“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7, NASB, italics for emphasis).
“Breath of life” and “a living being” helps us to better understand and deeply appreciate all of God’s creation, especially his final (6th day) crowning achievement: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27, NASB).
God’s creation of plant and animal life is of dazzling variety and complexity; however, the human race is (using space science terminology) light years above animals. Human attributes of inductive and deductive reasoning; creativity in multiple areas of life, including the arts, sciences, industry; intentional (as opposed to instinctive) love and hate; and paramount of all—language (speech); exceedingly surpass the most intelligent of animals, e.g. dolphin, chimpanzee, elephant.
Though every form of life has a body and (sadly) we humans sometimes act like animals, it’s the intangible that makes all the difference.
It’s the eternal existence of the human soul and spirit that identifies us in the image of God and vastly separates us from the animal kingdom.
To Be or Not to Be … In Heaven (A Revisit)
That is the title of Eye of Prophecy article posted 5-6-17. In italics, the following is an excerpt:
According to Scripture, every person was born (created) to live forever. That is what is meant when God breathed life into Adam (and Eve) and they became a “living soul.” (Genesis 2:7, KJV). Soul, person, being … all convey the idea of infinity, of time without end. That’s one reason we’ve conceived the expression human being. We don’t say that about animals, i.e. animal being.
Shakespeare’s statement of, “To be or not to be; that is the question,” is, indeed, a profound reflection. A living soul will always “be.” To be born is to be, and be, and be….
However, there is a dissimilarity where someone will spend that eternal existence … heaven or hell. Thus, there is a distinction whether a person will experience eternity in life or eternity in death. Indeed, there is an existence of eternal life and the equally clear Biblical teaching of eternal death, which is not an oxymoron. Death means departure—the body from the soul at physical death and subsequent separation from God forever, which is called the second death in Scripture.
We are all born spiritually dead. The only way we can pass from that spiritual death to life is to be born-again, which is accomplished when we believe and receive Christ Jesus, who IS life.
“And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (I John 5:11-12).
Although the Right to Life comes from God alone, because God is the author of life itself … God does give each person the right to choose where he or she will spend eternity. Thus, if a person rejects God’s invitation to believe and receive the pardon purchased by Jesus, they have chosen (eternal) death … to remain forever separated from God. But even that death is a continuation of existence. It’s a death-like absence from all that is right and good and beautiful.
The Greatest Hope of Mankind
Can you think of any higher hope of humanity than that of eternal life? It’s a longing not just for a better life, but for one that’s perfect. For the irreligious, I suppose it’s mostly to extend and even enhance the pleasures of this life forever and to eliminate the displeasures! (See Eye of Prophecy article, Fountain of Youth & Fountain of Life … Is There a Difference? (Posted 3-31-18).
Most people on Planet Earth are religious to some extent or another; and every religion has some form and place of ethereal existence. With exception of the Christian faith (which is not a religion, rather a personal relationship with the Triune God), every religion and cult has a common thread: hopefully good deeds will outweigh the bad to qualify the members for their version of paradise. However, each religion also sets itself above and apart from competitive religions by the premise that unless you belong to that belief system, you have essentially no chance of reaching whatever desired afterlife is presumed by its adherents.
As for me, I have staked my eternal destiny on the Omnipotent Triune God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and in His Word … the Bible. No other “religion” offers a Savior, who did for me (all of us) what I could not could not do for myself: pay the penalty of my sins to restore me to my Creator and make me right with Him. Furthermore, that Savior, Messiah Jesus, arose from the dead to prove that he is who he said he is.
Moreover, the God of the Bible is the only One who even dares to frequently predict the future; with hundreds of those prophecies coming to pass (100% accuracy) and more awaiting certain fulfillment. Who has performed miracle after miracle to demonstrate that he is the only true and living God. There is a glaring absence of prophecies and miracles (real-life as opposed to mythical) in every religious text, except the Bible.
As is said: What more evidence do we need?
Scripture is replete with precious promises of redemption and a glorious (eternal) life in heaven and the New Jerusalem, for all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
Said Messiah Jesus to his disciples (and for all subsequent believers in him) just hours before his crucifixion and resurrection three days later:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14:1-3).
