God has created a glorious universe. Images from the Hubble telescope reveal awesome galaxies and nebulae. Do distant stars and planets have anything to do with your future? What will you be doing for all eternity?
Benjamin Franklin once wrote: "Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes." Death is a reality we all must face. The Bible tells us: "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Yes, human beings die. But your Bible reveals that God has prepared an awesome future, after death, for truly converted Christians who are His faithful servants.
Have you ever pondered images from deep space—galaxies and novae and other astronomical phenomena—and wondered whether these distant places will be a part of your future? Human beings are very limited by time and space, yet we have a desire to explore our universe. That innate drive led to the Apollo space exploration program in the 1960s. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr. walked on the moon. They spent 21 hours there, and returned to earth with 46 pounds of lunar rock. In December 1972, Apollo 17 landed on the moon. Astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last of 12 Americans to set foot on its mysterious surface. Since then, no one has been back.
In January of this year, U. S. President George W. Bush announced plans to send Americans back to the moon as early as 2015, and eventually to Mars. Bush said: "'We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon and prepare for new journeys to the worlds beyond our own....' Bush proposed landing an unmanned spacecraft on the moon as early as 2008. Humans would return to the moon by 2020, after an absence since December 1972. The moon would serve as a stepping stone to an eventual manned mission to Mars" (Reuters, January 15, 2004).
Will nations also use space exploration for future military development and warfare? As Reuters reported, some critics describe Bush's plan as "a costly extravagance that could renew a military space race... It could also help extend U.S. military supremacy in space at a time when China, a growing strategic power, is planning lunar exploration missions." U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), chairman of the Senate commerce subcommittee on science, technology and space, told Reuters: "You always want the [strategic] high ground." Such thinking echoes a key aim of the 1960s U.S. space race against the Soviet Union. National interests in space will always consider military applications and development. "Alice Slater, head of the environmentalist advocacy group Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, warned that the Bush initiative 'will create a new arms race to the heavens'" (ibid.). Will mankind ever learn the way to peace? (Romans 3:17).
Other nations are also pursuing space travel. In October 2003, the People's Republic of China launched its first "taikonaut" into space. Only Russia and the U.S. had previously sent a man into space. As Reuters reported: "Sun Laiyan, deputy director of the China National Space Administration, said in December China planned to launch a lunar probe program this year, which includes a lunar satellite by 2007. That will be followed by the landing of an unmanned vehicle on the Moon by 2010 and collecting samples of lunar soil by 2020.... China plans a second manned space launch within the next two years, this time carrying more than one astronaut. The United States last had a man on the moon in 1972" (ibid.).
Human beings have a fascination with the universe, and we should. We are a part of God's great creation. Ancient King David marveled at his place in the cosmos; as a young shepherd, he saw the glory of the heavens night after night. He wrote: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" (Psalm 8:3–4). Have you considered your place in the universe—now, and in the future?
As incredible as it may seem, the Bible indicates that the earth and the universe were created for mankind! In fact, King David went on to write: "For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion [authority or rulership] over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8:5–9).
God gave mankind dominion over the physical earth and its creatures. We are supposed to be learning how to manage, govern, and serve as faithful stewards. But why did God give us such dominion over the earth? The answer is astounding, and many are afraid to believe it, even though the Bible makes it plain. God is now giving us the opportunity to train for greater authority and stewardship in the future! God has an awesome plan for all humanity. As unbelievable as it may seem, God wants to share the universe with you! That is what your Bible reveals! The book of Hebrews quotes David's psalm: "You have made him [mankind] a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet…" (Hebrews 2:7–8).
Under God's inspiration, the author then adds a comment: "For in that He [God] put all in subjection under him [mankind], He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him" (v. 8). It appears that nothing in the universe will be excluded from mankind's dominion. This awesome event is yet future, but it is God's promise, and is certain!
The Greek for "all" in verse 8 is ta panta, which literally means "the all." In the absolute sense, ta panta means "the universe." God not only wants to give you dominion over the earth; He wants to share with you the entire universe. But we can only do that when we inherit eternal life, when we become God's immortal children. God has an awesome purpose for us, and it will involve our future in the universe!
That purpose will expand our capacity and our understanding far beyond what we can now imagine. Do we recognize our present limitations? Do we think that we, as air-breathing, food-eating, water-drinking creatures can travel very far into space? While the planet Mars may be within reach at a cost of billions of dollars, the star nearest to us—Proxima Centauri—is 4.2 light years away. If we could travel at the speed of light, it would take us 4.2 years to go there. Of course, our spaceships and probes travel much more slowly; Voyager 1 would need 70,000 years to travel as far as the distance between the earth and Proxima Centauri. We will never conquer space, much less travel very far into space, unless we can break through the human limitations of time and space. But there is hope for the future! God has a plan for His children to transcend time and space.
Your Bible reveals that God's purpose for every man and woman will bring us joy for all eternity. But what exactly will faithful, God-fearing, genuine Christians be doing for all eternity? Many professing Christians believe that the human soul, at death, goes either to a fiery hell or a blissful heaven, perhaps spending some time in purgatory before reaching heaven. What does the Bible actually teach? It teaches that there is a human spirit—not an immortal soul—in human beings (Job 32:8; 1 Corinthians 2:11). "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). Yes, the Bible teaches that the soul can die!
