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Russian millionaire Dmitry Itskov doesn’t want to face death. Now 32 years old, he’s working on building an android body that will make him immortal by the year 2045. His plan, called the 2045 Initiative, has more than 20,000 public supporters who also want to become immortal.

And I, like Itskov, don’t want to die either. But as a Christian believer, I have a guarantee that I will live forever—and it isn’t built on crowd-funding! Nor will I be a robot. I will be a fully re-created person, a child of God. Jesus promised this in His famous words that resonate with assurance for you and me: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16, 17).

Jesus’ death is our guarantee of life— eternal life. How will this happen? What will His coming, and life after His coming, be like?

1,000 years of what?

The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 that at the second coming of Jesus, two groups of people will be taken back to heaven with Him. “According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep [died]. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (italics added).

So will Jesus’ second coming be the end of the great battle between Christ and Satan over this world? No, not quite. Some very important events must first take place. According to Revelation 20, at the Second Coming, those who rejected God will either die or remain dead in their graves, while Satan will be bound to this earth for 1,000 years. In the meantime, those who have given their lives to God—even those who have been dead for thousands of years—will be taken to heaven, resurrected and totally alive.

Revelation 20:6 says, “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. . . . They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”

So two things will happen to God’s people: death will no longer have any power over us, and we will reign with Christ for 1,000 years. What an honor! What a privilege! It certainly isn’t something we’ll deserve. But that’s how it is with God’s gift of salvation. We don’t deserve any of it!

Why does this 1,000 years need to happen? Why won’t God just destroy Satan and sin at Jesus’ second coming and get it over with? Because when all is said and done, all of God’s created beings must know that He is a fair and just God.

According to Revelation 20:4, during the 1,000 years, we will be “given authority to judge.” We will be able to look at the lives of those who are not in heaven and see that God gave them every possible opportunity to accept Him. Their rejection of Him will be shown to be their own choice.

In the United States, the death penalty is sometimes given to people who have committed murder. Unfortunately, through the years there have been cries of the wrongful execution of some convicts. A jury found them to be guilty, so the judge ordered their execution, but some time later—in most cases, years later—new evidence showed that they were innocent. But it was too late.

This will not be the case when we look at the lives of those who aren’t in heaven. God will finally be declared to be the most honest, loving, and fair Judge of all time. Think about it: If Jesus came to die in our place, why wouldn’t He be transparent about why He was forced to exclude some?

The third coming

According to the Bible, there will be a third coming of Christ, and this is the time when sin will end forever. This is when those who have been dead for a thousand and perhaps thousands of years—those who were not taken to heaven at Christ’s second coming—will be raised to life to face judgment. Once again, Revelation 20 tells us what will happen. The apostle John’s description of what he saw in vision makes it very clear: “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (verse 12).

It will be obvious at the judgment why these people were not saved. No one will say, “But God wasn’t fair!” or, “I was never given a chance!” The book of life will speak for itself. Their own choices will have determined their destinies.

What will happen next? What will bring an end to sin? Satan will gather an army and try to take the New Jerusalem by storm. But just as Satan couldn’t defeat Jesus at the tomb, he cannot defeat Him now, for Jesus is far more powerful than His enemy. Revelation 20 says that “fire came down from heaven and devoured [the wicked]” (verse 9).

Contrary to what some people believe, the devil and the unsaved won’t be tortured and burned forever and ever while the righteous enjoy heaven. They will become like “stubble” (Malachi 4:1) and reduced to “ashes” (Ezekiel 28:18). These texts don’t imply an eternal burning. What would heaven be like if you knew that someone you loved who rejected God was in constant agony forever and ever throughout all eternity?

Even when it comes to dealing with the ultimate fate of the wicked, God will be just. Think of what that final fire will be like for Him. He gave His life for these people—but they chose not to give theirs to Him!

The new earth

After planet Earth has been cleansed by fire, the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven to this earth that had been so contaminated with sin. But now it will be inhabited by only the righteous. This is what John saw in vision: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:1–4).

That description is hard to imagine, isn’t it? The world we live in is full of death, mourning, crying, and pain. But in the new earth, those things will be gone—forever! Nothing can ever hurt us again. We’ll never cry again. We’ll never feel pain again. There will be only joy—pure joy! And the beauty of it is that Jesus has made this available to each of us as a gift.

Several years ago, I was at a birthday party for a friend. Quite a mix of people had been invited and were attending. A young man walked up to me and said, “Hey, I understand that you’re a pastor.”

“Yes,” I replied. “I am.”

He then asked me, “How hard is it to get into heaven?”

I responded, “Actually, it’s pretty easy. Jesus wants you there.”

He looked very surprised! But it’s true. The gift of salvation can be yours. I invite you to accept it, not because you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t, but because you want to spend eternity with the One who died for you. Jesus invites you to spend 1,000 years and beyond with Him.

1,000 Years and Beyond

by Nancy Canwell
From the July 2014 Signs