This is part 10 of a 10 part series on the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. This reformed systematic theology for children was prepared for my own family. Much of the content is based on Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Small Hearts. This article reviews the what the Bible teaches the end times and the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Knowing the Future Helps in the Present
God has told us the end of the story. He hasn’t told us everything about what is coming, and some things he has told us are not given in exact detail. He has told us enough so that if we are trusting in Christ, we can put away our fears and worries.
- We know what happens when we die.
- We know that Christ is coming again.
- We know that the kingdom of God will be established upon the whole world.
- We know that all evil will be judged.
- We know that those who have trusted in Jesus Christ for their salvation will live forever with Christ.
OT prophets speak about things that took place at the first coming of Christ right along with some other things that won’t take place until the second coming of Christ. (examples: Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 61)
What Happens to Us When We Die?
Life follows physical death. Death is not an ending of our existence as human beings. Rather, it is a point of transition to our lives for the rest of eternity.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
Physical death involves the separation of who we are on the inside from the bodies that make up part of our lives. Death separates the material part of our lives from the immaterial. Our inner lives (immaterial) separate from our bodies (material) at death, but we continue living in our inner lives.
Believers enter into real joy and blessing at his physical death, even though he still awaits the resurrection of the body when the fullness of his transformed life will come. Unbelievers may expect to enter into real misery and torment at his physical death, even though he also awaits the resurrection of his body and his final judgment before a holy God.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:19-31)
“Then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9)
“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.” (Philippians 1:21-25)
That we all will die is certain. That we will live after we die is also certain. Where we will live depends, though, on where we place our hope.
The Promise – Keeping God and the Salvation of Israel
Through the Old Testament, God made some amazing promises to the people of Israel that have not yet come to pass, at least not completely.
“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
God will make of Abraham a great nation. God will make his name great. And God will bless the nations of the world through Abraham. God’s covenant with Abraham is unconditional.
God made very clear that if Israel obeyed His law (Law of Moses), he would bless them greatly (see Leviticus 26:3–13; Deuteronomy 28:1–14). If they disobeyed his Law, he would punish them (see Leviticus 26:14–43; Deuteronomy 28:15–68). God’s covenant with Israel through Moses was conditional.
God will be true to both of these covenants. God punished Israel when they broke his Law. God even raised up other nations (Assyria and Babylon) to destroy Israel and Judah.
God never forgot about his earlier promise that he would bless Israel unconditionally, that Israel would be his people and that he would be their God. The solution God planned was to make another covenant with Israel, a new covenant that would be unconditional like God’s covenant with Abraham.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
“And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11:25-26)
Jesus Will Come Again
Even though Jesus has gone now to be with his Father, he promised that he would return.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
“And said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
When Jesus comes again, his purpose will no longer be to save sinners. Rather, he will show God’s anger at the sin of our world. He will bring God’s judgment against all of those who continue to rebel against God.
“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:22-27)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)
“Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
“Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:10-16)
Jesus will come again! That day will be one of great joy for Christ’s followers, for they will be raised and brought into Christ’s kingdom to live in God’s presence forever. But for those who continue in their sin, not trusting in Christ for their salvation, this day will be one of great sadness.
Suffering of Hell and the Joy of Heaven
One of the most serious teachings of the Bible is that all people will live forever either in a place of great suffering or a place of great joy.
Jesus taught strongly about the reality and the horror of hell. Hell is a place where people who did evil and refused to trust in him will be sent in the end. The day will come when all those outside of Christ will stand before him in judgment and will receive the punishment they deserve. Some will be punished more strongly than others, but all will feel the pain and suffering of hell forever.
“He also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:10-11)
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)
The Bible speaks about the final home for believers as a place of never-ending joy and happiness, a place always in the presence of God and his beauty, and a place of great satisfaction and fulfillment.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)
- Heaven is on earth, the new earth that God will make. Believers are in their resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35–58), and they are made fully like Christ (1 John 3:2).
- Believers will reign with Christ forever.
- Revelation 22 pictures us as back in the Garden of Eden with its tree of life. But the picture here shows a Garden of Eden better than before
- Heaven is a place of endless joy, happiness, freedom, fulfillment, beauty, and love.
God’s Greatness and Glory Shown Forever and Ever
In making all things new, God will grant all people everywhere a true and deep knowledge of him that will lead them to give him the glory, honor, thanksgiving, and praise that he alone deserves as God.
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)
“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands.” (Isaiah 42:8-12)
The greatest thing about the new creation is the glory of God because God himself possesses everything that is worthy of being honored, thanked, praised, adored, and worshipped. God has made us so that we long to be like what we adore. We want to become like what we love. We wish to take on the qualities of what it is we consider beautiful and good.
To glorify God is to enter into the joy of being like God in our character. Here is true happiness. Here is true fulfillment. Here is how the glory of God and the good of his people unite forever and ever.
Basic Christian Beliefs Series
|Part 1||Who Is God?|
|Part 2||What Is the Trinity?|
|Part 3||God the Sovereign Creator|
|Part 4||Our Human Nature and Sin|
|Part 5||Person of Jesus Christ|
|Part 6||Works of Jesus Christ|
|Part 7||Holy Spirit|
|Part 8||Our Salvation|
|Part 9||Church of Jesus Christ|
|Part 10||Second Coming of Jesus Christ|