Have you ever wondered exactly what it will be like to be among the Immortals of the future age promised in the Bible? We tend to think of it in terms of eternal life – living forever – but as many have rightly observed … “who would want to live forever?” Those who say such things usually have their own mortal experiences as a reference point. And indeed, who would want to live forever, if “living” meant a continuation of our present experiences?
But the picture of immortality that the Bible present us is much more than simply being alive for eternity. Much more indeed! It is not just about “life” but also about POWER – and with that power, an inherent and innate quality of life that we can only imagine. In this article, we will examine the biblical evidence with the aim of painting a very clear picture of exactly what the experience of immorality holds for us all.
When the apostle Paul was contemplating it, he exclaimed, “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither has it entered the heart of man – the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Paul had been given a taste of immortality as a motivational tool in consideration of “how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake”. In the early verses of 2 Corinthians 12 he describes the vision he received, which was so real that he couldn’t tell whether he actually experienced it (“in the body”) or whether it was just a vision (“out of the body”). He spoke of being caught up to “the third heaven” which he also called “paradise” where he heard things which it is not possible for a man to utter. Paul used many illusions to the tabernacle in 2 Corinthians and this appears to be just another one. There were 3 divisions to the tabernacle – the outer court, the holy place and the Most Holy Place. The writer of Hebrews described these as a “pattern of things in the heavens” (Heb. 9:23) so the Most Holy Place becomes the “third heaven” where the Cherubim overlooked the Mercy Seat, representing the very presence of God – a state of immortality and power.
Paul was so overcome with awe at the sight and the experience, that he didn’t know exactly how to describe it, except to say that it is not possible for us to fully comprehend until we experience it ourselves.
But from God’s perspective, who knows exactly what it’s like, He knows that he offers us a treasure beyond value. Jesus evaluates it as being like “a pearl of great price” for which a man will sell everything he has in order to have that treasure (Matt. 13:45-46). So he speaks of it as “the true riches” – for it is of more value than all the money in the world. The quality of life that God offers us for eternity is one that even the richest men who have ever lived can only dream of! By the end of our considerations here, I think you will agree.
A State of Complete Joy
Being mortal, we are so readily susceptible to many emotions. It is part of the survival process. Feelings arise within us in response to life situations in which we find ourselves. We don’t often understand where those feelings come from, but they are very real to us. We are very vulnerable creatures, physically and emotionally. We all feel the need to be significant in some way. This includes a need for approval from those who are significant to us, particularly in our formative years. As a child, we look to our parents for this. As we grow, we look to friends and family and the extended social network as a means of identifying who we are in the world. It is why we look for a life partner when we become adults – we want to feel close to someone, accepted, loved, nourished and safe.
When we perceive ourselves to be undervalued by those significant to us, we feel emotional pain. Too much of this over a long period of time, can “hardwire” the pain into our brain’s neural pathways to a lesser or greater degree, depending on our experiences – and result in a state of depression, anxiety, low self esteem, loneliness, isolation – which in turn can produce dysfunctional behaviours which only serve to compound the problem.
But you see, the root of the problem is a physcial one. It starts with mortality – a condition of vulnerability where dying people are trying to survive. This breeds a selfishness which is natural to us. We see the world from our perspective. It revolves around us – our needs. In our desire to protect ourselves we so often hurt others … and are hurt by others in turn. If the pain is too chronic, it becomes a physical condition which, without help, we cannot overcome. The number of clinics in the world for depression, codependency, drug addiction and a host of other mental illnesses are a testimony to how real this experience is.
But God is offering us a physical condition which no longer produces emotional pain. It doesn’t involve a struggle to survive anymore. The self centredness that arises from physical and emotional vulnerability will no longer plague us. As we will soon see, we will be completely self sufficient and in need of nothing to continue living. God will heal our damaged neural pathways and reconfigure the system (as it were) so that we are whole again. Let’s not be misunderstood here – He is not going to change us into someone else, but He is going to enhance who we really are so that we blossom and shine in all our potential.
So Jude in v24 could speak of a day when God will “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy“. Revelation 21:4 speaks of a time when “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away”. Peter described it as a time of “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8-9) and the Psalmist tells us that “in your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psa. 16:11). No wonder it was said of Jesus, that “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross … ” (Heb. 12:2)
Not Only Life – But Power
Let’s be clear – the promise of God in the Bible has nothing to do with a future existence taking the form of a spirit, a ghost or anything immaterial that is unable to communicate with mortals or manipulate material things. God’s Word is very clear and provides specific details about what He does promise – and it has nothing to do with phantoms. We will demonstrate this later.
His promise is not just about “being alive” forever but life with power. The writer to the Hebrews reminded them “you have tasted the good Word of God and the powers of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5). What powers had they tasted? When Jesus walked the earth, he did many miracles – raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, the lame walked, the dumb spoke, a few loaves and fishes fed a great multitude, he walked on the surface of the water, calmed the raging sea with a word … and so on. His Father gave him this power as a testimony to his generation that he was in fact, the Messiah and Son of God he claimed to be. Jesus told his disciples, “the works that I do, you will do also” (John 14:12) and so the apostles and other disciples were given “gifts” of power. Not only did they heal like Jesus, but also spoke in other languages that the gospel might go into all the world.
These were the “powers of the world to come”. Can you imagine being given the gift to heal and bring great joy like Jesus did? What would you do with it? But this power could also be used to harm or even destroy when necessary. Elymas the sorcerer, who ridiculed the words of Paul to prevent a prominent official receiving it, was smitten with blindness (Acts 13:8-12). Ananias and Sapphira were judged so that they fell down dead at the sentence of Peter (Acts 5:9-10). From God’s perspective then, it is important that He only give power like this to people who He can trust will use it in the same way He would. More on this later.
