WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER AT DEATH? (PART 2 Of 2)

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DOES THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING ON THE EARTH?

Can the dead watch our every move, and do they think about us?

A) THOSE WHO BELIEVE THEY DO

Some people believe that the dead do indeed see what is happening here upon the earth. In other words, our dead loved ones know the intimate details as to what is taking place in our daily lives. The biblical arguments for this idea are as follows:

1) The Rich Man Could See Lazarus

The Scripture says that the rich man in Jesus’ story could see the dead beggar Lazarus in the unseen world. We read of this in Luke’s gospel:

“In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:23 NRSV).

Lazarus was visible to the rich man. The fact that the dead can see others apart from themselves may indicate the dead can view what the living are doing.

2) Abraham Knew Details Of The Life Of The Rich Man And Lazarus

Also in this account, we find that Abraham was aware of details of the life of the rich man as well as the beggar Lazarus. We read the following:

“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish’” (Luke 16:25 ESV).

Abraham knew that Lazarus had suffered while the rich man lived in comfort without any regard for the needs of others. The fact that he knew these details may give further indication that the dead know what the living are doing.

3) There Is A Cloud Of Witnesses Watching Us

The writer to the Hebrews says that the people who are presently living are surrounded by a number of witnesses. He put it this way:

“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1,2 CSB).

The witnesses are able to see the believers who are on the earth. Consequently, they know what is happening to us.

4) The Martyrs Knew What Happened On The Earth

The Bible says that the martyrs in heaven knew what was happening on the earth. We read of this in the Book of Revelation:

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:9-11 ESV).

They wanted to know how long it would take for victory to be granted, for their lives to be avenged. They were told to rest a while longer because the number of the future martyrs was still incomplete. It seems that they could only ask the question because they were observing events here upon the earth, or at the very least, knew what was going one.

In addition, the fact that they were told to rest a while longer further indicates they knew exactly what was happening on the earth. We also find that those in heaven were conscious that Satan was being defeated. Again, we read of this in the Book of Revelation. It says:

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God” (Revelation 12:10 ESV).

They knew Satan had been thrown out of heaven to the earth. We also find these believers in heaven rejoicing at the fall of Babylon. This is also revealed in the Book of Revelation. It says:

“But you, O heaven, rejoice over her fate. And you also rejoice, O holy people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her on your behalf” (Revelation 18:20 NLT).

These passages are thought to teach that dead can see the living or at least know what they are doing.

B) THOSE WHO BELIEVE THEY DON’T

While there are passages that seem to teach that the dead do indeed know what is happening to the living upon the earth, others feel the Scripture does not either teach, or imply, that the dead know what the living are doing. Indeed, they believe that there are better ways to understand these passages.

The main arguments which are given, that the dead do not know what is occurring on the earth, are as follows.

1) The Dead Do Not Know About This Life

To begin with, there seems to be a number of statements in Scripture about the dead not knowing what the living are presently doing.

In the Book of Job, we find that Job said that the father, who had died, did not know whether his sons were rich or poor. He states it in this manner:

“They never know if their sons grow up in honor or sink to insignificance” (Job 14:21 NLT).

Though this could refer to his present earthly knowledge, it may also apply to him in the afterlife.

However, this statement is found in the section of the Book of Job where Job and his friends are trying to determine why Job was suffering so greatly. Later, the Lord would call their discussion “words without knowledge.”

Consequently, we must be careful in using any statement from them to determine the truth of what goes on in the next life.

2) There Is No Knowledge In The Grave

The Book of Ecclesiastes also says the dead have neither knowledge nor wisdom of what is happening in this life. It says:

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV).

This passage teaches lack of knowledge on the part of the dead. This, however, may be speaking of things from a human or observational perspective.

From our vantage point here upon the earth, it appears that the dead do not know anything which is going on. Consequently, this passage should not be used to give a definitive answer to the question.

3) Abraham And Jacob Do Not Know What Is Presently Going On

From a passage in the Book of Isaiah we find that two of the patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob (Israel), do not know what is presently happening upon the earth. In other words, they have no knowledge as to what their descendants are doing. The passage read as follows:

“You are our Father. Even though Abraham doesn’t know us and Israel doesn’t pay attention to us, O LORD, you are our Father. Your name is our Defender From Everlasting” (Isaiah 63:16 God’s Word).

This is thought to be another indication that the dead have no knowledge of what is presently happening on the earth.

Again, this statement may only be speaking of something that could possibly happen; not necessarily something that does happen.

In addition, the passage says that Abraham and Israel may not acknowledge or pay attention to the people. This does not necessarily mean that they are unaware of them or what they are doing. Consequently this passage is not conclusive.

4) We Are Not Told That Lazarus Could See The Rich Man

In the account of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that the rich man could see Lazarus. However, we are not told that Lazarus could see the rich man. All this says is that unbelievers could see the believers, not the other way around.

In addition, it says nothing about seeing those on earth or knowing what they are doing. The rich man saw Lazarus in the realm of the dead, not the realm of the living.

5) Abraham Knew Details Of The Rich Man And Lazarus

Furthermore, in the account of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham, in heaven, knew of the earthly details of the lives of Lazarus and the rich man. This does not necessarily mean he could see them while they were living or that he was observing their lives.

6) The Cloud Of Witnesses Are Examples Of Faith

The witnesses that are referred to in the Book of Hebrews are the heroes of faith mentioned in Chapter 11. There is no thought whatsoever in this passage of them knowing what is presently occurring on earth.

7) There Is No More Pain In The Next World

The Bible says the presence of the Lord is a place where there is no suffering or pain for the believer. If, however, the dead in heaven could see what their loved ones are doing on earth, they certainly would be in pain. They would see many of their loved ones on a course to eternal separation from God.

This is certainly inconsistent with what the Bible says about the situation of believers in the afterlife; they are in constant joy and happiness.

8) The Exact Situation With The Martyrs In The Book Of Revelation Is Unclear

The only possible example that we have in Scripture of the dead in heaven knowing what is going on here upon the earth is found in Revelation 6:9-11. In this passage, the souls under the altar cry out for vengeance. Yet there are other explanations of this passage which do not indicate that the dead are watching those on the earth or knowing what people are doing.

Indeed, all we are told is that these martyrs realize that they have not yet have had their deaths avenged. Nothing more. We do not find anything said about their understanding of precise details of what is happening on the earth. They are merely lamenting the fact that the number of martyrs keeps increasing.

This of course would lead them to conclude that their deaths have not been avenged. To draw the conclusion that they can see what is happening on the earth is not warranted.

