Published in Creation 36(3):24–27, 2014
Forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended to heaven, where we know He lived with the Father before He came to earth (John 1:2). On a hilltop, as His disciples watched, He went up through the air until a cloud hid Him from their sight. Two angels then appeared and told the disciples: “This same Jesus … will come back in the same way as you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9–11).
Ever since then, Christians all over the world have been looking forward to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. This future event is called ‘the Second Coming’. It will be the climax or the consummation of everything that Jesus came to earth to do.
The Second Coming of Jesus
The Bible describes it like this: “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. … all the tribes of the earth will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:27, 30).
When Christ returns, everyone who has died believing in Jesus will come back to life too. This is called the general resurrection. The Bible says: “When He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). This means that our bodies will be changed; our bodies now get old and sick, and eventually die. But our resurrection bodies will be perfect and will never get sick or die (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).
Christians who are alive when Christ returns will not die. They will instead be given resurrection bodies. This is how the Bible describes it: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
Rewards and Judgment
The Bible says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Christians will receive the rewards that Jesus promised to those who have served Him, and to those who have suffered for their faith in Him (Luke 6:22–23). Believers will also be judged on what they have done—they will be saved, but could lose some rewards if their deeds have been unworthy (1 Corinthians 3:13–15).
Non-Christians will be judged at what the Bible calls the great white throne. Those who have refused God’s offer of forgiveness in this life will be judged according to what they have done. They will be excluded from God’s presence forever in the next life (Revelation 20:11–15). To help us understand what this means, the Bible gives us word pictures. The Bible’s word picture of this is of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:28), and of a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
Some people think that a loving God would never sentence people to such a horrible place. But we have to understand that God’s love was shown to us through the sacrifice of Jesus, which saves those who believe from Hell. If someone rejects the offer of a free pardon, the only choice for a perfectly holy God is to punish them for their sins. To do anything else would be to say that Jesus’ sacrifice really wasn’t that important.
Heaven is God’s home. It is a very real and a very special place. God the Father is there. The Lord Jesus Christ is there, seated at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1). This word picture means that Christ, who is God the Son (Hebrews 1:2–9), is of equal honour, power and authority with God the Father. Jesus is currently preparing a place there for all who believe in Him (John 14:2–3). He is also always praying for believers before the Father’s throne. This is why the book of Hebrews calls Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 7:25).
Today’s scientists can’t examine heaven, because the Bible says that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). This means that heaven (and God too) can’t be detected by radio telescopes or satellites. But Christians can access God in heaven by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), and we can talk to God anywhere and anytime through prayer.
A New Heaven, a New Earth, and a New Jerusalem
God tells us in the Bible that He is going to create a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13), along with what the Bible calls the New Jerusalem. The Bible’s word picture of this is of a glorious city, with walls and gates for security, and made of gold, pearls, and precious jewels for value and beauty. (Revelation 21:1–2; 18–21). There will be no crime or sin or evil there, no more pain or sickness or death, and no more crying or suffering or sorrow. Today, all these bad things are the result of God’s curse on Adam when he sinned (disobeyed God, Genesis 3:17–19). But in this future eternal state, there will be no more curse (Revelation 22:3). It will be the most wonderful place you could possibly imagine!
The Bible says there will be no need of the sun or the moon to give light there, because the glory of God gives the city light, and the Lord Jesus will be its lamp (Revelation. 21:23). Christians will see God face to face. We will serve Him, and we will reign with Christ for ever and ever (Revelation 22:3–5). Surely the most amazing adventure!
Everyone is invited (Revelation 22:17), but nothing sinful can enter, so only those whose sins are forgiven will be allowed in. Forgiveness is a gift from God when we are sorry for our sins and turn to Him in faith (Ephesians 2:8).