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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers theological questions, exclusively on

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16. The Consummation - Last Judgment, Eternal Life

Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index



Will we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Heaven or just Jesus? I heard a teacher explain that we will only see Jesus, and I thought what a disappointment it would seem to be since I pray to my Father in heaven so often -- I long to see Him face to face -- just like I do Jesus.

In heaven there will be the fulfillment of our worship of the Triune God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus in regard to God as Father, as to each other member the trinity, there will be fullness of prayer and praise for which earthly prayers to God have been but preparation.

Your longing to see the Father face to face will be granted.

Praise His glorious name!

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There seems to be some silence in the Bible regarding the state of those who die now in Christ. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". On the other hand, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 Paul says, "the dead in Christ will rise first." Can you explain this?

Two truths are affirmed in these biblical statements, both concerning the status of those who die as believers.

First, death is a bodiless state in which we are present with the Lord. That means in the spirit. Second, "the dead in Christ will rise first" applies to the sequence of events at the return of Christ; namely, that the resurrection of our bodies -- those who have died -- will immediately precede the rapture of those who belong to Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). The union of glorified bodies and spirits will be forever!

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Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." If our spirit returns to God, then why does 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 say "the dead in Christ shall rise first"? Are we in the grave until Christ returns or do we go to heaven as soon as we die? Please explain.

At death, believers go directly in the spirit to heaven. The body, however, will not be raised until the last day. When Christ returns, there will be the union of the resurrected body and the glorified spirit. So shall we be with Christ for ever.

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 Since I have committed adultery and fornication (even though I have confessed and repented), does that mean I am still going to hell?

God's grace and salvation reaches out to truly repentant sinners: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Have you made a genuine confession wherein you have turned totally from your past transgressions and are walking a new path? If so, you have no need to fear hell.

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 When a Christian dies, do our spirits immediately go to heaven to be with the Lord? OR are we asleep in the grave until Jesus returns?

The answer is the former. Since the human spirit is eternal, it goes immediately at death into the presence of the Lord. So we do not sleep in the grave. "Sleep" refers to the body. The body surely dies but will be resurrected upon Christ's return.

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 What does someone who is a Christian and calls themself a "universalist"mean?

Universalism is the view that ultimately all people will obtain salvation. In a popular vein, universalism is the outright denial of hell because God is viewed too good to send anyone there. Hence, if there is a heaven God will take in everyone. Universalism, however, fails to recognize that God is also a God of righteous judgment who will provide a way of salvation for those who believe in His son and continuing separation for those who turn from Him and His ways. Heaven and hell are both realities.

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 What happens to those souls who are predestined for eternal damnation?

There is no teaching in the New Testament about eternal damnation as predestined by God. God does not will anyone to eternal death. It is the result of an unbelieving life. The word "predestined" is used only in connection with salvation. For example, note the words in Romans 8:30: "And whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

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If the dead in Christ shall rise first, then where are they now?

The spirits of the dead in Christ are now in heaven and present with the Lord. Their bodies are not raised until the Day of Resurrection. On that day when Christ returns, their spirits will be joined with their new resurrected bodies. So they will live with the Lord forever.

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Will we know each other in heaven? I believe yes! But with a greater love than our earthly ties. Knowing that I would see my Dad again was what helped me through my grieving his death, also, knowing he was in the presence of Jesus.

Rest assured that we will know one another in heaven. Indeed, this will go beyond any earthly knowledge. According to Scripture, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

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 How does a Christian deal with the death of a loved one or friend (who is not a Christian) who will be in hell for eternity?

Though hell is a reality, it is not up to us to judge the final state of anyone, but let our spirit rest in the mercy and justice of God. He will surely do what is right.

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  Are there levels in Heaven? I have heard reference to this but cannot find it anywhere now. Paul refers to being caught up to the "third heaven." Is there any valid literature on the subject?

Paul speaks of "the third Heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12:2-"I knew a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows-such a man was caught up to the third heaven." "The first heaven" was an expression often used in Paul's time for the clouds, the earth's atmosphere; "the second heaven" for the stars, the physical universe beyond; "the third heaven" would therefore refer to the transcendent spiritual realm of God and His angels. For example, in His ascension, Christ "passed through the heavens" (Hebrews 4:14) on "into heaven itself" (Hebrews 9:24). Accordingly, there are no levels in heaven but levels of heaven.