Consequently, while we have a number of arguments which may teach the dead do know what is presently occurring upon the earth there does not really seem to be enough evidence to make a conclusive case. In fact, when we examine the totality of Scripture the idea that the dead know what the living are doing seems unlikely.

On Final Point: There Should Be No Attempted Contact With The Dead

Even if one believes that the Bible does teach that the dead know what the living are doing, this should NEVER cause anyone to attempt to reach out and contact them. As we stressed in a previous question, any attempt to do so will result in deception. We again call to mind what the Lord said.

“So why are you trying to find out the future by consulting mediums and psychics? Do not listen to their whisperings and mutterings. Can the living find out the future from the dead? Why not ask your God? “Check their predictions against my testimony,” says the LORD. “If their predictions are different from mine, it is because there is no ight or truth in them” (Isaiah 8:19,20 NLT).

Therefore, even if one supposes that their dead loved one is watching them here upon the earth this should never be a justification of trying to talk to them. They can be of no help whatsoever to us. We are to talk to the Lord and to Him alone.

CONCLUSION

While there are seemingly some passages in Scripture that may indicate that the dead know what the living are doing there are other passages in Scripture that seem to contradict this idea. As far as we know on the earth, the dead know nothing. We know from other parts of Scripture that they are conscious in the next world.

It would seem to be inconsistent with the idea of total happiness in the afterlife if the dead know what the living were presently doing. How could they really enjoy the blessings of heaven if they were observing the living in their current state?

So, do the dead believers know what the living are doing? From the totality of Scripture we would have to conclude that this is highly unlikely.

Indeed, the Scriptures are clear that the dead cannot truthfully communicate with the living. God forbids this practice of attempting to contact the dead in the strongest of terms.

(Source: Don Stewart – What Happens One Second After We Die?)

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WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER AT DEATH? (PART 1 Of 2)

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Upon death, the soul, or spirit, of the believer goes immediately to be with the living God. Believers are alive and conscious in this state. In the Bible, there is no idea of a period of soul sleeping. The blessings of Christ are received immediately.

WHAT HAPPENS TO A BELIEVER IMMEDIATELY UPON DEATH?

The intermediate state for the believer is the time in which the spirit, or soul, exists between physical death and the resurrection of the body.

Though the Bible does not devote a lot of space to this topic, there are some basic conclusions we can make. They include the following.

1) The Spirits Of The Believing Dead Are With God

The spirits of departed believers are with the Lord. This Bible clearly teaches this. For example, we read in Ecclesiastes:

“The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 NIV).

The writer to the Hebrews also makes it plain. He wrote the following.

“You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge of all people. And you have come to the spirits of the redeemed in heaven who have now been made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23 NLT).

There are, at this moment, redeemed people in heaven. Their perfected spirits reside in the presence of the Lord while awaiting their resurrection from the dead.

Jesus also talked about believers being with Him in the next world. In His prayer to God the Father shortly before His betrayal, trial and death, He said the following:

“Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation” (John 17:24 CSB).

Jesus desired that those who had trusted in Him would be with Him in the afterlife. This is a further indication that the spirits of the believing dead are with the Lord.

2) Believers Are Immediately In Christ’s Presence At Death

We also discover that, at death, the spirit of the believer immediately enters into Christ’s presence. There are a number of illustrations of this in the New Testament.

The Criminal Next To Jesus

Jesus promised the dying criminal on the cross that he would be with Him immediately after death. Luke records the following:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV).

This promise also applies to each of us who believe. We will immediately be with Christ in paradise upon our deaths.

The Testimony Of Stephen: Jesus Is Waiting For Believers

Upon his death, the martyr Stephen called upon Jesus to receive his spirit. We read of this in the Book of Acts:

“But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:55-59 ESV).

This is another indication that the believing dead go immediately to be with Christ.

The Teaching Of The Apostle Paul

To The Corinthians, the Apostle Paul also taught that believers would be in Christ’s presence upon their death. He wrote:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling . . . We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1,2,8 NIV).

Paul said that being “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord.” The New Living Translation puts it this way:

“Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NLT).

To The Philippians Paul wrote::

“For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23 NKJV).

Paul says that his death would be far better for him than remaining alive because he would be in the presence of Christ.

The Example Of Lazarus In Jesus’ Story

In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, when the beggar Lazarus died, the Scripture says that he was immediately ushered into the presence of the Lord.

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side” (Luke 16:22,23 ESV).

The rich man in Hades saw both Lazarus and Abraham. Each was in a better place than the existence which he found himself. They were with the Lord!

Therefore, from these five examples, it seems clear that believers go to be immediately with the Lord upon their death.

3) The Intermediate State Is Not The Place Of Final Reward

Though there is an in-between state for believers, it is not the place of their final reward. In other words, it is an incomplete state. Final rewards will occur after the resurrection of the dead, which is still future. Though Christians who die go to be with the Lord, this is not the time when they receive their final reward, or their resurrection body. This is something which still awaits them in the future.

4) Believers Are Conscious After Death

Believers, however, are in a state of awareness after their death. Jesus told the religious leaders in His day that God was the God of the living, not of the dead. He reminded them what the Lord had said to Moses at the burning bush.

“I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is God not of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:32 NRSV).

At the time the Lord made that statement to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years. Yet God said that He “is” their God, not that He “was” their God. This means they were still alive in His presence though they had been physically dead for many years.

This is another indication that there is a conscious existence for the believer after death.

5) Believers Will Live Together With The Lord

Paul told the church at Thessalonica that believers, once united with the Lord, will always be with Him. He put it this way:

“He died for us so that we can live with him forever, whether we are dead or alive at the time of his return” (1 Thessalonians 5:10 NLT).

The wonderful promise is that believers will live together with the Lord for all of eternity.

6) The Intermediate State Is A Place Of Rest And Blessedness

We also find something else from Scripture. Those who die in Jesus Christ are in a restful state. The Bible says:

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: “O Lord, holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until [the number of] their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been, would be completed” (Revelation 6:9-11 CSB).

These martyrs, while in a restful state, needed to rest a little longer before the Lord avenged their death.

We also read that those with the Lord are said to be “blessed.” The Book of Revelation puts it this way:

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13 ESV).

The presence of the Lord is indeed a place of blessing.

7) There Is Activity In The Intermediate State

Though the intermediate state is a place of waiting, it is also a place of activity. We read about this in the Book of Revelation where it describes those believers who have died.

“That is why they are standing in front of the throne of God, serving him day and night in his Temple. And he who sits on the throne will live among them and shelter them” (Revelation 7:15 NLT).

The intermediate state does not consist of inactivity. In fact, it is a place of service.

8) It Is A Place Of Holiness

The believers who have died are presently in a state of holiness. In the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John asked an angel the identity of certain individuals. This angel gave the following answer to the prophet:

“And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14 NKJV).

