Why Look Forward to Your Resurrection and the Life to Come, Part 2: A Biblical Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

Steve —  June 18, 2021 — Leave a comment

What the Bible Teaches about the Restoration of ALL your Broken Relationships in the Life to Come

By Drs. John Frame and Steve Childers

In the Applied Theology series of courses, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:

A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.

In this session you’ll learn from Scripture how to look forward to the full restoration of ALL your broken relationships.

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

Read the transcript below for Why Look Forward to Your Resurrection and the Life to Come, Part 2

TIP: Don’t miss reading the amazing footnotes!

Why Look Forward to Your Resurrection and Life in the World to Come: Part 2

By John Frame and Steve Childers

The highest blessing in the world to come is the restoration of our “face to face” relationship with God through which will flow the restoration of all our other relationships that God ordains for human flourishing – including our relationships with ourselves, others, and our work. 

Restored Relationship with Ourselves
Most of us do not think of having a relationship with ourselves.[1]  Whether we realize it or not, we talk to ourselves constantly. Often it’s subconscious. Our self-talk is a reflection of being an image bearer designed by a triune God, who at creation revealed his self-talk saying, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26a).

In the world to come our horribly broken relationship with ourselves will finally be healed. There will be no more mental illness, self-destructive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. There will be no more sadness, fear, anxiety, anger, and doubt. Instead, believers will experience the full array of their God-given senses including singing, rejoicing, dancing, feasting and laughter. “He (Christ) will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4).

In the world to come, believers will have no more sinful temptations. We will not even be able to sin in thought, word, or deed. Adam and Eve’s souls never reached this glorified state that all redeemed and restored believers will reach in the world to come. This is another reason why the celestial city in the world to come will be far better than the garden paradise in Eden.[2]

In this perfect but still finite world to come, believers will have a perfect love for God and others that will be growing and deepening forever. The Scriptures teach that God’s love is both perfect and complete, meaning that God cannot grow in his perfect love, he can never be more loving. But the love of glorified believers for God and others will be perfect and incomplete – meaning that our perfect love will not be static, but always growing.[3]

Restored Relationship with Others
In this age our alienation from God flows into our alienation from others, resulting in a loss of transparency and intimacy in all our relationships. (Gen. 3:10, 11-13) But in the age to come, the restoration of our broken relationship with God will restore our broken relationships with others – especially as God unites us by his Spirit in a new community, his Church. Deeply satisfying human relationships are among God’s greatest gifts now and forever.

In the new world, there will be no more conflict between our love for God and our love for others. We will not be able to love others and not God, nor will we be able to love God and not love others. And our glorified love for both God and others will deepen and grow forever.[4]

God means for us to find a great source of comfort and joy in our anticipation of not only our future relationship with him but also our future relationships with others.[5] Puritan Richard Baxter shares how this thought of our future joy with others we love brings him comfort.

I know that Christ is all in all; and that it is the presence of God that makes Heaven to be heaven. But yet it much sweetens the thoughts of that place to me that there are there such a multitude of my most dear and precious friends in Christ.[6]

Restored Relationship with Work
The restoration of our relationship with God will also restore our broken relationship with our vocational calling, our “work,” in the world to come. In the beginning, God ordained work to be a good and vital means for his people to flourish on the earth as he carries out his will for the world through them. (Gen. 1:26-28)

But when sin entered the world not only was our relationship with God, ourselves, and others broken but also our relationship with our work. God’s original design for how we are to flourish in the world through our work is now corrupt and broken. Work is good. It’s the curse on work that is bad and what makes it so hard and painful. (Gen. 3:17-19)

Our broken relationship with work results in us deifying or demonizing our work. Those who deify their work, make it their primary source of happiness over God. And those who demonize their work see it as only a necessary evil until they can go to heaven for an eternal vacation where there is no more work – just constant rest and leisure.

In the new earth, God will restore our relationship with work to his original design for us to be his “sub-creators” in paradise. (Gen. 1:28; 2:15) God designed his new community, the Church, to be a living display of his kingdom on the earth and the primary instrument he uses to carry out his purposes for his glory, not only on this earth now, but on the new earth forever.

In the age to come, God’s Spirit and presence will not only be gloriously with us, he will also be powerfully working in us and through us using all the unique passions, gifts, and skills he’s given to us – to cause his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven forever.

