Lesson 16: A Glimpse Into Your Eternal Future
What will take place after the Great White Throne Judgment? As Peter said, we "look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). What will they be like? The Bible does indeed give us glimpses into our glorious eternal future!
Let's compare our spiritual journey to the story of Abraham:
The patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah are role models of faith and
long-range vision—vision of the next life in a city prepared for them
by God (Hebrews 11:10).
Abram (whose name was changed to Abraham) grew up in a pagan culture.
It seems he was wealthy and had a comfortable life in the city of Ur
(Genesis 11:31; Joshua 24:2-3). But he came to realize there is only
one God, the Creator, and God gave him a very special calling. God asked
him to leave his comfortable life behind and become a nomad. Abraham
responded with living faith—faith that is demonstrated by obedience
to God's laws—and thus became "the friend of God" (James 2:20-24).
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which
he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where
he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign
country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of
the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose
builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:8-10).
All the great examples of faith "died in faith, not having [yet] received
the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced
them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland"
Abraham's story has many important lessons for all of us. Above all,
our short, temporary human life should be used as a preparation time for
the next life. Godly people should think of themselves as foreigners in
this evil world, who by faith "seek a homeland"—eternal life
in the Kingdom of God!
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Someday, the Suffering of This Life Will Seem a Very Small
Someday—after living for thousands or millions of years—we will look back
at all human suffering as "our light affliction" that was "but for
a moment" and was "working for us a far more exceeding and eternal
weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17, emphasis added throughout).
We may think of it as the dark of night just before the dawn of a new day.
In fact, speaking of the returning Christ, God inspired Malachi to write,
"The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" (Malachi
And the Bible several times compares the joyous birth or deliverance of a
nation to childbirth and the labor pains leading up to it (Micah 4:9-10).
Compare that with the greatest joy of all: receiving a new life—a glorious
and eternal life—in the family and Kingdom of God!
With that in mind, consider these words of Jesus: "You will be sorrowful,
but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has
sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the
child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human
being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will
see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take
from you" (John 16:20-22).
And Paul said, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not
worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed
in us" (Romans 8:18; see also verses 19-23).
What will happen to those who faithfully believe and obey God and
"Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed,
the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested,
and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will
give you the crown of life."
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give
to every one according to his work.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First
and the Last."
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to
the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
"Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas.'
"And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful
in a very little, have authority over ten cities.'
"And the second came, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned five minas.'
"Likewise he said to him, 'You also be over five cities.'"
As we learned in previous lessons, everyone whose sins are forgiven, who
then lives a life of obedience and service, and who remains "faithful until
death" will receive "the crown of life [eternal life]" (Revelation 2:10).
The "tree of life" also symbolizes eternal life. Each one will be rewarded
with a level of responsibility according to the spiritual fruit of his or
her life. Jesus illustrated that with His parable in Luke 19 in which each
faithful servant is rewarded with rulership over a corresponding number of
What will happen to those who after they have received full spiritual
understanding still refuse to believe and obey God and
Revelation 20:6, 14-15
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...
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
"But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral,
sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which
burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
"But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has
killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!"
Those who knowingly reject God's loving offer of forgiveness and eternal
life (we pray that this will be only a very few) will experience the "second
death"—the permanent death. They will be burned up in "the lake of fire."
The lake of fire is also referred to several times in the New Testament by
the Greek word gehenna, which is translated in the New King James
Version as "hell" (such as in Luke 12:5). The King James Version reflects
some of the religious confusion over the subject because it also generally
translates the Greek word hades as "hell," while once correctly translating hades as
"the grave." (The New King James Version leaves it untranslated as "Hades" all
11 times it is used in the New Testament.) For a thorough understanding of
this subject, please see Heaven
and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?
In the long run, rebellion against God and Christ brings great unhappiness.
The Bible teaches that those who remain obstinately rebellious will experience
the second death—the permanent death—rather than being allowed to live forever
What is God's ultimate goal?
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children
of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor
of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things,
in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect
2 Corinthians 6:16, 18
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple
of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk
among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people..."
"I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty."
The Kingdom of God is also the family of God! God the Father and God the
Son have planned for a very long time to expand the God family with
many "children." In essence, God is in the process of spiritually reproducing
Himself by "bringing many sons to glory." Since God, with His infinite love
and power, desires to save everyone, it is His desire and ours that most people
who have ever lived will be given eternal life in the Kingdom of God! How
many "sons and daughters" will that be? Evidently many, many billions—seemingly
as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the heavens (Genesis
22:17). It's hard for us to imagine such a large family, but we will eventually
get to know and love all of our brothers and sisters!
Why does God plan for "new heavens and a new earth"?
2 Peter 3:7-14
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are
reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is
as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but
is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all
should come to repentance.
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.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons
ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the
heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with
Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new
earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found
by Him in peace, without spot and blameless...
God designed this planet to be perfect for human habitation and enjoyment.
But after the Great White Throne Judgment period (explained in the last lesson),
most people who have ever lived will have been transformed to be spirit beings
in the Kingdom of God, and the rest (we hope a relatively few) will no longer
exist because they will have been burned up. At that time, God will burn up
all the vestiges of the sinful, carnal past and provide a pure environment
ideal for spirit beings. "Both the earth and the works that are in it will
be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). In this way, God will remove all the old things
and purify the earth in preparation for a "new heavens and a new earth" (verse
Peter uses this prophecy to remind us of some spiritual lessons. He asks,
"Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons
ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness"? He gives several answers in
the rest of the chapter, including that we should "be diligent to be found
by Him in peace, without spot and blameless" (verses 11 and 14).