The clothes that they are wearing, white robes, speak of holiness. They had been washed white with the blood of the lamb.

9) Spiritual Growth During The Intermediate State

While it may be possible for some type of growth or development in the in-between or intermediate state, the Bible is completely silent on the matter. We do not know, one way or the other, if there is any spiritual growth for the believing dead. If the Bible is silent then we should not speculate. We simply do not know the answer.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE INTERMEDIATE STATE

There are other observations that need to be made about the intermediate state. They can be summed up as follows.

1 There Is An Emphasis On The Final State

Though we have some information from the Bible concerning the intermediate state, it is not something that is emphasized. The hope of the believer is the coming of Jesus Christ. It is at that time the dead are raised in a glorified body, judged, and receive their rewards. The intermediate state is only a short interval between this life and the fullness of God’s promises. Hence, this is the reason for the lack of emphasis on the intermediate state.

2) There Is A Limited Amount Revealed

In addition, the Bible only reveals a limited amount of information about what goes on in the presence of the Lord. Paul wrote of his experience.

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know– God knows. And I know that this man– whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4 NIV).

We find from these verses that Paul was not allowed to tell what he had experienced. If we knew exactly how wonderful it was, we probably would not be content to remain on the earth for one more hour. Being with the Lord will truly be an incredible experience!

Although believers have a natural curiosity about the intermediate state, Scripture focuses on the time when Jesus Christ returns. At that time, He will raise and judge the dead, and then set up His everlasting kingdom.

The Lord will then bless His people with such wonderful things; things that our minds presently cannot even imagine.

DOES THE DEAD KNOW WHAT IS PRESENTLY HAPPENING ON THE EARTH?

Can the dead watch our every move, and do they think about us? These questions will be answered in part 2 of our series.

(Source: Don Stewart – What Happens One Second After We Die?)

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THE REALITY OF GOD’S WRATH

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The idea of a wrathful God goes against the wishful thinking of fallen human nature and is even a stumbling block to many Christians. Much contemporary evangelism talks only about abundant life in Christ, the joy and blessings of salvation, and the peace with God that faith in Christ brings. All of those benefits do result from true faith, but they are not the whole picture of God’s plan of salvation. The corollary truth of God’s judgment against sin and those who participate in it must also be heard.

For Paul, fear of eternal condemnation was the first motivation he offered for coming to Christ, the first pressure he applied to evil men. He was determined that they understand the reality of being under God’s wrath before he offered them the way of escape from it. That approach makes both logical and theological sense. A person cannot appreciate the wonder of God’s grace until he knows about the perfect demands of God’s law, and he cannot appreciate the fullness of God’s love for him until he knows something about the fierceness of God’s anger against his sinful failure to perfectly obey that law. He cannot appreciate God’s forgiveness until he knows about the eternal consequences of the sins that require a penalty and need forgiving.

Orgē (wrath) refers to a settled, determined indignation, not to the momentary, emotional, and often uncontrolled anger (thumos) to which human beings are prone.

God’s attributes are balanced in divine perfection. If He had no righteous anger and wrath, He would not be God, just as surely as He would not be God without His gracious love. He perfectly hates just as He perfectly loves, perfectly loving righteousness and perfectly hating evil (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1:9). One of the great tragedies of modern Christianity, including much of evangelicalism, is the failure to preach and teach the wrath of God and the condemnation it brings upon all with unforgiven sin. The truncated, sentimental gospel that is frequently presented today falls far short of the gospel that Jesus and the apostle Paul proclaimed.

Scripture, New Testament as well as Old, consistently emphasizes God’s righteous wrath.

The prophets spoke much of God’s wrath. Isaiah declared, “By the fury of the Lord of hosts the land is burned up, and the people are like fuel for the fire” (Isa. 9:19). Jeremiah proclaimed, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, My anger and My wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and on beast and on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground; and it will burn and not be quenched’” (Jer. 7:20). Through Ezekiel, God warned His people that “their silver and their gold [would] not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath

of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite, nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling” (Ezek. 7:19).

In many well-known ways God expressed His wrath against sinful mankind in past ages. In the days of Noah, He destroyed all mankind in the Flood, except for eight people (Gen. 6–7). Several generations after Noah, He confounded men’s language and scattered them around the earth for trying to build an idolatrous tower to heaven (Gen. 11:1–9). In the days of Abraham, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, with only Lot and his family escaping (Gen. 18–19). He destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the sea as they vainly pursued the Israelites to bring them back to Egypt (Ex. 14). He poured out His wrath against pagan kings such as Sennacherib (2 Kings 18–19), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4), and Belshazzar (Dan. 5). He even poured out His wrath against some of His own people—against King Nadab for doing “evil in the sight of the Lord, and [walking] in the way of his father and in his sin which he made Israel sin” (1 Kings 15:25–26) and against Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ brother and sister, for questioning Moses’ revelations from Him (Num. 12:1–10).

God’s wrath is just as clearly exhibited in the New Testament, both in reference to what He has already done and to what He will yet do at the end of the age. The gospel of John, which speaks so eloquently of God’s love and graciousness, also speaks powerfully of His anger and wrath. The comforting words “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” are followed closely by the warning “He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:16, 36).

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul focuses on God’s wrath, declaring, “God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (9:22). The apostle warned the Corinthians that anyone who did not love the Lord Jesus was to be eternally cursed (1 Cor. 16:22). He said to the Ephesians, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). He warned the Colossians that because of “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry, … the wrath of God will come” (Col. 3:5–6). He assured the persecuted Thessalonian believers that God would one day give them relief and that “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from

heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [He will deal] out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7–8).

A disease has to be recognized and identified before seeking a cure means anything. In the same way and for the same reason, Scripture reveals the bad news before the good news. God’s righteous judgment against sin is proclaimed before His gracious forgiveness of sin is offered. A person has no reason to seek salvation from sin if he does not know he is condemned by it. He has no reason to want spiritual life unless he realizes he is spiritually dead.

With the one exception of Jesus Christ, every human being since the Fall has been born condemned, because when Adam and Eve fell, the divine sentence against all sinners was passed. Paul therefore declared to the Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). He reminded the Ephesians: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:1–3).

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UNDERSTANDING THE NEW HEAVENS, NEW EARTH AND THE NEW JERUSALEM

There are many different interpretations about the New Heavens, New Earth and the New Jerusalem. Most of the opinions are based on speculation. The following merely provide the writers personal understanding:

GOD – THE BEGINNING AND THE END

Revelation 21:6a says, “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. ” The words “It is done” almost reminds of the last words of Christ on the cross when He said, “It is finished,” as we read in John 19:30. Christ achieved the redemptive purpose of God on the cross but here redemptive history finally ends.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 says, “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” As the last enemy, which is death, has now been abolished, Christ delivers up the Kingdom to God the Father.

