When I was a Thousand Years Old
The Bible is replete with passages and information regarding the coming Messianic Kingdom in which Christ and the Church rule and reign for a thousand years upon a restored earth. However, the information about the time beyond that, not so much. Out of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, only two deal specifically with the subject of our future in eternity (Rev. 20-22). There are, additionally, 37 passages that speak or mention eternal life, three that speak to the eternality of God, and two that speak to the nature of eternity itself. Thus, information about the age to come is not all that forthcoming.
However, that is not to say the Bible is completely silent on the subject. There are some hidden gems (easter eggs) buried in Scripture that hint at what our eternity will be like, and are worth exploring. As impossible as it seems, one day, we all look back on when we were 1,000 years old and think of how young we were then. Such is the case, I've thought through some often untrodden issues and tried to find a biblical reference or resources that may help address some of the more specific questions we may have regarding our eternal destiny. Let's never forget that each passing day, is one day closer to that certain eternal destination. Here are seven points to consider when thinking about our future in eternity.
1. After "Kingdom Come"
After Christ and the Church rule the newed heavens and earth for a thousand years, Satan must be loosed from his confinement in the abyss for a little while to deceive the nations. We are not told how long this little while is but figure it's somewhere in the neighborhood of a few years (total guess here). He manages to gather a massive army from the four corners of the earth (similar to the massive Gog-Magog coalition that came against Israel before the Tribulation). These are the human-born descendants of those born inside the millennial kingdom (the true millennials). Somehow they are deceived to follow Satan and they rise up in one last attempt to oust Christ from Jerusalem. Their destruction is sudden and violent. Satan is cast straight into the Lake of Fire where the Antichrist and False Prophet have already been for over a thousand years already.
Next comes the Great White Throne Judgment (GWTJ). Here, the believing from the Millennium, and the unbelieving from all ages are brought to court before God Almighty, and they are judged according to their works. Ultimately, their eternal fate is determined by whether their name is in the Lamb's Book of Life or not. As I'd mentioned in a previous brief, believers born inside the Millennial Kingdom will not be saved in the same manner as we are, simply, because they cannot exercise salvation by grace through faith.
Now, God's grace is the common salvific substance throughout every dispensation. However, at this point in time, faith will be fundamentally different. As mentioned in Hebrews 11:1, faith is the substance things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Well, if Christ is physically and visibly ruling from Jerusalem, and the Church Age Saints are living in the New Jerusalem which is now in a low earth orbit above the earth, the evidence will be plainly seen. This seems to directly negate the fundamental definition of Hebrews 11:1. Thus, between the renewed animal sacrifices (Ezekiel 40-48), the renewed Edenic-like existence of the earth, and the removal of Satan (and his forces?) salvation will become some kind of grace + works-based righteousness (similar to that of the Old Testament minus faith). These believers, however, will be able to enter into the GWTJ with some confidence knowing they have faithfully served our Lord over their time in the Millennial Kingdom.
At this point, the heavens and the earth are utterly destroyed in a divinely purging holy fire. It consumes everything and God presents a new heavens and a new earth. At this point, there is no more sea. Death and Hades are cast into the Lake of Fire. Every reminder of the former things is removed forever. The Old Testament Saints, the Church, the Tribulation Martyrs, and those redeemed from the Millennium enter into the new permanent reality, eternity future.
2. Time in Eternity?
To put things into perspective for us now, once we are Raptured, we are translated from the mortal to the immortal versions of ourselves. From here, we move interchangeably from the physical/corporeal realm to the realm eternal. We know after the Tribulation, we return with Christ at the Second Coming and we also rule and reign with Christ inside the Millennial Kingdom. However, after the Millennial Kingdom and the GWTJ, time as we have always known it will become irrelevant.
However, I think we will still have some understanding of how time works moving forward and how long we will have been in the realm eternal. Now, I used to think that eternity was simply the absence of time. However, I think the larger question is what role time will play moving forward into eternity? Nevertheless, we get an interesting and somewhat cryptic passage in Revelation 22 that sort of flips my former definition of the eternal narrative being the absence of time, on its head.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2 (my emphasis)
The inclusion of "months" indicates that there will be some reference to time. Thus, while we will exist in a reality that is devoid of the constraints of time, it will still exist in some form or fashion. Perhaps it will exist only in the new earth as simply a reminder of the ages past like some clock that simply spins according to its inner mechanisms, but is in no way counted against us or against some schedule.
I've often wondered what eternity-future will be like, as in, what we will actually be doing. I've never thought of heaven as some endless church service or sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. I imagine that our existence then will be similar to life in Eden during the days of Creation. When God created Adam and Eve, He placed them in the most beautiful environment imaginable. Guess what? There weren't any churches there. God Himself communed with Adam in person.
