All human beings will be raised from the dead never to die again. Some will be raised to eternal reward. Others will be raised to eternal punishment. The Story says, "but when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left" (Matt. 25:31-32). At that final event of history as we know it, one of two things will happen: perfect justice or perfect mercy. Perfect justice—punishment for everything you’ve ever done wrong, and God misses nothing...or, perfect mercy— forgiveness for everything you’ve ever done wrong, and God misses nothing. All who have accepted mercy in Christ will go on to eternal reward. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:33-34). All who have rejected God’s mercy in Christ—either actively or passively—will be judged by their works and punished. “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels…then they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’" (Matt. 25:41, 46). Important: The basis for that punishment will be their crimes against God (justice): "And I saw the dead…standing before the throne, and books were opened…and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds…and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:12, 15). So the Story ends with everyone living forever. Those who continued in rebellion will be banished forever to a place of misery, darkness, and utter loneliness and ruin. Those who ceased their rebellion, who surrendered to their King, who received His pardon will live with Him in a new world enjoying the perfect life He intended for us at the first. If you’re a Christian, then this is your Story. If you are not a Christian, then this is also your Story because this is the Story of the way things really are. This is reality. The Story has five elements: God, man, Jesus, cross, and resurrection. It’s a Story that can be told in single a sentence. God, the Creator of the universe, in order to rescue man from punishment for his rebellion, took on humanity in Jesus, the Savior, to die on a cross and rise from the dead so that in the final resurrection we could enjoy a wonderful friendship with our sovereign Lord, in the kind of perfect world our hearts have always yearned for.
The Story of Reality
Making sense of the two biggest issues of Christianity are the two major obstacles to people taking our case seriously. First, if God exists then why is there evil in the world? How could God allow people to be so wicked to each another? How could God allow natural disasters? And from Christians, how could God allow this to happen to me? Wasn’t God going to protect me? Second, why is Jesus the only solution? After all, wasn’t the main point of Jesus’ life to help the poor and advance social justice? To guide us in love, respect, and tolerance? Teach us how to get along? No, those are not the reasons He came. What is Christianity? Some think Christianity is a religious system. Christianity is a guide for living a fulfilling life. Christianity is a roadmap to Heaven. Others think it is a relationship with God, or with Jesus. These are all true enough, but they’re not enough. The answer to the question “What is Christianity?” turns out to be much bigger than those things. The correct answer to the question “What is Christianity?” is this: Christianity is a picture of reality. It’s an account, or a description, or a depiction, of the way things actually are. It’s a view of how the world is. It’s a worldview. It’s a picture, though, that’s made up of pieces that must be fit together properly to see it clearly. In that sense, a worldview is like a puzzle. The pieces fit neatly together into one coherent picture that represents reality—the way the world actually is. Of course, to get the picture right, you have to work with the right pieces. Once you have all the right pieces, then you have to fit the pieces together properly. So how do we put the pieces of our puzzle together properly? You look at the puzzle’s cover—the big picture of the Christian worldview—so you never get lost in the details again. A worldview is like a story. When you think about it, every story (if it is a good one) has four parts: beginning, conflict, conflict resolution, and an ending, a restoration. The Christian Story is different from other stories in a significant way. This Story is not meant to be understood as a fairy tale or a myth. The Christian Story is a true Story of reality. When I say this Story is a true Story, I am using the word “true” in its ordinary sense. I don’t mean “true for me.” I mean “true to reality.” The things the Story describes actually exist and the events in the Story really happened. It’s history. The backbone of the Christian Story consists of five words: God Man Jesus Cross Resurrection (here I mean the final resurrection). This is both the plotline and the timeline.
The first words of our Story go like this: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” (Gen. 1:1) First, the Story starts with God. God is the very first piece of the Christian Story. He is the central character. The Story is about Him. Second, everything belongs to God because He made everything. Including you. God created everything out of nothing. If God can create the entire universe with a single word, chances are He could change water into wine, if He wanted to. He can heal sick people. He can raise a person from the dead. Third, the Story has a theme. Ever wonder what the main theme of the Bible is? It’s right there in the first line. The Story starts with a king who creates a domain He rules over. The idea that God owns everything and has proper authority over everything He made is the main point. The Story is about God’s sovereign rule over everything that belongs to Him. Fourth, notice that God is distinct from the rest of creation. Nature is not God. Rather, God made nature. Everything was exactly the way God’s noble mind intended. Which is just another way of saying: “Everything God made was good.”
In one respect, man is not like any other created thing. He has a rational soul or spirit that bears the image of God Himself. In an absolutely unique way, man is wonderful. The image of God in man gives man transcendent value. This likeness between man and God makes it possible for man to have a unique friendship with God. The Fall Man was capable of living in harmony with God, under His rulership in His kingdom, but he could also betray the friendship. He could rebel. Man is still beautiful, but…now there is a huge problem. Man is desperately fallen. He’s in active rebellion. As a result, man is spiritually dead, enslaved to two new masters: Satan and his own twisted, corrupted nature. The King is angry. How would you feel if you made everything perfect and your creatures rebelled and corrupted your creation? This is why there is evil in the world. Man’s rebellion didn’t just affect him; it affected everything. Bad things happen in a world that is broken. Two things are important to know about evil. One, evil is a part of our Story, but evil is an intruder, an aberration. Two, the Story is not over yet. With man lost and helpless, God Himself steps into the picture in a very unique way to initiate a rescue operation.