Summary: Do you enjoy this life you’re living? Here’s good news — the afterlife in God’s presence is “better by far!” Or is your life on this earth not so great? More good news — there’s an everlasting glory available to you beyond this life that is immeasurably better than what you’re now experiencing. Come see what it is and how to get it.
To every living person who will choose to love and serve God, He offers two amazing promises: (1) God will guide and counsel you throughout this life. He will be directly involved with you and will intervene in your life for your good. And (2) after this life He will receive you into glory, into the indescribable glories of heaven!
God’s word does not say afterward you’ll merely go to the grave; it says that afterward you’ll be received into glory! For the believer, the one born again through “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Act 20:21, KJV), there should be zero fear of death and the grave. Multiple places in Scripture tell us that, for a believer, at death the mortal body does indeed return to the earth. But the spirit (the real, immortal, inner “you”) “returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7 and others).
Christians, at death you won’t just go to a grave to wait there for Christ’s Second Coming. No! Your body will be laid to rest. But you — your soul, your spirit — will go directly to heaven to join those who have gone on before you, “whose names are written in heaven … the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23).
“Better by far!” Better than the greatest joys of this life? Better than marriage, family, grandchildren? Better than good health and a great church? Yes! That’s what the inspired apostle wrote. And remember, Paul had already experienced heaven in a miraculous way. He wrote that a “man in Christ” (clearly Paul himself, vs. 7) had been “caught up to the third heaven … caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things … surpassingly great revelations” (2 Corinthians 12:2-7).
From the standpoint of having seen the glory of heaven/paradise, Paul wrote that it is “better by far” than our earthly experiences, no matter how great they may be. In these my senior years, I sometimes try to imagine what my many loved ones in heaven are experiencing. One thing I do know — it is far superior, “better by far,” than anything they had experienced here on earth.
And that awaits you too, if you’ve come to God the Father via God’s only prescribed way, that is, through His Son Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
Jesus Christ wants us with Him in heaven and to see His glory. What an honor! What a privilege! The crucified, resurrected, ascended, glorified Son of God desires that we spend eternity with Him and to “see His glory”! To understand how amazing that is, we must look briefly to the apostle John. Remember, John spent 3-1/2 years in Jesus’ presence during Christ’s public ministry on earth, including witnessing the Lord’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven. Yet we find no instance in the Gospels of John becoming physically overwhelmed by the glory of Jesus’ earthly presence. However, in Revelation 1 we see the ascended, glorified Jesus appearing to the same John many years later. What was John’s reaction? He “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17), he was so overwhelmed. And as with John, Jesus wants you to spend eternity with Him and to “see His glory.” For a remarkable glimpse of the glorified Son of God, I recommend that you read the first chapter of Revelation.
And this is not something that the Lord offers grudgingly. No indeed. In fact, Paul wrote that God has “called us into His kingdom and glory.” How should we respond? By “living lives worthy of God” in the here and now. God’s gracious call of us, His people, into His kingdom and glory should be a powerful motive for godly, holy living by us. How holy? What should be our aim? — “…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Your heart has not even imagined what is in store as you pass into the glories of heaven. It will be “fullness of joy,” with absolutely nothing lacking. There will be godly, wholesome “pleasures for evermore.”
Every born-again believer, every follower of Jesus Christ, at death will pass directly into heaven’s glory. The apostle Paul foresaw this with joy. Anticipating his own eventual death, he declared it clearly in these words: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, KJV). Paul understood with certainty that at a believer’s death, the body remains behind (typically for burial), but the spirit goes directly to the Lord in heaven.
We have seen that the believer’s spirit is received at death “into glory” in heaven. Then at Jesus’ second coming to the earth, the believer’s body is resurrected “
At the resurrection of the saved at Christ’s coming, there is an instant and eternal transformation of our resurrected bodies. Our souls and spirits will forever occupy changed bodies that are fashioned by the Lord to be “like His glorious body.” What a privilege! What an honor to be enabled for all eternity to occupy immortal bodies. Those bodies, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15, will be imperishable, glorious, powerful (vss. 42f), immortal (53), eternally victorious (54), and bearing the very image of Christ (49)!
At Christ’s second coming and the resurrection of the redeemed from all centuries, the raised believers live on earth in their eternally glorified bodies with Jesus Christ for a 1,000-year period called “the Millennium.” This word comes from the Latin for 1,000 years. Lest we try to spiritualize the Millennium away, fully six times in the first seven verses of Revelation 20 this period of 1,000 years after Christ’s coming is mentioned. When God gives this precise time frame six times in one chapter, we are safe to conclude that He is speaking of a literal Millennium.
Then comes the end of the resurrected saints’ triumphant millennial reign on earth with our returned Savior Jesus Christ. What follows is described in Revelation 21 (see verses above). Of special note for our “glory” study is the descent of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. This remarkable heavenly city comes to earth and becomes the new dwelling place of God the Father and Jesus His Son with the redeemed of all ages.
The Father and the Son — and although not mentioned here, surely also the Holy Spirit — take up residence among the redeemed believers (21:3). The Millennial reign of Christ on earth is over, and God in His fullness takes up His eternal dwelling place among the faithful in the “new heaven and new earth” (21:1).
The Holy City, the New Jerusalem that God sets up on the new earth (vs. 1), will “shine with the glory of God” (21:11). The Father and the Son will live forever “among the people” (vs. 3) that have been redeemed by faith in the Lord. And no longer will the sun’s light be needed, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb [Jesus] is its lamp” (vs. 23).
You can guarantee that you will experience and participate in these remarkable events. How? Come to Jesus Christ in faith and repentance. Receive Him as your Lord and Savior. Then live your life devoted to “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” There is indescribable glory in heaven awaiting you. Your guarantee of that, the Source of this great hope, is a personal relationship of salvation with Jesus Christ the Savior. Come to Him, love and serve Him with all your heart, and rejoice in the great hope of heaven’s glories.
As we close, remember our opening verse — “You will guide me with Your counsel and afterward receive me to glory" (Psalm 73:24). The hope of that — a certain hope! — is Jesus the Savior, who died and rose again so that you may be saved and experience eternal glory in His presence.
©2018, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.