WHAT IS THE ETERNAL STATE OF A BELIEVER?

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A study of “the eternal state” is rightly seen as a subdivision of the greater study of eschatology, or the doctrine of last things. It must be admitted first that the only sure word of testimony regarding this subject is the Holy Bible; no other “holy book” or philosophy is as trustworthy or as informative as the Bible.

The Greek word most often translated “eternal” in the Bible is aionos, from which we get our word eon. Essentially, this word denotes having no beginning and no end, or having a beginning but no end, with respect to time. The exact meaning is always determined by the context. When this word is combined with “life” (Greek zoe), it denotes not only life without end, but a certain quality of life that is distinguished from mere biological life.

We know that all believers will receive resurrected bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42). Thus, we will not exist as disembodied spirits, but we will possess glorified bodies especially suited for an existence in the eternal state.

The Bible gives few details of what that state will be like. Scripture says that God creates a new heaven and a new earth, and the New Jerusalem descends from God to the new earth (Revelation 21:1-2). In this new creation, “the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). “So, we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Our existence in the eternal state will be markedly different from what we are used to now: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The curse that came with sin will never hold sway again (Revelation 22:3). We can hardly imagine a world without pain or sorrow, but that’s what God promises—a reality beyond imagination. “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9; cf. Isaiah 64:4).

Neither will our existence in the eternal state be marred by bad memories of the old earth. Joy will swallow up all distress: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17).

The eternal state will involve serving the Lord (Revelation 22:3), seeing God face to face (verse 4), and living in perfect health (verse 2) and holiness (verse 5). Second Peter 3:13 says that the new heaven and earth will be “the home of righteousness.” Sin will not cast its shadow anywhere in that realm.

From the beginning of creation, it has been God’s plan to bring His redeemed ones to this place of completion and glory (Romans 8:30Philippians 1:6). No more sin, no more curse, no more death, no more good-byes—all because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In the eternal state, God’s perfect plan will be brought to glorious realization, and mankind will accomplish its chief end, “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT IS ETERNAL DEATH?

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 In short, eternal death is the fate that awaits all people who ultimately reject God, reject the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ, and remain in their sin and disobedience. Physical death is a one-time experience. Eternal death, on the other hand, is everlasting. It is a death that continues through eternity, a spiritual death that is experienced on a continual basis. Just as spiritual life, by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) is everlasting life, eternal death is never-ending. 

The most important question to be answered is “Does the Bible teach the doctrine of eternal death?” If the Bible doesn’t teach eternal death, then we can pack up and go home because there is no further debate on the issue. God’s Word, the Bible, is the infallible rule of faith and practice, and as such we must believe and teach only what it clearly teaches, and the Bible clearly teaches the doctrine of eternal death. We can point to several passages that explicitly state this, but for our purposes, only three will be needed, one from the Old Testament and two from the New.

• And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2 ESV)

• And [the wicked] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46 ESV)

• And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 ESV). In verse 10, we are told that the Lake of Fire burns “forever and ever.”

All three of these passages (and more could have been added) have as their main context the scene of final judgment. In other words, when Christ returns, three things will occur: 1) The general resurrection of “the living and the dead”; 2) the final judgment; and 3) the inauguration of the eternal state. Each of these passages demonstrates that during the final judgment of all people, Jesus will separate the righteous from the wicked. The righteous will be ushered into the final state of glory, while the wicked will be sent to the lake of fire for eternal punishment and torment. Note too (particularly in the Daniel and Matthew passages) that the same adjective (“everlasting” or “eternal”) is used to modify both “life” and “punishment/contempt.” What is true about one (life) must be true about the other (punishment), that both are eternal and last forever.

The doctrine of eternal death is not a popular doctrine to teach or proclaim. To do so often opens one up to scorn and ridicule. However, we must not let that detract us from what the Bible so clearly teaches; namely, that due to our being born in sin and trespasses, we are under the just condemnation of God for our sin. If we do not embrace the saving message of Jesus Christ, we will perish in our sin and trespasses and be under God’s just judgment for our sin—eternal death. This is a sobering doctrine and requires the utmost care and compassion in its presentation.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHO ARE THE DEAD IN CHRIST?

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Before identifying the “dead in Christ,” we should note the context in which this phrase is found. The immediate context is 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, which deals with the question of what will happen at the return of the Lord Jesus. Paul’s readers were concerned that when Christ returns, those who have died prior to then would somehow miss out. The primary purpose of this passage is to comfort those believers who have lost believing loved ones.

