As expressed elsewhere, I am convinced that this universe, and the life it contains, is the product of an intelligent creator. That God had a purpose in his creation. That the universe, and life, were created for a reason; a reason beyond his own amusement. I believe, based on the teachings of the New Testament, that life here, along with the whole physical creation, is simply a step along the way toward fulfilling the creator’s purpose.
And that purpose seems to be the creation of offspring, children of God. And what we are now is only a temporary, preparatory stage on the journey towards his ultimate purpose for creation; similar to a caterpillars journey to butterfly-hood.
God’s Purpose for the Present
If the future is what its all about, why not just skip this phase of life. Just immediately us start off in heaven, or wherever our future place is. The Bible teaches that God knows who would come to him before creation. So it might seem like the present really serves no useful function. But is that true?
Building on the Foundation
The following passage provides some connection between my life here, and what’s to come
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV
As a believer, the foundation that I build my life on is Jesus. I have the opportunity to build on that foundation using a variety of building materials. Some good and some not so good. I build on this foundation by the way I live my life while in this physical form. When I live in obedience, I am building with gold, silver or costly stones. When I act in disobedience, I am using wood, hay or straw. At some point, as I leave this life, the quality of my work will be tested and rewarded accordingly. What I am doing here and now is important to my eternity. Matthew 6:19-21 expresses a similar idea using the location of our treasure.
Investing for the Future
In the parable of the talents, we find two servants who made good use of what was given them. They were judged, found worthy, and then rewarded with additional responsibility. Jesus appears to be alluding to a time of accounting for us at the end of this life. Have we been faithful with what God has entrusted us with here? If we have proven faithful, then we will enter into the master’s happiness and be given additional responsibilities. In other words, how we respond to God, and his purpose, here will have an impact on what we do in the life to come.
The Importance of Life Now
Life here would seem to be important because somehow it furthers our development, preparing us for what lies in the future. We are not just waiting for a spot in paradise. We are preparing for a job in the kingdom.
Am I a good steward of Gods creation? Do I follow the example that Christ set when he lived among us? Am I faithfully seeking to represent the kingdom of God in the place I live and work? God is not calling us to separate from the world, but rather to be its salt and light.
God’s Purpose into the Future
The New Testament teaches that what happens when this life comes to an end is dependent on our relationship with the creator. Those who have walked with him in faith will continue with him for eternity. Those who have not face destruction. But there are a lot of differing opinions as to just what is involved in those two final destinations.
What will heaven be like? Ultimately we do not know. But we all have, sometimes unexpressed, thoughts. A time for tears to be wiped away. For bodies to be made strong. Families to be reunited. No limit to the amount of chocolate that can be consumed. Praising God all day and night along with the heavenly choir. Visiting with Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul and Mary. Having all of our questions answered to our complete satisfaction. Watching videos of our favorite histories.
Some of that will likely be true. But I have a hard time accepting that heaven is just a place of reward. I know for sure that I have done nothing that deserves reward. The only reason I have a place in his kingdom is because God has chosen me as an act of his grace. Nor can I imagine that watching video’s, eating chocolate or chatting with all the old hero’s of the faith would be very satisfying for all of eternity.
Instead I look forward to working in the kingdom. To being a part of whatever function that God is preparing me for now. Here I am in boot camp, learning to be faithful and obedient. Then I will be doing my real job. A job that I was created to do and am in training for now. I cannot imagine what that job is now. But I look forward to doing it alongside my Father and creator. To fulfilling God’s purpose in my life and eternity.
What destination awaits those who are not among the elect of God, who have not walked with him in faith? The traditional response is that they will spend an eternity in a conscious state of torment. But I struggle with this response for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that it is not really what I understand the Bible to teach. It does talk Gehenna. Where the fire never goes out and worms never die. The fate that awaits unbelievers at the judgement.
But that is not the same thing as claiming the unbeliever will experience the fire for eternity. What generally happens to something that is thrown into the fire, or eaten by worms? It is destroyed, ceases to exist, vanishes. The fire and worms may not die, but what is thrown into them is consumed.
And that aligns better with the more commonly described fate of the unbeliever: destruction or perishing. A time of judgement, potentially followed by punishment, and ultimately annihilation. I believe this better fits the New Testament teaching than eternal conscious torment.
Just to be sure that there is no misunderstanding, I do not believe everyone is ultimately saved; far from it. Nor am I swayed by those who claim an eternal conscious punishment of unbelievers is immoral. God is God, and I am not. I do not question his right to do what he will with his creation. But, based on what I understand the Scriptures to teach, the traditional view of hell just doesn’t fit.
In short, I believe that all of this creation was for the purpose of growing the Bride of Christ, the church. And when God’s purpose is accomplished, this creation will cease and his church will continue in whatever role he has created us for. And I should do my best to be prepared for the future he created me for.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
If you have found value in this post, please consider subscribing to A Clay Jar so that you don’t miss any other posts.
- Original: December 10, 2013
- Updated October 20, 2019