Archives For Pastoral Education

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]

Conclusion
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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Do You Look Forward to Your Resurrection?

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 resurrection of your body and your life in the world to come.

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 1

TIP: Don’t miss reading the amazing footnotes!


Why Look Forward to Your Resurrection and Life in the World to Come: Part 1

By John Frame and Steve Childers

The historic Nicene Creed ends with the statement, “We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life in the world to come.” It’s easy to affirm these words with our mouths, but it’s often hard to experience the reality of these words in our hearts. Most Christians today don’t seem to be looking forward to their resurrection and the life to come described in Scripture.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s concern is not for his readers to believe in Jesus’ resurrection. They already believed that. His concern is that they were not looking forward to the resurrection of their bodies in the world to come. Like most adherents to pagan religions and philosophies, they were only looking forward to being liberated from their corrupt bodies after death so they could live forever in an eternal state that is free from everything physical.

Most pagan views of immortality affirm the continued existence of an immaterial soul but not the immortality of the physical body.[1] In contrast, the Scriptures teach that human immortality includes both the survival of the soul in heaven after death and the restoration of the whole person, soul and body together, on a new physical earth when Jesus returns.[2]

The Apostles’ Creed affirms the centrality of the physical realm in the Triune God’s plan of salvation by describing God the Father as creator of heaven and earth, God the Son as born of the virgin Mary and resurrected from the dead, and God the Spirit as the restorer of both the resurrection body and all physical creation in the world to come.

The Bible teaches that our souls must first be resurrected from spiritual death at our new birth, then our bodies must be resurrected from physical death at our resurrection. When Jesus returns, all the glorified souls of believers in heaven will be reunited with their glorified bodies on earth so they will all flourish in both their bodies and souls on a glorified earth forever.

God’s ultimate purpose for fallen humanity and the world is not only the rebirth of human souls but also the rebirth of all fallen creation. As is stated in the hymn Joy to the World, the fullness of God’s redemptive blessings in Christ will flow “as far as the curse is found” – and that includes all things God has created visible and invisible.

The Christian hope is not just that one day, when we die, we will go up to heaven and worship God forever. Our ultimate hope is in another day, when Jesus returns and brings heaven back down to earth. Our hope is not merely life after death in heaven, but life after heaven in a new heaven and a new earth.[3]

What lies ahead for us at our resurrection and the coming new earth is far better than what Adam and Eve experienced in the garden of Eden, and even better than what the disembodied souls of believers experience in heaven after death.

The New Testament suggests, though it’s debatable, that believers may have some kind of physical embodiment in their intermediate state in heaven.[4] However, even if we are given “intermediate bodies” in heaven, these physical forms will only be temporary and will wane in comparison to the fullness of our future resurrection bodies in the world to come.[5] Heaven is glorious, but it is not the ultimate destination of Jesus and his followers.[6]

When Jesus returns, God will finally and fully answer the prayer that he taught us to pray – that the Father’s name would be honored, that his kingdom would come, and that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:9-10) Heaven and earth will no longer be separated with God “up in heaven,” where his will is done perfectly, and man “down on earth” where God’s revealed will is not done perfectly.

Look again at the Apostle John’s description of what it will be like when God’s kingdom comes down from heaven to the new earth in the world to come.

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.[7] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.[8] 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. (Rev. 21:1-3)

On that day, God’s dwelling place and perfect will in the heavenly realm will come down to earth fulfilling God’s ancient covenant promise that “He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people.” (Gen. 17:7; Exod. 19:5-6; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 34:30; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). The concept of heaven in the Bible is the place where we find the presence of God.[9]

In the beginning, the garden of Eden gives us a vivid picture of “heaven on earth” before sin entered the world. In this original paradise, God’s presence is not described as “up in heaven” but “down on the earth” in a garden, where God was with Adam and Eve carrying out his perfect will for creation in and through them as his image bearers. (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15)

In Genesis 3:8 we read that Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”[10]

God’s original design for creation and humanity to flourish includes being present with his people as they rule over his creation. God’s plan of salvation is to restore our broken union with him by bringing us back into the full experience of his transforming “face-to-face presence” through our union with him in Christ.[11]

From God’s throne on that day, Jesus will announce the consummation of God’s plan of salvation[12] by proclaiming, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Peter describes the “passing away” of the “old world” and its transformation into the “new world” (1 Pet. 3:5-13). John tells us, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” The Greek word Peter and John uses to designate the “newness” of the new earth is not neos (νέος), meaning new in time or origin, but kainos (καινὸς) meaning new in nature or in quality.

