God's End Game - Part 46

Series: God's End Game

January 26, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

God’s End Game - Part 46 

We’ve covered why God needed an end game.

We’ve covered the major play in his end game: the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

We’ve been focusing on the final play of God’s end game: the return of Jesus and all that comes with that.

I think we’re ready to step back now and look at the big picture we’ve discovered of what’s going to happen as God’s End Game wraps up on the Last Day…

Jesus is going to literally, physically return to our world from heaven in the same way he left…

Acts 1:9–11 (ESV) — 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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.”

When he does, he’ll bring with him those believers who have already died… 

1 Thessalonians 4:13–17 (ESV) — 13 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. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 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.

Those believers who are alive at his return are not left out…

17 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.

On that day we all get our new resurrection bodies…

1 Corinthians 15:20–24 (ESV) — 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

These resurrection bodies are physical, made of flesh and bone, because Jesus, the firstfruits of the resurrection, came back in a physical body.

Luke 24:36–43 (ESV) — 36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 

This alone gives us a huge leap forward in understanding what “heaven” will be like.

We also learned a shocking truth.

Believers aren’t the only ones given resurrected bodies…

Revelation 20:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 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.

And Paul, in his defense before a Roman authority talked about…

Acts 24:15 (ESV) — 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

The first resurrection is believers. The second is unbelievers. In the end, everybody lives forever. It’s where you spend eternity in those resurrection bodies that makes the difference.

With the return of Christ and the resurrections comes the hard part, the scary part, the offensive but necessary part of God’s End Game, the judgment.

Revelation 20:11–15 (ESV) — 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. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Unbelievers are judged according to their sinful deeds as recorded in the books. Believers, those whose names are written in the book of life, can’t be judged for their sins! And yet there is still a judgment for them 

1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (ESV) — 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 

The judgment for believers is not about whether they get to be with God forever or not — that was settled when they put their faith and trust in Jesus. It’s about their rewards and responsibilities in “heaven.”

Which brings us to the part I’ve been waiting to share…

Revelation 21:1–4 (ESV) — 1 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. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 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. 4 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.”

All of God’s End Game leads up to this final chapter. Note that verse 1 does not say, John saw “heaven.” It says he saw “a new heaven and new earth.” We will dive much deeper into it all later, but for now know this is why I keep using air quotes when I say “heaven.”

We all pretty much use the word “heaven” for the final resting place of believers, the place where we’ll all spend eternity. But in John’s vision it’s called the “new heavens and earth.” 

There’s a distinction to be made here we miss. Technically, heaven is the dwelling place of God. It’s a dimension, a realm that we cannot see. The new heavens and earth is about God merging the dimension of heaven with the physical realm, literally making his home on the new heavens and earth, dwelling among us. That’s the final, eternal reality of all believers. That’s the heaven we mean we talk about heaven.

But before we look at the glories of that, I’m going to address something I said a good while ago that many of you have been wondering about. I said that no one is really in “heaven" or hell yet. Remember that?

Taking everything we’ve learned so far about God’s End Game, let me ask you a question.

Has Jesus returned yet? Has the resurrection of believers and unbelievers happened yet? Have the judgments happened yet? Has anyone been thrown into the lake of fire yet? Have the first heaven and the first earth passed away? Have the new heavens and the new earth come to pass? Has the New Jerusalem come down from heaven? Has God set up his dwelling place with man? Have all the tears been wiped away yet? Have all the former things passed away yet?

Then how can anyone be in hell (the lake of fire) or “heaven” (as described in Revelation 21)? They can’t be. 

Why all the confusion? That’s on us. Just like we’ve muddied the waters on what “heaven” will be like (clouds and harps) we haven’t done a good job of carefully studying what the Bible says about what happens when we die.

If no one is in hell or heaven yet, then we are compelled to ask the question, where are they?

Conclusion: We’ll begin that journey by looking at a story Jesus told as recorded in Luke’s gospel. Some say it’s a parable. An allegorical account of something that didn’t really happen. Others say it’s an actual account of what really happened when two people died. It’s interesting that of all Jesus’ parables, this is the only one where one of the characters is given a name.

I tend to think it’s real. Jesus would, after all, have knowledge of such things as the Son of God.

Luke 16:19–31 (ESV) — 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 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.’ 25 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. 26 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.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 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.’ ”

We’ll start unpacking this and see how it helps us answer our question about where people go when they die… next time.

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