Why is God good to us? Why has He given us a new birth and a new life in Christ, and a part in His economy—His kingdom? God’s mighty plan of redemption began before the foundation of the world, and “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…by one offering…perfected forever…” (Hebrews 10:10, 14). Yet while the penalty for sin was completely paid in full at the cross, God has not yet shown the full extent of “His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” —there is more to come!
“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)
Jesus often taught in parables, and while the brunt of their focus is on the importance of actually getting into God’s kingdom, they also reveal the incredible eternity that awaits His people:
“Then one said to Him, ‘Lord, are there few who are saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first and there are first who will be last.’” (Luke 13:23-30) Many who feel they should be there will not be allowed in, but for those who do enter through the narrow gate, eternity will be the most incredible experience.
So how do we know there is more to come? First of all, because Jesus said so:
“’In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the ways you know.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:2-6)
Secondly, we know there is more to come because Jesus rose from the dead:
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [died]. For since by man [Adam] came death, by Man [Christ, the Son of God] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” (I Corinthians 15:20-26) The significance of the resurrection is not only evidence of God’s satisfaction of Christ’s sacrifice for sins, but it is also a first fruit, a promise, that we too will someday rise from the dead.
But how, exactly, will this occur? I Corinthians 15:35-58 explains:
“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?’ Foolish one, what you sow [plant] is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be…So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam [Christ] became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust [we have human bodies like Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [we will be like Christ].
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep [we won’t all be dead], but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” At some point in the future yet to come, God will change our human, physical bodies of flesh into incorruptible, immortal bodies!
So what is the process in us as we continue throughout our lives here in these human bodies? 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us:
“But we all, with unveiled face [we no longer need to cover our faces from the glory of God the way the Israelites had to whenever Moses came back from being in God’s presence], beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of God.” As we spend time with the Lord, through Bible study and prayer, the Holy Spirit transforms us, and we begin to reflect His glory to a greater and greater degree.
But what about the fact that our physical bodies are, or will at some point be, getting older and less capable? 2 Corinthians 4:7, 16-5:11, 15 explains:
“But we have this treasure [according to the previous verse, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”] in earthen vessels [containers—i.e., our human bodies], [why?] that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us [remember that God has said, “…for My strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Corinthians 12:9)]…Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man [our body] is perishing [dying], yet the inward man [our spirit] is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [something so much better!], while we do not look at the things which are seen [the things of this earth], but at the things which are not seen [the things of God]. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent [our body] is destroyed, we have a building [a new body] from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven [with the bodies we will someday have]…For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed [not because we want to get out of our physical bodies, not because we want to die], but further clothed [in our new bodies], that mortality [death and dying] may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present [alive in this world] or absent [gone from these bodies, dead], to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
Scientists say human beings begin dying at around age twenty-five, although many of us feel physically good for quite some time after that. Regardless of where we are on the spectrum from physical birth to physical death, however, if we spend time with God (not looking “at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen”) He works in us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” “until Christ is formed in” us (Galatians 4:19). But this will only occur “from glory to glory”—God’s glory will only pass to us if we are actually in His presence. It does not happen in a vacuum, and it will not happen if we immerse ourselves extensively in the things and preoccupations of this life.
The last book of the New Testament, Revelations, gives us a spectacular description of what will happen after “anyone not found written in the Book of Life…[is] cast into the lake of fire.”(Revelations 20:15):
“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 [dwelling place] 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…But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with first and brimstone, which is the second death [what we typically call eternal punishment or hell].” (Revelation 21:1-8) What an incredible picture! Yet what a serious warning that comes along with it!!
How can we ever hope to persevere—to make it? We persevere through the power Jesus gives, and only through Him:
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58) In other words, let’s not give up; the best is truly yet to come!
Please give that You may truly BE my Lord, not as a means of identification only, but as the One whom I know and actively follow. May You work in me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory—from glory to glory—as I look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen. Amen.