I want to consider just a few aspects of the eternal state. I say a few because I have outlined about 20 different chapters to deal with this part of Christian truth, and this is just one of six studies.
Look first at Revelation 20:11, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.”
Now, in chapter 21:1, 5, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea… Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”
These verses describe stupendous, astonishing, and mind-boggling events and any attempt to explain them requires the utmost caution. So, as we begin the study of the eternal day, we need this word of caution, not only to the speaker but to those who hear Him. In 1 Corinthians 2:9, you read: “But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’”
This is the speaker saying that he is absolutely dependent upon God for information concerning the future, and those who hear him are also dependent upon God for the impact upon their minds. There is no light arising out of the entire circle of human resources concerning the future. The sense of sight sees nothing. The sense of hearing receives nothing. The human mentality produces nothing. Nothing but darkness confronts a human being who seeks information concerning the future if his resource is from the hu- man and natural level.
Human speculation has exhausted every possible source for constructing a doctrine concerning the future. And this doctrine includes the eternal state of the damned as well as the blessed felicity of the redeemed.
The great pagan religions of mankind, the great pagan philosophies, the great cult religions that exist today have all sought to drag from the future its secrets and that from a purely natural source. And they leave the seeker, who is searching after knowledge concerning the future, in uncertainty and darkness.
As a result, gross inconsistencies appear in the development of these systems of doctrine. These inconsistencies fly in the face of human intelligence. They undercut moral integrity and they ignore spiritual intuition. And what is far worse, they deliberately contradict biblical revelation.
The fruitage then is a mass of mental darkness, intellectual confusion, and moral dereliction. Certainty of the future then depends wholly on supernatural revelation. God alone can reveal what lies beyond. Here are six essentials as a background for beginning this study.
First, God alone knows the future and is able to reveal its secrets. This is true because God conceived a plan for the universe even before creation, and there will be no changes or alterations in this plan. There will be no emergencies or thwarting of this plan. He works all things after the counsel of His own will.
In Psalm 33:6 the psalmist declares that God created the entire universe. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” That means He spoke the world into existence. (cf. Genesis 1:3.)
Look at verse 11 of this same Psalm, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.” That means when God made a plan, He made just one. It is absolutely comprehensive, it will never be changed, and He works to fulfill that plan to its completion.
That explains how God can utter prophecy. He made a plan. He knows every- thing in that plan. He is in the process of fulfilling that plan and, therefore, He can prophesy exactly what is going to happen because He promotes that plan to its conclusion.
The writer of Hebrews made a special point about one aspect of God’s plan in chapter 6:17, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.”
The word immutability means unchangeable, and the word counsel is equivalent to plan. So, God made His purpose very clear in an unchanging plan. Because He knows and plans the future He is able to reveal its secrets as he did to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel when he was called before the King to interpret a great image and its significance.
Note several verses from Daniel 2. First, verse 18, “that they (Daniel and his three friends) might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” Next, verse 22, “He [that is, God] reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.”
Finally, verse 28, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:” and then Daniel begins to unfold them. Daniel had a strong conviction to stay his heart as he responded to the ruthless King Nebuchadnezzar.
Second, God not only is the one who knows the future, but He places divine limitations on the information that has been revealed. Not all secret things are revealed to the sons of man. God chooses what shall be revealed to man.
In his final address to the children of Israel, Moses said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). The doctrine of the future enables men to live as they ought to live in this present life. God reveals some things to men, all that they need. Other things He does not reveal.
Third, the preservation of this revelation concerning the future has been made in the Bible and can be found nowhere else.
In 1 Corinthians 2:9-12, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
Paul later says, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other” (4:6). That’s a way of saying that the individual should never deviate from the written Word of God, for in doing so, you go beyond the realm of truth. Let us, therefore, hold rigidly to the statements of Scripture.
In the fourth place, the information in the Bible is accessible only to those who are empowered by the Holy Spirit. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (2:14).
And since these Corinthian Christians were priding themselves on being educated and intellectually capable, Paul insists that mental acumen does not qualify a person to receive and understand the things of God. And it makes no difference how much education he has had, it’s still on the human and natural level. And he is operating in the realm of the psyche, the soul, which is conscious of what the world is like, what he sees, and hears, and smells, and tastes, and feels, and so on, and he doesn’t get outside of that particular realm.
There’s only one way to know the things of God and that’s to be born of the Spirit of God. He alone can enable one to understand the things of the Spirit of God.
Now, Daniel did not hesitate to make this clear to Nebuchadnezzar when he revealed and interpreted his dream. He said in Daniel 2:30, “But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living.” He disclaimed immediately that it was educational preparation that would enable one to understand this.
Only as the Spirit of God lays open His truth, are we able to receive and under- stand the truth. Note again 1 Cor. 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit
of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
Fifth, a proclaimer and teacher of the Word of God on the eternal state must understand certain truths. He must first understand that he is merely a mouthpiece for God; he is not an originator of truth.
The prophets of God were borne along by the spirit of God and were the mouthpieces of God. (cf. 2 Peter 1:20.) A teacher of spiritual truth is a mouthpiece for God. That is, God doesn’t reveal to him directly a message of truth. He gets that message of truth out of the Bible which is already completed. But he, in turn, becomes the mouthpiece of that to the people who come under his teaching.
He must also understand that he is limited to that area of truth which God has made known to him. It was Amos the prophet who said, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets (Amos 3:7).
Again, the teacher needs to recognize that he must confine himself to the meaning of Scripture. It’s so easy to read the English text and come up with an explanation or to go to Webster’s dictionary and imagine that you’ve got the explanation for what’s in the Scripture. The human mind moves so quickly from the assertion to the implication. One may easily be declaring the implication as though it were the assertion.
One more: the teacher should be setting forth the mysteries of God which He was pleased to reveal. These secrets now revealed are intended to bless the saints, not only to bring enlightenment to them but also hope and encouragement for the days ahead. Mystery simply means secret. We speak the wisdom of God in a secret, even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world. For what purpose? For investing us with His glory, all of the moral attributes of God in us and in manifestation.
Sixth and finally, here are seven important facets of these truths that need explanation.
- It requires diligent and prolonged re- search to explore the Bible’s abundant information on the subject of the Eternal. This will mean careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture to unveil the hidden truths.
- Not every question will be answered, but there is sufficient information concerning the future to equip the believer for personal life and service to others.
- Not all truth is revealed at any one time in Scripture. Simpler truths came first, to which is added fuller truth later until the complete truth is finally revealed. This does not mean that later truth nullifies what has gone before. It does mean that new facets enlarge on earlier truth. To get the full picture it is necessary, therefore, to consider all the truth together.
- Every bit of prophecy concerning the future arose out of a situation that existed with God’s people at the time it was given. And specific information about the future burns more brightly in times of darkness and persecution than at any other time. And that is seen in the final book of the Bible.
- The apex of information concerning the eternal state is to be found here just as the Church is entering the wilderness of persecution. So, God provides the final burst of splendor for their encouragement.
- Any deviation from revealed truth is condemned. From Revelation 22: “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (vv. 18-19).
- Now the final point: a final appeal is made to trust Christ that the benefits of life and heaven may be theirs. Verse 17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’” And John responds, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (v. 20) – by Herman A. Hoyt
This is an abridged sermon that Herman A. Hoyt delivered in the 1990s at the Grace Brethren Church, Lexington, Ohio. Gene Witzky was pastor of the church at the time and shared recordings of this and five other sermons with GraceConnect. Hoyt served as president of Grace College and Seminary from 1962-1976. Transcripts of the succeeding sermons will be posted on graceconnect.us over the next few months.
Scripture references are from the New King James Version.