When Paul says in Romans 8:20-21 that creation waits with eager longing to be set free from its bondage, he’s referring to how the present corrupt creation will be delivered from all its corruption when Christ returns to make all things new – not become a totally different creation.[13]

Similarly, when Paul describes the resurrected Christ as the “first born from the dead” (Rom 8:29), he’s referring to our future resurrection from the dead when our bodies will be delivered from all their corruption and made new ­– not become a totally different body, but a body like the resurrected body of Jesus.[14]

After making all things new, Jesus will say to his followers, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34).[15]

It’s hard to imagine what the fullness of a redeemed and restored humanity and earth will be like. Words like paradise, utopia, and bliss always fall short. The Apostle John gives us some wonderful glimpses into the new world to come when he writes, “He [Christ] 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.” (Rev. 21:4)

John tells us there will be no more suffering on the new earth. Jesus will wipe away all the tears and sorrow of the poor, the oppressed, the widows, the orphans, the sick, and the persecuted. All the anguish over pain and injustice will belong to the former things which have passed away. And there will be no more death – no more terminal diseases, no more fatal accidents, no more funerals, and no more final goodbyes.

In the world to come, all our God-ordained relationships for human flourishing, broken by sin, will be completely restored, including first and foremost our relationship with God.

Restored Relationship with God
The highest blessing in the world to come is the restoration of our relationship with God through which we’ll experience of the fullness of God’s presence in unbroken fellowship with him. Since the inhabitants of the new earth will have direct fellowship with God, John tells us there will be no temple there, “I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22).

God’s presence in heaven now is full of beings who are glorifying him by praying and singing his praises. Angels and the souls of those who died in Christ are proclaiming, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). All believers who die before Jesus returns will join in this heavenly chorus with a multitude of believers that “no one [can] count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Rev. 5:9).[16]

The greatest blessing of our life in heaven and on the new earth will be the joy of seeing God “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 6:8). John writes, “When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” ( 1 John 3:2). In Exodus 33:20, God told Moses that he could not see his face and live, so he granted Moses only a limited vision of himself. But in the world to come, when all the remnants of human sin are gone, we will indeed be able to see God’s face and live.

What does it mean for us to see God in this way? The thought of such a heightened experience of God tempts us to speculate. Some theologians have ventured far beyond the biblical data in trying to express this promise. Some have drawn on philosophical mysticism—the notion that in the consummation we shall “behold pure being”, perhaps even be absorbed into it. Others have concluded that in heaven we will no longer engage in work, but we will be totally caught up in always contemplating the vision of God—hence the phrase “beatific vision.”

However, the Bible never says that our heavenly experience will be limited to contemplation. Our whole life in heaven will be worship, but worship in the Bible is not mere contemplation. Biblical words for worship, like עָבַד (abad) in the Old Testament and λατρεύω (latreuo) in the New Testament, often designate the work of priests in the tabernacle and temple.

In Romans 12:1, Paul writes, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” In Romans 12:2, he describes spiritual worship as not being “conformed to this world” and being “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Then, in Romans 12:3-8, Paul illustrates what “spiritual worship” looks like as each member of the body of Christ fully uses their God-given gifts in their love for and service to God and others.[17]
In the world to come, God’s presence now in heaven will become so enmeshed with us on the new earth that his presence will become tangible in all things visible and invisible. Our experience of God’s presence in worship will far exceed our prayers and singing to include everything we think, feel, and do.

“Seeing God face to face,” therefore, is not easy to define, since it is greater than anything we have known on earth. Indeed, greater than we can imagine, far greater than anything we can conceptualize through philosophy or theology.

God’s presence with us on the new earth will be so inescapable that whatever we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell with our resurrected bodies will point us to the one who created these senses in us. Our worship will no longer be seen as a “spiritual” activity that is separated from our normal lives, but a vital part of everything we think, feel, and do, including what we see now as mundane activities.

In the new world our every thought, feeling, and action will be held captive for God’s honor and praise in and through everything we do. So Paul admonishes us to begin now. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


Footnotes:

[1] Greek philosophers made use of a metaphysical argument to prove the indestructibility of the soul by teaching that the soul is immortal in the sense of having no beginning and no end. Pagan views of the “immortality of the soul” usually present the spiritual part of humans as not affected by death because it is indestructible and imperishable. This is not a biblical doctrine. The Scriptures teach that the human soul is created by God at conception.


