Doctrinal Musing on Eschatology (Last Things)

I believe death is the cessation of the physical life, but it also has a spiritual meaning of separation from God which transitions into eternal spiritual death meaning eternally separated from God. Everyone experiences physical death because of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the entrance of sin into the world (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12, 6:23; 1 Cor 15:21-22). Death is inescapable and irreversible (Ps 89:48; Heb 9:27; Job 16:22). Believers experience physical death, but they no longer experience spiritual death or eternal death. When believers die, their bodies return to dust, but their souls depart from the earthly life to be with God (Ecc 12:7; Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 5:8), “being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.”[1] Upon death, the bodies of unbelievers also return to dust, but they continue to experience spiritual and eternal death. Their souls go to Hades where they await the final bodily resurrection and subsequent eternity in Hell (Matt 10 :28, 25:30; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:22-24; Heb 10:27).

I believe in the “personal, glorious, and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ with his holy angels,”[2] wherein he will establish his eternal kingdom (Matt 16:27, 24:30-31; Acts 1:11). I believe in a classic premillennial return of Christ, and so at Christ’s return, believers who have died will receive resurrected bodies and will join the other believers on the earth, and all will reign with Christ on the earth for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-6). During the thousand-year reign of Christ, many unbelievers will turn to Christ for salvation. At the end of the thousand years, Satan will receive his final defeat and will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” where he will be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev 20: 7-10). Then there will be a final bodily resurrection of unbelievers followed by a final judgement and assignment to the final state separated from God in Hell (Rev 20:11-16).

At this point, believers will be with God for eternity in his kingdom and in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev 21).[3] Jonathan Edwards comments on the final state of believers with God by writing,

There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain forever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love![4]

Moreover, Edwards explains that the saints will be perfected in love, holiness and peace. The heavenly community will be in harmony with God and with one another. He writes,

Every saint in heaven is as a flower in that garden of God, and holy love is the fragrance and sweet odor that they all send forth, and with which they fill the bowers of that paradise above. Every soul there, is as a note in some concert of delightful music, that sweetly harmonizes with every other note, and all together blend in the most rapturous strains in praising God and the Lamb forever. And so all help each other, to their utmost, to express the love of the whole society to its glorious Father and Head, and to pour back love into the great fountain of love whence they are supplied and filled with love, and blessedness, and glory.[5]


Footnotes:

[1] Chapter XXXII: “Of the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead” in The Westminster Confession of Faith, https://reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/index.html. [2] Confession 13: “The Restoration of All Things” in Foundational Documents-Confessional Statement atThe Gospel Coalition, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/about/foundation-documents/#confessional-statement. [3] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 1111-1112. [4] Jonathan Edwards, Heaven a World of Love, http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/4113/9930/ 8433/hawo.pdf [5] Edwards, Heaven, http://www.chapellibrary.org/files/4113/9930/ 8433/hawo.pdf

Please comment. Some refuting comments may require research citations since I use them in much of my writing.

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