The message of this passage is a message of hope. Christians have hope that unbelievers do not have when they lose loved ones. There is hope beyond the grave for Christians, and part of that hope is that, at the return of Christ, those who have already died “will rise first.” After that, Christians who are still alive will be transformed. Both groups will be “caught up” and will meet the Lord in the air. Paul closes this section with an admonition to encourage others with this hope.

In this passage, Paul uses the common euphemism of sleep to refer to those who have died in Christ, i.e., believers. Paul wants to comfort his readers that those Christians who have died prior to the return of Christ will not miss out on anything. That is why he opens this section by saying, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (v. 13).

So to answer the question, the dead in Christ are those believers who have died prior to the second coming of Christ. (Note, whether 1 Thessalonians 4 is referring to the second coming or the rapture is a matter of debate.) Believers, whether dead or alive, belong to Christ. We get similar language from the apostle in his first letter to the Corinthians when he writes, “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:23). The dead in Christ applies not only to Paul’s original audience, but to all believers who have died in what can be termed the “inter-advental” period, or the time between the first and second comings of Christ.

Another question that may come up in this context is what happens to believers when they die? Certainly, Paul uses sleep to refer to their state, but does this mean that believers experience (for lack of a better word) an unconscious sleep-like state until the future resurrection? Those who advocate this position, called soul sleep, base it on passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. But it should be noted that “sleep” as used here is euphemistic. It is not meant to convey actual sleep. In fact, the experience of the believer after death and before the end of the age when Christ returns is conscious, blissful communion with the Lord. Paul hints at this in 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 and Philippians 1:23.

At death, the body lies in repose in the grave awaiting the resurrection of the last day, but the soul goes to be at home with the Lord. This is the doctrine of the intermediate state. Believers experience in a provisional sense the rewards that await them in heaven, while unbelievers experience a taste of their eternal torment in hell (Luke 16:19–31).

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW SHOULD A CHRISTIAN RESPOND TO BEING IN A LOVELESS MARRIAGE?

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The term loveless marriage can describe several situations, ranging from a loss of initial feelings of love to the experience of violent abuse. (In the case of spousal abuse, the abused spouse should seek help through legal and emotionally supportive avenues. Physically removing oneself from the situation is often necessary while ongoing therapy takes place. An abused spouse should never resume living in the same house with a former abuser who has not proved his or her trustworthiness.) For the purposes of this article, we will define loveless marriage as one in which no physical abuse takes place but in which one or both spouses have lost all affection for each other and live as silent roommates.

God’s design for marriage was revealed in the Garden of Eden when God created a woman for Adam and brought her to him as a helper (Genesis 2:21–24). The word translated “helper” comes from a Hebrew word that is also used in describing the help God gives (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 33:20). So a wife’s God-given role is to assist her husband in the tasks God has given him and provide support, wisdom, encouragement, and sometimes deliverance just as God gives us. The husband’s role is clearly laid out in Ephesians 5:25–33. Loving his wife is not a suggestion for a husband; it is a command. Any husband who is not working to display selfless, Christlike love toward his wife is in direct disobedience to God’s Word. If a husband fails to do this, his prayers will be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Sometimes a loveless marriage is the result of being unequally yoked together with an unbeliever (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). The unbelieving spouse couldn’t care less about obedience to God’s Word. In those cases, the apostle Paul gives instruction: if the unbelieving spouse consents to remain in the marriage and is not abusive, the Christian should stay and demonstrate the love of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:12–16). The first fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22–23 is love. When we have no human love to offer, we can call upon the Lord and ask that the Holy Spirit love the spouse through us. It is doubtful that Jesus felt warm, emotional affection for the men who were nailing Him to a cross. Yet He asked the Father to forgive them, and He died for them anyway (Luke 23:33–34; Romans 5:8). Jesus’ demonstration of love can be an inspiration for us all, even in regards to our marriages.

If counseling is available, loveless marriages can benefit from the wise, objective viewpoint of a biblical counselor (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Sometimes a marriage grows stale through neglect and ongoing, inconsiderate behaviors of which a couple may be unaware. An outside perspective can quickly spot problem areas and call attention to them. If the couple is willing to work, a loveless marriage can quickly return to loving. Even if one spouse refuses to cooperate with counseling, the willing spouse can benefit from going alone. An objective viewpoint can sometimes help one spouse see things differently and therefore respond in better ways to the unloving spouse.

Like a rock thrown into a pond, changes thrown into dysfunctional cycles create new patterns of response. Here is an example of the way one spouse can change the course of a loveless marriage: if Sue no longer screams at John when he is rude, he must react to her gentle response in a different way than he has previously done. Instead of escalating the anger, he scales back his boorish behavior to match her more mature attitude. Her quiet smile and refusal to engage showcase his own selfishness, and he often responds with less hostility. The fight cycle is interrupted, and a new cycle begins with less stress and more kindness (Proverbs 15:1). Over time, that new, healthier cycle can evolve into affection, and the couple learns to enjoy each other once more.

