Weekend Broadcast

The Believer's Final Rest

A Message by R.C. Sproul

We all wonder what heaven will be like.  When the biblical authors give us descriptions of eternity, they typically use symbolic and metaphorical language that’s hard to decipher.  So, what can we know for sure about the Christian’s ultimate destination?  This is the final lesson in the series, Foundations:  An Overview of Systematic Theology.

From the series: Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theology

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Of Veils and Vales

  2. devotional

    Anticipating Heaven

  3. article

    Paradise Restored

Of Veils and Vales

R.C. Sproul Jr.

Abraham, we are told, looked for a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). Jesus promised us that He was going to prepare a place for us (John 14:3). And when history draws to its close, a great city, the New Jerusalem, will descend from on high (Rev. 21:2). Is it any wonder that we, like Pilgrim before us, see our walk as a metaphor, a journey to the celestial city? And is it not just a short step to then conclude that our call to seek first the kingdom of God is a call to make our way there?

There is not a thing in the world wrong with these spatial kinds of metaphors. One does not complain when the Holy Spirit uses a word picture. There is, however, an associated danger. We are indeed on a journey. But we are going to a Person more than a place. To seek first the kingdom is less about getting there or building the kingdom and more about seeking the King. We will arrive not when we pass by the sign at the edge of town, but when we are embraced in our Savior's arms.

The glory of the gospel in like manner, is less the glory of how we have peace with God and more the glory that we have peace with God. The good news is not just the forgiveness of sins, but also our adoption as sons. Our religion is not a relationship, but a joining of the relationship. We are brought, by God's grace and without becoming God ourselves, into the very family of God.

Over the years, it has been my habit when speaking here and there at conferences and in worship services to offer up a little gift to those in attendance. It's an outline of the entire Bible. It's time I offered it here:

I. Genesis 1–2: Creation
II. Genesis 3: Fall.
III. Genesis 4–Revelation 22: Trying to get back to Genesis 1–2, only better.

History is the story of getting back to the garden. History ends at the beginning. I fear that we fear eternity, that we are reluctant to go where we are going, that it might grow boring precisely because we have missed the beauty of where we came from. We do not look forward to heaven because we do not look backward to the garden.

In the garden we were, first, without sin. Before my wife's passing, she asked if I thought she would be able to recognize those who had gone before her to heaven. I explained: "Dear, I'm pretty sure I won't recognize myself when I get to heaven. Me I know. Me without sin, I can't imagine what that would look like." What an astonishing thing it will be when we get home and find we have left sin behind. In one sense we won't recognize ourselves. In another, however, we will finally be what we always were. We will come into our own. We will shed our fallen nature completely, and recall our created nature.

In the garden we were, second, in harmony with the world and with one another. In the garden, not only did the lion and lamb lie down together, but so did the husband and wife. Human relationship was untouched by death, by sickness, by sin. There was no need to be or to feel defensive, no need to guard one's "rights." And so it will be in the consummated kingdom. All our relationships will be unsullied by sin or fear. We will be at peace. Thorns and thistles will be banished, and there will be no more sweat on our brows. All will be well.

All of this, however, Adam and Eve, before their fall, and we, after our glorification, would trade for the one glory above all others—we will walk with Him in the cool of the evening. The glory of eternity is that we will be with Him. We will see His face and live (Rev. 22:4). Better still, we will see Him as He is, and be made like Him.

The kingdom, however, is not merely future but present. Our sanctification is nothing other than becoming more what we will be. Our living out the "one anothers" here on earth is nothing other than doing what we will do. And our living coram Deo, before the face of God, is nothing other than how and where we will live then. Our progress as pilgrims is measured not by miles but by veils. For now we see through them darkly. But as we grow in grace, as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, the veils are progressively removed.

The glory first begins to peek through, giving only hints of what is to come. But as we descend into the vale, the veils begin to drop, and eyesight which had begun to grow dim becomes faith sight that now beholds the Shekinah.

Pray that He would give us eyes to see what eye has not seen. Pray that He would give us ears to hear what ear has not heard. Pray that He would give us minds to grasp, even just a hint, all that He has promised to His beloved. Pleasures Evermore sits at His right hand.œ

Anticipating Heaven

Do I as a living, breathing, conscious person have a concrete hope for my future? What do I have to look forward to? At times, when I discover that my own spirit is sagging and a sense of heaviness intrudes on me, I sometimes wonder why the gloomy cloud is perched above my head.

Biblical eschatology gives us solid reasons for expecting a personal continuity of life. Eternal life for the individual is not an empty human aspiration built on myth, but an assurance promised us by Christ Himself. His own triumph over the grave is the church’s hope for our participation in His life.

We have heard so much ridicule and mocking about pie-in-the-sky theology that I’m afraid we’ve lost our appetite for it. What the Scriptures promise for our future involves a lot more than a perpetual visit to Mother Butler’s. Jesus Christ and Simple Simon have very little in common.

The promise of heaven is indeed gloriousa promise that not only anchors the soul but fires the soul with hope. Life is not an outrageous horror, though we witness outrages daily. The outrage is not the bottom line. The sting of death has been overcome.

The victory of Christ is not established by platitudes or conjured-up positive mental attitudes. Jesus is not the Good Humor Man. His call to joy is rooted in reality: “Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Therein resides our future hopethat Christ has overcome the world. He stared directly into the face of death and death blinked.

Paradise Restored

Keith Mathison

Where do believers go when they die? If you ask any Christian this question, the response will likely be: “Why, they go to heaven of course.” But if you then ask them, “Where do believers go after they go to heaven?” there is a strong probability that your question will be answered with a quizzical expression of surprise. “What do you mean, where do believers go after they go to heaven? They just go to heaven, right?” Well, actually no, not according to Scripture.

According to Scripture, the soul of a believer does go to be present with the Lord in heaven when he or she dies. But this is only an intermediate state, and the intermediate state is just that — intermediate, or “in-between.” It is not the final state or the ultimate future of believers. The ultimate future of the believer is the resurrection of the body at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15). On that glorious Day, the soul and the raised and transformed body of the believer will be one again as God originally created them to be. Not only will our bodies and souls be freed from the remnants of sin, the heavens and earth will be renewed and freed from the curse of sin as well (Rom. 8:18–25). This new earth, in which righteousness dwells, will be our home.

Modern Christian pop-eschatology has largely obscured this blessed hope by positing a rather Platonic view of the afterlife in which the souls of believers exist in an eternal state of disembodied bliss, floating among the clouds and playing harps. This has occurred because the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which is central to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel, and the corresponding doctrine of the new heavens and earth have not received the same attention in our preaching as they did in the preaching of the apostles.

As Paul explains so eloquently in Romans 8, our eager desire for the redemption of our bodies is intimately connected with our hope for the redemption of the entire creation from the ravages of sin. The doctrine of the new heavens and earth, then, is not a peripheral doctrine or a side-issue. It is a key element in the redemptive work of God. It defines the eternal state in which we shall live with Christ forever.

End-times doctrines are often surrounded by controversy and confusion. This should not cause believers to throw their hands up in despair. It is the hope of the editors of Tabletalk that this issue will help to rekindle the biblical hope in the hearts and minds of God’s people who live coram Deo, before the face of God.

Since the beginning,

our aim has been to help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to share it, and how to live it…

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