God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. This is also repeated in Revelation 1:8 and in Revelation 22:13. He was in control in starting everything and He will be in control, ending everything. His sovereign purpose and plan with human history will be fulfilled.

HEAVEN FOR THE FAITHFUL

Heaven is spoken of 582 times in the KJV, 622 times in the NIV and 692 times in the NKJV. Of these, the word Heaven on average appears 54 times in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5 gives us a description of heaven.

Revelation 21:6b-8 makes it clear that not everybody would enter heaven. “I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.””

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 we also find a list of those who would not inherent the Kingdom and thus eternity, “ Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

In Galatians 5:19-21 we basically find a repeat, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

In Revelation 22:17 we find the last invitation in the Bible. “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

In Isaiah 55:1 we also read, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.” Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” John 4:13-14 is another great text, “ Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.””

But seeking salvation is not adequate to ensure entrance to heaven. We also need to live in faith in Christ to overcome the world. Already in Revelation 2:7 we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Revelation 3:5 also says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” 1 John 5:4-5 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

There will be no sin or ungodliness in heaven and everyone will be holy. Matthew 5:8 says we will see God, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Hebrews 12:14 confirms it, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

Revelation 21:27 puts it this way, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” In Revelation 22:14-15 it says, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”

Scripture actually describes three levels of heavens. The first heaven is the atmosphere around the earth and the air that we breathe. The second heaven is the stratospheric heaven, the heaven of the heavenly bodies such as the planets, the stars and the moons. In 2 Corinthians 12:2 Paul was taken up into the third heaven, the divine heaven where God dwells and where angels and believers are. Men like Enoch and Elijah already have their glorified bodies in heaven as they have been raptured.

Everything regarding our spiritual life and destiny is in heaven. Our Father, our Saviour, our Comforter, our citizenship and our reward are there. A true longing for heaven is evidence of true salvation and demonstrates one’s love for the Lord. The more we set our affections on the things above, the less likely we are to follow the things of the flesh. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.” Without the hope and anticipation of heaven and eternity there is very little reason and meaning to live for.

Christ is already preparing a place for us in heaven, the “New Jerusalem.” John 14:1-4 provides so much comfort for true believers, including the Tribulation saints. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

1 John 3:1-2 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

END OF THE PRESENT EARTH AND HEAVEN

Revelation 20:11 said, “I saw a Great White Throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them.”

Satan, the Antichrist, the false prophet and the ungodly are now in the eternal Lake of Fire. The entire universe has also been destroyed. In 2 Peter 3:7 we read, “But the present heavens and earth by His Word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgement and destruction of ungodly men.” The present heaven and earth will be uncreated simultaneously with the destruction of the ungodly.

CREATION OF A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH

“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (Isaiah 51:6,16)

God creates a New eternal dwelling place for the godly of all the ages, the angels and the four creatures. Not only will we have a New dwelling but also our glorified bodies!

Revelation 21:1-3 says, “Now I saw a New heaven and a New earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

The terminology of a New heaven and a New earth is borrowed from the Old Testament. Isaiah 65:17 says, “For behold, I create New heavens and a New earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” In Isaiah 66:22 we read, “For as the New heavens and the New earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “So shall your descendants and your name remain.”

In this instance, the use of the word “New” does not refer to the word “neos” which means New as in opposed to old. It relates to the ancient Greek word “kainos” which means New in quality. It is basically a replacement of the heaven and earth we now know. Psalm 102:26 says, “They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed.” Sin and death entered and corrupted the world and the universe and therefore, God has to wipe it out. Satan and his demons will never enter the New heaven and neither will sin enter the New earth.

Heaven will be the capital city within the infinity of the New heaven and the New earth.

HEAVEN COMING DOWN

In Hebrews 11:8-10 it says, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” He went to his temporary inheritance but was actually looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:13-16 speaks about the heavenly hope of all who lives in faith and in Hebrews 11:16 it refers to the heavenly city, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

In Hebrews 12:22-23 we read, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect.” Hebrews 13:14 says, “We do not here have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”

In the book of Revelation, we find the first reference to the New Jerusalem in Revelation 3:12. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My New name.”

This will be the eternal “holy city,” from where God will reign and where every single being would be holy. Revelation 20:6 of Revelation says, “Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection that takes people to heaven.”

Every Old Testament saint and everybody who died in Christ throughout the ages are already there in their spirits. The “New Jerusalem” is actually none other than the current third heaven spoken about earlier. The New heaven and a New earth will be a complete new universe and once it has been created, heaven will come down and completely fill the new universe. This is where all of the redeemed will live in the heavenly city, the “New Jerusalem.”

Revelation 21:10 says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God”

John MacArthur is of the opinion that even during the time of the Millennial Kingdom, we will go back and forth into the earth in glorified form and back to the holy city, the “New” Jerusalem. And then finally the holy city will become the capital city of eternity.

The city is like a bride because all of the redeemed are forever united to God and to the Lamb. In Revelation 21:2 we read that the “New” Jerusalem was “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” In Revelation 21:9 the angel said to John, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” The marriage between Christ and His bride is now entering its eternal stage. The citizens are the eternal bride of Christ, now enlarged beyond the raptured Church as it includes all of the redeemed throughout all ages, the Old Testament saints, the Tribulation saints, the redeemed remnant of Israel and everybody redeemed during the time of the Millennial Kingdom.

Revelation 21:3 says, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

The tabernacle is symbolically the Father’s house in the “New” Jerusalem in the midst of the redeemed.

This reminds of Leviticus 26:11-12 where God also once said to the Jews, “ I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” The difference is that there would now be no need for a temple or offerings, as seen in Revelation 21:22, as God and the Lamb are our Temple. “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

LIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” And that is exactly what we will experience in heaven.

In Revelation 21:4 we read these comforting words, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” There will not be any tests, trials, tribulations, heartaches, pain or any sad or bad things happening in heaven, as we experience in this current life on earth.

There will be no more pain because the healing promise in the atonement is fulfilled. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” These words do not only refer to spiritual healing but also to physical healing as we see in Matthew 8:17, “In order that He might fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah, He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”

In addition, Revelation 7:16 says, “ They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat”

Revelation 21:1 mentions that there will no longer be a sea. Currently, three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered with water in the oceans and on the land. This means that our glorified bodies would not be dependent on physical water. Revelation 22:1 says “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.” As there is no more sea which it could flow to, this also cannot be a river as we know it. Once again we cannot add our own views on this. All that the Bible teaches is that the water of life is as clear as crystal and comes down from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The water of life is symbolically of salvation, purity, holiness and eternal life flowing down through the city from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Psalm 46:4 said, “There is a river, the streams of which make glad the city of God.”

