The last things are:
- The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
- The Resurrection of the Dead
- The Great Judgment
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ
There is nothing that must be fulfilled before the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ Second Coming could be at any time and will be without any warning.
Many have asserted that a great apostasy must first occur and the antichrist must also be revealed, before the return of the Lord Jesus. But to maintain such a position renders the immediacy of Jesus’ return as misleading. If the nation of Israel must be converted first, the antichrist revealed, and if any number of other things must occur first, then the immediate return of Jesus Christ is not a possibility for the present. To maintain that certain things must occur first undermines any sense of urgency that should be felt.
As a moderate Preterist, I believe that certain prophecies have been fulfilled around the events of AD 70, when Rome sacked Jerusalem. The only literal prophecies to be fulfilled are Jesus’ return, the resurrection of the dead, and the great judgment.
The Resurrection of the Dead
Jesus Christ, as the second Adam, ‘will draw all men’ to Himself [John 12:32] upon the great day of the resurrection from the dead. Not a son or daughter of Adam will be missing and the sentence of the first death (i.e., physical death) will be fully abrogated for all time.
1 Cor. 15:26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
This universal reversal of the first death does not relate to spiritual death or to the second death. The second death is a fruition of spiritual death and is fully realised in the complete separation of a resurrected person from any experiential sense of God’s presence in hell. That death that is abolished by Jesus in 1 Cor. 15 relates only to the first death.
1 Cor. 15:21,22 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
In this sense, Jesus is the savior of all men [1 Tim. 4:10]. He effectually makes all men alive from the first death. He does this by means of giving His flesh for the life of the world [John 6:51]. The resurrection of all men simply could not take place if Jesus’ death and resurrection were not universally effectual as an atonement for all sin. It is an impersonal atonement for those who are not members of Christ’s body by faith, and therefore, does not relate to the sinner’s spiritual death, which will fully eventuate in the second death in hell.
The abrogation of the first death by means of the general resurrection will make possible both the salvation of God’s people and the perfect judgment of those who have followed Satan’s rebellion. For God’s people, they will have their resurrected bodies glorified with that full manifestation of God’s glory. For the lost, their newly resurrected bodies will be able to fulfil the just demands of the Law, for sins committed in the body, requiring a punishment in which ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ [Mark 9:48].
The Great Judgment
Rev. 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
Heaven is that place of God’s glorious presence without the possible intrusion of what is evil. It is because of the corruption of creation, due to Adam’s fall, that the presence of God is not revealed in all of His glory and beauty. In creation there is but a glimmer of the God of glory, but in heaven there is the complete and unreserved manifestation of His glory and beauty.
If God were to manifest His glory without reservation upon this creation, then the opportunity to be saved would immediately cease for the opportunity to have faith will have ended, as we shall then behold God. For on the day that the heavens are rolled back as a scroll and the glory of God is manifested upon all the earth, the day of the Lord has come. It is the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the glory of His Father, that will usher in the great judgement of all mankind.
Who are those who shall enter the joy and glory of heaven?
Revelation 21:27 – and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Only a saving faith in Jesus, here counted as having one’s name written in the Lamb’s book of life, will enter into the joy and glory of heaven. Jesus spoke this to his disciples, while He was on earth [Luke 10:20].
Revelation 22:14 – Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
Here again is an expression that points us to Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can clean our robes with His righteousness [2 Cor. 5:21]. Our robes are washed by Jesus’ blood [Rev. 7:14] and we who have been baptised into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ [Gal. 3:27]. In one of Jesus’ parables regarding the kingdom of heaven, He likened heaven to a wedding feast and one man was cast out into hell for not having wedding clothes on [Matt. 22:11-13].
Is There Such a Thing as an Eternal Hell?
Rev. 20:14,15 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, 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.
Romans 2:5-11 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who be perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
Acts 17:30,31 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man who He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
The Scriptures are very clear that after the great judgment of all mankind, all those who are not in the book of life, will be thrown into hell.
The book of life is God’s record of all those who are in Christ Jesus. When the disciples marveled that they had power over demonic forces, Jesus said, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” [Luke 10:20]
Jesus said, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” [John 8:24]
What is Hell?
It is that most awesome and terrible place of God’s wrath upon sinners for their sins. It is a place of perfect punishment upon a sinner, for sins that have not been forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus.
2 Thess. 1:6-9 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.
It is called the lake of fire, the Abyss, Gehenna, and Hades. It is that place where the second death reigns for all eternity. The second death is that complete and absolute separation of those made in the image of God from any experiential sense of God’s wonderful and life-giving presence. Those living upon God’s beautiful earth do enjoy the sense of God’s presence to some degree. Hell is that place where there is the horrific sense of complete abandonment from our Creator, Whose very being is our only sense of life and blessing.
Why Does Hell Exist?
Matt. 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels….’”
Hell is that place that was created for the devil and his angels. It was created in response to the rebellion of the demonic forces of evil, who had sinned against the immediate presence of God, without deception.
God never purposed that any of mankind might spend eternity in hell. The only reason any of Adam’s posterity will be in hell for all of eternity is because they have rejected God’s perfect and holy love for them and have followed Satan in his rebellion against God.
If God is a God of Love, How Could He Send People into an Eternal Hell?
On the contrary and surprising to our naturally carnal minds, the attribute of God that is the cause of hell is the attribute of God’s love. The reason hell is a place of such extremity is because of the extremity of God’s love, which has been rejected by unthankful and wicked sinners. This negative side of God’s love is His wrath. God’s love is like an arrow, in that it is one directional. The attribute of God’s holiness gives His love its direction, as God’s love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but with the truth [1 Cor. 13:6]. Those who stand in opposition to God’s holy love will smart for it. The wrath of God is not an attribute of God itself, but rather, an action of God that is derived from His unchanging love for all those who bear His image.
It is because God loves with a perfect and holy love for all those whom He has created to bear His image, that God’s wrath burns upon sinners who reject His love for them. It is unrequited love that fuels God’s response of wrath, understood as His unchanging love expressed in perfect harmony with the disposition of the sinner. If God did not love sinners then His wrath would not burn for eternity against those who have made it clear that they want nothing to do with Him. If God does not love sinners then He simply wouldn’t care whether or not they loved Him.
If God’s wrath were due solely to His holiness then there would be no delay. God’s wrath would simply fall upon sinners and there would be no patient enduring and striving with sinners. It is the love of God that is the source of God’s patience just as much as it is the source of His wrath.
Why Does an Infinite and Eternal God Punish Sinners with an Eternal Punishment for a Finite Amount of Sin?
Anselm of Canterbury argued that it was because the finite sins of men were against an infinite God that therefore justice could only be satisfied with an eternal punishment.
Another answer is to understand that God is not bound by time, as He created time. He is the great ‘I AM’, which is to say that He is that One who of Himself is completely autonomous in His own being. He is. That is, His being is not defined or determined by time. While for us finite beings, we cannot lay claim to being of an indefinite existence that just ‘is’.
Consequently, all of our sins, past and present, are always present time to an eternal God. They are all ever before His holy face! Those who reason that God would not be too concerned for sins once a lengthy period to time has passed, fail to appreciate God’s timelessness in regards to our sins. Furthermore, our sins, though committed in the past do have an on-going effect as the omission or commission of sin cannot be ignored or forgotten.
The good news of Jesus’ death upon the cross for sinners is that this carries the weight of an eternal redemption, because it also is apprehended by an eternal God that is a reality at all times present to Him.