The Eternal Destiny of the Believer
Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Or, as Margaret Mitchell says in Gone with the Wind, “Death, taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.”
Death, of course, is a prime subject of movies. For instance, in the recent series called Final Destination, Mr. Death stalks survivors of an accident who thought they had escaped their fate. Death is not a pleasant subject and many people would just rather not talk about it. When a person dies we say, “He passed on,” “She’s gone to her reward,” or “He had a race well run,” etc.
Billy Graham once asked Woody Allen if he believed in life after death. Allen said no, but “I am packing an extra pair of undershorts.” (In his case they may need to be fire resistant.)
Or maybe you heard the old joke about the Texas oil millionaire who died and was buried in his gold Cadillac. As it was being lowered into the ground someone was heard to say, “Man, that’s really living!”
The fact is everyone dies. This is the third installment in a series on “Life After Death, What Will It be Like?” Jesus said everyone, good and evil, will live for eternity (see Matthew 25:46ff (The Greek word aionios means eternal or everlasting and includes both quality & duration).
In this article and the next we will examine what the Bible says about our “Final Destination.” Here we will focus on the biblical teaching of what will be the eternal life and a home in Heaven for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ. This was guaranteed by His resurrection.
Let’s examine four facts about the eternal destiny of the believer.
1. The Eternal destiny of the Believer will begin at the judgment seat of God.
The Bible constantly speaks of Divine justice. For instance, Paul says in Romans 14:10, “For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” He reiterates that in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
This divine judgment is for all people, including Christians. However, we understand that our salvation will not be decided by our works but gained by grace through faith in Jesus (see Ephesians 2:8, 9). So, if we depend on Christ alone as we face God’s judgment we who are saved will be assured to go to heaven.
But, we ask, what will it be like? Will we sit on clouds and strum harps? Let’s see what one key book of the Bible indicates.
2. The Eternal destiny of the Believer will be in the presence of God.
In the book of Revelation, chapters 21 and 22, the Apostle John describes, well, an indescribable vision of Heaven. He identifies it as the “New Jerusalem” (Rev. 21:1-7). In verses 3 and 4 he proclaims: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.’”
When the people of Israel journeyed in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, they carried with them the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s presence. The Ark was kept in the center of the camp in a large tent called the Tabernacle. There, God’s presence was constantly with them. In Revelation John says God’s presence (tabernacle) is eternally among men. This presence results in joy, no death, and no sorrow for believers living with Him.
It’s important to recognize something at this point. John uses imagery to describe the indescribable. His best attempts to put into words what he saw were at best limited. The reality would be so much more! Like Marco Polo supposedly said on his death bed: “I have not told half of all I saw in the East.”
As Christians, we will be in God’s presence and bathed in the light of His love. This does not mean we will know everything about Him. That would be impossible as He is an infinite and eternal being. However, we will eternally grow in that knowledge of Him (so it will not be dull in heaven).
3. The Eternal destiny of the Believer will be in the beautiful city of God.
Early in the 20th century, thousands of immigrants came to America from Europe and other regions. Many of them had the idea that the USA had streets paved with gold. I’m sure many of them may have thought that was true as they passed the statue of liberty and saw the gleaming skyline of New York City.
Obviously, American streets were never paved with gold. However, in Revelation the Apostle John described a city that was every bit as beautiful as we can imagine. In Revelation 21, John says he saw the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven like a bride adorned (vss. 2, 10-11). He even describes its walls, gates, streets, and dimensions (vss. 12-21).
It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles (12,000 stadia); its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards (144 cubits), according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
It helps to understand that in Hebrew numerology, 1,000 is a perfect number. In this case, it is multiplied by another perfect number, twelve. It is then multiplied again by itself. So, 12,000 stadia times 12,000 equals 144 million square stadia. This enormous number means that the heavenly city is spacious and perfect to house God’s redeemed people. Verses 13 and 21 speak of twelve (there’s that perfect number again) gates of pearl. The implication is that we enter the city through pearl gates reflecting the Pearl of Great Price: Jesus Christ.
John also mentions that no temple was found in the city nor was a sun or moon needed.
I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (vss. 22-23)
4. The Eternal destiny of the Believer will be as a garden of abundant life.
Beautiful gardens are special. The blooming flowers and trees light up our eyes with color and beauty. Perhaps you recall Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic book titled “The Secret Garden.” It is the story of a spoiled English orphan girl who, with two friends, finds a hidden garden that changes their lives. The story has been the subject of several movies. One was produced in 1949 that I especially enjoy watching. The film was made in black and white, except when the children go into the Secret Garden. Then it becomes a Technicolor world of brilliant flowers and birds.
Not only does John describe his vision of heaven as a city, but in Revelation 22 he sees Heaven as a wonderful garden. He states that it includes in its midst the Tree of Life, nourished by the River of Life and “bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (vs. 2).
Heaven is a place where we will have all our needs met: water, food, health, etc. The source of it all is not the Sun, but God’s eternal light (vs. 5). This scene contrasts with the Fallen Garden of Eden.
The important thing to understand is that if you are Christian you have a great eternal adventure to come. Faith in Christ makes you an inheritor of all that God has in store in heaven. Heaven is our destiny, and we should live in light of it today.
In the final installment we will consider the tragic destiny of the unbeliever.
© 2012 Tal Davis