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Love Thy Neighbour
Love Thy Neighbour
By Les Sherlock, posted April 2021 but originally 2016
Could It Be?
What Will Eternity Be Like?
Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
So this page is all about how we do that. I have to warn you that it includes some rather ‘delicate’, shall we say, speculation on my part, on the topic of sexuality, which I hope will not offend anyone. I am simply trying to use my imagination prayerfully in the light of Bible teaching to consider what God might have planned for us in the eternity to come.
The Bible says God is Love.
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:8
Not merely that God has love, or God is loving, although both of those are true, but He is love. Love is the essence of His being. It also says humans were made in His image.
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26, 27
So if we are in His image, we must be a bit like Him! He has massive intelligence, knowledge and wisdom: we have a comparatively small amount of intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. He has unimaginably tremendous power: we have a small amount of power. So on this principle, when it comes to love, the greatest, most intense feeling of love we can experience and give/receive - man and woman to each other, parent to child, friend to friend - will only be a tiny fraction of the quality and quantity of God’s love.
Since God’s essence is love, it therefore follows that when He created the universe and everything in it, the prime purpose was to express love. This is His nature. He didn’t think,
“I’ll make a load of things and then decide which ones to love.”
The Bible says God doesn’t change - He always acts in the same way.
"For I am the LORD, I do not change…
He is always true to His nature. So everything He does is from 100% raw, passionate love.
It follows then, since He made us in His image, He expects the same from us. Primarily, he made us in His image so He could lavish His love upon us; and in return expects us to lavish love on Him. So in the passage at the start of this page, Jesus said the most important commandment is that we should love Him with all of our being. Why? Because that is what He made us for - to receive His love and to give Him our love in response.
We love Him because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19
How can we give Him love, though? Certainly we can demonstrate that we love Him by living the lives He expects, and His standards are very clearly taught in the Bible. He hates lying, stealing, cheating, etc., and expects us to avoid such practices. Is this enough, though? How can we love Him? Let me put it even stronger: how can we make love to Him? A married couple can make love to each other in various ways - kissing, cuddling, caressing and in sexual union, as well as in the way they act toward each other in their daily lives, of course. But we can’t see God; He doesn’t walk with us in a physical body that we can cuddle. So what can we do?
Notice that Jesus goes on to say that the second greatest commandment - to love our neighbour as ourselves - is like the first one. In the following shapes, is shape 1 like shape 2?
1. ▲ 2. ♥
No, it isn’t! What about these two:
1. ▲ 2.▲
Yes, of course they are! Why is shape number one like shape number two in the second set? Because it is the same. So likewise, if obeying the second commandment is like obeying the first one, it must be the same. In other words, when we love our neighbour, we really are actually loving God. What I do to my neighbour, I do to Him. Therefore, the Bible says:
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
1 John 4:20
Who is my neighbour? The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us that it is whoever we happen to meet.
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead… But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion... So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Luke 10:29-30, 33, 36-37
I was visiting my daughter and son-in-law in Uganda in 2015, and he asked me to preach a couple of times in the Church where he is pastor. I am not a preacher, but I said I would happily share my experience with the folk there, and the first talk was about the incredible miracle God did for me between October 2014 and February 2015. However, the second one was on the topic of this page, and wanting to illustrate the point I have just made, I primed Gill, my first wife (who is now with the Lord), to help me with a mini-drama. So I got her to join me part-way through the talk, and hold the microphone for me while I demonstrated something with my Bible using both hands. When we’d finished, she ‘spotted’ some chalk on my jacket (that I had carefully put there before the service from the ledge below the school blackboard - the service was held in the school hall), and started brushing it off with hard slaps.
“Stop hitting me, you’re hurting me!”
“I’m not hitting you, I’m knocking the chalk off your jacket.”
I then said,
“Yes, but while I’m inside it you’re hitting me as well - whatever happens to the jacket, happens to me!”
Where is God? Yes, I know He is everywhere, but where is He specifically? The Bible says:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16
Paul said that Jesus Christ is in you…
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
2 Corinthians 13:5
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
…and His prayer for everyone...
