Prepared And Preserved

In describing for us the eternal reward and/or punishment, God [through inspiration of the New Testament writers] uses some terms that should mean something to us, and that also point to the origin, the nature, and the certainty of those things. Since “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16), we may know these terms were not used haphazardly or indiscriminately; they have meaning, and they were used purposefully. We would do well to understand why.

Something Prepared. There are three Greek words used that should be noted regarding this matter; the first is (hetoimazo, het-oi-mad´-zo), and is translated into English as prepared; this term is found in a couple of passages worthy of our note.

Two times, Jesus used this term in describing the scene of Judgment before the Son of Man [i.e., Jesus, the Christ and Son of God]. The first time, Jesus told those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). In these words, we find some worthwhile — important — information that we should meditate on regularly as we think about all God has done for us. What Jesus said reveals some important facts about the reward prepared for the saved.

First, this is something put in place “from the foundation of the world”; if that is not clear enough for us, consider that Paul wrote of the salvation made possible through Jesus Christ as something done “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Tim. 1:8-10) and revealed when Jesus came to earth. Peter also refers to the redemption by Christ’s blood, who “was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:18-20). It is only logical that if the salvation and redemption were planned before time began, that the reward for the saved would also then be put in place before time began, and that is exactly what Jesus said.

Note, too, that Jesus said this kingdom prepared before time was prepared for those who would be God’s people — the saved. The glory and wonder of this gift of a kingdom prepared for us is that God did so, knowing the whole of mankind would sin against Him at some point, yet He already had a plan in place for our redemption and salvation, too. Though we would all fail Him, He already had the means of our reconciliation established, and it would be revealed in the coming of the Christ, preached and taught by His disciples after His return to heaven. What an awesome gift God has prepared! What love He had for us that He would do this for us!

At the same time, we find in the same telling of the Judgment scene Jesus also speaks about the “other side” of that Judgment — to those on His left. To them, He would say, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). There are some important points we should note about this, too, for the same Jesus who spoke of a reward of “etermal life” for the righteous also spoke of “everlasting punishment” for those who did not live for Him (Matt. 25:46). The first point we should note about this is that the punishment is just as certain as the reward; that is, we cannot accept the reality of an eternal heaven without also accepting the reality of an eternal hell.

Secondly, let us note that though the eternal kingdom was prepared for the saved, the eternal fire of hell was prepared “for the devil and his angels”; this was not what God wanted for any man, but for the devil and His angels! You see, this is not what God wants for us; this is what the devil wants. God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), and is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9), while the devil knows his condemnation has already been decided, and he wants to bring as many souls with him into this place of eternal punishment as he can before time ends. When we fail to take advantage of God’s offering of redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, and salvation through Jesus Christ, we are choosing the place prepared for the devil and his angels, rather than the place of eternal rest!

Something Preserved. Two other words should be noted regarding the eternal reward and eternal punishment; the first is the Greek word (apokeimai, ap-ok´-i-mahee), that is literally translated as “to be reserved” and is translated into English in the New Testament as laid up (Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:8) or appointed (Heb. 9:27). Robertson notes this is something “stored away for future use” (Robertson’s Word Pictures), and is certainly an apt term for both our reward and our Judgment! The reward is “stored away” in heaven, and is for our future enjoyment, and our certain Judgment is a future event that all men will face. It should be noted now that both the Judgment and the reward were conceived and established by God, and that is why they are certain.

Another, stronger, term is used in the New Testament regarding the eternal reward or punishment, and it, too, has an important point we should not overlook. The Greek term is (tereo, tay-reh´-o), and has reference to those things laid up, but also kept under guard or kept under watch. The implication from this term is that what is laid up is secure and cannot be stolen or lost, and that is certainly the meaning Peter intended when he wrote, by inspiration, that we have “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet. 1:4). This is exactly the point Jesus was trying to make when He admonished His audience to “not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19, 20).

On the negative side, we find this stronger term used by Peter when he wrote of how God had not spared angels who sinned, “but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4), and of false teachers “for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever” (2 Pet. 2:17). The terrifying point made here is that there is no escaping from those places of detainment and punishment, no matter how much one might try or desire escape.

If you are a faithful believer and disciple of Jesus Christ, what God has prepared for us may be anxiously anticipated and desired, and the New Testament writers said as much (cf. Rom. 8:23-25; 2 Cor. 5:1, 2). What has been prepared for us from before time is an eternal dwelling place, where there will be none of the troubles and pains and sorrows of this physical, mortal, temporary existence.

On the other hand, if you are not a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, what is reserved for you should be utterly terrifying! At the same time, the knowledge that this is not what God wants for you should motivate you to respond positively to the offer of salvation that you might escape the eternal punishment that, too, is certain.

Prepare, that you may be saved. Steven Harper