The second thought that I want to bring to your attention this week is that we are all moving towards a world where everything is eternal. That great unseen state of existence, which lies beyond the grave, is for ever. Whether it is happy or miserable, whether it is a condition of joy or sorrow, we know that in one respect it will be utterly unlike anything in this world, it will be forever.
There will be no change and decay, no end, no goodbye, no mornings and evening, no alteration, and no annihilation. Whatever there is beyond the tomb, when the last trumpet has sounded, and the dead are raised, we know it will be endless, everlasting and eternal. What is unseen is eternal.
We cannot fully realise this condition. The contrast between now and then, between this world and the next, is so very great that our feeble minds cannot grasp it all. How we live our lives in this world brings consequences in the next that are so tremendous that they almost take away our breath, and we shrink back from looking at them. But when the Bible speaks plainly we have no right to turn away from a subject, and with the Bible in our hands we will look at the ‘unseen things that are eternal’.
Let us settle it then in our minds, for one thing, that the future happiness of those who are saved is eternal. However, little we may understand it; it is something that will have no end: it will never cease, never grow old, never decay, and never die. ‘In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16:11).
Once they arrive in paradise, the saints of God will never ever leave that wonderful place. Their inheritance ‘is incorruptible and undefiled and… does not fade away’ (1 Peter 1:4; 5:4). There warfare is finished; their fight is over; their work is done. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.’ They are travelling on towards an eternal glory that far outweighs all their struggles; towards a home that will never be broken up, a meeting without a parting, a family gathering without a separation, a day without night.
Faith will be swallowed up in sight, and hope in certainty. They will see as they have been seen, and know as they have been known, and always be with the Lord. I am not surprised that the apostle Paul adds, ‘Therefore comfort one another with these words’ (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).
For another thing, let us be convinced in our minds, that the future misery of the unbelievers who are lost is eternal. I am aware that this is an awful truth, and flesh and blood naturally shrink from contemplation of it. But I am one of those who believe it is clearly revealed in Scripture, and I dare not keep it back in the pulpit. To my eyes eternal future happiness and eternal future misery appear to stand side by side. I fail to see how you can distinguish the duration of one from the duration of the other. If the joy of the believer is for ever, then the sorrow of the unbeliever is also for ever. If heaven is eternal, likewise so is hell. It may be my ignorance, but I do not know how the conclusion can be avoided.
I cannot reconcile the concept of a non-eternal punishment with the language of the Bible. Its advocates talk loudly about love and kindness, and say that it does not harmonise with the merciful and compassionate character of God. But what does the Scripture say? Whoever spoke such loving and merciful words as our Lord Jesus Christ? Yet his are the lips which three times over describe the consequence of refusing to repent of sin, as their ‘worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ He is the person who speaks in one sentence of the wicked going away to ‘everlasting punishment’, and the righteous to eternal life (Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 25:46).
Who does not remember the Apostle Paul’s words about love? Yet he is the very Apostle who says the wicked ‘shall be punished with everlasting destruction’ (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Who does not know the spirit of love that runs through all John’s Gospel and Epistles? Yet the beloved Apostle is the very writer in the New Testament who, in the book of Revelation, dwells most strongly on the reality and eternity of future agony. What will we say to all these things? Will we be wiser than that which is written? Will we admit the dangerous principle that words in Scripture do not mean what they appear to mean? Is it not far better to put our hands over our mouths and say, ‘Whatever God has written must be true.’ Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments’ (Revelation 16:7).
I lay no claim to any unusual knowledge of Scripture. I daily feel that I am no more infallible than any Religious figure. But I must speak according to the light that God has given to me; and I do not think I would be doing my duty if I did not raise a warning voice on this subject, and try to put Christians on their guard. About six thousand years ago sin entered into the world by the devil’s daring lie: ‘You will not surely die’ (Genesis 3:4).
After the end of six thousand years the great enemy of mankind is still using his old weapon, and trying to persuade men that they may live and die in sin, and yet at some distant time in the future they will finally be saved. Let us not be ignorant of his schemes. Let us walk steadily in the old paths. Let us hold on tight to the old truth, and believe that just as the happiness of the saved is eternal, so also is the misery of the lost.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea (SWIM)