The greatest joy of heaven is not the beauty or the experience of praise and worship with reunited loved ones, to be with God as Christ and to have fellowship with Him.

In Revelation 22:3-5 it says there will also no longer be any curse. We will serve Him and have His name on our foreheads, marked as His personal possessions. “And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

We will reign with God, as Revelation 3:21 says, “To him who overcomes I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne.”

We will adore God and worship day and night as we read in all passages in Revelation which deal with heaven. Revelation 7:15 for example said, “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.”

Revelation 22:2 says, “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

The tree of life is another symbol and not a tree as we know one. In Genesis 2:9 God also spoke of a tree of life. “And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The tree of life was a symbol of eternal life and of blessing.

Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.” A righteous person produces a tree of life, which eventually leads to blessing, fulfilment, contentment, joy and happiness and this is exactly what heaven would be like.

The twelve kinds of fruit probably indicate that life will have a variety of good things. There will be praise and worship, singing and many other things, all for the glory of God. The reference to “months” could also indicate that our activities would be changing all the time. The healing leaves spoken of cannot relate to illness or pain as we learned that there would not be any sickness in heaven.

CHARACTERISTICS OF HEAVEN

Revelation 21:11 starts with the greatest characteristic of heaven as, “Having the glory of God.” God’s glory is who He is and He manifests His invisible spiritual attributes as light. Psalm 36:9 says, “In Thy light we see light.” In Psalm 104:2 we read, “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.” In Exodus 24:17 it says, “The appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.”

There will be no need for the sun or the moon to shine as the glory of God illumines it and the lamp is the Lamb as we read in Revelation 21:23-24a. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light” Revelation 22:5 says, “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

Isaiah also prophesied this in Isaiah 60:19. “No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light, but you will have the Lord for an everlasting light and your God for your glory.”

It literally says that heaven dwells within the very presence of God and Christ which literally fills the whole New heaven and New earth. God is already omnipresent right now, but currently Satan and his demons are still present in the universe.

Revelation 21:24 says, “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.” Some scholars see this as describing something in the Millennial Kingdom but it cannot be as the entire chapter is about the New heaven and the New earth which come after the Millennial Kingdom. The use of the word “nations” in this context basically refers to the redeemed from every tongue and tribe and nation who will all be walking in the light. Everybody will now be of the same tongue and tribe and nation with no division.

Some scholars see the reference to “the kings of the earth” as some structural hierarchy in heaven, but all of the redeemed would be at the same level. This most probably relates to rulers still being alive at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, taken into the New heavens and the New earth without going through death.

The light makes heaven astonishing beautiful and in Revelation 21:11, John says, “Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal”

Revelation 21:12-13 describes the outside of heaven. “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.”

To add anything to the literal meaning of these verses would be wild guessing, which is strictly prohibited in Revelation 22:18-19. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

It is a place with dimensions and it has an outer wall. Citizens can go in and out of it because it has gates. Revelation 21:21 mentions that the twelve gates were twelve pearls – each individual gate was of one pearl.

Heaven is clearly a place for believers under both the Old and the New covenant. Revelation 21:12 says that a name of one of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel was written on each gate. At all of the twelve gates, there would be an angel. These gates are placed in the same way that God will organize His people around the Millennial temple as described in Ezekiel 48. Furthermore, “the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones and on them were the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.” According to Ephesians 2:19-20 the Apostles are the foundation of the Church. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”

God is always measuring out what belongs to Him. In Ezekiel 40 to 48 it gives a description of the Millennial temple and in Ezekiel 40:3 God is measuring it. In Revelation 11:1 John referred to the Tribulation temple when he said, “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.” Now Revelation 21:15 mentions that the angel “had a gold measuring rod to measure the city and its gates and its wall.”

The city is laid out as a square as all sides and angels are equal. In Revelation 21:16 we see that it is measured out as about 1500 miles cubed. When God gave orders for the building of the holy place in the tabernacle and the temple on earth, it was also a cube. It was the same with Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 6:20.

It says that the wall is about 18 inches or 216 feet which is rather short and most probably refers to its width. The wall was made of jasper and the city was pure gold like clear glass. Just imagine how great this should be as not even the gold currently here on earth is like clear glass. This is unique.

The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. Eight of these twelve stones are found in the breastplate of the high priest as seen in Exodus 28 and Exodus 39. The brilliant colours of these stones through which the light of God’s glory is shining must be indescribably beautiful.

In Revelation 21:25 we see that the gates will never be closed as there will never be night and heaven is a place of rest, safety and security. The same is said in Isaiah 60:11. “Your 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.” (Isaiah 60:11)

JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH

There is often confusion as some scholars interpret Ezekiel 40-48 as referring to the same holy city as the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. Jehovah-Shammah is a Christian transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “Jehovah is there.” It is the name given to the city in Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 48:35. Here is a comparison, indicating that Ezekiel actually spoke about Jerusalem during the Millennial reign.

New Jerusalem / Jehovah Shammah

1) 12 gates named after Israel (Revelation 21:12)/ 12 gates named after Israel (Ezekiel 48:30)
2) 12 foundations named for Apostles (Revelation 21:14)/ Foundation not described
3) 1500 miles square and tall (Revelation 21:16)/ One mile square (Ezekiel 48:30)
4) Coming Down from heaven (Revelation 21:2)/Located in Israel on Earth (Ezekiel 40:2)
5) No Temple. God and the Lamb are its Temple (Revelation 21:22)/ Temple just north of the city (Ezekiel 40:2)
6) No sin; nothing impure can enter (Revelation 21:27)/Daily sin offerings in the Temple (Ezekiel 45:13-15,17)
7) No more death (Revelation 21:4)/Still death (Ezekiel 44:25 also Isaiah 65:20)
No natural beings. Only the perfected (21:27)/ Natural Beings (Ezekiel 46:16)

(Main source of external influence: The teachings of John MacArthur)

SAINTS IN HEAVEN AT THE BEMA SEAT

This is actually just a short extraction from my forthcoming book, “ON THAT DAY … LEAST EXPECTED.”

What happened to John in Revelation 4:1 is symbolic of the rapture. “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

He is called to heaven in his vision, just like Paul said the believers will (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He also heard a voice like the sound of a trumpet, that said: “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

This also happened to Paul about 40 years earlier, when he was taken to the Throne of God (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). However, Paul was not allowed to give detail, while John was instructed to record everything he saw.

