In his devotional, New Morning Mercies, Paul David wrote this,
“You see, a sound biblical doctrine of the future is the only way to arrive at a sound biblical understanding of the present. If there is a final glorious destination for all God’s children, then this time is not a destination, but a preparation for a final destination.”
In other words, we need a true Bible-based perspective of our future beyond this life in order to understand our journey through it. Without such a Scripture-based forward look to the paradise that awaits us, we often err by making this life our destination and eternity but an afterthought.
In his book Desire, author John Eldredge quoted physicist Blaise Pascal as saying, “Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity…for want of reflection…we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”[i]
We all struggle with this at times, do we not? It’s so easy to value what we see above our future destination, that of imperishable bodies, reigning with Jesus, and a spectacular eternal state. When we lose sight of these things, we also lose a biblical understanding of our lives this side of eternity.
So, why is a biblically sound doctrine of eternity so essential for our everyday lives?
- It Focuses Our Hope Exclusively on Jesus’ Appearing
The Rapture has become a source of much mocking today, and unfortunately, such ridicule often comes from those within the church. However, the New Testament teaches that Jesus is coming for His church before the Second Coming and before the start of the Tribulation period.
As such, Jesus’ appearing is our imminent expectation as it was for the early believers. Paul summed up this eager anticipation in Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” The word for “await” depicts a heightened eagerness and attentiveness for a future event.
Our hope rests totally in Jesus’ appearing to take us to the place He’s preparing for us (John 14:1-3; Colossians 3:4). We live in biblical times; this is the season of His return for us.
Yet, the most popular teachings of our day deny this biblically sound understanding of our imminent hope in one of two ways. First, many pastors tell us that life will return to normal; the world has seen times like this before in its history and recovered. “Today is no different than previous periods of chaos and evil,” they say.
A second popular misconception unduly exalts the church, making it the shelter for the current storm rather than the Lord Jesus. Most in this camp make the unbiblical claim that the church itself will bring in the millennium with Jesus returning at its conclusion.
Some teach a more subtle form of dominion theology, yet equally errant, by directing the hopes of believers to eventual triumph of the church before the eternal state. The church thus triumphs even though there is not a millennium.
Please know that in such a time as this, our hope must rest in Christ alone. All the teachings that deny the imminent appearing of Jesus for His church exalt what we can see above what’s invisible, and in so doing, take our focus away from Jesus.
- It Assures Us that the Lord Will Punish the Wickedness We See
Perhaps the biggest frustration of our day is that evil, vile people appear to enjoy much success while those who hope in the Savior face increasing persecution and opposition. Those who kill Christians, or those that enable them to do so, seem to have all the power at the moment.
The Bible tells us not to fret over the success of wicked people because, in the end, God will judge them (Psalm 37:7-15). The Old Testament depicts the horrors of the day of the Lord in which the entire earth will feel the impact of God’s wrath (Isaiah 13:9-13; Zephaniah 1:14-19). The book of Revelation adds details to this coming time of judgment upon the earth in chapters 6-18.
“If hell is real, and it is,” one might ask, “why is it necessary for the Lord to deal with sinners in this life? Why is the seven-year Tribulation a necessity if God will surely deal with sinners at the White Throne judgment?”
I believe the Lord will display His wrath in such a way for the following reasons:
First, the Tribulation will give God an opportunity to display His glory. After He destroys the powers in the Gog-Magog alliance, He will declare, “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them” (Ezekiel 39:21). Those now seeking to destroy our way of life will see a full demonstration of His power and sovereignty ahead of their ultimate destruction. They will witness the Lord’s glory firsthand.
Second, His judgments during this time will give sinners one last chance to call upon the Lord (Revelation 9:20-21). Though most people will continue in their rejection of the Savior, the Bible tells us that a great multitude will turn to Him and find eternal life (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17).