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
2 Corinthians 13:14
…is that we should experience three things:
The Grace of Jesus Christ (everything we have is the result of His free gift and nothing to do with anything we can do).
The Love of God (the nature of the Father, which is what this page is all about).
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit (He lives within us in order to have a non-stop, two-way communication with us).
When a person comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness on the basis of His sacrifice that He made, not only are those sins forgiven, but God comes to live inside him/her.
…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
…he or she is a very different person – a new creation.
In the same way that anything done to my jacket while I am wearing it is therefore done to me, so anything done to a Christian is also done to God. So when the Bible says…
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
…it is not meaning we should pretend we are doing things to the Lord and then God will count it as if it was done to Him; but that what we are doing to others we really are doing it to Him and we should remember this and act accordingly.
But the vine said to them, 'Should I cease my new wine, which cheers both God and men, and go to sway over trees?'
How can wine cheer God? God is a Spirit, and therefore has no use for physical food and drink.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
However, if He is living within us, then everything we experience, He experiences.
What about those who have not come to Christ and therefore do not have the Holy Spirit living inside them, though? This brings me to the second illustration I used during my talk in Uganda. Unfortunately I didn’t have a photo of Gill, with me, so I asked them to pretend the piece of paper I was holding was her photo. I then threw it down on the floor and stamped on it.
“Would you expect me to do that to her photo?”
I asked them?
“No,” they said, shaking their heads.
I then picked it up and kissed it.
“Would you expect me to do that?”
…they nodded, smiling happily. Why? What difference does it make what I do to Gill’s photo? Stamping on it or kissing it has absolutely no effect on her whatsoever. So why does it matter?
In the Middle East it is not uncommon to see people burning the American flag - certainly during the Iraq war and in its aftermath. When Saddam Hussein was brought down, one of the first things the people did was to pull down his statues, throw their shoes at them and kick them. Why? Because it is an expression of intent:
“What I am doing to this representation of you I would like to do to you!”
I wouldn’t have stamped on Gill’s photo, but I might have kissed it because she was the most important person in the world to me and I loved her. If she was not with me in person, then I could do to her photo what I would have liked to have done to her, and by this means make an outward expression of my feelings toward her.
At this point I must divert slightly from the topic to say that after Gill went to be with the Lord in September 2019, He was very gracious to me, first by releasing me from the mind-numbing grief I felt at her departure (described here), and then by bringing me into a relationship with Suzannah, whom I married in October 2020 (video here). I knew that Gill would want me to have someone in my life to love and care for me, just as I would have wanted that for her had it been the other way around. It has been one of the most amazing miracles of my life, and I can honestly say the love Suzannah and I feel for each other is a source of tremendous joy for us both, and we are extremely grateful to God for bringing us together in this way and making the tail-end of our lives so full of happiness and contentment.
We have already seen that we are made in the image of God. Even though that image is distorted by our sin, nevertheless there is still some of His likeness present in everyone. We’ve seen that the strongest of His characteristics is love; and in humans the strongest, most powerful motivating force we have is also love, because we are in His image. It drives us to extraordinary lengths, and leads many even to give up their own lives, sometimes in the most appalling ways, for the sake of their loved ones.
People will also go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy their personal selfish desires, of course: this is self-love, and a distortion or an abuse of their faculty of love.
Therefore whoever we meet, no matter how lovely or hateful they are toward us, they are to some extent in God’s image; and what we do to them, we do to God. Whether we realise it or not, we make an expression of our intent toward God in the way we deal with everyone we contact.
…I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'
The implications of this are profound.
On the negative side, there are Islamic extremists, ISIS for example, torturing and killing men and women under the illusion that they are pleasing God by so doing; when in reality it is God they are treating in this way. Imagine the shock of a suicide bomber, have blown himself and many others to pieces, thinking that this guarantees him a privileged place in the next life, when in reality the moment He stands before His Creator, as we all must do at the end of our lives, he experiences the full force of His wrath and anger at what he has done to Him!
"Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
1 Corinthians 3:16–17
On the positive side, what was God’s purpose in creating the universe and inhabiting it with human beings? It was in order for Him to love them and for them to love Him. This is the prime purpose of our existence and will be our occupation for the whole of eternity. However, we don’t have to wait until the hereafter in order to give God our love: we can do it here and now! Since God dwells in all those who have been changed into His sons and daughters through the sacrifice of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, and His image is in every human on the planet, we can express our love to Him - make love to Him, if you please - in the way we interact with each other.
In other words, we can have Heaven on Earth - right now! Don’t misunderstand me here, though. It is obvious that because of the selfish and/or misguided actions of a vast number of people, there will always be disaster, suffering and misery around us: and while a certain amount of human suffering is due to ‘natural disasters’, by far the vast majority is the result of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. So in that sense it can never be ‘Heaven on Earth’ until Jesus returns and everything is restored back to God’s original design. However, we can certainly fulfil our primary purpose now, just as well as we will be able to do in eternity - by loving our neighbours we love God.
Regarding ‘natural disasters’ it is my personal opinion that even these are the responsibility of mankind. I understand there is scientific evidence that every sound has an infinitesimally small physical effect on the molecules of the objects within hearing distance. There may be a hint of this in…
Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God."
We all know that a sound at the right pitch and intensity can break a wine glass. Therefore the accumulative effect of sounds of suffering, etc., is enough to disturb the fabric of planet Earth such that it too is torn apart with earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. If this is the case it could explain why Jesus would say these disasters would increase toward the time of the end: a massively increasing population also massively increases the amount of pain and suffering, which then triggers them. Additionally, there is enormous conflict throughout the animal kingdom, which also is the result of the fall of man. This too could contribute to the negative effect on Earth.
…the foundations of the earth are shaken. The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, The earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it, and it will fall, and not rise again.
In the eternal ages all of this will be restored to God’s original design, thus removing the cause of natural disasters altogether. I am not saying this is definitely the case, but simply proposing it as a possible theory, which seems logically likely to me.
We see in the Bible that the act of kissing is actually an act of worship:
Now they sin more and more, And have made for themselves molded images, Idols of their silver, according to their skill; All of it is the work of craftsmen. They say of them, "Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!"
All the commentators I checked say a similar thing regarding this verse. Typical examples are:
Kissing was an act of homage in the East, done upon the hand or the foot, the knees or shoulder. It was a token of divine honour, whether to an idol (1 Kings 19:18 and here,) or to God Psalm 2:12. It was performed, either by actually kissing the image, or when the object could not be approached, (as the moon) kissing the hand Job 31:26–27, and so sending, as it were, the kiss to it. In the Psalm, it stands as a symbol of worship, to be shown toward "the" Incarnate "Son," when God should make Him "King upon His holy hill of Sion."
(Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
…kissing is used for the worship of the Son of God, Psalm 2:12.
(John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)
They kissed the calves, in token of the adoration of them, affection for them, and allegiance to them, as theirs. Thus we are directed to kiss the Son, to take him for our Lord and our God.
(Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)
So when we recognise that God is living within a person, then kissing them becomes literally an act of worship to Him. For a husband and wife this means every time they kiss each other, they are kissing God and God is kissing them. When they make love to each other, they are making love to God and He to them. Whatever they do to and for each other, they are doing to and for God. This must be the case, at the very least for a Christian couple, because God dwells in them, and what happens to them happens to Him. What an amazing privilege marriage is, to enable a couple to express their love for God physically in this way.
Surely our marriage relationships would be transformed if we were to realise the reality of this? And act as though we believed it? Would I really talk to God the way I talk to my wife sometimes? If God said He wanted to watch a different programme on TV when I wanted to watch my favourite team playing football, would I deny Him and insist on viewing the match?
Sadly there are many for whom marriage is not an option for one reason or another; but while certain expressions of love are therefore impossible (sexual relationships are solely reserved for husband and wife, for example) loving the people they meet becomes transformed when they realise by doing so they are literally giving love to God and receiving it from Him.
