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The Nature Of Eternity

2 Thessalonians 1:9-10
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (NIVUK)

Paul had assured the believers in Thessalonica that, when Jesus Christ comes again, God will deal with their persecutors if they refuse to obey the gospel call (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8). Then he explained the nature of God's justice in eternity. Paul used similar imagery to that of Jesus (Matthew 24:51; 25:30, 25:46), revealing that God's punishment of unbelievers is everlasting destruction. This is difficult for us to understand because we think of destruction as a single event over a short time, but both Jesus and Paul say that there is an unending, conscious torment of the soul (Luke 16:19-28).

Another feature of the eternal fate of those who resist God's grace is that they are for ever shut out of His presence in a place of no love and no light, only pain, anguish and endless remorse. They will never see the full glory of the Lord. This is a dreadful prospect, but one which continually spurred the apostles to preach the gospel – doing whatever they could to bring the truth of Jesus to unbelievers so that some might be saved (1 Corinthians 9:22).

On the other hand, when Jesus returns, those who are trusting in Jesus will see His glory but will not be frightened. This is the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:10) when Jesus will be clearly visible and bring His reaping angels with Him (Matthew 13:39; Revelation 14:15). The believers, those who believe the gospel as defined by the apostles, will finally become totally holy as they will gather around Jesus in awe and wonder, fully accepted for all eternity. That was Paul's confidence for the church in Thessalonica.

What a massive difference between the two outcomes on the day when Jesus returns. The only similarity is that the outcomes will continue for ever. Although some people would like a different interpretation, neither Jesus nor the apostles say that hell is either instant annihilation, temporary pain or a state of oblivion: it is eternal punishment. For the believer, their reward is eternal life in the presence of the Lord with all the joys and delights He has planned for His holy people. Trusting in the Lord Jesus is the biggest decision anyone can ever make, because it has the longest reaching consequences. If you know that you are still resisting God's grace in Christ, repent now and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). If you do know Jesus and have been alarmed by the eternal prospects for the unsaved, then tell them the gospel (www.crosscheck.org.uk may help you), urging them to repent and receive Christ. For yourself, rejoice that when Jesus calls or comes, He will welcome you into His home for all eternity (John 14:1-4).

Prayer 
God of eternity. Thank You for explaining the eternal consequences of receiving or resisting Jesus. Forgive me for the times when I have thought it did not really matter for me, my family, friends and colleagues. Please help me to have fresh motivation to explain the gospel and to pray for those who are currently outside of Christ. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams

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