Before we explore eternity and answer the question posed by this week’s Eye of Prophecy title, let’s revisit the:
“Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge…
“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection (at the Rapture … completed by the resurrection of Tribulation saints). For them the second death (eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire) holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4 & 6, parenthesis mine).
The following is an excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article, The Magnificent Millennial Reign of Believers with Messiah (Posted 7-15-17). In italics:
There will be responsibilities and activities assigned to all believers during the Millennium, yet not all may be judges as such. With our wonderful new spiritual bodies and minds and hearts, there will be no competition or complaints among believers as to who does what in the Kingdom of God on earth. Obviously, The Lord’s delegated duties to his people will be distributed perfectly; for example, like he assigned 72 pairs of disciples to preach the Kingdom of God during his ministry on earth.
In our Millennial reign with Messiah as joint-heirs with him, we will all be priests of God and of Christ as quoted earlier. Indeed, as soon as we are born-again, we are given that privilege while still here on earth. Yet, that is for a short time and our “priesthood” is often limited and sometimes blemished because we are still fighting a spiritual battle with Satan, with the world, and with ourselves … our flesh and sin nature (See Romans Chapter 7).
Not so in the Millennium. Our re-created spiritual bodies in Christ will enable us to praise, worship, and serve the Lord undefiled. But serve him we will, as opposed to the misconception of unbelievers and even some believers that Christians will have nothing better to do than drift along on clouds playing harps! Don’t get me wrong … there will be the most beautiful music imaginable in heaven!
Or the misunderstanding that the Millennium will be absent any human imperfections … things that cause discord and conflict. The first part of the Millennium will be near perfect, as even unbelievers still alive at the end of the Great Tribulation will acknowledge and bow down to Messiah Jesus as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. But slowly and surely, even though Satan will not be able to exert his influence on earth, people will once again rebel against God’s truth, even as Christ Jesus rules from Jerusalem. This will lead to the final battle of the ages, as found in Revelation Chapter 20.
(I’ve posted this picture a few times before, as it is one of, if not my favorite. Notice the people from ages past and present)
That article briefly covered one of Jesus’s many parables, that of investing in the Kingdom of God as found in Luke Chapter 19. I went on to say:
If you are a believer in Messiah Jesus, you will share in his inheritance. Among other things, Jesus has inherited the nations of the earth and will begin his literal rule and reign over them upon his glorious return to Jerusalem.
“People from many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For the Lord’s teachings will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:3-4).
Our King will grant authority to believers—Jews and Gentiles alike—to be his assistants, ambassadors, emissaries, judges, administrators; and, when and where necessary, his disciplinarians (by the best and purest example of tough love) in establishing his extraordinary Divine Monarchy on Planet Earth.
Although under different conditions, a parallel Old Testament precedent is when Moses, “…chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves” (Exodus 18:25-26).
Where did we read about resolving disputes? Oh yes, Isaiah 2:4: “Settle international disputes.” The really big international disagreements will mostly be arbitrated by Jesus, himself. But there will be a whole planet full of more “common disputes,” that believers will handle. We will even judge angels! (I Corinthians 6:3).
In the greater context of this week’s topic and also concerning the Millennium, please permit one other excerpt from Eye of Prophecy article: Messiah’s Millennial Reign … Incredible Changes on Earth (Published 12-30-17).
When the curse is cancelled at the glorious Second Coming of Christ, even the animals will undergo an extreme makeover. The full nature and extent of these internal (temperament) and external (perhaps fewer or no fangs in predators) changes remain to be seen. The Lord’s magnificent plan of redemption is not only for people who place their personal trust in the Redeemer, but also for the entire earth and all living things. Everything will come full circle back to the beginning … even better!
…Some of this restoration will take place during the Millennium; some not until after the 1,000-year epoch, which is the beginning of what many Bible scholars simply call “Eternity.” Such as:
I then quoted one of those Eternity passages: Revelation 21:1-4, which will be reserved for the latter part of today’s article.