Married or not, this is the case for every one of us: every encounter with another human being is another opportunity to ‘make love to God’. Some people find it difficult to receive help (whatever form that may take) from other people; but in reality to refuse what others offer to us is the same as refusing it from God! One could apply this to every human situation. Surely all our human interactions would be transformed if we were to realise the reality of…
Christ in you, the hope of glory
…and live as though we believed it?
Could it be?
Could it Be?
This section comes with a health warning, since it is mostly speculation on my part! We are told very little about what life will be like in the hereafter, since the Bible mostly concentrates on the here-and-now. However, human curiosity means that many have come up with their own ideas of what Heaven will be like. What follows are some of my ideas, hopefully not conflicting with Bible teaching, but based on what I believe to be logical conclusions from the things we are told in scriptures.
I don’t want to be indelicate, but will there be sexual relationships in the eternal ages of the future? After all, for many people it is a significant part of their lives now and, as we all know, male Islamic terrorists are prepared to kill themselves because of their mistaken belief that their reward will be (amongst other things) dozens of beautiful virgins to fulfil their every desire in their eternal paradise. If this is taught by Islam, what does Christianity say about it? Of course, anyone knowing the Bible is likely to reply immediately, “No” to my question because of what Jesus said:
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
'They’ in these quotes refers to seven brothers dreamed up by Sadducees who were trying to catch Jesus out. The first married a wife but died childless, and as expected by Jewish law the second married her to produce a child on his behalf. Each brother married her and died, with the woman dying last of all. So, the question they asked was:
“of all the seven, who would be her husband in the resurrection?”
Of course, they did not believe in the resurrection, and were trying to trip up Jesus by this question. However, we know from His answer that there will be no marriage; but does this necessarily preclude sexuality, though?
Well, in what way will we be like angels? There is certainly one way in which we will be very different from them: there is a resurrection coming and we will have physical bodies, while angels, as spirit beings, do not. These will be eternal bodies that experience no pain, no death, no disease and that never age, wear out and deteriorate. Paul said:
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42–44
What is the difference between a ‘natural body’ and a ‘spiritual body’? The word ‘natural’ is translated from the Greek word ‘psuchikos’ which in turn is derived from ‘psuchē’ the word usually translated as ‘soul’. The word ‘spiritual’ is translated from ‘pneumatikos’, from ‘pneuma’ the word translated as ‘spirit’. E.g.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul (psuche) and spirit (pneuma), and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Perhaps the KJV is closer to the Greek in this next verse:
And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:45 (KJV)
It is also translated this way in The Literal Translation, The Modern King James, The American Standard, the 1965 Bible in Basic English, the 1899 Douay-Rheams, and the Revised Versions.
Bearing all this in mind, it would seem that while our present bodies are dominated (or governed, if you please) by our soul (mind, will and emotion), the resurrected body will be governed by our spirit (and/or perhaps by the Holy Spirit). This does not mean that it is no longer a physical body, but simply that the ruling disposition becomes different.
We will become like Jesus after His resurrection, who had flesh and bones, and ate and drank in His ‘new’ body.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
1 John 3:2
Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." …So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. and He took it and ate in their presence.
Luke 24:39; 42–43
But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
Indeed, He told His disciples…
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
…so they clearly are going to be eating and drinking in the resurrection. This being the case, what other bodily functions are likely to function as they do today? Well, presumably, unless the resurrected body can absorb 100% of everything consumed, a certain amount of food and drink going in at one end has to come out at the other, so to speak! In fact, surely, to see how we will be we need to look at how Adam and Eve were before they sinned, because this is God’s original and perfect plan for us. Wouldn’t it be the case that we will be how they were when they were first created?
Will we still be men and women? After all, Jesus is still a man, so surely the answer must be, “Yes.”
because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."
And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
1 Corinthians 15:49
For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 2:5
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
But one of the key things that differentiates between the sexes is the reproductive system, and why would we walk around for eternity with ‘equipment’ that is never used? One of the glories of a woman is her beauty, which is so marvellous that even some spirit beings at one time defied God’s laws to enjoy it…
that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
…and much of the Song of Solomon describes the beauty of the bride. A significant part of a woman’s beauty is her breasts, one function of which, the Bible says, are for her husband’s enjoyment, just as the husband’s body is for the wife’s enjoyment, of course.
