Interview on the subject of eternity with Prof. Dr. Werner Gitt
What happens after we die? Many people are reluctant to deal with this question, since it reminds them of their own mortality. But for many Christians life after death, an eternity with God, is something that gives them hope. But what indications does the Bible give us about heaven? What will eternity be like, how will it feel? We would like to talk about these questions with Prof. Dr. Werner Gitt.
Through his suffering and death on the cross, Jesus gave us access to eternal life. What tremendous love this must be, which loves me so much that He, who is the author of this world and of all life, humbled Himself so deeply in order to buy heaven for me! This love is for everyone who turns to Him: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremia 31:3)
What do you consider to be the most common or greatest fallacy regarding eternal life?
The most serious fallacy about eternity is that many people do not even concern themselves with life after death. A lot of people consider death to be the absolute end of our lives, an error, however, that is believed carelessly by so many. The rich man in Luke 16:19-31 lived his life without God and led a worldly, selfish life, so the Bible describes him as a man “who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury” (Luke 16:19). So when “he went to the place of the dead” (V. 23) he becomes evangelistic for he asks Abraham to send someone [Lazarus] to his five brothers to warn them lest they come to this dreadful place as well. This is where he is tremendously wrong for Lazarus has no more chance to warn somebody on earth.
What does the Bible say about life after death – eternity – in general?
Human beings are destined by God so that our lives will never end. The earthly death is only a change of our place of residence. After death, the Bible names only two different places for an eternal stay. In Matthew 25:46 Jesus says: “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
How can I picture heaven? Is it a physical place?
According to the Bible, heaven is a real place that lies beyond our three-dimensional world. The place where God and Jesus have their dwelling place is so immensely beautiful that the Bible is only capable of describing it with terms of what is unknown to us: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Heaven is a place of eternal presence of God and the Lord Jesus. It is a place of eternal joy and perfect love. God himself personifies love and therefore He will fill all of heaven with it. A little boy was asked what heaven was. He correctly identified the essence of heaven: “… the place, where everyone loves everyone.”
Is there a difference between what the Bible calls “heaven” and “new earth”?
The eternal resting place of those saved by Jesus is described in the Bible by various synonymous terms, but in my opinion they refer to the same thing:
- “But we are citizens of heaven…” (Philipians 3:20)
- “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
- “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)
- “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” (Luke 16:9)
- “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.” (Revelation 21:1)
- “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6,33)
What will people be like in eternity? Do they have a body or will they be more like spirit beings?
After His resurrection, Jesus had a body with new abilities. With this, He gave us an example of what we will be like one day. In John 3:2 it says: “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.” The risen Lord sat at a table with the disciples going to Emmaus (Luke 24,30) and at the Sea of Tiberias, the third time He showed Himself risen, He had breakfast with the disciples.
In my point of view we won’t be spirit beings in heaven, but will have real bodies, which, however, can’t be compared with the bodies we have now. We will eat and drink, otherwise Jesus would not have said of Himself: “He Himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!” (Luke 12:37b) There will be wine in heaven also, because Jesus said: “Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
Are there any indications in the Bible about how people will spend their time in eternity? Do you only sing hymns?
First of all I would like to point out that one-dimensional physical time no longer exists. In Revelations 10:6b it says: “There will be no more delay.” The time that limits and hurries us here will no longer exist in heaven. The Chronos of this world will be replaced by the Kairos of God.
If we will be like the Lord Jesus, following 1 John 3:2, then we will also be able to do what Jesus does. From Scripture we know Jesus as the creative Designer (John 1:1-3). If we will be as creative as He is, then we will attain undreamt-of abilities. Everything we do creatively will succeed at the drop of a hat. Everything we do will be under the blessing of God, and everything we act and create will be in accordance with God’s will.
Will there be a reunion with our loved ones after death?
The Transfiguration of Jesus on a high mountain can be helpful in answering this question (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). There the disciples Peter, James, and John immediately recognized Elijah and Moses, even though they had never seen them before. By inference, therefore we can be sure that we will recognize all those who were dear to us on earth immediately.
Does the Bible say anything about what eternity with God will feel like?
In the Gospel of Matthew we find the nine Beatitudes with which Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount begins. These begin with the phrase “Blessed are” and consistently describe sensations that will only be fully perceived in heaven. In more recent [German] translations the “Blessed are” is being replaced by “Happy are”, since the word “blessed” is not commonly used anymore. I feel this is a loss of information because “blessed” means much more than “happy”. In the New Testament, salvation and happiness are inseparably linked to the reign of God that dawned through Jesus. Happiness, on the other hand, is an expression that describes a purely earthly state.
Is it possible to prepare for eternity now – if so, how?
We are best prepared for eternity when we have linked our lives to Jesus. That is, if we believe in Him and follow Him in what He has told us in His Word. He lets us know already what He will tell us on the day, when we meet Him: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world” (Matthew 25,34).
Is there anything you are most looking forward to in eternity?
From my point of view, the greatest joy is that we have an eternal home – a residence from which we never have to leave. It is huge that God has reserved a place for us to stay for all eternity. It is a place where there will be no more suffering, no more sickness, and no more death. There is only lasting joy and that is why Jesus calls out to us: “Rejoice because your names are registered in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
And finally, the question that should actually be at the beginning: Who may spend eternity with God, or what do I have to do to be one of them?
I consider this question to be the most important question of our lives. If there is something as wonderful as heaven – a place without suffering and death, without sickness and without sin, and where we will see our Creator face to face, then the inevitable question arises: How do I get there? Jesus answered this question very clearly and straightforwardly: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So Jesus is the only way to heaven! How do we follow this path? By trusting and believing in Jesus. In John 5:24 Jesus says this to us: “those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life.”