Regarding the renovation of the animal kingdom, listen to this incredible prophecy from Isaiah:
“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm … for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord” (Isaiah 11:6-9, parenthesis mine).
(One of several lion/lamb pictures, which is still a reliable representation of Isaiah 11; even though the lamb is actually juxtaposed to the wolf in the passage. I believe the reason for the lion/lamb combination is because Messiah Jesus is both the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and the Lion from the tribe of Judah who will return as King of all kings)
The Final (Post-Millennial) Battle on Earth
I (and others) have written much about Armageddon. For example, see Eye of Prophecy article: Armageddon & Messiah’s Return … An Amazing Sequence of Events (2-3-18).
Virtually all unbelievers and even some Christians think that Armageddon is the final war of all time. It is not. There is a Post-Millennial battle, albeit one that is anti-climactic in its conclusion. One that is given only a short passage in Revelation, compared to the lengthy account (several chapters in Revelation and passages in the Old Testament) of the Tribulation turmoil leading to and including Armageddon.
Remember, the devil will be imprisoned in the Abyss for the entire 1,000-year duration of Messiah’s reign. Yet, even during the absence of Satan—the very source and personification of evil—people all over the Globe will once again rebel against God and Messiah Jesus. Which (pathetically) speaks volumes about the self-reliant, self-indulgent, self-righteous defiance of those who refuse to accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, even though he will have brought unparalleled and unprecedented peace, prosperity, and justice to the earth.
“When the thousand years come to an end, Satan will be let out of his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations—called Gog and Magog—in every corner of the earth. He will gather them together for battle—a mighty army as numberless as sand along the seashore. And I saw them as they went up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded God’s people and the beloved city…” (Revelation 20:7-9a).
Before we examine the last part of verse 9, which abruptly concludes this short passage about the final Gog/Magog campaign (the same emblematic name as found in Ezekiel 38 & 39, but not the same coalition of nations/armies … with time/space not permitting a more detailed explanation), let’s ask the question:
Why and how will Satan “deceive the nations” and “gather them together” one last time?
Answer: Like Armageddon, the same way in which Satan duped even the enemies (kings of the east) of his man of sin—Antichrist and his ten-nation confederation—to join forces against Messiah Jesus who has returned to earth.
“And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist Nero), and the false prophet (identity to be determined during the Tribulation). They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty…. And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon” (Revelation 16:13-14 & 16; italics in the text, parenthesis mine).
By the time of Armageddon, the entire world will know beyond any doubt that the supernatural plagues of divine judgment were caused by Almighty God, yet the unsaved will still not repent and turn to the true Messiah, Jesus. Actually, they realize God’s intervention early in the Tribulation …the sixth seal judgment, which is the first catastrophe from God himself.
No sensible ruler, general, or army would dare take on Jesus as he descends through the sky on a white horse; along with the host of heaven—believers, also on white horses (Revelation 19). No matter how many millions of troops or how great the firepower, how does anyone do battle with something (Someone) so transcendentally powerful? Unless, that is, they are persuaded to do something irrationally reckless: Attempt to defeat a heavenly King and his army, both of whom are indestructible. When common sense says that they should be waiving a white flag of surrender as they look up to the heavens from the Valley of Megiddo.
This is exactly what the unsaved on earth will consider yet again in their increasingly hardened hearts and convoluted minds, during the last phase of the Millennium. All they need is a little help from their friends. From, “…evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world … from mighty powers in this dark world … evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Satan’s warped deception of unbelievers at Armageddon and then again at the Post-Millennial final battle of all time is that of convincing entire nations and armies that God’s people can be defeated, even though the Son of God is personally (on earth) defending his people.
Think again Satan and those who want to “break their chains from God” (Psalm 2). With a short but not so sweet ending (for the Millennial rebels) here’s what will happen:
“…But fire from heaven came down on the attacking armies and consumed them. Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:9b-10).
That’s the swift and decisive end to the final mutiny of man against the Lord and his people—Jewish and Gentile believers.
