev 21:23-26  [John, describing a vision:] And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.  ESV

This speaks of the new Jerusalem. The following passage from Isaiah speaks of the future renewed Jerusalem prophesied in the OT. The striking parallels here – and in a number of other references – suggest a correlation between the two cities. See also the introductory comment on God’s Plans for Israel.

Isa 60:3, 11, 19  And nations shall come to your [Jerusalem] light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.11Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.19The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.  ESV

 Questions for Section A

Eternal Life

As God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, God will also raise his people

1Cor 6:14  [Paul, to believers:] Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power.  NET

On Jesus Christ’s return, their bodies will be made imperishable, glorious and spiritual – like Christ

1Cor 15:42-44, 49-52  [Paul, to believers:] It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown [one’s natural body] is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.49And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], let us also bear the image of the man of heaven [Christ]. 50Now this is what I am saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I will tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed  -52 in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  NET

Note that the “last trumpet” (v. 52) is one which will sound to announce Christ’s return.

God’s people will be given eternal life

Jude 1:21  [Jude, to believers:] Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the Lord Jesus Christ with his mercy to give you life forever.  NCV™

Eternal life transcends physical death and precludes eternal spiritual death . . .

John 11:25-26  Jesus said to her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, 26and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  NET

In v. 25 “dies” refers to physical death, whereas in v. 26 “never die” speaks of never being subject to eternal spiritual death – i.e. destruction in hell.

. . . There will be no more death for God’s people

Luke 20:36  Nor can they die anymore, because they are like the angels and, since they share in the resurrection, are God’s children.  ISV

1Cor 15:26, 53-55  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”  ESV

God’s people will have the right to the tree of life and the water of life

Rev 22:14, 17b  Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. … 17 … And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge.  NET

Being given access to “the tree of life” (cf. Gen 2:9; 3:22) and being able to drink from “the water of life” signify being given eternal life.

God’s people will have accompanying eternal blessings

1Pet 1:3-4  [Peter, to believers:] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, …  ESV

 Questions for Section B

The Heavenly State of God’s People

God’s people will enter the kingdom of God . . .

Acts 14:22b  Paul and Barnabas told them [believers], “We must suffer a lot to enter the kingdom of God.”  GW

. . . and they will inherit the kingdom

Matt 25:34  Then the king [Christ] will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  NET

Believers will inherit the kingdom of God. As such they will participate in it (as reflected in the previous subsection) in a fuller sense than they do now, and it will be their domain.

God’s people will be in heaven . . .

John 14:2-3  [Jesus, to his disciples:] There are many rooms in my Father’s house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am.  NCV™

In v. 2, “my Father’s house” is a reference to heaven. As mentioned earlier, God’s people will dwell in the new Jerusalem. Although this is spoken of as “coming down out of heaven” (Rev 3:12; 21:2, 10) it also appears to be closely connected with heaven, perhaps in some sense a manifestation of it. For the verses in this and the following subsection appear to suggest that in the afterlife God’s people will be in heaven.

. . . Heaven is where their reward is kept

Matt 5:12a  [Jesus, to those who would follow him:] Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven!  GW

Matt 6:20  But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  NET

God’s people will be made perfect

Phil 3:12  [Paul:] Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me.  NET

Paul implies that believers will be made perfect.

God’s people will have glory

1Pet 5:1b, 4  [Peter, to believers:] I make this appeal as a spiritual leader who also witnessed Christ’s sufferings and will share in the glory that will be revealed. … … 4Then, when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.  GW

God’s people will have great joy . . .

Jude 1:24  [Jude, to believers:] Now to him [God] who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, …  ESV

. . . There will be no more sorrow

Rev 21:4  He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more – or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.  NET

Note: The salvation and redemption of God’s people will be fully realized

1Pet 1:5  [Peter, to believers:] Through faith you are being protected by God’s power for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the end of time.  ISV

Luke 21:28  But when these things begin to happen [signs of the end of the age], stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.  NET

In accordance with the teachings in the subsections above and in the previous section – Eternal Life – the above verses (1Pet 1:5; Luke 21:28) indicate that the salvation and redemption of God’s people will come to fulfillment in the afterlife, at the end of this age. The following section – Being with God – further reflects on what will be involved.

 Questions for Section C

Being with God

God will dwell with his people

Rev 21:3  [John, describing a vision:] And I heard a loud voice from the throne [of God], saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God.  NCV™

Note that this speaks of the ultimate fulfillment of one of the key aspects or aims of God’s relationship with his people throughout history – that they be his people and he be their God.

God’s people will see God

Rev 22:4  They will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads.  NCV™

God’s people will be with Jesus Christ

1Thes 4:17b  [Paul, to believers:] And so we will always be with the Lord.  NET

God’s people will have God’s and Jesus Christ’s names written on them

Rev 3:12  [Jesus Christ:] The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well.  NET

Having God’s and Jesus Christ’s names written on them will identify those who conquer or overcome worldly opposition (i.e. faithful believers) as belonging to God and Jesus Christ – forever. As such, it is also indicative of the fact that believers will forever be with God and Jesus Christ.

God’s people will share in God’s and Jesus Christ’s glory

1Thes 2:12  [Paul, to believers:] We encouraged you, we comforted you, and we kept urging you to live the kind of life that pleases God, who calls you to share in his own Kingdom and glory.  GNT

Rom 8:17  [Paul, to believers:] Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him; for if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his glory.  GNT

God’s people will praise God . . .

Rev 19:5-7  [John, describing a vision:] Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God all you his servants, and all you who fear Him, both the small and the great!” 6Then I heard what sounded like the voice of a vast throng, like the roar of many waters and like loud crashes of thunder. They were shouting: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the All–Powerful, reigns! 7Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.  NET

Presumably such praise of God will continue throughout eternity.

. . . and God’s people will serve God

Rev 7:15  [John, speaking of believers in heaven:] For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple, and the one seated on the throne will shelter them.  NET

 Questions for Section D

The Punishment for the Ungodly

The ungodly face God’s wrath . . .

Rom 2:5  [Paul, addressing self-righteous readers:] But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!  NET

. . . The ungodly face destruction

Phil 3:18-19  [Paul, to believers:] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  ESV

The ungodly will be separated from God and Jesus Christ – shut out from the holy city

Matt 7:21, 23  [Jesus:] Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. … 23Then I will declare to them [ones who do not do God’s will], ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!  NET

Rev 22:14-15  Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city [the new Jerusalem] by the gates. 15Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoral, and the murderers, and the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood!  NET

The ungodly will be thrown into fire

Rev 20:14-15  [John, describing a vision:] Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death – the lake of fire. 15If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.  NET

There will be darkness and torment

Matt 22:13  Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’  NET

The punishment given to the man in this parable is indicative of hell.

The punishment is eternal

Matt 25:46  And these [unrighteous people] will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.  NET

Note: There will be varying degrees of punishment

Matt 11:23-24  [Jesus:] And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be thrown down to Hades! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Sodom, it would have continued to this day. 24But I tell you, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!  NET

Mark 12:40  They [teachers of the law] devour widows’ property, and as a show make long prayers. These men will receive a more severe punishment.  NET

 Questions for Section E

Pray for persecuted Christians