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  Please explain the resurrection of the body at the end of time. From my study of the New Testament, it seems that we sleep from death until the resurrection, not that our souls go to heaven immediately.

At death, believers leave the body to be with Christ. Paul speaks about being "absent from the body…at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). The natural body "sleeps" the sleep of death, but not the spirit which at death goes immediately to heaven. Hebrews refers to "the spirits of righteous men made perfect" in heaven (12:23). When the Lord returns, we will receive a new spiritual body-"It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44)-to be joined with our redeemed spirits. United in spirit and in body, we shall ever be with the Lord.

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When a believer goes to heaven can they recognize loved ones?

In heaven there will surely be recognition of other believers known on earth. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah were seen together with Christ-"Behold, two men were talking with Him, and they were Moses and Elijah" (Luke 9:30). Thus Moses and Elijah recognized each other.

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of "the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." The glorified church in heaven means, along with much else, a common recognition.

Yes, heaven will be a fulfillment of all human relationships without earthly limitations. Truly we will know one another fully and completely and rejoice in the Lord's presence forever!

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Concerning death of the body, do we go straight to heaven?

Do we go straight to heaven (as a born again Christian) or do we go to heaven when Christ returns? There is a Scripture that says the dead will meet Christ in the air first then those who are alive will go up. I am confused as to the state of our spirit when we die.

Our spirit goes directly to heaven when we die. Jesus Himself at His death said to the Father, "Into Thy hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Where the Scripture says that the dead in Christ shall rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16) the reference is to our bodies. They will at this moment be joined to their spirits coming with Christ from heaven (verse 13). This will immediately be followed by the rapture of living believers ("We also who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them"-verse 17). (See Renewal Theology, 3: page 407.)

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  How will Christians be judged at the final Judgment? Will we be accountable for our sins? Haven't they been removed as far as the east if from the west?

Paul declares that God has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man (Jesus) whom He has appointed" (Acts 17:31). All people of all times-as well as fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6)-will be present to give account. Paul writes to the Romans, "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God…each one of us shall give account of himself to God" (14:10, 12). Every sin ever committed will be apparent to the eyes of the Judge, but in the case of believers they will all be recognized as forgiven. For truly He has removed all sins "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). The giving account will not be a reinitiation of our sins, but a deeper realization of the vast number of them mercifully forgiven in our salvation.

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  Why is the church referred to as the bride of Christ? Are there any Scriptures to base this on? Revelation 20 and 21 talk about the bride of Christ but to me it reads as if New Jerusalem is the bride.

On the church as the bride of Christ, see for example Ephesians 5:25-32, 2 Corinthians 11:2, and Revelation 19:7-9. "Bride" and "New Jerusalem" are figures of speech to express both the beauty and the magnificence of the church in the world to come (see Renewal Theology, 3: pages 491-495).

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What kinds of rewards are there in heaven?

In the Bible it says that Christians who do more work for the Lord on earth shall have greater rewards in heaven. How could there be greater rewards in heaven? Isn't being in heaven enough? What kinds of rewards are there in heaven?

Heaven is truly the Christian's future. In that sense, it is "enough"-to know life everlasting, joy and peace beyond measure, the direct vision of the Lord; what more could one possibly want? But heaven is not a reward; it is totally a matter of God's grace in Christ that we should go there and share equally with all believers. However, there are rewards in heaven. For example, Jesus declared about those persecuted for His sake on earth, "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven" (Matthew 5:12). Jesus speaks also of "a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41), hence something special. "Love your enemies…and your reward will be great" (Luke 6:35). What these rewards are, Jesus does not say, but they surely are promised. Heaven, indeed, will be glorious, but we shall also rejoice in the many and varied rewards that our Lord will deliver to His faithful ones. (For more on rewards, see Renewal Theology, 3: pages 454-457.)

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  I would like to know if Judas was sorry for betraying Jesus and if that is why he killed himself? Also, if he was sorry was he forgiven or was he sent to hell?.

According to Matthew 27:3, Judas "felt remorse" which is a worldly sorrow. The fact that he went out and hanged himself shows that there was no true repentance or godly sorrow. Paul writes, "The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of this world produces death." Thus there could be no forgiveness, and Judas was doomed forever.

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  Please explain John 5:28-29.

