PMT 2015-094 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Partick W. writes:
“One thing I’m a little confused about is the ultimate end of history. Does man remain on earth when Christ returns? After Christ has put all enemies under his feet and handed over the kingdom to the Father, does heaven and hell “merge” and man remains on earth for a lack of better words while Christ is present physically (assuming also still in some sense everywhere present because he’s God). I’m so confused as I feel like I always hear by and large from Christians is to just go to heaven and it seems many believe the present earth to be destroyed. Or is there something else beyond earth/heaven?”
Ken Gentry responds:
Basically, I believe that when we die now (in history) we go to heaven — as did the disciples, the thief on the cross, and Paul the apostle:
To the thief, Jesus said in Luke 23:43: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
To the disciples the Lord promised in John 14:2–3: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (This “coming” refers to his coming to each of them at their physical deaths, otherwise they would not enter into glory until the end of history.)
Paul stated in Phil 1:21–24: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”
He Shall Have Dominion
(paperback by Kenneth Gentry)
A classic, thorough explanation and defense of postmillennialism (600 pages)
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
But at the end of history when the Lord returns we will be given our physical, resurrected, final bodies that are incorruptible: “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:50-53).
This transformation of our bodies will be on “the last day”: “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:39). These bodies are designed for a physical realm rather than a spiritual realm. After all, God created angels as spirits: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). Whereas God created us a physical creatures designed for a physical world: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7).
So on “the last day” God will re-fashion the earth and we will enter the consummate, final new earth: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:10–13).
Thus, we now enjoy the spiritual preparation for the consummate new creation: we are spiritually new creations in Christ: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). And we have been spiritually resurrected: “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4–6; cp. John 5:25). But then on the last day we will be physically resurrected for the physical new creation.
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth
(by Nathan Bierma)
A Reformed study of heaven. By taking a new look at the biblical picture of heaven,
Nathan Bierma shows readers how heaven can be a relevant, meaningful,
inspiring engine of Christian faith and kingdom service.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
This theological perspective is called the “Now / But Not Yet” approach. That is, we now spiritually enjoy — by way of anticipation — the future full, glorious reality to come. Jesus links these two realities for us in John 5:25–29:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”