Revelation 4-5 plays off in heaven, around the throne of God. Revelation 4:1 starts with John’s words “After these things….” which refer to the things following the dispensation era of the church on earth. While the glorified Church finds itself in heaven (Revelation 4-5), horrific events are taking place on earth during the seven year tribulation period (Revelation 6 to 19).

In Revelation 4:2-4 and Revelation 21:11, John compares the excellence and brightness of God to the most radiant precious stones. Sardius has a deep red shade and symbolises the precious blood of the Lamb. The green rainbow around the throne indicates the promise of eternal life that we have in the Lord Jesus. The never-ending circle points to eternity, while green is the colour of life.

“ Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns[b] of gold on their heads.” (Revelation 4:4).

The twenty-four elders represent the Church. They sit on thrones, which indicate that they reign with Christ. It is repeatedly said that the church will rule and reign with Christ (Revelation 2:26-27, Revelation 5:10, Revelation 20:4; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30). The number 24 has special significance. In 1 Chronicles 24, king David appointed 24 families to the priestly ministry in the temple. In 1 Peter 2:9 every believer in the New Testament is called to a “royal priesthood.”

The 24 elders identify themselves beyond any doubt when they fall down before the Lamb in worship: “You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). All the members of the body of Christ will gather around the throne to participate in the Lord’s judgement over the world during the tribulation period (1 Corinthians 6:2).

Some suggest that they are angelic beings but nowhere in the Bible do angels ever rule or sit on thrones. The Greek word translated as “elders” is also never used to refer to angels, who do not age. Their mode of dress would also indicate these are men. While angels do appear in white, white garments are more commonly found on believers, symbolizing Christ’s righteousness imputed to us at salvation (Revelation 3:5,18; Revelation 19:8).

Crowns are also not promised to angels, but to believers. The word translated “crown” refers to the victor’s crown, worn by those who have successfully completed the race, as Christ promised (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12).

The twenty-four elders can also not represent Israel as Israel as a whole nation had not yet been redeemed. Neither can they represent the tribulation saints.

The seven-fold Spirit of God (Revelation 4:5), is an Old Testament idiom for the Holy Spirit. The sea of glass was characterized on Earth by the bronze laver or wash- basin that stood outside the Holy Place. It symbolizes God’s Word. On Earth, we wash in His Word (Ephesians 5:26). In Heaven, we “stand on it.”

The four cherubim (Revelation 4:6-8) who guard the throne of God are the same cherubim as in Ezekiel’s vision of God’s Throne. They all have four faces, namely a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. Isaiah does however not describe their faces at all.

Only Christ is worthy to break the seals and to open the book. (Revelation 5:5-6) When the seals are opened the most violent judgements of all times will be poured out upon the earth.

Judgement seat of the righteous

The redeemed is not condemned and will not be standing before the Great White Throne but at the bema seat.

John 5:24 says. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” In John 3:18 Christ said to Nicodemus, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” In Romans 8:1 Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

In Revelation, Jesus said to each of the seven churches, “I know your works…”

After the Rapture has taken place, the redeemed will appear before the bema seat of Christ. The judgement of believers is to determine their rewards and should not be confused with the White Throne judgement of unbelievers after the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.

“…we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ… So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rome 14:10, 12).

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

In this context, the word “bad” actually relates to worthlesness of some of the works that were done after repentance. The works of believers will be tested by the fire of His judgement. In a parable in Luke 19:11-27, Jesus also referred to the day when the redeemed will have to give account of their lives.

“…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:8-16).

The basis of judgement

The redeemed will not be judged on the basis of the presence or absence of faith in their lives as they have all been saved through grace alone by faith alone and that is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states that we are saved by faith, without works. It is the fruit we bear and our works of faith that will be tested.

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Crowns

The redeemed will be awarded crowns at the judgement seat of Christ, for works produced with eternal value under the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

The following crowns are promised to those who remained faithful:

1. The imperishable crown for a holy life

“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
“And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

2. The crown for soul-winners

The great commission that Christ gave to His disciples is to preach the Gospel to all creation.

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). For those who lead other people to Christ, the crown of rejoicing is promised.

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

3. The crown of glory for faithful pastors

“The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lamp stands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands which you saw are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).

The preacher is likened to an angel. “And of the angels He says: Who makes His angels [serving] spirits and His ministers a flame of fire” (Hebrews 1:7).

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).

4. The crown of life for Christian martyrs

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). To the martyrs He said “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Included in the category of martyrs are those who were persecuted by fellow men, suffered trials, testing, afflictions and temptation.

“Blessed in the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

5. The crown for those who love His appearing

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may conform to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

Paul fought the good fight of faith in proclaiming God’s kingdom in a heathen world, while also expressing his strong expectation of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE?

GLORIFICATION

The doctrine of glorification is the end, the purpose, the goal and the objective of everything that God is doing, has done, and will do in redemptive history. Like Abraham, as Christians we are vagabonds on the earth. This is not our real home and we are rather looking for heaven, of which maker God is and has eternal foundations. This should be an all-consuming passion for us.

So-called Christians today seem to have a rather diminished interest in the things of heaven. They have a sort of self-esteeming, Narcissistic materialistic man-cantered approach to the Christian faith and a minimal understanding of all that is prepared for those who are God’s. They do not have a grip on the wonderful demand that is laid upon us in Colossians 3 to set our affections on things above and not on things on the earth. Not only is hell missing in our evangelical curriculum, but so is heaven.

Hope that is seen is not hope. We were saved in hope and we should live eagerly in anticipation of the fulfillment of that hope. That, of course, is referring to our heavenly hope. We should be pursuing, as Paul did, the prize that awaits us in the upward call.

If you think about heaven, our Father is there, our Savior is there, our redeemed family is there, our names are written there, our life is there, our inheritage is there, our citizenship is there, our reward is there, our treasures are there, our eternal peace is there, eternal satisfaction, and eternal joy.

People are called to believe in Jesus today for strange reason like wealth or to boost the numbers of heads in the congregation. But the issue is to believe in Jesus to escape hell and enter heaven. There really is no promise that when you believe in Jesus you will never again have anxiety, emptiness, sorrow, or trouble. On the other hand, often the unconverted also seem to have more interest and more curiosity about whatever comes after death than believers do.

1 Peter chapter 1 gives us a good basic understanding of glorification. Verse 13 says, “Fix your hope, set your hope completely.” Do not put your hope on anything in this world. If you have hope in this life only, you are miserable. “Fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Upon the appearing of Jesus Christ or your meeting Him when you have died, when He is fully disclosed to you, you will be given the greatest gift of grace and that is eternal perfection in heaven. Future grace, which is final grace. It is just as much grace as your redemption, regeneration, conversion or justification was grace. It is just as much grace as your sanctification is grace as God continues to shape you through the Spirit of God into the image of His Son Jesus Christ even though you are sinful. Your future glorification is the greatest and consummate act of grace.

