JUST WHAT IS THE
WORLD TO COME?
Published 3 Oct. 2014
By John Aldworth
Luke 20:34-36: And Jesus answering said unto them, the children of this world marry, and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God,
This scripture mounts a serious challenge to some popular Christian beliefs. For example, some have been taught to pray ‘world without end’ and consequently struggle to admit of any other world to come.
Fact is, the verse does not mention heaven, or state that anybody is going there, yet many sincere folk believe that they will go straight to heaven when they die and when there they will be like the angels and neither marry nor die
I believe they are mistaken. As best I read scripture to date all those who died in faith in Jesus still sleep in the ground; they are not in heaven – no one apart from the Lord is - yet! This is because our resurrection is yet future; at departure our body and soul lie asleep in the ground until the Lord resurrects us. There can be no going heaven immediately because to live with the Father and the Son in ‘in light no man can approach unto’ one must first ‘put on immortality’, as the Apostle Paul explains in 1 Cor. 15: 53. Furthermore 1 Tim. 6:16 makes very clear that as of now only one man has this immortality. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the blessed and only Potentate’.
Still others think the word ‘world’ means the same as ‘earth’ but then neither heaven nor earth are mentioned as such in the verse we are considering. The stress is on a different world, a different time. However, a “new heavens and new earth’, to be made by God in time to come are mentioned in both Isaiah 65:17 and Rev 21:1 and I would submit that these new heavens and earth comprise the ‘world to come’ the Lord is referring to.
Now in the revelation of grace to all men given to us through the Apostle Paul, this ‘world to come’ is referred to as the ‘day of Christ’. This wonderful state of being, which begins with Christ’s appearing (and our appearing with Him) in glory far above the heavens (Col. 3:1-4) also has huge concomitant blessings for those who live during it on earth. Importantly, this stupendous event is mentioned seven times as the ‘day of Christ’ in scripture e.g.: 1 Cor. 1:8, 1 Cor. 5:5, 2 Cor. 1:14, Phil. 1:6 and 10, Phil 2:16.
Actually it is the start of God’s programme to restore and put in order all things both in the heavens and on earth by gathering them together in Christ (Eph. 1:10). At the start of Christ will reveal Himself personally to every man in all the glory and power Father has given Him. What’s more in the light of his glory and grace everyone will read ‘the book’ and understand and delight in its truth. For that reason it will be a sinless, righteous world with those who rebel consigned to instant execution (Isaiah 66:23-24). Marriage and procreation for those resurrected into this world will be unnecessary because everlasting life will be an ongoing reality.
Returning to Luke 20:34-36, we should study carefully what Jesus actually said, for that is also what He actually meant, whether or not if fits our own idea of end time events or not. First, though let’s set the scene.
The Sadducees, those arrogant religious leaders of Jesus’s day, denied there even was a resurrection, although their rivals, the Pharisees, believed there was. The Sadducees therefore mockingly asked Jesus which of seven husbands a woman had married in her lifetime in this world would be hers in the resurrection to come.
Jesus tells them they erred in supposing there will be marriage in the resurrected after life. In doing so he sets forth the truth that there are two worlds: ‘this world’ and ‘that world’ to come. Importantly, He described this latter future state of being as ‘that world, and the resurrection from the dead’. The day of Christ then will be marked by resurrection. In fact there will be many resurrections. Daniel, Job, David, Elijah and other heroes of Old Testament faith will rise to live again on earth. Even sanctified Gentile rulers such as Nebuchadnezzar will be resurrected to live and rule again on earth. Many Old Testament believers also will rise and live again without marrying or dying. They will be a powerful example of the truth of God’s word and his power to resurrect. And in the latter time of the millennial kingdom they will ‘reign upon the earth’ (Rev. 5:10). Mark well though, according to Jesus, only those ‘accounted worthy’ will be resurrected into this new world upon earth.
