One reasons why believers don’t eagerly look forward to eternity is because they see it as one eternal church service. And while there will be, without question, the greatest of worship experiences, eternity contains so much more as we return to paradise.
“Won’t it be great to live forever in heaven with Jesus?” This question was posed by Mrs. Slater who labored each Sunday to try and teach us junior boys something. We boys, however, did not share her enthusiasm for eternity because we thought it would just be a lot of singing and things like that. The thought of an eternal church service was not particularly attractive to those of us who had a real tough time with services that went beyond and an hour and ten minutes.
We were, of course, immature boys. But it is somewhat surprising that many older Christians do not appear to have advanced much beyond that perception of Mrs. Slater’s junior boys.
The Two Phases of the Future Kingdom of God
The Scriptures are clear that when the Lord Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming that no creature (angel or man) will ever again usurp His ruling authority. At that time, the future kingdom of God is in place and it is there permanently. As Daniel expressed it in Daniel 2:44:
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.”
What Daniel did not know, but what later scriptures explained, was that while God’s kingdom is forever, it will have two distinct phases to it.
(1) PHASE ONE – THE MESSIANIC (Millennial) KINGDOM. This first phase is necessary in order to fulfill the Covenant that God made with Abraham. What God promised, He has yet to fulfill. It is required that Messiah reign in order that those many unfulfilled promises be fulfilled. The characteristics of this Messianic kingdom are found in abundance in the O.T. prophets and it will be an incredible period of time. It is the N.T., however, where we informed that this phase of the future kingdom of God will last for 1,000 years.
(2) PHASE TWO – THE ETERNAL KINGDOM. Once the reign of King Jesus is completed, He will turn ruling authority over to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24) and the final resurrection and the final judgments take place. These events then prepare everyone for the final, forever phase of the kingdom. It is this phase that we want to highlight in this article.
Six Facts About the Eternal Phase of the Future Kingdom of God
The Apostle Paul’s statement is true that all of our earthly knowledge and experiences do not make clear “all that God has prepared for them who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9). But there are some truths found in our Bibles that let us in on something of what it will be like in eternity.
(1) OUR BODIES WILL BE CHANGED AND MADE MATURE. Sickness, disease and many kinds of limitations are the common experience of people today. These experiences are not at all what God originally designed when He created our physical bodies. In eternity we will have bodies that have been changed. The Apostle Paul reflects the desire of us all when he says in Romans 8:23,
“And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
Our bodies will be made like the body that Jesus had at His resurrection. He is called the “first fruits” which means that His body is the “proto-type” of our bodies. Looking at Luke 24, which recounts two resurrection appearances to the disciples, gives us some insights into what that body will be like. Our bodies will be like His; mature and free from any deficiencies. There will be no physical illness, no mental or emotional retardation or deficiency. This perfect body will live forever, never dying.
(2) THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH WILL BE MADE NEW. God created a beautiful, perfect, physical world for people to live in (Gen. 1, 2). There was no sin, death, curse or imperfection of any kind until the Fall. Revelation 21:1 declares that God is going to create a “new” heaven and a “new” earth. This word emphasizes the fact that it is a “fresh” version of what was created before. The reason for the “new” heaven and earth is the same as the original one; that is, it is the dwelling place for people. Eternity will apparently be spent on the new earth. We are going back to paradise. God’s original plan was absolutely excellent and He is going to restore everything that was lost in the Fall. Apparently the one thing about the new earth that John wants us to know is that “there is no longer any sea.” What does that mean? We are used to a world where 70% is covered by water. Apparently that is not what the original earth looked like. We would understand that much of the present water is the result of God’s judgment with the flood of Noah’s day.
(3) OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD WILL BE CHANGED. We will experience a level of fellowship and relationship with the Lord God that we (even in our best moments) have never experienced. It will be a full and uninhibited fellowship (note Rev. 22:4). Revelation 21:3 tells us that God is going to come down onto the earth and will “dwell among” His people. While Adam and Eve were visited regularly in Eden, we will have a much richer and more permanent relationship than they had. We possess the very righteousness of Christ (Adam did not) and this will enable us to enjoy a level of fellowship that neither we today or Adam in Eden ever experienced. There is no sin or guilt to get in the way of enjoying the Lord.
(4) WE WILL HAVE PRODUCTIVE, MEANINGFUL LIVES. We will be “serving” the Lord (Rev. 22:3) which tells us that the Lord will give us important and meaningful activities. We spend much of our time involved in dealing with the consequences of sin (from weeding the garden to fixing machines, people or situations) and so it is hard to imagine what it is we could be doing. Adam was given meaningful activity in tending the Garden and “ruling” over creation. So while we cannot at this moment put together a “to do” list, we can be sure that whether it is worshipping, ruling, serving or learning, our lives will be full and satisfying.
(5) SOME REALITIES EXPERIENCED NOW ARE EXPERIENCED THEN. Not everything will be strange and different. There will be kings and nations in the eternal state (Rev. 21:24-26). We will eat and drink (Rev. 22:1-2). There will be a city there, the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:10-27). There will be a universe with sun, moon and stars to gaze at and investigate. (Note that Revelation does not say there is no sun, but rather that there is no “need” for the sun in the new Jerusalem). Having a “fresh” earth means that there will be meadows and mountains, rivers and lakes, trees and flowers, making it much like what we can enjoy now.
(6) SOME REALITIES PRESENTLY EXPERIENCED WILL BE ABSENT. Of great importance also is what will not be there (Rev. 21:4; 22:3). There will no longer be pain, death, crying, sorrow and the curse. It is nearly impossible for us to imagine what life will be like without these entities that we deal with daily. No more fearing death. No crying which comes from disappointment, failure, the ending of a relationship, the death of a friend, loneliness and a host of other negatives. Life without these things will be amazing. We cannot really imagine what it will be like with these things gone.
“Thou will make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11
What the Lord has for us is not at all what we junior boys thought back in our class of junior boys. Even so, come Lord Jesus.