The Final Countdown

Speaker: Ps. Darin Browne

We have been talking about Heaven and Hell – our final destination. I want to clearly lay out what the Bible teaches about what happens after we die. When we die, certain things happen. Our body goes back to dust, our soul separates, and then…

JUDGEMENT FOR ALL

When we die, every one of us faces judgement. It’s a simple criterion…those who know Jesus as Lord, and those who don’t. This initial judgement depends not on what we know but who we know. It is not about what we’ve done during our lives but about what Jesus Christ has done for us.

This first judgment is not to be confused with the final judgment, or what is called the Judgment of Works. Both believers and unbelievers face an initial and a final judgment…different places, different outcomes, different things hang in the balance. We all face judgement. For now, Heaven or Paradise awaits believers who die. A holding cell called Hell or Hades awaits those who reject Christ and His salvation offer.

But today I want to consider what happens at the end of time. There will be a resurrection of all people. Unbelievers will face judgement of their works for salvation. We have already established that they will fail miserably, and believers will go to the Judgement Seat of Christ. The unbelievers will be judged by their works, and eternity hangs in the balance…Heaven or Hell. And we know that we cannot do enough good to outweigh the bad. Without accepting Christ, they are resurrected to face judgement and an eternity separated from God.

Revelation 20:11-12 (ESV)
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.

A FINAL JUDGEMENT

Unbelievers, with their unglorified bodies and unredeemed souls, will enter a place where every problem from this life will be amplified without any hope of improvement. The Bible teaches that they go to Hell when they die, until ultimately, they face the Lake of Fire, eternal death.

But Christians will be judged also, however not for salvation. We are already saved, and go to heaven now, but ultimately what we have said and done will be judged, as we stand before the BEMA, the judgement seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Let’s summarise: Soul sleep is a lie, we are conscious. If we love Jesus and honour Him, we are with Him as He promised the thief on the cross, with Him in Paradise. The present, intermediate Heaven is in the angelic realm, distinctly separate from Earth (though it may have physical qualities).

By contrast, the future Heaven, our ultimate destination, will be in the human realm. It’s a very real and a new version of Earth. Then the dwelling place of God will also be the dwelling place of humanity, in a resurrected universe: The Garden of Eden 2.0

NEW EARTH AND HEAVEN 2.0

Heaven for now is spiritual, but ultimately our destination is a physical new earth, and this earth will be perfect, unlike our current earth. Imagine what we see around us now, but with all of the wonderful things like mountains, beaches and sunsets amplified. And no, zero, zilch sin or evil.

Revelation 21:1-3 (ESV)
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.

The Greek word for “new” is KAINOS, which means fresh, new, of a new kind, unprecedented. It’s not the old earth refashioned, it’s entirely new!

You might argue that earth, even a new one, shouldn’t be called Heaven. However, the very definition of heaven is being where God is, and God will be in this new earth one day.

So, heaven and earth, now separated, will then be merged: the new earth will also be heaven, since God will dwell there with his people.

This earth 2.0 will be completely new, completely free from sin and sin’s corruptions. Every molecule, atom, proton, and neutron in existence today will disintegrate only to be replaced by a glorious new creation.

IT GETS BETTER THAN HEAVEN

Right now, Christ dwells in a heavenly city, and we know that the souls of all believers who have died are with Him, so get excited about that. Jesus said…

John 14:2-3 (ESV)
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.

Last week I compared heaven to a wonderful, exciting, beautiful cruise ship, headed to the greatest destination imaginable. Heaven is amazing, but there’s better even than heaven to come! During the millennium, God’s people will live and work on the earth we know now, with their capital in Jerusalem. But after God destroys and makes the earth new, he’s going to send a heavenly city down out of heaven to the new earth.

THE FINAL DESTINATION

Revelation 21 tells us that a mind-blowing city will become the capital of the new earth, to be known as the new Jerusalem.

Revelation 21:2-3 (ESV)
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.

And there, God will dwell in the midst of his new creation and live with his people. All sadness, hurt, and disappointment will be no more as we live alongside our Creator.

Revelation 21:4-5 (ESV)
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.”

NEW JERUSALEM

Revelation 21:16 (ESV)
The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.