[2] The “eternal life” that belongs to all believers in Christ, both now and in the world to come, includes “temporal life”, the experience of time. Only God is truly eternal, meaning supra-temporal, the only one who transcends time by existing in a realm that is above and beyond time. However, everything that God created is temporal because he created it in time. This means everything that exists in the realm of God’s invisible and visible creation is temporal, including the heavens, the earth, angelic beings, and human beings. So our life in heaven, and even more our life in the new heaven and new earth, will still include the experience of time. But our sensation of time will probably be different from our sensation of it now on earth. Sometimes people say things like “time flies when you’re having fun”. That sensation of time may be multiplied many times by all our enjoyable, and “fun”, activities in heaven after we die and on the new earth after we’re resurrected.


[3] Our hope is not going back to a garden in Eden or up to heaven where our soul has no body, but going forward to the new earth that God promises will one day come down from heaven to earth as our eternal home. The tree of life in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:9) held out the promise of a far better life to Adam and Eve if they obeyed. In the world to come, the tree of life will provide believers with the ultimate blessings on earth that were never experienced by Adam and Eve because of their sin. The coming new earth will be the “better Eden,” the “greater Eden,” and the “garden-city” where believers will experience the ultimate blessings of fully redeemed and restored relationships with God, themselves, others, and creation forever – all according to God’s original design in creation. Everyone who goes to heaven is making a round trip because they’re eventually returning with Jesus to a new earth where they’ll receive a new resurrection body forever. 

  
[4] Biblical arguments can be made for believers having some type of physical form or “intermediate body” in heaven. Paul writes, For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:2-4). Some argue that Paul is only longing for the heavenly, intermediate state when our souls will be disembodied. Others believe that Paul is not longing for his soul to experience a state of invisible, Platonic, disembodied nakedness. Instead, he is longing for his soul to be immediately clothed at death by a “heavenly dwelling” which is some kind of intermediate, temporary physical form in which believers wait for their resurrection bodies.


[5] Biblical support for physical embodiment in heaven before the final resurrection includes the New Testament teaching that the resurrected Jesus now dwells in heaven in the same physical, resurrected body he had on earth. (Acts 1:11) So there is at least one physical body in heaven now – Christ’s resurrection body. Some argue that since Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven, without dying and leaving their bodies behind (Gen 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11-12, Heb. 11:5), God allowed their bodies into heaven. And when Moses and Elijah appeared physically with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36), they were displaying their temporary bodies in heaven. When the Apostle John records his visit to heaven in Revelation 10:9-10, he describes himself physically holding a scroll, eating, and tasting it. Of course, many believe that these physical descriptions are purely figurative and symbolic. However, they could also be descriptions of real physical forms and activities that also have symbolic meaning.  Even if we are given “intermediate bodies” in heaven, these physical forms will only be temporary and will wane in comparison to the fullness of our future resurrection bodies in the world to come.


[6] Jesus refers to heaven as paradise when he says to the believing thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Paul presents life in heaven as far better than life now on earth. “ For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). But heaven is a temporary, “intermediate state,” after the believer’s death, that awaits Jesus’ return and the final resurrection when we’ll have renewed bodies on a renewed earth forever. In the New Testament, death is a temporary separation of the soul from the body. The physical body deteriorates, while the believer’s soul is in conscious fellowship and bliss in God’s presence awaiting the return of Christ and the resurrection when the soul will be reunited with the resurrected body. (Luke 23:43, Rom. 8:18-23, 2 Cor. 5:3-8, Phil. 1:23-24, 1 Thess. 4:14-17) When Paul refers to believers who’ve died as those who have “fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:13), he’s using a common euphemism in his day for death, describing the the outward appearance of the dead body. Our body “sleeps” until the resurrection, while our soul relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Dan. 12:2-3; 2 Cor. 5:8). There is no such thing as “soul sleep” or a long period of unconsciousness in heaven after our death and before our resurrection. Instead, the New Testament reveals that we will be fully conscious, engaging and enjoying God and others, and joyfully active. It will not be boring.