I have a question about John 5:28-29: "The dead in the graves will hear the voice of God's Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to judgment." I thought that when we die, our spirit goes to heaven at that very moment. Please explain this verse.

At death the spirit of the true believer goes directly to be with the Lord. The body will not be raised until the Day of Resurrection. It will then be transformed from a natural body to a spiritual body. See 1 Corinthians 15:44.

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   After I get to heaven, will I still have to fight temptation and sin?

No, the fight against temptation and sin belongs to the present world. In heaven, our spirits will be make perfect in righteousness (see Hebrews 12:23). Temptation and sin will be forever gone!

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  When you go to heaven, will you remember those who are sinners and went to hell? If you can, how could you ever be truly happy knowing they are in hell?

In Renewal Theology, 3: page 477, I wrote: "Hell with all its misery will be less torment for still sinful persons than to have to live eternally in the presence of a holy God and of those who are continually praising His Name." Again, "the punishment of hell, whatever its measure, will be far less than the punishment of being in the courts of heaven; the fire of Gehenna far more tolerable than the brilliance of God's face; the outer darkness of the nether world infinitely more bearable than the splendor of heaven's glory." The saints in heaven would not be happy at seeing sinners having to endure all this.

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   What about the salvation of Israel in the end times?

The focus of gospel proclamation throughout the centuries has been to the "nations" or "Gentiles"-the ethne-primarily. When they have all had an opportunity to hear and respond, the end will come. But-and this is an additional highly significant fact-the end will not occur without Israel's coming to salvation. Paul writes, "Lest you [Gentiles] be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number [or fullness] of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). Paul had pointed in this direction earlier: "Now if their [Israel's] trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion [or fullness] mean!" (Romans 11:12}. Thus the fullness of the Gentiles-through proclamation of the gospel to the ethne, and the growth of the kingdom (largely Gentile growth)-is not the last word! Indeed, there will finally be such a fullness of Israel when their hardness and blindness to the gospel is overcome as to vastly enrich the whole world. For the almost unbelievable truth is that all Israel will be saved. The fullness of Gentiles will climax with the fullness of Israel.

All of this belongs to the realm of "mystery." Moreover, it shows that God is not done with Israel. Paul had earlier said, "God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew" (Romans 11:2). Although for a time Israel has been cut off, like branches, through unbelief, and the Gentiles grafted in, God will "graft them in again (11:23). When this happens, truly the end is at hand!

When the Lord returns, it will be to an Israel who is blessing His name-indeed, along with Gentiles from all over the world.

(See Renewal Theology, 3: pages 323-326.)

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   Who is the "Antichrist"?

The antichrist is one who deceives others by denying that Christ is God come in the flesh. "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist" (2 John 7, NASB). This is the ultimate deception, namely, that the Incarnation did not occur; anyone who denies this is "the deceiver," "the antichrist." By such deception the ultimate in apostasy occurs: Jesus Christ, the Word become flesh, is spurned.

I have quoted from John's second letter. In his first letter, John emphasizes that it is "the last hour" because of the many antichrists that have appeared: "As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour" (2:18). Later he adds, "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son" (v. 22). Still later in this letter John speaks about "the spirit of antichrist" (4:3) being now present in the world.

Incidentally, there are no other occurrences of the word antichrist in the New Testament. I have mentioned all of them: 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7.

From these statements there is no suggestion that "antichrist" or "the antichrist" is a particular person. Anyone who denies the coming of Christ from the Father, that "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14)-the central truth of Christian faith-is "the antichrist." Thus, many antichrists have come, and many more will come. For "the spirit of antichrist" is in the world-all the way to the end. What, then, about "the last hour"? It is "the hour" of the multiplication of antichrists (again see 1 John 2:18).

The antichrist, then, is not one who commits such sins as murder, adultery, and theft-even to the maximal degree. Rather he is actually far worse than any of this, for he deceives people about Jesus Christ. In this wicked deception (which ultimately goes back to the Deceiver-Satan), he shuts the door to eternal life. He is "anti"-opposed to-"Christ." This is the ultimate evil, and his activity is the ultimate deception. For there is no greater tragedy in the world than that of turning people aside from Christ, the Son of God, who has wrought mankind's salvation.

(For a more extended discussion of the Antichrist, see my Renewal Theology 3:330-34, including footnotes-especially 58.)

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