…and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.
Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together
1 Corinthians 7:3–5
But breasts are primarily for feeding babies, so why would women walk around for eternity with a faculty never used or needed? Does all this indicate that children will continue to be conceived and born throughout eternity? More on this later.
While on this subject, maybe we should look at where we will be living. We talk about ‘going to Heaven’, and this certainly is the case the moment we die:
We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:8–9
However, in the book of Revelation, rather than us going to Heaven after the resurrection, it is more a case of Heaven coming to us:
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Our physical bodies won’t just float in space throughout eternity: they must have some kind of physical realm in which to live; and in the present universe this has to mean a planet. Once again, looking at God’s original design, He created the planet Earth for Adam and Eve and their descendants; and while there will be a new Heavens and new Earth, almost certainly these will be identical to the original design before sin spoiled it all. Why would He make a new Earth, unless He intended us to live on it?
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
What will eternity be like?
What will Eternity be like?
What would have happened had Adam and Eve not sinned? Their lives would have continued, they would have had children, and as long as their offspring remained free from sin too, they would have had grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and so on. They would have lived in perfect communion with God on the planet Earth for eternity, because they would never have become sick, experienced pain, grown old and died. Surely, this is still God’s plan for us, and it will happen, because His purposes can never be frustrated - at least, not permanently. It was the way things were in His original creation, and will be restored as soon as sin, pain, sickness, death and Satan, along with every being committed to evil, are done away with.
The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever… Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire… And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." … But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 20:10, 14-15; 21:4, 8.
Everything God created, He called, “Good,” and at the end of the creation week, “Very good.” The sexual makeup of living things was an integral part of His creation, which must therefore be included in His assessment of “Very good,” so why would something God considers ‘very good’ be removed for the whole of eternity? Sex was God’s idea, not ours, and in its right place is valid, wholesome and lovely; so if it was very good in the world at the beginning of creation, why would it not be very good in the new Earth?
In fact, isn’t saying that we don’t want it for eternity implying that God got it wrong when He created it in the beginning; and actually throwing one of His wonderful gifts back in His face? Indeed, I wonder where the idea came from that it is, or can be, something sinful or undesirable? Obviously, in its wrong place it is sinful, but then this is the case with most, if not all, aspects of our humanity. Perhaps one reason would be the Roman Catholic idea that priests must always be celibate - an extraordinary theory bearing in mind that Peter, who they claim was the first Pope, was married himself!
Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever.
In contrast to RC teaching, Paul said that Bishops and deacons must be the husband of one wife…
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife… Let deacons be the husbands of one wife…
1 Timothy 3:2, 12
…and later told him that forbidding to marry is a doctrine of demons, which would arise as a result of people departing from the faith:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons… forbidding to marry…
1 Timothy 4:1, 3
The writer to the Hebrews said:
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
…and Paul taught…
But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: it is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
1 Corinthians 7:8, 9
…so there is obviously nothing wrong with marriage for anyone. Of course, Jesus said…
…there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.
…but a eunuch is someone who has been castrated; and as with His reference to a person cutting off their hand or plucking out their eye if it offends them, few people would expect this to be taken literally.
If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.
Jesus was clearly saying that some people may forgo marriage where their service in the Kingdom of God would make this difficult - as in the case of Paul’s itinerant ministry, for example…
Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
1 Corinthians 9:5
…but this does not mean it is always wrong for all church leaders or anyone else, or that sex is therefore unwholesome in any way.
I guess one of the first questions that springs to mind is, if everyone can live forever, and continue to have children, the Earth would very quickly reach the point where there is no room for everyone; so where would they fit? There is one verse in the Bible that perhaps gives us a clue to the answer:
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…
How can there be no end to the increase of His government? If He governs everything, it can’t be increased any further than that. However, if the population continues to increase, then His government will also continue to increase.