Jesus stated in Matthew 10:28: "But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Gehenna fire]." The Bible teaches that souls are mortal, not immortal, and can be destroyed totally in fire. Jesus said so. The incorrigibly wicked will indeed be tormented, and then burned up in a lake of fire. That is called the second death (Revelation 20:14). The second death is final; it is a death from which there is no resurrection. You certainly do not want to be thrown into a lake of fire! You need to choose life, and choose the salvation that God offers you through Jesus Christ! You need to repent and be baptized, as the Apostle Peter preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38).
God has a wonderful plan of salvation for all humanity. He wants you to be a part of His family for all eternity. Paul wrote: "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14–15).
God is the Father of a family. One of the awesome activities christians will experience, for all eternity, is fellowship with our loving family. It is a royal family (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Jesus Christ will come back as King of kings, and Lord of lords. Jesus Christ will "have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10). Yes, we will be kings and priests, serving under our Savior, Jesus Christ!
We will inherit the Kingdom of God: "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever" (Daniel 7:18). Those saints will be in the first resurrection when Christ returns. They will rule on this earth, serve under the King of kings, and help billions of people during the Millennium. At the Second Coming—at the beginning of the Millennium—we will be resurrected, or changed, and given immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51–54). We "shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man" (v. 49); we will have glory, power, immortality and a spirit body.
Remember, after Jesus' resurrection, He ascended to Heaven and had His pre-incarnate glory restored to Him, such that "His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16). Yet Jesus was able to manifest Himself in the flesh after His resurrection; He appeared to His disciples and shared bread and fish with them (John 21:13). The saints also will be able to manifest themselves to the physical nations during the Millennium. As kings and priests, we will be governing and teaching. In fact, the priests in ancient Israel were the teachers. During the Millennium, we will be teaching God's way of life—the way of truth, the way of the Bible, the way of living that Christ exemplified and taught. As kings and priests, we will teach the world the way to peace: "And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:20–21).
In God's Kingdom, King David will be ruling over the house of Israel and the house of Judah, as the two nations become one (Ezekiel 37). Jesus said that the Twelve Apostles would be ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel: "So Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life'" (Matthew 19:28–29).
What other responsibilities will the saints have? In Luke 19, Jesus gave the parable of the minas (or "pounds," KJV), revealing that faithful Christians would rule over cities—some managing five, some overseeing ten. Jesus also taught that those who overcome would rule over nations (Revelation 2:26). Do the cities and nations of this world need godly government? Absolutely! That is why we pray: "Your Kingdom come." You, as a part of God's glorious, immortalized family, can be a part of the solution to this world's problems!
God's Kingdom will rule on earth. Jerusalem will be the capital of the world. Notice this inspiring prophecy: "Thus says the Lord: 'I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain" (Zechariah 8:3). Faithful Christians will serve Jesus Christ as kings and priests here on this earth—not in heaven as many wrongly teach! Here is how the Apostle John describes the resurrection that will occur when Jesus Christ returns to the earth: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:6).
After the thousand years, Satan the devil will be released to deceive the nations. Those who follow that deceiver will be destroyed by fire from heaven (Revelation 20:9). Satan and his demons will be cast into the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41). Then the book of life will be opened for billions, for the first time, in the White Throne Judgment (for more on this topic, see Questions and Answers on page 15 of this issue). This is the time of the second resurrection, the judgment period when many of your friends and relatives, who never had a real opportunity for salvation, will be given that opportunity. After the White Throne Judgment, what will happen? "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14–15).
This is the real hellfire of your Bible. After the White Throne Judgment, all human beings who have ever lived will either be destroyed in the lake of fire, or will be glorified children of God, living forever in the immortalized family of God. Peter writes that the earth will be totally purged by fire: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10).
|The earth will be renewed, and so will the heavens. Then God's heavenly throne will come to the purified earth: "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" (Revelation 21:3).
Notice that God not only gives Christians the earth (Matthew 5:5)—He also gives us the entire universe: "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son" (Revelation 21:7; Romans 8:32). God's purpose is to prepare us to govern the universe. We will be able to travel instantly to far-off galaxies. We will not be limited by time and space. God wants us to liberate the creation from its decay and corruption. As Paul wrote, "the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21).
God has an awesome future destiny in store for His faithful children. We will be active, fulfilled and gloriously happy for all eternity. Foretelling the coming of the Messiah, and His eternal kingdom, the prophet Isaiah wrote: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…" (Isaiah 9:6–7).
Do you want to be a part of the glorious future God has planned for you? Do you look forward to the day when God's throne of grace will come to the earth? Only then, finally, will there be no more pain, suffering and death. John writes of our inspiring ultimate destiny: "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" (Revelation 21:4). This is the eternity God has planned for you. May God help you to understand His great love and purpose for you, and to prepare for your awesome eternal destiny!