It is in the process of coming about. One way to look at that is in John chapter 14 where Jesus was preparing to leave this world, and said to His disciples, “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I’ll come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you may be also.”

God is in the process of getting heaven ready for every individual believer. God is working that plan out even now, preparing you for your final grace and preparing heaven for when you arrive. This grace is our promised glorification.

In the book of Romans, we read that salvation actually broken down into three parts, justification (the time when you have believed and were saved from the penalty of sin), sanctification (the ongoing process by which God delivers you from the power of sin), and the final element of salvation, when you are delivered forever from the presence of sin.

Now let us look at future glorification. What are the components that bring this about? Number one, death, as the Apostle Paul says, “O death, where is your sting? O grave, or death, where is your victory?” Jesus Christ conquered death both for Himself and for all who believe in Him. And therefore the sting of death which is sin is removed. And so we do not fear death, we anticipate death. You enter into this glorification through death. The wages of sin is death and we all died spiritually in Adam and we all became susceptible to physical death because of Adam’s sin. Death is every man’s penalty for sin. It is appointed unto man once to die, as explained in Hebrews chapter 9.

NOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I DIE?

Your physical mortal body is corruptible and stays on earth and decays, dust to dust. The soul goes on into eternity because the soul is eternal. Once God creates a living soul, that soul lives forever. Neither the believer nor the unbeliever is simply just going out of existence. That is true of even angels. Fallen angels are doomed to an eternal Lake of Fire and holy angels are to enjoy the bliss of heaven forever. The wicked will live forever in hell and the righteous will live forever in heaven.

Immediately that the consciously goes into eternity in the condition that will never change. There is no remediation going on or a place where you can go and kind of make up for your sins. Nobody can even pray for your souls to be saved at this point.

In Revelation 14:13 it said, “I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on that they may rest from their labors but their deeds follow with them.'” Whatever you are in life is exactly what follows you forever in eternity.

The death of the unsaved is horrific. It is described that way all throughout the Bible. The death of the wicked is a tragedy because it is eternal. Proverbs 11:7, “When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish and his hope will perish.” There is nothing to look forward to, nothing to hope for, perpetual sin and wickedness without relief. In Proverbs 14:32, the wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.

The death of the wicked is called the second death in Revelation 21:8. The death of the wicked means eternal punishment, as mentioned in Matthew 25:46 and elsewhere. Eternal destruction from the face of the Lord, 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Mark 3:29, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin.” A sin that perpetuates itself everlastingly. The death of the wicked is described as casting them into an eternal Lake of Fire, Matthew 25, Revelation 20, casting them into an abyss or a pit, casting them into outer darkness, Matthew 8:12, torment in Revelation 14. The death of the wicked puts them under the wrath of God, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Romans 2:5, where the anguish will produce everlasting weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, back to Matthew 8:12. This is then physical, spiritual and eternal death.

Now, on the other hand, the death of the righteous is only physical. The righteous has a refuge when he dies. That refuge, of course, the presence of God. It is not spiritual for they have spiritual life permanently. And so when the Bible describes the death of the righteous, it calls it eternal life, eternal rest, eternal glory, eternal peace, eternal joy, eternal communion with God in a state of ever-expanding bliss. In fact, the death of the righteous catapults them into what the Bible calls paradise. It is a kind of perfection, a kind of longing. It is something that we would love to see.
To the thief on the cross, in Luke 23, Jesus says, “Today you shall be with Me in paradise.” The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:4 says, “I was caught up in to paradise.” The Apostle Paul went into paradise after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He went there, heard inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak. It was a place of indescribable glory, joy and satisfaction.

In the letter to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2, verse 7, John says, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to believers, to Christians, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life which is in the paradise of God.” The overcomer is the one who puts his faith in Jesus, John tells us in the fifth chapter of his first epistle.

We also learn from Revelation 2:7 that in the paradise of God is the Tree of Life. If you follow that to chapter 22 in Revelation, you are going to run into the Tree of Life again. Chapter 22 verse 1, “He showed me, this is a glimpse of the final heaven, the new heaven and the new earth, the final glorious heaven of heavens…he says it has a river of the water of life, clear as crystal coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street on either side of the river was the Tree of Life.” Here the Tree of Life is in heaven of heavens, the holy city, the capital of the eternal state.

For Christians death is glorious, eternal gain. Apostle Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He said, “I would rather depart and be with Christ for that is very much better, yet I’ll remain here if it’s necessary for your sake.”

WHAT IS LIKE BEING IN HEAVEN?

The Bible describes it as deliverance from all sin, all trouble, all pride, all lust, all temptation, all care, anxiety, disappointment, fear, labor, suffering, sorrow, weariness and more. it is perfect holiness, perfect purity, perfect happiness, perfect satisfaction, perfect honor, perfect dignity, perfect freedom to enjoy everything that God has prepared. And especially, perfect love given to God and to all who are in His presence and perfect love received from God and all who are in His presence. Therefore perfect fellowship with God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the holy angels and all the saints. And it’s even more than that, as much as glorified humanity can be like incarnate deity we will be like Christ. First John 3:2, “When we see Him we will be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” The Bible says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for them that love Him.” It’s really incomprehensible.

So we do not fear death because death is not the end, it is the beginning. Death is not a sad event; death is a joyous event because this is what ushers us into that which God has prepared for us to enjoy forever.

THE RAPTURE AND OUR GLORIFIED BODIES

A few people don’t die. I mean, really a few. Enoch did not die, he took a walk with God one day and walked right into His presence, so says Genesis 5:24. Hebrews 11:5 comments on it as well. Elijah did not die; a chariot came out of heaven, picked him up, and took him to heaven. Pretty rare.

Now apart from those, there will be some others who will not die and they are described in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Verse 15, “We say this to you by the Word of the Lord that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord … will not precede those who have fallen asleep, for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, with a trumpet of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” The first thing that is going to happen is that the dead bodies of believers are going to come out of the grave and then, verse 17, “We who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and thus shall we always be with the Lord.” This is the Church of Jesus Christ alive at the time when the Lord raptures His redeemed Church. He will gather the bodies of those who have already died and then He will collect those who are alive and take them to heaven.

On the way up there will be a total transformation. In 1 Corinthians 15: 51, Paul says, “I tell you a mystery, we shall not all sleep … but we shall all be changed.” When the Rapture takes place, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised imperishable, or incorruptible, and the ones who are alive, we shall be changed. And this perishable will become imperishable, and this mortal will become immortal.

THE SEPARATED STATE

Body and soul are separated. The body is in the grave and the soul or the spirit is with the Lord for the believer. The body to dust and the spirit to God.

