THE “WORLD TO COME” IS NOT HERE YET!
The “world to come” is not here yet and no one is there yet. The “world to come” is the “new heaven and new earth” that God promised to “create” for the saints in the Old Testament as well as the saints in the New (Isa. 65:17ff; Rev. 21:1ff). Many of us believe that there is something “better” awaiting the “disembodied spirits” of saints who die other than just departing to be with Jesus at death. Some believe that when believers die today their spirits go to a “hadean” realm (which is a waiting place where the righteous go at death) and then, after the judgment, these will go into something “better” which is the “mansion” in heaven that Jesus is preparing (Jn. 14:1-2). Others believe that at death the “spirits” of the saints go directly into heaven, but after the judgment there will still be something “better” in heaven in our glorified bodies. The main difference I see in the views is simply what we call the “place” and perhaps where it is located since both views stress that there is something “better” coming in the “resurrected body” of a believer after the judgment. Paul indicated that we desire to be “clothed” with our resurrection bodies and “not be found naked” which indicates that we look forward to something “better” than being a “disembodied spirit” (2 Cor. 5:1-4).
I too believe that there will be something “better” for believers after the judgment when we will be told by Jesus: “Come you blessed of my Father inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). I believe that the Bible teaches that at death the “spirit” of the believer goes to heaven. For example, I believe that the Bible teaches that, like Elijah in Second Kings 2:11, our spirits go directly to heaven when we die into the “realm of the dead” (hades) which is somewhere “in heaven” where Christ is (Phil. 1:21-23). There are many “mansions” (NKJV) or “rooms” (ESV) or “dwelling places” (NASB) in the “Father’s house” and departed saints could be in any one of them with Jesus. I believe that our spirits remain there until the second coming at which time Jesus will bring “disembodied spirits” with Him to be reunited with our resurrected “bodies” and then we will be at the judgment, not to be judged but to be welcomed and rewarded (1 Thess. 4:14ff). It is then that we will receive the something “better” that God has always had in mind for us–which is life in “a new heavens and new earth” (2 Pet. 3:13ff). It is my understanding that we do not go into the “new heavens and new earth” until after we are in our “resurrected immortal bodies” (1 Cor. 15:35ff) and after the judgment (Rev. 20:11-22:5). It is then that we enter “the world to come.” The “world to come” is the world we enter after this “world” is destroyed (2 Peter 3:7-13). It is referred to in both the Old Testament and the New as the “new heavens and the new earth” (Isa. 65:17ff; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21-22). It is the “kingdom” that we will “inherit” (not re-inherit) after the judgment (Matt. 25:34). It is the “everlasting kingdom” of our Lord Jesus Christ into which an “entrance” will be “supplied” to us “abundantly” when the “day of the Lord” comes (2 Pet. 1:11; 3:10). This is the “world to come” where “all things” will be in subjection to man (as God intended in the beginning) as he reigns (Heb. 2:5-8) in the “new heavens and new earth” with “God and the Lamb” (Rev. 22:3-5). It is the “age it come” in contrast to “now in this time”—referring to time on this earth (Mk. 10:30). The “age to come” is referred to in both Testaments as a “new heavens and new earth” where all saints will dwell together eternally God and the Lamb (Isa. 65:17ff; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21-22:5). It is only fitting that God would refer to the “world to come” as a “new earth” because God “created” the present “earth” as the dwelling place for man in the beginning (Gen. 1-2). The glorified “heaven and earth” that God will “create” is referred to time and again in the Old Testament and promised to all of the faithful both then and now (Isa. 65:17ff; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22:5). This is the “earth” that God promised when He said, “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Ps. 37:9, 11, 22, 29, 34; Matt. 5:5). God has promised all saints that this “inheritance shall be forever” (Ps. 37:18). The promise God made to Abraham and “his seed” (believers) is that they would be the “heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13). The “world” that they are “heirs” of (and “joint-heirs” with Christ) is the “world to come” —but it is not here yet and none are there yet. As Peter said, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). This “inheritance” is in the “new earth” which will be somewhere “in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4) in the “Father’s house” (Jn. 14:1-3). That is why the Holy Spirit referred to it as “new heavens and a new earth” in both Testaments (Isa. 65:17ff; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21-22). John saw the “New Jerusalem” (bride of Christ) coming down “out of heaven” (where the spirits of saints go at death) from God to dwell forever and ever in the “new heaven and new earth” after the first heaven and first earth passes away (Rev. 21:1-3). This is the reason that my ultimate desire and hope is living in the “new heaven and new earth” (the world to come) where the “tabernacle of God is with men” eternally just like in the Garden in the beginning.