[7] Having no sea in the new world does not mean that we will be denied the experiences of beauty and recreation with bodies of water that the sea represents. Those experiences will be enhanced beyond what we can imagine, and will include bodies of water in the new earth. The new earth will have a river running through it with life-giving streams. In first century Jewish thought, the sea was a negative symbol in contrast with the positive symbol of  a river (Ps. 46:1-4). The sea often represented something ominous and threatening to the ancient Hebrews. The Mediterranean sea was the origin of violent storms and the place from which foreign enemies would arise to conquer them. In Revelation 13, the Beast emerges from the sea. Hoekema writes,  “Since the sea in the rest of the Bible, particularly in the book of Revelation (cf. 13:1; 17:15), often stands for that which threatens the harmony of the universe, the absence of the sea from the new earth means the absence of whatever would interfere with that harmony.” Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future (p. 284). Eerdmans


[8] The glorified church, that is made up of all believers who died in Christ, will be in the “dwelling place of God” in heaven until the return of Jesus when the “dwelling place of God” will no longer be in heaven but it will come down to earth forever.


[9] The word heaven in Scripture has several meanings. Paul reflects his Hebrew view of heaven when he describes being “caught up to the third heaven.” (2 Cor. 12:3) The Old Testament view of the “first heaven” is the earth’s atmosphere where clouds form and birds fly. (Deut. 11:11; 28:12, 1 Kings 8:35, Isa. 55:10) The “second heaven” describes the physical universe that consists of the sun, moon, and stars as far as we can see. (Gen. 15:5, Ps. 8:3: Ps. 19:4,6, Isa. 13:10) The “third heaven”, where Paul was briefly caught up, is God’s dwelling place in a realm that is above all other “heavens.” In 1 Kings 8:27, we read, “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you.” In the Revelation 21:1-3 account of “heaven coming down to earth,” heaven refers to this third realm where the fullness of God’s presence and will is displayed.


[10] The picture of God “walking” in the garden is a theophany – a revelation of God in a physical, tangible form. Before Jesus, God revealed himself in physical forms in several ways, including God’s appearance as one of three heavenly beings in human bodies to Abraham in Genesis 18, God’s appearance in the form of a man who wrestles with Jacob in Genesis 32, and God’s appearance as a fourth man “walking about in the midst of the fire without harm” in Daniel 3:25.


[11] Experiencing the glory of the Lord’s presence transforms us because it reveals God’s face to us. Throughout the Bible we learn that when people experience God’s presence it’s normally transforming – positive or negative. The Aaronic benediction in Numbers 6:24-26 presents the highest, transformative blessing of God: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”


[12] The essence of the Triune God’s plan of salvation is transformation: seeing the Father’s creation as formation, the fall of humanity as deformation, and the redemption of Christ and restoration of the Spirit as reformation. In the new world, the paradise of the garden of Eden will not merely be restored, but “taken to its highest pinnacle” (Bavinck) as “the holy city, the new Jerusalem” where God dwells and rules over all his new creation with his people.


[13] Most descriptions of heaven in the Bible include references to earthly things, including a city with streets and gates, trees, fruits, water, eating, music, and animals.


[14] The believer’s resurrection body will be a new creation, but not a totally new creation. We’ll still recognize each others physical bodies, like the disciples recognized Jesus’ resurrection body. Paul refers to our resurrected body as a “spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44) Although it will still be physical, it will somehow mysteriously transcend the material realm. Parallels are often drawn with Jesus’ resurrected body in which he would sometimes appear physically to his disciples in unexpected ways behind closed doors. Yet he was not a ghost. The resurrected Jesus ate fish and had nail holes in his hands and a wound in his side the disciples could actually touch. Does this mean that the body of resurrected believers will forever bear the marks of their physical sufferings on earth? Will the person who dies at age ninety appear to be nineteen on the new earth? Will the child who dies in infancy appear to be the same age? These kinds of questions provoke lots of fanciful speculation, including the belief that everyone will be a young adult, in their twenties and thirties, because that’s the peak physical period for humans (Augustine, Aquinas). Regardless of our physical form or the age we will appear, our bodies will be fully redeemed, restored, and glorified to flourish according to God’s design.


[15] The kingdom God promised Israel, the kingdom Jesus proclaimed and inaugurated on earth, the kingdom the Church advanced by proclaiming the gospel to all nations, the kingdom God prepared for his followers from the foundation of the world, this kingdom will finally come to earth in all its fullness when Jesus returns.


[16] This is a description of heaven now, not a description of the new heaven and new earth to come. But there will still be this kind of adoration and praise to God and to the Lamb on the new earth forever.


[17] See Paul’s similar admonitions: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Eph. 6:7), and “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Col. 3:23).


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Three Marks of True Belief in God

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 conclusion to the Theology of Faith Course, we’ll explore the ancient question of humanity’s transcendent beliefs and learn what the Bible teaches is true faith.