In Acts 7, Stephen is being crushed under the stones of those who are murdering him. As he was stoned he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He knew there was no intermediate state. He knew that his spirit was going immediately into the presence of the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1, “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 5:8 he said, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” No middle place. So when a believer dies, instantaneously they are in the presence of the Lord. Until the resurrection, the soul exists without a body.

Heaven is the place of the spirits of righteous men made perfect. Revelation 6:9 pictures the Tribulation, it says, “Under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God and they were crying out with a loud voice, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true will You refrain from judgment in avenging our blood?'” So here you have souls praying, spirits occupying heaven, the bodies are not yet there.

So heaven right now is filled with the spirits of the just who have been justified by faith and are now perfect in the presence of God. In the dimension of heaven there is no time.

RESURRECTION OF THE SAINTS

The spirits and the souls now in the presence of the Lord, enjoying all the full perfection that a spirit can enjoy, are still not complete because they do not have their bodies. Romans 8:23 says that there Is a groaning among us, waiting for the redemption of our body. There will actually be a body. Paul says, “This corruptible shall put on incorruption. This mortal shall put on immortality.”

THE RESURRECTED BODY OF THE SAINTS

Now in the New Testament we get a bit of a description of what the body is going to be like for the righteous, while we have no description of the body for the unrighteous. Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Look at verse 21, “who will transform the body of our humble state.” Our bodies will be transformed, metamorphosed into conformity with the body of His glory. So the way to understand the body of our glory is that it will be like the body of His glory, it will be like His resurrection body. Jesus moved around, went through walls and through doors that were shut. He could speak, He could move, He could be touched and even the scars that He had from the cross could be seen and felt. He ate. This is the glorious body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

JUDGEMENT AND REWARD OF THE SAINTS

Preservative against temptation. Listen to the testimony of the Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians chapter 5, we have as our ambition whether at home or absent to be pleasing to Him for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (not the White Throne Judgment) and there we will be recompensed for what we’ve done whether it’s good or useless, our works are going to be burned up as wood, hay, stubble, or they’re going to be preserved like gold, silver, precious stones.

The saints are going to face a judgment and a time of reward, not condemnation.

RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED

Right now the dead wicked are suffering in their spirit and in their soul without their resurrection bodies. But Jesus said in John 5:28, “Do not marvel at this, an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice.” Jesus had the power to give life to the bodies of all who have died in the history of the world and all will come forth. Some to a resurrection of judgment.

Bodies of the the souls that are damned will dwell. In Revelation 20, it is described that there will be a Great White Throne judgement, which is the final judgment of the wicked. Verse 11, “Saw a great throne,” says John, “Him who sat upon it from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.”

“And brought before that throne,” it says, “are the dead, the great, the small, that’s the significant, the insignificant, standing before the throne, books were opened, another book was opened, the Book of Life, and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds, the sea gave up the dead which were in it.” All the bodies of the wicked that have ever died will have to be newly created by God. They will all be judged and thrown into the Lake of Fire. There will need to be a kind of glorified human body to go along with the damned soul so that the tortures of hell are fully felt for the unregenerate.

In Acts 24:15, Paul said, “There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” For the righteous, a new body fit for glory. For the wicked, a new body fit for suffering, remorse and sin.

The Old Testament saints new about it. Job said, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God whom I shall see for myself and not another.” In Daniel chapter 12 there is a wonderful prophetic promise of the coming resurrection of the Old Testament saints and many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

THE FIRST RESSURECTION

Now the Bible describes this as the first resurrection. And the first resurrection actually has four components. First of all is the primacy of the resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “In Him we live, because He lives we live.” The resurrection that we receive comes through the power of Christ demonstrated in His own resurrection and of all who would ever be raised, He is the prototokos, the premier one. So the first phase, the first feature of the first resurrection is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Secondly comes the Rapture of the church. This is imminent, it could happen at any time and no prophetic things need to take place before this. We live in expectation. As reference; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4:13 to 17, and John 14:1 to 6. At that point, the dead in Christ in the church will be raised and they will receive their glorified bodies and those who are alive at that time will be metamorphosed on the way up in a split second.

The third component will be at the end of a period called the Great Tribulation, a seven-year period of divine judgment in the world that follows the Rapture of the church. At the end of the seven-year period will come the resurrection of the Old Testament saints as prophesied in Daniel chapter 12. It comes at the end of the time of Tribulation and it comes immediately preceding the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. If you follow the flow of the prophetic literature of the Old Testament, you know that the resurrection of the Old Testament saints is in preparation for the glory of the Messiah which will be revealed in the world. At that time also Tribulation saints will be resurrected, who died under the reign and the terror of Antichrist. And any who are alive will go in their physical body right into the final element, the millennial kingdom. And anyone who dies in the millennial kingdom would be instantly metamorphosed, instantly transformed. There will be no resurrection to wait for.

After that at the end of the millennial kingdom there will be a rebellion by Satan. Satan’s rebellion is eliminated immediately by the Lord Himself and all the wicked are judged and Satan and his hosts and all those who followed him are cast into the Lake of Fire. God at that point destroys the creation, the Great White Throne takes place and then He creates a new heaven and the new earth, the final dwelling place of the glorified embodied righteous spirits. This is the final grace. This is the future grace.

If you go through your life and don’t expect much, then you’ll have less disappointment. To wish for heaven is to love God above all and to desire Christ above all. To wish for heaven is to long for pure fellowship. To wish for heaven is to hate sin and the weakness of the flesh. To wish for heaven is to resent Satan and his world system. To wish for heaven is to long for perfect holiness and perfect joy. Set your affections on things above, certainly not on things on this earth, and you will say with John, Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I’m coming quickly,” Jesus said, “behold I’m coming quickly,” verse 20 again, “I’m coming quickly.” And Johns says, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”

First John 3 says, “He that has this hope purifies himself, even as He is pure.” It has a purifying effect to live in excited anticipation that you are going to see Jesus face-to-face knowing that He knows everything about you.

The world is going to be full of trouble, but listen to what it says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Second Corinthians 4:16, “We do not lose heart … because the inner man is being renewed day by day.” How do you do that? “Because momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” The more they do to me, the bigger the weight of glory becomes. The more I am faithful and the more I am persecuted and abused and the more I suffer for the gospel, the greater will be my eternal glory. We look not at the things which are seen but at the things that are not seen for the things that are seen are temporal, the things which are not seen are eternal.

David said it this way, “I will be satisfied when I awake in Thy likeness.” “The bride eyes not her garment but her dear bridegroom’s face. I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace. Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand, the Lamb is all the glory of Emmanuel’s land.”