Where will everybody live with an ever-increasing population? We have a massive universe, stretching over 13 billion light years away from the Earth in every direction. There are billions of galaxies, each containing millions of solar systems. If all the solar systems had habitable planets, and there is no reason why God should not have created them, then the amount of room for an ever-increasing population is infinite. Even if all the trillions of planets eventually filled up, it would be no problem for God to continue to increase the size of the universe infinitely. Thus, of the increase of His government there will be no end!
This answers the question,
“Why is the universe so large?”
One answer is that in order to exist it has to be the size it is; but the other is to realise we are only in the early stages of what God has planned for His creation of a physical dimension. Of course, the present heavens and earth are going to be destroyed with fire and replaced…
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men… But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2 Peter 3:7, 10-11
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
…but it is surely reasonable to assume the new heavens and Earth would be of a similar size.
However, if there is no marriage in eternity, how can there be children? Let’s return to the original point: we have seen that when Jesus said we would be like the angels, He wasn’t referring to our bodies, because angels do not have them. So what was He meaning? We are told very little about angels, other than some of the things they do. However, from what Jesus said, it would appear that they do not have marital relationships: in other words one angel is not committed to another in any special way and presumably they all have the same relationship with each other. So perhaps it is safe to assume that we too will have the same relationship with each other: i.e. we will love each other equally and it will be impossible to love any one person more than we love everyone else.
If this is the case, and remembering that God created sex in the way He did in order for children to be produced, love to be expressed and the act to be enjoyed, then perhaps this means of giving and receiving love between any male and female will be common. Of course, in our present life it would be unthinkable, because God has prohibited it, marriage was instituted as the only platform for it, jealousy and conflict would arise should one partner be abandoned for another, and sexually transmitted diseases would become rife if people attempted it. Perhaps because of this we may find it difficult to conceive of living differently.
It can be very easy to assume that because things have always been the way we have experienced them, they can only ever be that way. Indeed, many people do take this attitude and therefore claim that the long ages people lived in the early centuries of the history of the universe are not literally true. They also assume that because dinosaurs do not live at the same time as humans today, then they became extinct before humans came along. However, theistic evolution, which is what this is, has no scientific, logical or theological foundation!
In the beginning, brothers and sisters could marry each other with God’s blessing: which is where Cain got his wife, of course. This was later changed by God who then said it was sinful - likely because He considers any behaviour sinful that will cause us harm and in this case the accumulation of mutations mean offspring are likely to be born with deformity, while in the beginning there were no mutations to speak of. So He wasn’t stopping us from doing things we’d enjoy out of spite, but to protect us. With no sickness or mutation in eternity, such a limitation is no longer necessary.
After the resurrection things will be very different though:
There will be no marriage
There will be no disease
There will be no jealousy
There will be no conflict
In fact, contrary to the negatives in the above list, when we are living in eternity and in the full knowledge that our every contact with another person is truly contact with God, we will take as much delight in others giving and receiving love to and from each other as we will when giving and receiving it ourselves, so there will be no possibility of jealousy. Please do not assume I am here saying that our eternal destiny is going to be one long sexual orgy! Far from it. Indeed, one of the reasons we are given the laws governing our behaviour now is for us to learn restraint and self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit: aspects of God’s nature, which is eternal.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
In the future all our actions will be putting others and their needs/desires first and above our own, and keeping everything in its proper place. Indeed, this aspect of life will have its proper place then, just as it does now. Ecclesiastes points out that there is a proper time for everything; but interestingly this passage has to be rewritten to apply to eternity and all the words shown in red have to be omitted, thus:
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted; A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; a time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.
I know what some ladies will say to all this:
“Trust a man to think of that; but if you knew how painful it is to have a baby you wouldn’t even dream of it - doing that on a regular basis for eternity would be more like hell than Heaven!”
Or maybe they wouldn’t! I’m putting words into their mouths for the sake of the argument! However, there will be no pain in Heaven, and painful child-birth is a consequence of the curse that resulted from sin and there will be no more curse.
To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you."