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 Theology of Faith Course Conclusion: Three Marks of True Faith.


Theology of Faith: Conclusion

By John Frame and Steve Childers

I believe in God are the first words of the Apostles’ Creed.

Do you believe in God?

It seems like a simple question that requests a simple yes or no answer. Yet generation after generation, the ancient question of humanity’s transcendent belief surfaces, and the answers depend on what people mean by saying they believe in God.[1]

But when self-identified believers in God are asked to describe their understanding of God, they often do not believe in the God of the Bible. Their views of God range from a powerful deity who is not always loving, to a loving deity who is not always powerful. Tragically many people do not believe in the God of the Bible because they have misunderstood what the Bible really teaches about God.

The Nature of Belief
There are several kinds of beliefs that can be easily confused with what the Scriptures teach is true belief or true faith in God. There are three essential components in a biblical view of true faith. The first component is understanding. To believe in God we must first understand some things about God, such as he is personal and not merely a higher power. But merely understanding affirmations about God is not true faith.

Many people understand the biblical affirmations listed in the Apostles’ Creed, but they don’t really believe they’re true. True faith requires this second component that believes the biblical affirmations about God are true. But only understanding and believing what the bible teaches about God is still not true faith.

True faith in God also involves personal trust in him. True faith is not just understanding and believing a set of biblical affirmations about God. The Bible teaches that even the demons understand and believe what the bible teaches about Jesus.[2]

The Scriptures teach that true faith is a deeply personal and vibrant clinging to, relying on, and trusting in God the Father as your Creator, God the Son as your Redeemer, and God the Spirit as your Restorer to deliver you from all of sin’s consequences.[3] When someone comes to true personal faith in God, it’s a supernatural event when the Holy Spirit opens the unbeliever’s heart to respond to the gospel.

When Paul was preaching the gospel at Philippi, there was an unbelieving woman named Lydia listening to him. When she came to true faith in God, Luke describes how this happened:  “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). After her conversion and baptism, Lydia said to Paul and his companions, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord … come and stay at my house.” Luke writes, “And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:15).

The Problem of Unbelief
Although many say they don’t believe in God, the Apostle Paul teaches that God so clearly reveals himself in the created world that at some level everyone believes in God. Paul writes that everybody not only believes that God exists, they so “clearly perceive” God’s “eternal power and divine nature” that “they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)

According to Paul, everyone’s knowledge of God is not just a knowledge of facts about God; it’s a knowledge of God as a person; “they knew God.” (Rom. 1:21) So the problem of unbelief is not people’s ignorance of the truth about God, but their rebellious suppression of this truth (Rom. 1:18) and their refusal to honor him as God.

People who say they don’t believe in God, understand at some level that God exists, but they don’t have personal trust in him. Paul says this is because their hearts are darkened and their thinking is foolish (Rom. 1:22).

We should learn arguments and communicate well with those who say they don’t believe in God, but more than anything we should ask God to open their hearts to the gospel, love them well, listen to them, and proclaim the gospel to them with both our lives and our words. 


[1] Although many say they don’t believe in God, the Apostle Paul teaches that God so clearly reveals himself in the created world that at some level everyone believes in God. (Rom. 1:19-21) See Why and How Unbelievers Believe in the Appendix.


[2] When demons came into Jesus’ presence, they affirmed their belief in his deity when they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? (Matt 8:29).”

[3] The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) describes how the Holy Spirit brings about this true faith in our hearts by leading us to believe in all that God promises us in the gospel that is summarized in the affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed. Q21: What is true faith? Answer: True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel. Q22: What, then, must a Christian believe? Answer: All that is promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic (universal) and undoubted Christian faith teach us in a summary. Q23: What are those articles? Answer: The twelve articles in the Apostles’ Creed are then listed. J. I. Packer writes, “It is not too much to say that the gospel, which tells of the Son coming to earth, dying to redeem us, sending the Spirit to us, and finally coming in judgment, all at the Father’s will, cannot be stated at all without speaking in an implicitly trinitarian way. “I believe in God the Father… and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord… and… in the Holy Ghost [Spirit]” gives the Creed a trinitarian shape for all its particular affirmations.” Packer, J. I. Affirming the Apostles’ Creed . Crossway. 


We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities

WAYS TO GIVE

Online
Give using your credit card or bank draft through our secure online form

Phone
Call us at 407-682-6942

Mail
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Matching Gift
Your employer may also be able to double your gift.

Give a Gift of Stock
You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.