Friday, February 22, 2019

The Final Estate of Man

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

As we come to the end of our study in the Doctrine of Man, we will review the four estates of humanity. First of all, Adam was created with the possibility of sinning. After the fall, however, mankind became radically depraved so that it was impossible for people not to sin. In the third estate of man, it is possible for the redeemed not to sin. And finally, in the heavenly estate, it is impossible for man to sin. You may remember these four conditions by learning a bit of theological Latin, using the two words posse (able) and peccare (to sin):

1. Posse peccare: possible to sin (Adam’s first estate).
2. Non posse non peccare: not possible not to sin (fallen man).
3. Posse non peccare: possible not to sin (redeemed man).
4. Non posse peccare: not possible to sin (glorified man).

In a sense, the fourth estate is the completion of the gracious work begun in the third estate. In heaven, we shall look back on our best works and see how impoverished they really were. We shall look back on our most blissful times of fellowship with God and see that they were very meager indeed. We shall never desire to abandon Him again but shall enjoy the fullness of His love in greater and greater measure as our capacity grows and develops for all eternity.

What about the sinner? The Bible leaves us no doubt on this score: the sinner who has refused God’s grace is not annihilated but continues to live a self-conscious existence forever under the wrath of God. The sinner will look back on the most miserable suffering he endured on earth and will view it as the greatest bliss imaginable compared with what he is undergoing.

Contrary to the opinion of some theologians, the sinner does not spend eternity unaware of God but rather in His presence. The sinner hates God worst of all and his punishment is to endure God’s wrathful presence forever. This fearful future is revealed by a loving God in order to cause men to repent before it is too late.

God gives each of us what he or she wants, which is also what we deserve. How is this true both in heaven and in hell? Can you see this principle worked out in history as well? Consult Judges 3:7–8, 12; 4:1–2. God gave the Israelites what they wanted by putting them into the cultures formed by the false gods they chose to worship.