Those who sinfully deify their work now will still find great pleasure in work, but their love for their work will no longer be at the expense of their love for God and others. And those who demonize their work now will deeply love work in the age to come as they experience the power of God’s presence working in and through their God-given passions, gifts, and skills to accomplish his purposes on a new earth forever.

Through our work we will all serve God in the world to come (Rev. 7:15, 22:3) using all our gifts, passions, and skills to help him rule over the earth according to his original design in creation. (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15) Our work will include what we do the best and enjoy the most. It will never be boring, frustrating, or fruitless. Instead, it will always be new, marvelous, and done with enthusiasm.[7]

All the great works that are accomplished in this world by the nations for the glory and honor of God will be brought into the world to come. In Revelation 21:24-26, we learn that “The kings of the earth will bring their glory into it [the holy city] … they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” Theologian Anthony Hoekema writes:

One could also say that whatever people have done on this earth which glorified God will be remembered in the life to come (see Rev. 14:13). But more must be said. Is it too much to say that, according to these verses, the unique contributions of each nation to the life of the present earth will enrich the life of the new earth? Shall we then perhaps inherit the best products of culture and art which this earth has produced?[8]

Abraham Kuyper suggests that whatever has been accomplished by the nations of the earth that brings glory and honor to God in this world, will somehow be retained and glorified by God in the world to come. And all these great accomplishments will be the result of the faithful work of both famous kings and unknown servants.[9]

At the beginning of history, God the Father created the heavens and the earth and put his image bearers on it to accomplish his purposes for the world through them. Before sin entered the world, we see a glimpse of true human flourishing according to God’s creative order and design.

At the center of history, God the Son enters our broken world to redeem fallen humanity and creation from the curse and corruption of sin and to inaugurated the return of God’s kingdom on earth, according to God’s original design for his people and creation.

At the end of history, God the Son will return and, by the power of his Spirit, restore his redeemed humanity and creation to the Father’s original creative order.

The Hebrew prophets use the word shalom to describe this ultimate state of full peace, completeness, wholeness, and blessedness. In the garden paradise, Adam and Eve experienced the blessedness of shalom—the fullness of happiness, love, joy, and peace.

Although the paradise in Eden was perfect, it was still an incomplete foretaste of the far greater blessing to come if Adam and Eve had obeyed God. Only in the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come will believers experience the ultimate shalom of our redeemed and restored relationships with God, ourselves, each other, and work.

These interwoven relationships reflect God’s highly relational triune image and are the building blocks for all of life in this world and the world to come. Only when these relationships are redeemed and restored by Christ can people experience the fullness of God’s blessings in life.

In the last two books of the Bible (Revelation 21-22), we find detailed descriptions of the holy city, the center of the new earth. This is where we find details like streets of gold and pearly gates that are probably not to be taken literally but meant to evoke in us far greater images of reality that stagger our finite imaginations regarding what ultimate happiness can be like.[10]

Our belief in the coming resurrection of our body and our life in the world to come is meant to capture our imagination and shape our lives. Puritan pastor Richard Baxter marveled at how Christians can profess their belief in the world to come but not have it greatly affect their lives.

If there be so certain and glorious a rest for the saints, why is there no more industrious seeking after it? One would think, if a man did but once hear of such unspeakable glory to be obtained, and believed what he heard to be true, he should be transported with the vehemency of his desire after it, and should almost forget to eat and drink, and should care for nothing else, and speak of and inquire after nothing else, but how to get this treasure. And yet people who hear of it daily, and profess to believe it as a fundamental article of their faith, do as little mind it, or labor for it, as if they had never heard of any such thing, or did not believe one word they hear.[11]

Jonathan Edwards often spoke of God’s command and our need to spend our whole lives as a “journey toward heaven” as our ultimate source of happiness on earth.

It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven . . . to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?[12]

[1] On many occasions, the authors of Scripture write words to themselves. The Psalmists frequently speak to themselves. In Psalm 42 and 43 David talks to himself when he is experiencing fear, saying things like “Why are you cast down, my soul?” In the first sentence of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, he writes: “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” Calvin’s thesis is that our knowledge of God and of ourselves is so “bound together by a mutual tie” that one cannot be separated from the other. Only through knowing God can we truly know ourselves. And only by knowing ourselves can we truly know God.