Equal to the Angels – The Key to it All
When Jesus was involved in a dispute with the Saducees about whether there is a resurrection of the dead, he made a monumental observation. In Luke 20:35-36 he told them:
“They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are the children of God”
In this simple observation lies the key to understanding exactly what the experience of immortality will be like. All we need to do, is search the Scriptures for indications of what angelic life is really like and we will have our answer.
It is not difficult to establish that throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “elohim” is used to describe the angels. A simple comparison with Psalm 8:6 where the word “angels” is the Hebrew “elohim” and Hebrews 1:6 where it is quoted using the Greek word “angelos” will suffice here. But here is the point … the Hebrew word “elohim” means “MIGHTY ONES” and is so used because the angels were indeed “greater in power and might” as Peter observes (2Peter 2:11).
Not only so, but the writer to the Hebrews in 6:5 told them that the miracles and signs which they had tasted were the “powers of the age to come”. So when they recalled the great miracles of healing that Jesus had done, followed by those of the apostles, they would be reminded that this was only a taste of the kind of abilities which were in store for those to be granted immortality.
But coming back to the angels now – what sort of power do they have?
1. Angels Can Fly Without Wings
Daniel 9:21 – the angel Gabriel flew swiftly to answer Daniel’s prayer for Israel
Rev. 14:6 – an angel flying in the midst of heaven, proclaiming …
1 Chronicles 21:16 – the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth with a sword drawn
Judges 13:20 – an angel stepped up onto the flaming altar and ascended to heaven in the flame. Manoah then realized that it was in fact an angel and was afraid.
Luke 2:15 – “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go to Bethlehem.” Going away into heaven is clearly not being bound by the laws of gravity.
2. Angels are Invulnerable to Harm
Daniel 3:24-25 – Nebuchadnezzar was amazed to see an angel walking in the midst of a raging fiery furnace and observed that his appearance was like “a son of the gods”
Exodus 3:2 – an angel appeared to Moses and spoke to him from the midst of a burning bush
Angels cannot be consumed by fire, they cannot die. But there is more …
On one occasion, one angel went out one night and slew among the great army of the Assyrians, 185,000 mighty men. When we look at the clues from Isaiah as to how this was done, it is evident that the angel had control over the forces of nature. He used a mighty storm, including great hailstones from the sky, thunder, earthquake, hurricane force wind and the flame of a devouring fire. The Assyrian army was decimated while the angel himself hovered over Jerusalem to preserve it. What kind of power is that? Jesus had the same authority when he cried to the raging wind on the sea of Galilee, “Peace! Be still!”
Angels were also known to appear and disappear before men and women. They had the ability to withhold observation from mortals, as Jesus himself was able to do once he had risen from the dead. And yet, Jesus on a later occasion asked the disciples to feel him and be assured that he was not a ghost, for “a phantom has not flesh and bones, as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). On another occasion, an angel stood in the way with a drawn sword to smite Balaam as he rode along, but only allowed his donkey to see him. He then gave the donkey the power of speech, to chastise Balaam. Imagine having that power!
Angels were also able to command animals and marine life to do their bidding. An angel shut the mouths of lions for Daniel when thrown into their den, while afterward commanding them to ferociously devour his adversaries (Dan. 6:22).
God has not put the world to come in subjection to the angels, but of His Son it is written: “you have put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb. 2:5-8; Psalm 8:6-8) and the “all things” is listed as all living things – birds, animals and marine life. Christ will reign on earth over all things, together with his Immortals who he has brought again from the dead. They will share his power and have dominion, as man was created to do (Gen. 1:26).
In summary, angels are a higher life-form – “mighty ones” (Elohim) who can change the way humans perceive them, or not perceive them at all, as the case may be. They are powerful beings who cannot be harmed, can fly like without wings, don’t need food or oxygen to survive, are not subject to the fears and survival instincts that accompany mortal existence – and live in a state of being commensurate with eternal existence, full of joy, strength, internal peace and great power. What a life!
Who Can God Trust With This Kind of Power?
The promise of the Bible is that the immortals of the age to come will not only be given eternal life, but power and authority. They will reign as “kings and priests” on the earth (Rev. 5:10). They will be able to fly like superman, be invulnerable to assassination attempts, have power to heal like Jesus did – or strike people with blindness as the angels at Sodom did, or destroy the wicked by whatever means. They can appear and disappear at will and will experience a state of innate physical happiness, without need for anything to live – completely self sufficient.
There is a common saying that, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This is true of mortals because of our innate self-centredness, learned from our very survival processes. But immortals will not experience this temptation. Not only that, but God will only grant it to those who have been “trained” to be compassionate and generous spirited. He is using our experiences today as a training ground, to see whether we prove ourselves worthy based on how we treat other people.
He will give the gift of immortality to those who have continued to trust Him and believe that He is all who He claims to be. In short, they will have had a relationship with God so it will be only natural for Him to share His nature with them. This gift will be an abundance of life with unfailing energy – no longer requiring food, air, water, or a safe warm place to sleep in order to survive. Instead, the experience will be one of complete self sufficiency, filled with joy and power, which will overflow from us so that we have more than sufficient emotional and physical reserves to reach out to others. The life we will experience will be so complete and fulfilling that our previous mortal existence will seem like a living death by comparison. In a million years, it will be but a faint memory of a tiny ‘blip’ in time.
The apostle John, writing his first epistle, described a way of living as an “eternal life”, which was “with the Father” and “revealed to us” in Jesus Christ. God is by nature, eternal. The very fabric of eternal existence involves incorruptibility of character. It just goes with the territory. We find this hard to grasp because our experience is so much about life being a temporary thing involving struggle, until death finally claims us. The thing we need to come to understand is, that this is not the ultimate reality – something much greater is – and it is being offered to us.