This new capital city is described by John as being a 1,200 stadia cube. It’s hard to imagine. A stadia is 183 metres. So, the city will be a cube, over 2,250 km. Each side is roughly the distance from Mackay to Melbourne. It will be multi-level, the same dimensions high as it is long as it is wide. And this is just the capital because people will live all over the new earth. How can they all be fitted in? Currently over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. There is loads of room for all this to happen!

Revelation also tells us that, while there will be a temple in Jerusalem during the tribulation and the millennium, there will be no temple in the new Jerusalem because a representation of God’s presence will no longer be necessary. We will have his direct presence everywhere. No artificial light, because God is there and He is light, suggesting that our new bodies may never get tired or need sleep.

Utopian idealists who dream of mankind creating a “Heaven on Earth” are destined for disappointment, because only God can do this. A sinless, perfect world just like Eden was. It is God’s dream. It is God’s plan. It’s forever.

THIS CAN’T BE SCIENTIFIC, CAN IT?

Some of you here will be saying to yourself, this is fanciful. It’s unscientific, it cannot be true. Have you got a better idea? Well, let me blow your little scientific minds! Secular scientists who believe in String Theory postulate the existence of up to ten different and distinct dimensions and an infinite number of imperceptible universes. What science is actually postulating to unify general relativity and quantum mechanics actually fits perfectly with what Revelation speaks of!

The Bible says that the earthly temples in Jerusalem, impressive as they were, were mere reflections or copies of the temple in heaven. Could it be that this world, this earth, is just a copy of what heaven really is, a poor, substandard reflection.

Hebrews 9:24 (ESV)
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

Why do we as humans tend to think that heaven as a version of earth, rather than earth is really a poor reflection of what is really in heaven?

EVERYONE IS DYING FOR A TRIP TO PARADISE

Luke 23:43 (ESV)
Jesus, to the thief, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The word paradise comes from the Persian word PAIRIDAEZA, meaning “a walled park” or “enclosed garden.” It was used to describe the great walled gardens of the Persian king Cyrus’s royal palaces. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Greek word for paradise is used to describe the Garden of Eden. A garden is not wild, it is cared for and cultivated. It was paradise in the Garden of Eden, it is paradise in heaven where we go when we die, and it’s a paradise at our final destination…

Revelation 2:7 (ESV)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

Some things we are not sure of. Do we have temporary bodies between our physical death and our bodily resurrection at the return of Christ to earth. Even when Paul visited heaven, he wasn’t sure…

A FINAL PLACE

2 Corinthians 12:3 (ESV)
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise – whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows –

We are certain that Christ is resurrected, Enoch, Elijah and possibly Moses went to Heaven in their physical bodies, so it could be that we also have temporary resurrected bodies, but we are not sure.

Scripture teaches that those who die go to a real place, either the present Heaven or the present Hell, as conscious human beings with memory of their lives and relationships on Earth. Those in Hell will live in misery, hopelessness, and isolation, while those in Heaven will live in comfort, joy, and rich relationship with God and others.

CONSCIOUSNESS IN HEAVEN AND HELL

Luke 16:22-23 (ESV)
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.

The rich man and Lazarus were in Heaven and Hell respectively, but they had an awareness of what had happened and was happening on earth. Several Bible passages describe the situation where people who are dead have an awareness of life here on earth.

When King Saul got the Witch of Endor to raise up the Spirit of Samuel, this spirit knew what had happened before he died, and since he had died. The martyrs in Revelation 6 knew what was happening in earth. The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 see us and cheer us on…

Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

When we die, it’s not nothingness or sleep or have another reincarnated crack at life to try and get it right, it’s consciousness, heaven, or hell, as we saw last week. But what about our final destination? Well, God has a plan…

Hebrews 11:16 (ESV)
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

THE SEQUENCE OF HISTORY

God has a plan. He always had a plan, and we are in the middle of it. You can argue pretribulation, post tribulation, mid tribulation, amillenial, pan millennial (it will all pan out in the end). No one really knows, although we might have theories, and one day some of us will be right and be able to say a cosmic, “Told you so!”

Pray for pre, prepare for post!

So, let’s have a look at God’s timetable, at least my theory about it…

1: PEOPLE WHO DIE NOW GO TO HEAVEN OR HELL

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV)
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

People who die now, including you and I (if the Lord tarries), are separated from our bodies. We go to a temporary heaven or hell, pending our final judgement, which will be either at the Great White Throne for unbelievers or the Judgement Seat of Christ for believers. All people who die are currently in a temporary, but very real, place.