What will the new heavens and new earth be like?
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first
earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
Then I, John, 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 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."
Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He
said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."
"For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall
not be remembered or come to mind.
"But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create
Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy.
"I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping
shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying."
Chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation describe the many exciting things John sees
in vision about the new heaven and new earth. He wrote, "the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away" and also "there shall be no more death,
nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things
have passed away" (Revelation 21:1, 4). The Bible gives us ample evidence
that eternal life in the Kingdom of God will be paradise!
Will Christ move back to heaven and take His family with Him?
Revelation 21:10-11, 22-27
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed
me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like
a jasper stone, clear as crystal...
But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its
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.
Instead of taking the family to heaven, heaven and God the Father are coming
to earth! As we quoted in the last question: "Then I, John, saw the holy city,
New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God… 'Behold, the tabernacle
of God is with men [by this time, glorified saints], and He will dwell with
them'" (Revelation 21:2-3). Later John saw another vision of "the great city,
the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (verse 10). Then the
rest of the chapter is a description of the New Jerusalem.
The length, breadth and height of New Jerusalem will be "twelve thousand
furlongs," which is about 1,500 miles (verse 16). (For comparison,
from Los Angeles to Minneapolis is about 1,500 miles.) It could be a giant
cube or perhaps a giant pyramid. The footprint (area) is hard to imagine.
It will be a square that east-west is about as far as from Kuwait City, Kuwait,
to Athens, Greece, and south-north about as far as from Cairo, Egypt, to Kiev,
Ukraine. And the height is even more difficult to imagine. The tallest building
on earth is just over half a mile high. Mt. Everest is only about 5½ miles
high (from sea level). New Jerusalem will be a big city!
Will the dominion of the God family be limited to earth?
"He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and
he shall be My son."
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to
But one testified in a certain place, saying: "What is man that You
are mindful of him, or the son of man that You take care of him?
You have made him 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." For in that
He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under
him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.
Even though the new earth with the New Jerusalem will be the permanent home
and headquarters of God and His Kingdom, the God family will rule over and
enjoy all the universe! "He who overcomes shall inherit all things" (Revelation
Speaking of "man," the writer of Hebrews writes, "You have put all things...under
his feet" and later says, "Now we do not yet see all things put under
him" (Hebrews 2:8). He was quoting Psalm 8 where the context mentions "Your
heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars" (Psalm 8:3). Since
"new heavens" are prophesied, perhaps the stars and planets will be much more
beautiful than they are now! It seems logical that the God family will be
responsible for long-term improvements of the universe. It's really exciting
to imagine the infinite possibilities!
Why doesn't God reveal even more about our long-term future?
And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and
sealed till the time of the end.
"Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall
do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God
must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently
Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God,
you may receive the promise:
"For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not
"Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul
has no pleasure in him."
If God revealed everything in books, our houses could not contain all the
books. But it's amazing—and a priceless blessing—that God has revealed so
much about the future! And God told Daniel that in "the time of the end…the
wise shall understand [much more about Bible prophecy]" (Daniel 12:9-10).
"The wise" are God's servants who trust, obey and serve Him.
Each time a prophecy is fulfilled, there is another proof of God. God has
given us mountains of proof "that He is [exists], and that He is a rewarder
of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). We don't need to know the
details of our future since we have God to lead us every step of the way.
God has revealed all we need to know about how to live our lives now.
Bible prophecy should greatly motivate us to avoid the prophesied consequences
of disobedience and to seek the prophesied rewards of obedience!
With all this insight into the future, what should we do?
But Jesus answered him, saying, "It is written, 'Man shall not live
by bread alone, but by every word of God.'"
Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing
shall I do that I may have eternal life?"
So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One,
that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive
the gift of the Holy Spirit."
There are many parts to the answer—many more than can be cited here. Jesus
said we should live "by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). He also said, "If you
want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). Peter said,
"Repent, and...be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
In addition, reading and meditating on 1 Thessalonians 5 is a worthwhile
personal Bible study and an excellent conclusion for this "Bible Prophecy
and You" series.
We in the United Church of God, the publisher of these Bible Study Guides,
strongly encourage you to continue your study of the Bible. Stay informed
about world events and trends and try to understand them in the light of Bible
prophecy. Reading our newsletter World
News and Prophecywill be especially helpful in that regard. And please
continue your online Bible study by checking out our other Bible
Study Guides lessons.
You'll find it interesting to compare the description of the Garden of
Eden in Genesis 2:8-17 with the beautiful garden-like description of the
New Jerusalem in Revelation 22:1-5. Take some time to think about this inspiring
vision and write down the things you are most looking forward to in God's
Also, this is a good time to request World
News and Prophecy if you are not already receiving it. You
can download or order it and other publications at http://www.wnponline.org/litreq/.
Next Lesson: Congratulations! You have now finished the
"Bible Prophecy and You" series. We encourage you to choose other lessons
to study from the Bible
Study Guides page.
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
the Millennium from the booklet You Can Understand Bible Prophecy
World News and Prophecy—Biblical Perspectives on Current Events
What Happens After Death?
The Road to Eternal Life
What Is Your Destiny?