There are a lot of things that are yet to happen, according to the Bible. Most of the attention is on the rapture, the coming seven-year Tribulation Period, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
There is little discussion about the events after the Tribulation and the Second Coming.
Revelation 20-22 describes the events after Jesus’ return. Satan is bound for 1,000 years. This time is called the Millennium; Christ reigns on the earth for the one-thousand years. This thousand-year era is when “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb,” and “the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp” (Isaiah 11:1-16). With Christ on the throne, the utopia humanity has always searched for finally arrives.
The Millennium ends with the release of Satan. During the Devil’s short time of release, he deceives the nations to fight against Christ. This rebellion is short-lived as God destroys the enemies. Evil is defeated forever as God throws Satan into the lake of fire.
Immediately after this, John sees the great white throne, heaven and earth flee away, the elements melt with fervent heat, and the universe destroyed (Revelation 20:11; 2 Peter 3:10-12). Time no longer exists, and the final judgment, the judgment of the unsaved, has arrived.
We know the “dead” in Revelation 20:12 are unsaved because all the saved are already resurrected and therefore are not among the dead.
The resurrection of the Old Testament saints happened at the resurrection of Christ (Matthew 27:52-53). The resurrection of those saved during the church age occurs at the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Lastly, those washed in the blood of Christ after the rapture receive their glorified bodies at the end of the thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
Before moving on, this seems like an excellent place to explain the difference between the saved and the unsaved or the “dead,” as Revelation 20:12 puts it. Being saved does not mean you have done more good or less bad during your life; it does not mean you are religious. Being saved depends totally on who you place your faith. Christ shed His blood for your sins to provide you salvation. The Bible explains that sin cannot be erased without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Since our blood is tainted with sin and Jesus’ blood is holy, His blood is the only blood accepted by the Father for the remission of sins. God, then, turns to us and tells us to place our faith in what the Son has done for salvation. Once the faith is in place, you have eternal life.
Back to the narrative
We come to the judgment of the unsaved – everyone judged there is found guilty and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
Eternity begins with the creation of the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1). New Jerusalem comes down from God (Revelation 21:2).
Then Revelation 21:4 is a verse that so many find comfort in. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
Notice the timing of this verse; it is at the beginning of eternity, after all these things we have discussed. But what about now? In the meantime, are there tears in heaven?
Christ cannot wipe away tears that are not there.
Those in heaven at the beginning of Revelation 21 have just witnessed most of humanity entering the lake of fire for eternity. Imagine watching your unsaved parents or children, unsaved coworkers, and neighbors, others who you rubbed elbows with throughout your life thrown into the eternal fiery abyss. Every Christian will witness this horrifying event. Tears will roll.
But that event is at least a thousand and seven years away — what about now?
Hebrews 12:1 tells us we “are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” The people of heaven are watching us. We take comfort in knowing that they see the good things of life, the birthday celebrations, the weddings, and those memorable happy days. “Mom is here with us,” we often hear people say. As the saints above observe us, how do you think they feel when we sin? What is their reaction to someone rejecting Christ’s message of salvation? Or, when we pass on the opportunity to share the gospel with someone on their way to a burning doom? I reckon they shed a lot of tears.
Hebrews 12:1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com