Remember the illustration from last week. We who love Christ, when we die it’s like we are taking a cruise to the best destination ever. The cruise is great, the food amazing, entertainment stellar, comfort, excitement, and joy. But the best is yet to come! But for those without Christ it’s the opposite. Here’s another picture. Hades, GEHENNA, what most call hell, is like a county jail. It’s incarceration, it’s pain, it’s lack, it’s misery, but those without Christ are only there until final judgement is pronounced. After that it’s off to the state penitentiary, the final destination, for ever!

2: JESUS IS SOON GOING TO RETURN FOR HIS OWN

But it doesn’t finish there, because God is just getting started. Jesus is going to return to earth, and we who believe will be raptured with Him.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (ESV)
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

I believe in the rapture so profoundly; I often drive with the sunroof open!

This is a pre-tribulation view, the most common view among believers. Pre, mid or post, most Christian teachers agree that we will be caught up together with the Lord, and so shall we be with the Lord forever. I’m not going to try and tie down a time frame, but the Bible says it will happen. Then…

3: THE TRIBULATION

This is a time when many horrific judgements are poured out upon mankind.

Matthew 24:21 (ESV)
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.

This is intense, horrifying, but short lived, only seven years. Then it gets exciting.

4: JESUS RETURNS TO EARTH

Matthew 24:30 (ESV)
Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Jesus is coming again, and we will be resurrected to reign with Him in the…

5: MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST

Revelation 20:6 (ESV)
Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

Jesus returns to earth and reigns for 1,000 years, and we reign with Him in our resurrected bodies. Satan and his henchmen are bound and chained for this time, pending their release and…

6: THE FINAL BATTLE

Revelation 20:7-8 (ESV)
And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.

What happens then? Let’s just allow Scripture to describe what happens then…

Revelation 20:9 (ESV)
And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,

7: THE GREAT WHITE THRONE and THE LAKE OF FIRE

Evil itself, from Satan on down to the beast, the false prophet, Antichrist, everyone who does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, are judged. Then they are all thrown into the Lake of Fire, the second and permanent death, eternal torment and eternal damnation.

Revelation 20:10 (ESV)
and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.’

Revelation 20:14-15 (ESV)
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.

This is the eternal destiny of all those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. This must compel us to act and faithfully tell others about their destiny.

8: NEW HEAVEN, NEW EARTH

Hebrews 13:14 (ESV)
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.

Whether we understand it or not, the vision given to John in Revelation of a new heaven and a new earth should encourage us as we continue in this life.

Revelation 21:3-7 (ESV)
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.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

THE FINAL TIME

If you have ever sat with a dying loved one and wiped a tear from their eyes, it’s the last time you will have to do this. In this perfect place where we are destined to spend eternity with our Lord, there will be no more tears to cry.

The Garden of Eden started it, and the Garden of Life on the new Earth bookends God’s perfect plan, creating a great symmetry.

Randy Alcorn says, “In Eden, there’s no sin, death, or Curse; on the New Earth, there’s no more sin, death, or Curse. In Genesis, the Redeemer is promised, in Revelation, the Redeemer returns. Genesis tells the story of Paradise lost; Revelation tells the story of Paradise regained. In Genesis, humanity’s stewardship is squandered; in Revelation, humanity’s stewardship is triumphant, empowered by the human and divine King Jesus. These parallels are too remarkable to be anything but deliberate. These mirror images demonstrate the perfect symmetry of God’s plan. We live in the in-between time, hearing echoes of Eden and the approaching footfalls of the New Earth.”

WHAT IS YOUR DESTINY?

R. A. Torrey writes, “We will not be disembodied spirits in the world to come, but redeemed spirits, in redeemed bodies, in a redeemed universe.”

Our final destiny is incredible. Heaven is great, but God has more than heaven for us. He has an entire new creation where we live in perfect harmony with God, just as Adam and Eve did before the fall. Heaven is great, but it’s a cruise ship to the greatest destination!

That is our destiny! Our destiny is to live and reign with Jesus. Let me ask you, if you want to live with Him forever, how can you not live for Him right now? We compromise so often, we seek our own good, our own desires, but surely if He has this destiny for us, we should serve Him with all of our heart. We should live with heaven in our heart.

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