Revelation Chapter 20 concludes with the Great White Throne judgment in which all unbelievers will be raised from the dead. Only to be judged for having rejected their only hope of redemption and eternal life … Messiah Jesus; thereby, deliberately choosing to be separated from God—eternal death in the Lake of Fire.
It’s Time for Eternity!
Revelation Chapter 21 begins with what is commonly referred to as: Eternity.
A time of astounding alterations for the better, even more so than during the Millennium. A time of boundless beauty; of tremendous tranquility; of exceptional existence; of a phenomenal paradise; of…. Well, the Bible says it much better and in more detail. With promises that even our imagination can’t keep up with.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:1-2).
The next two verses are equally, if not more stunning. They refer to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—dwelling in the new Jerusalem (a city which essentially merges heaven and earth … to whatever degree is yet unknown). It will be as is sometimes said about outstandingly good things that we see or experience in this life, yet pale in comparison to what it will truly be throughout eternity: “Heaven on earth.”
Continuing: “…Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people … He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever!” (Revelation 21:3-4).
“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new! And then he said to me, ‘Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am Alpha and Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious (believers, whose victory is that of being redeemed by the blood of Messiah Jesus—Revelation 1) will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children” (Revelation 21:5-7, parenthesis mine).
It doesn’t get any better than that. Right?
“Of course, right!” you reply. Which also has been my response, with one (minor) mystery, but certainly not to the point of worry or doubt. Nonetheless, an enigma which cannot be dismissed as though it’s not in the text. One that confronts us in the very next verse of Revelation 21. However, a puzzle that can be solved with a little dose of spiritual insight.
That paradox is presented in the title of this week’s article:
Will There Still Be Unbelievers Throughout Eternity?
First, you may want to scroll back a few sentences and read Revelation 21:5-7, that ends with: “…and they will be my children.” Let’s pick it up with the next verse:
“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshippers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
If we anticipate that eternity is to be picture perfect in every way including absence of evil, then what about the verse we just read? What about the men and woman whose lifestyle described clearly shows they are not believers? Those who are rejecting life-changing salvation through Messiah Jesus like all those who were judged at the Great White Throne Judgment that had already taken place.
One explanation is that the verse (in fact) refers retroactively to those unbelievers at the Great White Throne judgment in contrast to believers who, as the passage describes: “inherit all the blessings” (of eternity). If this was the last verse in Revelation to describe all those who HAD ALREADY been judged, then this application is feasible. But it’s not the last reference to such people in Revelation. Plus, the factual sequence that Revelation Chapters 21 & 22 depict Eternity, which begins after the White Throne Judgment.
Immediately following Revelation 21:8 (“But cowards, unbelievers…”) John portrays the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-27) in dramatic detail, including its shape and size—1,400 miles in length, width, and height. His description contains one of the most-well known and oft quoted features of the New Jerusalem: “…And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass” (Revelation 21:21 … streets of gold as is said).
John continues: “And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city” (Revelation 21:23-26).
[*Note: The passage says, all the nations. However, several times when the Bible says, “all,” or “every” it is clearly referring to the greater majority. We can understand the difference between all (every single person or nation) and the majority by the context and comparing the text to other similar passages and patterns in Scripture. For example, concerning the Antichrist (Nero): “…And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation” (Revelation 13:7).
We know that doesn’t mean every single person or nation because other Bible passages explicitly explain that Antichrist will have enemies, those that oppose him … on both a personal and national level. Thus, the every in that passage means everyone who yields to him, willingly or unwillingly. When they submit, then he will rule over them.]
This is just one of several passages in Scripture that state directly or strongly imply that the cycle of humanity—birth, life, and death—will continue on this present earth (during the Millennium) and the new earth throughout Eternity.
“Wait a minute!” you say. “Didn’t the Lord tell us that there will be no more sorrow, crying, pain, or death?”
Yes, he did, but with a specific application. I’ll get to that in the closing remarks.
Let’s continue. As we just read: Nations (people of those nations) will still inhabit the earth and (some of) their kings will be permitted entrance to the New Jerusalem. But not all kings will be allowed to enter nor all people “walk in its light.”
How can we draw that conclusion? Answer: From the very next verse.
“Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27). Meaning that unbelievers (the unsaved) will be confined to the earth and not ever allowed to step foot in the New Jerusalem … until or unless they personally acknowledge Messiah Jesus as Lord and Savior.
To reinforce this fact, Revelation distinguishes yet again (for a third time) between the saved and unsaved.
“Blessed are they who wash their robes (analogy for salvation through Messiah Jesus). They will be permitted to enter through the gates of the city and eat the fruit from the tree of life. Outside the city are the dogs (symbolism for the unclean … unsaved)—the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idol worshippers, and all who love to live a lie” (Revelation 22:14-15, parenthesis mine).
Remember, all three of these passage that refer to unbelievers take place after the Millennium, when “Eternity” begins. The sequence is unmistakable.
The Lord will continue to allow every person born on (the currently old and then the new) earth to exercise free will—to choose between eternal life or eternal death … the Lake of Fire. Some will choose wrongly.
(The choice between life and death began in the Garden of Eden, continued with God’s chosen people in the above passage, still relevant today and will be extended throughout Eternity)
Does the existence of unbelievers (graphically depicted in the language of these passages, i.e. sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, etc.) diminish, disturb, or disrupt in any way the exceptional eternal existence of believers (“God’s people” … Revelation 21:3-4)?
For one thing, I’m convinced that the number of unbelievers will be few and far between (literally on the earth). It will be just the opposite of today’s world and certainly during the Tribulation in which unbelievers greatly outnumber the Tribulation Saints. To validate that observation, here is the last part of a passage quoted earlier in today’s article: “…so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord” (Isaiah 11:9).
Another reason is that believers will have the freedom to move (live) between the New Jerusalem and the new earth. The “presence” of unbelievers will have no adverse effect, whatsoever, on the heavenly quality of eternal life for believers.
Unlike today’s world, there will be no more war or subjugation of entire peoples and nations by other rulers and nations whose people are ruthlessly wicked. On the contrary, the relatively few unbelievers will be justifiably shamed, shunned, and segregated for all the right reasons of separating evil from good. Satan will be in the Lake of Fire, unable to ever again deceive and galvanize (in demonic ways) these unbelievers together, as he had done for thousands of years on national and international levels… culminating at Armageddon, then one last time at the final Gog/Magog war.
Individually, they will be stigmatized for what they are: foolish, stubborn, and unrepentant—despite the treasures of the purest and perfect life, liberty, and love staring them in the face. Freely given by the source of all light and truth … God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Nor will believers have anything to fear from unbelievers. With our new eternal spiritual bodies, we will be impervious to harm or pain and certainly to death.
In addition to perpetual free will, another reason the Lord will allow the existence of unbelievers is for contrast. Why loving and following God in all his holiness (truth) and goodness (gracious blessings) is infinitely better than wickedness conceived and practiced by those who want to be completely independent of God.
Also, the Lake of Fire will be a reminder of the terrible fate of those who preferred and will say (literally or in their heart), “I did it my way.” Ever so tragically, they will get their way … what they wished for—nothing to do with (separated from) the Lord.
Lest anyone thinks this is speculation or just one teacher’s opinion, listen to God himself as he speaks (graphically concerning Eternity) in the last three verses of the book of Isaiah:
“As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear, says the Lord. All humanity will come to worship me from week to week and from month to month. And as they go out, they will see the dead bodies of those who have rebelled against me. For the worms that devour them will never die, and the fire that burns them will never go out. All who pass by will view them with utter horror” (Isaiah 66:22-24).
Things to Ponder
So, what about, “no more death?”
I’m glad you reminded me!
It’s true, there will be no more death. But for whom? That is the eternal question.
Let’s read the passage again.
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever’” (Revelation 21:3-4; italics for emphasis).
However—whether now, or during the Millennium, or throughout eternity—once an unbeliever dies there is no second chance of eternal life. There will only be eternal death.
The text is positively plain. This powerful and precious promise from the Lord applies exclusively to his people. It is the consummation of so great a salvation freely given to those who believe and receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior … Jew and Gentile alike.
“For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:6-10).
Amen and Hallelujah!