3. Communion with our Creator
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8 (my emphasis)
Here is God, the Creator Almighty, walking amongst His creation seeking out Adam. Of course, God already knew what had happened and where Adam and Eve were, but He asks where they are for the sake of our knowledge. I bring this incident up to note that here is God communing in person with His creation.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Rev. 21:3-4 (my emphasis)
I believe this is God's intent moving into eternity. He wants to spend time with us, not just collectively, but personally. God could spend a million years with each of us and still have eternity to spend. He wants to enjoy the nature of this perfected, blood-bought experience- eternal fellowship with each of us. Imagine walking and talking with God asking everything you would have ever wanted to know or could know. God's plan, as it was at the beginning, is to be in perfect communion with His creation. He longs for this, and although it seems like His longsuffering is a little 'too long,' compared to the backdrop of eternity, all of our time here is but a blink of an eye compared to what lay ahead.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7 (my emphasis)
Perhaps He will show us firsthand how everything actually happened. Or showing us all the worlds we never even knew existed. Or all the things He's created in the meantime in preparation for our future arrival. There are so many we can do in the future, I don't think even eternity is long enough to contain it all, but then again, eternity never ends. Who knows, there may be some future created order that exists where we, in fact, rule and reign with Christ. We can't rule and reign if there is nothing to rule and reign over.
4. Beyond our Comprehension
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
From the Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, to the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting the earth at 261 miles in altitude, and at 17,000 miles per hour, mankind has created some truly amazing things in our short time here. From splitting the atom to manned flight, mankind has or is in the process of mastering every domain known to us. Even in our mortal frames, mankind has performed some truly heroic feats in battle, in sports, and in science. From the creation of artificial intelligence to manipulating our own genetic code, again, mankind has accomplished some truly amazing things.
However, even these things will pale in comparison to what eternity future holds for those of us who are in Christ. Take for example the subject of our individual happiness in eternity. Quoting from the late Jack Kelley:
Certainly, we'll spend lots of time worshiping God, just as we do here, giving thanks for all He's given us. But the earthly bonds that restrain us will be released, our brains energized, our senses sharpened, and our unique capabilities revealed, not only for worship, but for all our experiences. We'll finally become all that we were created to be, God's work of art: the highest example of His creative ability. Got any idea what that means? Got any idea how thankful you'll be? Eternity has to be enough to thrill even those who have experienced life on earth to its fullest, and not for just a day or two, but forever. It has to take each of our unique preferences and interests to the max, while doing the same for everyone else and at the same time.
"Thoughts on Eternity"- Jack Kelley
5. Eternal Veganism?
6. Missing and Restored
There is an old saying that goes like this- youth is wasted on the young. As I have gotten older, I've come to appreciate that saying all the more. However, God takes that saying quite literally and seeks to rectify the problem with our mortality. In our immortal bodies, each of us will be just as God intended, the highest example of His creative ability. I love that thought. It's not just that God gives us eternal life, but that in that life, we will spend it in the most optimized, maximized, and perfected versions of ourselves.
What is missing?
The prospect of aging and dying- gone
Mental pain and suffering- gone
Physical aches and pains- gone
The wrinkles, sunspots, and other age-related issues- gone
The wanted/ unwanted pounds- gone
The health issues- gone
The mental deterioration- gone
Bad habits and addictions- gone
Worries, concerns, painful memories, and emotional trauma- gone
What is restored?
The physical strength- restored and maximized
The mental sharpness and acuity- restored and maximized
Our perfect height and build- restored and maximized
The perfect age (33 years of age?)- restored and maximized
Our unique characteristics (i.e., skin color, eye color, hair color, etc.) enhanced and glorified
Our ability to grow and learn- enhanced
Our spiritual restoration- made whole
7. Rule and Reign
This last point is one-thousand percent speculation. I am by no means dogmatic about it. I just have often wondered what God did in all of eternity past (eons before our own creation). Likewise, I wonder the same about our future. Eternity has no beginning, and likewise, it has no end. Surely, God didn't just sit in darkness for all of eternity past doing nothing. He is a Creator God and it is part of His divine nature to create. Were their ancient, pre-creation civilizations in other universes and realities that we, and perhaps even the angels, are not aware of? Could be. We don't know. Nevertheless, I find it a fascinating subject to consider. I know this last part seems like a cross between the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) "multi-verse" and planet seeding in Latter-Day Saint (i.e., Mormon) eschatology. I think both of those falls woefully short of what God can do.
Hypothetically speaking, if there were future civilizations in which we helped rule and reign, these civilizations' storylines would not entail the need for a Savior, because Jesus only came the one time to redeem those made in His image. I don't believe He needs to repeat that. The death, burial, and resurrection of the God-Man Jesus Christ are unique to mankind. That said, I don't believe He needs to replicate that for a future civilization to exist if those civilizations aren't anything like humans. But, perhaps there is some scenario beyond our current understanding that allows for us to help govern some future civilization that has its own unique intrigues and mysteries. Why else would God put out the disclaimer in Revelation 21 that nothing unholy would ever enter into its gates in the future if all evil is permanently locked away in the Lake of Fire already?
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Revelation 21:22-27 (my emphasis)
Well, I hope this has given you some things to chew on, ponder over, and consider in your own thoughts and prayers regarding our eternal future. I find the subject fascinating and it gets me so much more fired up at the prospect of Christ's return, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Let me know your own thoughts and comments below all the things I forgot to mention and keep the conversation going!
Even so, Maranatha!