Things to Come
We believe everyone who ever lived, including unbelievers, will be bodily resurrected from the dead and receive a new, immortal body. However, not everyone will spend eternity enjoying immortality.
The concept of resurrection appears in both the Old and New Testaments (Job 19:25–27; Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28–29). It means to be raised from the dead. Jesus Christ said everyone will be raised physically from the dead: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:28–29).
Bodily resurrection is necessary to complete the salvation of all who placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone (not in good deeds, Eph. 2:8–9) for forgiveness of sin (Rom. 8:23). Christ’s resurrection is called the “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:20), guaranteeing other believers will be resurrected as well. Church Age saints will receive their resurrected bodies when Christ comes to rapture the church (1 Th. 4:14–17).
The Bible says several resurrections will follow Christ’s. Also destined for glory are Old Testament believers and people who will be martyred for their faith during the future seven-year Tribulation (Rev. 6:9–10; 7:13–14; 13:15). These groups are included in what is called the “first resurrection” (20:4, 6).
What will our resurrected bodies be like? They will be like Christ’s (Phil. 3:21). After Jesus arose from the dead, He could talk; walk; see; eat; appear and disappear at will, even from locked buildings; and rise into heaven. In His glorified state, He was not merely a spirit; He had an actual body of flesh and bone, but without blood. His body was incorruptible and could not decay, become ill, or feel pain. It could not tire or weaken. Our glorified bodies will be like His, enabling us to live comfortably and joyously throughout eternity.
There is also a final resurrection of every unbeliever throughout the history of mankind—the wicked dead—who are destined for eternal damnation (Jn. 5:25–29). They will experience the “second death” (Rev. 20:14). Second death does not mean they are annihilated or face an unconscious eternity; it means spiritual and physical death. The people in this group will be resurrected, face Christ in judgment at the Great White Throne, and be punished for their sin for eternity in the Lake of Fire (vv. 11–15).
No one will go unjudged. “Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them” (v. 13). Then death, which claims the physical body, and Hades, where the souls and spirits of the unsaved reside in torment, are cast into the Lake of Fire (v. 14). Revelation 20 closes with the simple words, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (v. 15).
— David M. Levy, FOI media resource specialist
We believe the Lord will come for His church in an event called the Rapture prior to a future time of worldwide horror called the Tribulation. The prophet Jeremiah called that blood-curdling period “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), meaning Israel will be particularly singled out for persecution and genocide. But the Tribulation will also be a time of terror for the entire world.
It will be dark, sinister, and violent and will permeate the earth with evil unlike anything that has preceded it (Mt. 24:21). It is from this global holocaust that God will protect His church:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Th. 4:16–17).
In a letter to the church of Philadelphia, the Lord declared, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world” (Rev. 3:10). Speaking of the coming wrath of God’s judgment on the world, the apostle Paul said, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Th. 5:9).
Paul also wrote, “He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Th. 2:7). Many people understand the restrainer to be the Holy Spirit, who indwells everyone who is saved. Those who are indwelled constitute the true church. Once the church is removed, the Antichrist can begin his reign of terror.
The Tribulation is intended to bring God’s judgment on unrepentant humanity, as Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, begins taking back the realm of God’s Kingdom on Earth from Satan. The church is never mentioned in the portions of the book of Revelation that talk about the Tribulation; there is no need for the church to be present because believers already were judged at the cross and our sin laid on our Savior, while His righteousness was laid on us.
Many people confuse the Rapture with Christ’s Second Coming. Here are a few differences: In the Rapture, only believers see Christ and are affected by His appearance; His coming is signless; He comes in the air and brings His saints to heaven; then the Tribulation, an awful time of evil, begins. In the Second Coming, everyone on Earth will see Him and be affected by His appearance; His coming is preceded by many signs; He returns to Earth and brings the saints with Him; then the Millennial Kingdom, a wonderful time of peace and joy, begins.
— Tom Simcox, FOI Church Ministries training coordinator
Bodily Return of Christ
We believe Jesus Christ will return in a physical body that everyone will see and recognize.
One of the oldest doctrines of the church is that Jesus Christ will come to Earth a second time. The question is whether He will return in a spiritual form, similar to the Holy Spirit, or in a physical form.
Job said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at the last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25–26). The Jewish prophet Zechariah wrote, “And in that day His [the Messiah’s, meaning Christ’s] feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:4).
In the New Testament, Jesus Himself said 22 times He will physically come back to Earth, and 50 times men are told to be ready for His bodily return. One of the clearest texts is Acts 1:9–11:
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Clearly, this text does not mean Christ spiritually disappeared from Earth; nor should it be interpreted as Him spiritually returning. His ascension was not a symbolic vision that came to the believers who witnessed it. The text must be interpreted in its context as literal and historical, confirmed by two angels who said Jesus was taken into heaven in His resurrected body and would return the same way.
We believe Jesus ascended from Earth bodily into the clouds and will return in a physical body in the clouds: “All the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt. 24:30). Without a physical body, no one would be able to see Him.