So what will it take for such people to be accounted worthy? According to Matt. 22:1-13 – the only other place in the King James Bible where the word ‘worthy’ is used in the same sense - it is to joyfully accept God’s invitation to the marriage feast of the Lamb. That is to accept the call to salvation. But in Jesus’ story those first bidden to the marriage feast of God the Father’s Son to his chosen bride, Israel, refused to come. Thus the king tells his servants in Matt. 22:8: ‘The wedding is ready but they which were bidden were not worthy’.
They were not worthy because they ‘made light’ of the invitation ‘and went their ways, one to his farm the other to his merchandise’; similarly today most people spurn the invitation to receive salvation by grace. Worse still, ‘the remnant took his servants and entreated them spitefully and slew them’. Result: the king was ‘wroth and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers and burnt up their city’. And that is exactly what happened in 70AD when God sent a Roman army to besiege Jerusalem. Israelites who had refused the wedding invitation and spurned the later offer of forgiveness for crucifying God’s Son, perished in the aftermath. The city was burnt and razed to the ground.
Now, since in Matt. 22:2 Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is ‘like unto’ the story of the king’s marriage feast for his Son, we can be sure that when He speaks of being ‘counted worthy of that resurrection’ it is entry into the kingdom of heaven on earth that He is speaking of.
What is often missed is that this kingdom of heaven is to be on earth, not in heaven, as many suppose. It is not for nothing that the Lord taught his disciples to pray ‘…thy kingdom come on earth’. To be saved back then was to gain an entry ticket to the kingdom to come, and that kingdom was to be on earth. It was ‘that world’ to come. A careful check of scripture will show that, accordingly, in his earthly ministry the Lord Jesus never spoke of, nor offered, the hope of going to heaven. Nor was such preached by his apostles in the book of Acts. And while in the Old Testament Enoch was translated and God ‘took him’, and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, the hope of the gospel then was of resurrection into the kingdom on earth, not of going up to heaven. Granted, believers were assured of ‘eternal life’ – that is experience of God in their lifetime, with the promise of everlasting life to come.
This truth is beautifully set out in Job’s heart cry about his future resurrection (Job 19:25):
For I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms shall destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed with me.
Consider also the testimony of Martha (John 11:23-24):
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again at the last day.
Now from whence did Martha know Lazarus would rise again at the last day? Answer: Because she had heard Jesus say so. In John 6:39, 40, 44, 54 we find Him promising those who believed on Him during his earthly ministry that He would raise them up at the last day. He also warned (John 12:48) that whoever rejected Him and received not his words … ‘the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day’.
It seems that while the ‘last time’ refers to the Lord’s second coming (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:5), the ‘last day’ is ‘a comprehensive term covering both the time of resurrection of the redeemed and the judgement of unbelievers, both classes being those who heard and saw Jesus when He walked on earth or who came to believe in Him subsequently. It also includes those who in Old Testament times believed in the coming Redeemer, as Job did.
Importantly, both the redeemed and condemned will be judged in terms of an earthly future hope, not a heavenly one. Which raises the question: What and when is the last day? From what we have studied thus far it is a day of judgement and resurrection. It is also clear that such resurrection and judgement take place on earth and that there is no question in these scriptures of anybody going to heaven.
Rev. 11:15-18 specifically ties the ‘last day’ to a time when ‘the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ’. This when God takes to Himself his great power and reigns, and the nations are angry because…:
Thy wrath is come and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and Thou shouldest give reward to thy servants the prophets and to the saints and them that fear thy name and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
This would place the ‘last day’ prior to the 1,000-year millennial kingdom and, accordingly, in Rev. 20:5 John the Revelator describes it as ‘the first resurrection” and indicates that it takes place at the outset of the kingdom. Thus this judgement occurs at the beginning of the Lord’s 1000-year personally present reign on earth and long before the ‘great white throne’ judgement of Rev. 20:11ff. At this time the Lord again will determine who should be ‘accounted worthy’ to be resurrected into the world to come and who should not.