And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
God’s original design was for this event to take place as a joyful and pleasurable experience, with no pain involved at all. Even now a pregnant woman can be said to be ‘glowing’ as the hormones and chemicals required for the growing child within her course through her body during the nine months gestation period; and I recently read of a woman who said that she experienced no pain during child birth, but rather it was a time of ecstasy for her. If this can be the case now, then it will certainly be true in a perfect future: the bad experiences sadly many ladies have are the result of living in a world damaged by sin. So far from this being an uncomfortable or difficult time, it would be a most delightful experience: one impossible for a man to know! A real privilege.
Having gone this far in my imaginations, I would like to divert temporarily in order to make a further point. Many people, myself included, believe that Ezekiel 28:1–19, while primarily speaking of the Prince of Tyre, is actually describing the fall of Satan from his original position of the highest spirit being created by God to where he is today. From this description we see he was…
“the anointed cherub who covers,”
…but iniquity was found in him and he set himself up as God.
"You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
Another similar passage is in Isaiah 14:12–24, which, while primarily about the King of Babylon, describes the fall of Lucifer, (Satan).
…that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say: "How the oppressor has ceased, The golden city ceased! …"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Isaiah 14:4, 12-15
Then, when he was ejected from the heavenlies, he took a large number of other angels with him - perhaps a third of them if Revelation 12:4 is correctly interpreted in that way.
His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.
My question is this: how could Satan have set himself up as God? If during the record-breaking, long reign of Queen Elizabeth II some other lady had come along and sat on her throne claiming to be queen, she would very rapidly have been removed, because the real Queen was in the palace and everyone knew her. Likewise, if God was to be seen enthroned somewhere in the spirit realm, it would have been impossible for Satan to claim to be God, for the same reason. On the other hand, while we know that God is present everywhere in our universe, indeed holds everything together by His power, yet we cannot detect Him by any of our physical senses.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
(Note: while these verses refer to Jesus, it also says He created everything in Heaven, and is a clear reference to His deity.)
For this reason despotic rulers have been able to claim themselves to be God, deluded by the absolute power they had over their subjects - and proved to be wrong when they later died, of course!
Could it be, though, that in the same way, God is present everywhere in the spirit realm without actually being seen by the beings inhabiting it? Or at least this was the case during the period before Satan fell? Of course we read passages in the Bible describing Him on the throne in Heaven, so He obviously can and does reveal Himself in specific times and places in this way. Nevertheless, even at those times He is still present everywhere else.
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
The point is this: if God’s all-pervading presence throughout the spirit realm was invisible, and obviously it was God who gave Satan such powers as he had, then because God could not be seen, Satan, who at that time was Lucifer, a magnificent being who was perhaps the peak of God’s creation, turned his love and devotion away from the Almighty who sustained him toward himself, and chose to claim his powers were entirely of his own making - he was God. Furthermore, he managed to delude many others of the heavenly host into accepting this and following him in his treason, resulting in them all being ejected from their former positions.
I think there are two things I am working toward here. The first is that it may be the case that we will not always be able to see God - and perhaps never, in His entirety.
Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God…
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
How can we put these verses together? Job says he expects to see God, and Jesus said the pure in heart will see Him. Exodus describes people seeing God, but John, living many years afterwards, says no-one has ever seen God. If God fills the universe, and He does, then His being is something totally outside of our human experience. The universe is at least 27 billion light years from one end to the other (one prominent evolutionist claims it is over 90 billion light years); so if God is present everywhere within that then we will never be able to see the whole of Him - He is simply far too big! Indeed, His being is so different from ourselves, and probably what we ever will be, that we will never be able to comprehend Him fully; although on the other hand Paul does say we will know as we are known
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
However, according to John 1:18 (quoted above) He took the form of Jesus so He could reveal Himself to us, and from various descriptions throughout the Bible He has clearly revealed Himself in forms that we can understand. For example:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."
Bearing all this in mind, it is likely that much of the time after the resurrection, we will not see God in the accepted sense of the word, although there will doubtless be times when He reveals Himself to us in the way He did to Isaiah and Moses. After all, David said…
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
…and John repeated it:
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
1 John 3:2
However, whether or not that is the case, we humans will see each other all the time, and since everyone is His temple, we will constantly be able physically to express our love for Him in our interactions with each other, as previously mentioned.