Third, the wrath of the day of the Lord will give the world a visual representation of His justice. The Lord’s direct and unmistakable intervention in human history during the Tribulation will demonstrate His intent to judge all those who reject the Savior and His provision of eternal life.
- It Adds Context to Our Lives Via Reign with Jesus
For those of us securely in Christ, our future millennial reign with Him provides a context into which we can place personal tragedies and other experiences during our short-lived journey this side of eternity.
Much like it might have been for Joseph, bound in chains and headed for a life of slavery in Egypt, it’s difficult to see beyond the trials and many disappointments in our lives. However, just as the Lord used hardship and injustice to prepare Joseph for his rule alongside Pharaoh and preserve His chosen people, so the Lord blends together our struggles, talents, gifts, hardships, and experiences to prepare us to reign with Him during the thousand-year period we refer to as the Millennium.
Yes, trials come to test us, enable spiritual growth, and provide us with opportunities to serve others in the body of Christ. However, I believe the Lord is also preparing us for our future role in His glorious kingdom.
At this point, you might also ask, “Why is the millennium necessary? Could He not accomplish the exact same purposes in the eternal state?” These are good questions; however, I believe the Millennium is a biblical necessity because:
- It will vindicate the holiness of God before all the nations of the world (Ezekiel 36:22-23; 39:25-29; Zephaniah 3:14-20).
- It will demonstrate that the Lord is a covenant and promise keeper. At the start of the Millennium, He will restore the fortunes of Israel just as promised throughout the Old Testament.
- It will further glorify Jesus as the Father exalts the Son to rule over the earth, the very place of His rejection and great suffering (Psalm 2; Daniel 7:13-14).
- It will prove the innate sinfulness of humanity. After one thousand years of perfect conditions on the earth and the rule of a righteous Sovereign, a multitude will rise up against Jesus (Revelation 20:7-10). This will decisively remove the excuse that it’s the environment that causes people to reject the Savior.
Together, the Tribulation and Millennial rule of Jesus will leave sinners with absolutely no justification for their rejection of the Lord.
- It Tells of Our Glorious Destination in Eternity
Jesus’ reign will continue for all eternity. Revelation 21 and 22 add the final touches to our ultimate hope, that of dwelling forever in the New Jerusalem and newly reformed earth and heavens. At this time, the words of Revelation 21:4 will apply for us and for everyone God brings with us to this brighter shore:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Paradise is a real, physical place. Life in eternity will be exponentially better than even our best and most favorable experiences in this life.
The New Jerusalem will exceed even the grandest of expectations or the most fanciful images of our imagination. Do not let anyone deceive you into thinking that the New Jerusalem merely represents a future symbol of God’s presence on earth, as some teach today. Such false teaching rips the heart of all biblical expectations of eternity for both Old and New Testament saints (see Hebrews 11:13-16; 12:22-24).
Jesus is preparing a dwelling place for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2-3). The words Jesus chose for this promise depict a physical “place” in which we will dwell in our glorified bodies.
Jesus is Our Hope
Jesus is the sum total of our hope in today’s lawless and wicked world.
Some say things in the world will return to normal. However, apart from God’s direct intervention, it will be impossible to stop the momentum of the globalists that control many governments (including the U.S. President) as well as all avenues of communication and justice. The Lord will utterly destroy their kingdom, but that will not happen until the end of the Tribulation.
Those who deny the reality of the Rapture and Jesus’ future reign on the earth often direct our attention to the church as our hope. But how can we have confidence in an institution that’s so awash today in false teaching, errant views of the Gospel, and all-out compromise with the wickedness of this world?
The New Testament points us to Jesus as our hope (read 1 John 3:1-3).
The Bible gives a picture of eternity that breathes hope into our lives and brings peace amid the turmoil of this life. As the collision of this world with the seven-year Tribulation looms ever so close, it’s essential that we focus on Jesus’ imminent appearing.
Normal is not coming back; Jesus is!
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[i] John Eldredge, Desire (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.110.