But that is not our resurrection, nor is it our calling. In 2 Tim. 4:1 the Apostle Paul, pronouncer of the mystery revelation set out in Ephesians chapter three, plainly states that:
… the Lord Jesus Christ … shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.
Thus there are two judgments set down for the future.
The first judgement will be at the Lord’s appearing at the end of his present ministry in grace to all men, which is described as the ‘dispensation of the grace of God … and the mystery’ in Eph. 3:1-4. At this appearing grace-saved believers who have continued in the faith, and ‘love his appearing’, will also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). And since ‘glory’ is where Christ Jesus the Lord sits at the right hand of the Father ‘far above all heavens’ (Eph. 4:10) it is clear the place of our resurrection destiny is in the ‘heavenly places’, not upon earth. Thus in Titus 2:11-13 our transition into glory to be with and in Christ Himself is set before us as the ‘blessed hope’ that grace would teach all men in this present age to trust in for their future after death. However, oiowever, nly those who continue ‘in the faith’ in this life will qualify for resurrection into glory after their death. As for the faithful still living at the time of transition, they will be ‘changed’, i.e. ‘translated’ (Col. 1:13) into glory without seeing death.
At his appearing then, the Lord will judge both the quick and the dead of the grace dispensation which began with Paul and today in 2014 is still in operation today. The ‘quick and the dead’ are those who are living on earth at that time and those who have died during the course of this present age. The judgement will determine whether those who live will be translated to glory and whether those who have died are ‘accounted worthy’ to be resurrected to sit with Christ in heavenly places. Only those saved ‘by grace through faith’ (Eph. 2:8-9) and who have been made members of ‘his body, the fullness of Him which filleth all in all’ (Eph. 1:22-23) will qualify.
It is important to see that these resurrected or translated believers ‘appear with Him in glory’ (Col. 3:4), not on earth. Their eternal home is in the ‘heavenly places’ (Eph. 2:6) where Christ has been set at the right hand of God, ‘far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come’ (Eph. 1:20-22). This location ‘far above all heavens’ (Eph. 4:10) is the realm of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom (2 Tim: 4:18). It will be our eternal home and the Apostle Paul, facing his death was sure the Lord would preserve him unto this kingdom. It is my conviction that grace age saints are destined for this vast heavenly realm to live and rule with and in Christ Jesus the Lord in his full heavenly glory.
Later the Lord of glory will go on, as the day of Christ unfolds, to judge the dead of earlier dispensations – that of Old Testament times and his own ministry on earth – and resurrect those ‘counted worthy’ to live again on earth. Again only the faithful will qualify.
Looking further into the future there is yet another judgment. It is part of the later manifestation of the Lord’s rule over earth which follows his personal, bodily return to earth at his second coming. Thus in Rev. 11:17-18 we learn that this occurs when God takes to Himself his great power and reigns, making the nations angry. It is then that both the time of God’s wrath and ‘the time of the dead that they should be judged’ will come. Rewards will be given to prophets and saints and the wicked will be destroyed.
Clearly this is an earthly judgement since it angers ‘the nations’, and ‘nations’ are earthly entities. There are no nations in heaven, nor will nations ever live in the heavenly glory, only the Father’s family will. There are however nations of the ‘saved’ (Rev. 21:24) who will walk (on earth) in the light of the New Jerusalem come down to earth.
How important today then to know that you and I are called as a member of the ‘Father’s family’ (Eph. 3:14-15) and through his grace have a heavenly destiny and calling. Today we are saved by grace and grace alone by the act of the Father in quickening us together with Christ out of death and sin (Eph. 2:5). No earlier form of salvation, such as repenting and being baptised (Acts 2:38) with a view to future resurrection on earth is sufficient today to make us fit to be part of the Father’s Family in heavenly places. Only his gracious act in totally saving us from ‘woe to go’, to use a New Zealand expression, will suffice, because today we live in the time frame of the dispensation of grace, and God’s call for us is to be heaven bound, not to be resurrected to live again on earth..
©John Aldworth, Oct 2014.