[2] Theologians often refer to the “fourfold estate of humanity”: 1) In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve with the “ability to sin” (posse peccare), 2) After the Fall, humanity became “unable to not sin” (non posse non peccare), 3) At conversion, the Holy Spirit’s regeneration (new birth) puts believers in the state of being “able to not sin” (posse non peccare), and 4) In the world to come, believers will be “unable to sin” (non posse peccare). In Thomas Boston’s 17th century work, “Human Nature and Its Fourfold State”, he called Adam’s pre-fall state “Primitive Integrity” in contrast with the final state of believers as “Consummate Happiness” (and the final state of unbelievers as  “Consummate Misery”).

[3] Similarly, God cannot grow in his perfect knowledge, but glorified believers will be growing in their knowledge of God and his world forever.

[4] Jonathan Edwards helps us look forward to the full restoration of not only our relationship with God, but also our relationship with others in the age to come: “Every Christian friend that goes before us from this world is a ransomed spirit waiting to welcome us in heaven. There will be the infant of days that we have lost below, through grace to be found above. There the Christian father, and mother, and wife, and child, and friend, with whom we shall renew the holy fellowship of the saints, which was interrupted by death here, but shall be commenced again in the upper sanctuary, and then shall never end. There we shall have companionship with the patriarchs and fathers and saints of the Old and New Testaments, and those of whom the world was not worthy. . . . And there, above all, we shall enjoy and dwell with God the Father, whom we have loved with all our hearts on earth; and with Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, who has always been to us the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely; and with the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier, and Guide, and Comforter; and shall be filled with all the fullness of the Godhead forever!” Jonathan Edwards, Heaven: A World of Love (Amityville, N.Y.: Calvary Press, 1999), 18.

[5] The relationship between a husband and wife in marriage is often the closest and most meaningful relationship that many people have on earth. However, Jesus teaches that in the world to come there will no longer be marriage. (Luke 20:34-36, Mark 12:18-27, 22:23-32) Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:31-32 that marital union on earth is to be seen as a mirror and signpost pointing to the ultimate relationship of Christ and his Church, as the groom and bride. Once the ultimate marriage of Christ and his church is consummated, including the Lamb’s wedding feast in the world to come, human marriages will have served their redemptive purpose and then be assimilated into the ultimate union with Christ and his Church that they foreshadow. The absence of marriage in heaven, and in the new heaven and new earth, has often raised the concern that believers will experience less meaningful relationships in heaven with their believing marriage partners, family members, or close friends, than they had on earth. A lot of what we’ll experience in heaven, including our relationships with our family members and friends, is mysterious to us down here, but we know for sure that it cannot possibly mean less human intimacy.

[6] Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 97.

[7] Because of the continuity of God’s purposes in redemption, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old earth or always dreamed of doing before we died. Those whose work involves using their gifts to help relieve suffering, will no longer have the exact same kind of work on the new earth because there will be no more sickness, violence, poverty, and injustice. The work of physicians, police officers, pastors, relief workers, et. al. will change, but they will still use their gifts, passions, and skills to love and serve people with great joy forever.

[8] Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future (p. 286). Eerdmans

[9] Kuyper writes: “If an endless field of human knowledge and of human ability is now being formed by all that takes place in order to make the visible world and material nature subject to us, and if we know that this dominion of ours over nature will be complete in eternity, we may conclude that the knowledge and dominion we have gained over nature here can and will be of continued significance, even in the kingdom of glory.” De Gemeene Gratie (Amsterdam: Hoveker & Wormser, 1902) I, 482-83 (See also 454-94)

[10] In his book, Miracles, C.S. Lewis addresses the difficulty of imagining what our lives will be like in the world to come with one of his typically insightful metaphors. “The letter and spirit of Scripture, and of all Christianity, forbid us to suppose that life in the New Creation will be a sexual life; and this reduces our imagination to the withering alternatives either of bodies which are hardly recognizable as human bodies at all or else of a perpetual fast. As regards the fast, I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.” C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Collier Books, 1960), 159–60.

[11] Baxter, Richard. The Saints’ Everlasting Rest, in The Practical Works of Richard Baxter. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981. In this book, considered to be the most influential book on heaven ever written, Baxter  shares how when our imaginations are captured by biblical thoughts about our lives in heaven to come, the inevitable result will be the transformation of our lives on earth now. “Our liveliness in all duties, our enduring of tribulation, our honoring of God, the vigor of our love, thankfulness, and all our graces, yea, the very being of our religion and Christianity, depend on the believing, serious thoughts of our rest [new heaven and new earth].”

[12] Ola Elizabeth Winslow, Jonathan Edwards: Basic Writings (New York: New American Library, 1966), 142.

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