The apostle John described what Christ will look like when He appears. He will have eyes like “a flame of fire,” many crowns on His head, and blood on His garment; and “on His robe and on His thigh” it will be written, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:12–13, 16). He will also be riding a white horse (v. 11), symbolizing His glorious victory over God’s enemies. His return will be personal, bodily, and visible to everyone on Earth (1:7).
At His return as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), Jesus will become God’s representative to rule over the realm of God’s Kingdom on Earth so that His will is done on Earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10). Only before Adam sinned did God have someone qualified in all ways to rule over His earthly Kingdom. Jesus also will fulfill God’s covenant promise to David to place David’s descendant on his throne over Israel in perpetuity (2 Sam. 7).
— David M. Levy, FOI media resource specialist
The Millennial Kingdom
We believe Jesus will return and set up an earthly Davidic Kingdom that will endure for a literal thousand years.
Both Old and New Testaments leave us with the feeling of anticipation. As the Old Testament ends, we’re left anticipating that God will send His Messiah to establish and restore His Kingdom. And as the New Testament ends, we’re left anticipating that Jesus, the promised Messiah, will return soon and establish the Kingdom God promised.
Even the disciples were waiting for Jesus to establish the Kingdom. “Tell us,” they asked Him, “when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3).
Jesus highlighted some events of the seven-year Tribulation to indicate judgment from above is coming, calling them “the beginning of sorrows” (KJV, NKJV) or “birth pangs” (NASB, v. 8). He compared the Tribulation to the experience of birthing a child. The pain is real, and the suffering is unbearable. Yet, through it all, pure joy erupts when the mother sees her child for the first time.
If certain Tribulation events constitute the birth pangs, then the Millennial Kingdom is equivalent to the child being born. It is the Kingdom God promised King David when He told him, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16, emphasis added).
The Millennial Kingdom gets its name from Revelation 20. Six times (vv. 2–7) the phrase a thousand years is used to describe the Kingdom Jesus Christ brings at His literal, physical, visible, bodily return to Earth (Zech. 14:1–4). Mille means “thousand” in Latin, and annum means “year.” This is the Kingdom God promised through the Old Testament prophets and the one about which Jesus preached.
The prophet Isaiah provided one of the clearest pictures of Jesus’ Millennial reign:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:6–7).
Read more about what the Bible teaches on the Millennial Kingdom in Millennialism by Charles L. Feinberg.
Jesus is the Child born and the Son given, whose reign will be global and whose rule will bring true peace because He is the Prince of Peace. He will sit on the throne of His ancestor David in Jerusalem; and His reign will be marked by justice, righteousness, and peace. From Jerusalem will flow godly instruction to the nations of the world (Mic. 4:1–2).
In the Millennial Kingdom, all God’s promises to Israel finally will be realized, and Israel will be the head of all nations, not the tail (cf. Dt. 28:13). When the thousand years end, Jesus will judge all unbelievers who have ever lived at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11–15), and the eternal state will begin (chaps. 21—22).
— Chris Katulka, FOI assistant director of North American Ministries
The Eternal State
We believe the final resting place for all believers of all ages will be in the new heavens and new earth, as well as the New Jerusalem where God the Father and Jesus, the Lamb of God, will reign for all of eternity.
Though Scripture does not say a great deal about the eternal state, God does reveal that someday, He not only will remove the curse of sin and defeat all His enemies, but He also will replace the current heavens and earth (Isa. 51:6; 65:17–19; 66:22–23; 2 Pet. 3:10–14; Rev. 21:1).
The apostle Paul tells us that after the Millennial Kingdom ends, when Jesus Christ has defeated the enemies of man resulting from the curse, He will hand the Kingdom of God back to God the Father so that the Father can be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24–28). In other words, God will have what He intended when He created the world: a Kingdom and a realm where all of His creation worships Him and does His will only.
The final chapters of the final book of the Bible, Revelation 21—22, describe the eternal state. The Bible ends as it began before the fall, in a garden setting with a tree of life and God’s human representative, Jesus Christ, ruling over His Kingdom. Everything between Genesis 2 and Revelation 21 is the outworking of God’s plan to redeem the world and restore His creation to the pre-curse condition. The eternal state is the fulfillment and completion of God’s redemptive plan.
The apostle John tells us the New Jerusalem will display God’s glory and be greater by far than any city ever known to mankind. Its beauty, size, and construction will be unlike anything humanity ever built. This is the city Abraham longed for that has foundations and whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10). The streets are made of gold and the foundations of precious stone.
In the eternal state, God will wipe away all tears. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, for the things of this world will have passed away. The Father and the Lamb will continuously illuminate the new earth, and there will be no night. We will be able to look on God’s face and not die.
God the Father and the Lamb will reign forever and ever. All of these things and more are vividly described in Revelation 21—22.
Knowing this world will pass away in fervent heat and that God’s day of judgment is sure to come should cause us to live holy lives in great anticipation of the promise of the new heavens and earth (2 Pet. 3:10–14).
Before closing the book of Revelation, God warns that only those who place their faith in Jesus Christ and are washed by His blood will enjoy eternity with Him in the eternal state.
— Jim Showers, FOI executive director