There are several things a Christian can do to reinvest in a loveless marriage:

1. Set healthy boundaries. Learn when to walk away, disengage, or reject hurtful words or patterns. Refusing to engage in fights that lead nowhere is one way a boundary can strengthen a marriage.

2. Pray for each other. The best way to forgive and love someone who has hurt us is to lift him or her up before God (Ephesians 4:32). God is for the marriage, so we know we are praying in accordance with His will when we pray for restoration of love and hope (1 John 5:14–15).

3. Watch your words. We tend to believe what we speak. If we find ourselves regularly bashing our spouse or complaining about the marriage, we will start believing it. Wisdom dictates that we practice controlling our tongues and speaking only that which is “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8).

4. Pay attention to the little things. When a couple first falls in love, they notice every little thing and are eager to please each other. However, if we are not intentional about continuing those practices, we fall into a rut and take each other for granted. Restoring love to a loveless marriage is done one little thing at a time. Discover the spouse’s love language and work to meet that need every day.

A Christian should respond to a loveless marriage by refusing to participate in the behaviors causing the problem. Even if one spouse shows no interest in reestablishing an emotional connection, a Christian should do what is right. We are not called to retaliate or return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). We are called out from the world to be light-bearers (Matthew 5:14), the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), and a chosen priesthood (1 Peter 2:9–10). Our mission is not to please ourselves but to please our heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 10:32). He is pleased when we endure difficulties with patience and do whatever is within our power to revive a loveless marriage.

Prophet Nathan Emol

PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE:

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Is it necessary for a Christian to marry? What is the purpose of marriage? The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Since the first marriage was between the first man and the first woman, it is assumed that marriage is God’s will for most people. It was instituted in the dispensation of innocence and is therefore a holy institution. The first reason that the Bible gives for the existence of marriage is simple: Adam was lonely and needed a helper (Genesis 2:18). This is the primary purpose of marriage—fellowship, companionship, and mutual help and comfort.

One purpose of marriage is to create a stable home in which children can grow and thrive. The best marriage is between two believers (2 Corinthians 6:14) who can produce godly offspring (Malachi 2:13–15). In Malachi, God tells the Israelites that He will not accept their offerings because they have been unfaithful to the wives of their youth. This shows how much God cares about marriage being kept intact. Not only that, but He tells them He was seeking “godly offspring.” This is a puzzling passage, and has been interpreted to mean a) that godly offspring are the purpose of marriage; b) that a good marriage between two godly people will mean that any children they have will tend to be godly as well; c) God wanted the Israelites to be faithful to their wives instead of leaving them for foreign women who would produce for them ungodly offspring because of the idolatry of those nations; and d) that God Himself was seeking His own offspring (the people) to exhibit godliness by their faithfulness. In any of these interpretations, we see a common theme: the children of faithful people will tend to be faithful, too.

Not only does marriage teach children how to be faithful and give them a stable environment in which to learn and grow, it has a sanctifying effect on both marriage partners when they submit to God’s law (Ephesians 5). Every marriage has difficult moments or difficult dynamics. When two sinful people are trying to create a life together, they must submit to God’s command to love each another as God has loved us—selflessly (1 John 3:16). Our attempts to follow God’s commands in our own strength tend to end in failure, and that failure tends to make the believer more aware of his dependence on God and more open to the Spirit’s work in him, which tends to result in godliness. And godliness helps us to follow God’s commands. So, marriage is very helpful for the one trying to live a godly life; it helps to scrub the heart clean of selfishness and other impurities.

Marriage also protects individuals from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 7:2). The world we live in is full of sexual images, innuendo, and temptation. Even if a person doesn’t pursue sexual sin, it pursues him or her, and it is very hard to escape it. Marriage provides a healthy place to express sexuality, without opening oneself up to the severe emotional (and many times physical) damage that is caused by casual, non-committed sexual relationships. It is clear that God created marriage for our good (Proverbs 18:22), to make us happy, to promote a healthier society, and to produce holiness in our lives.

Finally, marriage is a beautiful picture of the relationship between Christ and His church. The body of believers that make up the Church are collectively called bride of Christ. As Bridegroom, Jesus gave His life for His bride, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:25–26), and His selfless act provides an example for all husbands. At the second coming of Christ, the church will be united with the Bridegroom, the official “wedding ceremony” will take place, and with it the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be actualized (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:1–2).

Prophet Nathan Emol