The second point is much easier to make. Worship belongs solely to God and we humans will never worship ourselves (Satan’s big mistake) or each other. No doubt there will be great times of praise and worship to our God throughout eternity, and at those times doubtless His presence will be manifested in ways we cannot possibly imagine in this life. Just think of the experience of a crowd of billions of people, every one totally swamped throughout his and her being with God’s Spirit, together worshipping Almighty God, along with the angels, archangels and all the other heavenly beings, with God’s manifest presence revealed in an infinite number of ways on an infinite number of such occasions.
No wonder we are told that Jesus,
“for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross!”
This is the culmination of the entire plan of the universe: billions of human beings loving each other with total abandonment; unhindered by any distraction of evil; every atom of their bodies filled with the Creator’s presence; every thought, desire, emotion and decision absorbed by His glory; their entire spirits merged as one with His Spirit; worshiping and praising the God whose wisdom, knowledge and power brought it all about - the One who can now uninhibitedly experience giving and receiving love on a scale previously impossible.
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
What will we doing for eternity? Certainly not spend it floating around on clouds playing harps! I think we will do what Adam and Eve and their descendants would have done had sin not spoiled it all. We’ll continue to explore the planet(s) on which we live, investigate the way everything works, invent new things, create great works of art, music, and literature, and find ever new ways to give pleasure to each other and to God.
We’ll train plants, trees and bushes into gardens and parks of outstanding beauty purely by our creative words, no longer needing to till the ground by the sweat of our brow.
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." … therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.
Genesis 3:19, 23
We’ll raise children, who will be born with sinless natures with no tempter to pull them in the wrong direction, but who will be able to look at the past history of the original Earth and thus never make Adam and Eve’s mistake. With bodies like Jesus’s resurrected body we’ll be able to move from one place to another, and one planet to another, instantly without need of mechanical means of transport.
With minds perfectly meshed with the Holy Spirit we’ll have access to all the knowledge and wisdom of God, and never have a misunderstanding again. So babies will never cry when they need something, because the Holy Spirit will tell us what they need before that point is reached.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
All deviations from God’s perfection will be unknown, so there will be no deformity, no physical or mental handicaps, no sexual deviation from God’s design of man/woman, and no mutations - so everyone’s DNA will remain perfectly pure. All animals, birds, insects and every other life form will be tame and take delight in mingling amongst us, with meat-eating a thing of the past and vegetation of greater variety, taste and texture than we presently know, providing all the nutrients and requirements for life.
And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food… And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 1:29; 2:9
Notice that the Tree of Life is in the Paradise of God and in the Holy City that comes down to earth:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." ' … In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Revelation 2:7; 22:2
OK, that is what my imagination can dream up. As just quoted, Paul says...
But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9
...so the reality will be far, far better than anything written on this webpage. Sadly there will be many who do not experience it, though. Jesus said:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Due to the many deceptions of Satan, ignorance of the truth and people’s own desires, the way of salvation is hidden to large numbers of the population. If only they knew what delights God has prepared for them and longs them to have, surely they would turn away from whatever has captured their attention, and come to Jesus, who is the only One able to save them from God’s wrath that has to fall on every sin…
…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 1:10
…and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?"
…change them into the people God wants them to be, and qualify them to enter that eternity of bliss.
As mentioned previously, God does not change, and a part of His nature is perfect justice…
For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
…which means every wrong act must be punished. Because of His perfect love for us, He came to Earth in the person of Jesus Christ and poured out His wrath for sin on Him, leaving none for those who accept Him as Lord to experience. Those who reject Jesus reject this deliverance and must therefore receive that wrath themselves:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I pray that everyone reading this page will turn to Jesus, experience the new birth, and come to enjoy the living presence of God within them. If you do not know how to take this step, then this might help, but in any case please visit your nearest Church where someone will be able to guide you along the correct path.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Page Photo by Timo Stern on Unsplash
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