THE COMING GLORY
HOPE NOW FOR LIFE AFTER DEATH
Paul W. Swets
The Coming Glory: Hope Now for Life After Death
Imprint: Independently published
Copyright, © 2018 Paul W. Swets
All rights reserved.
Except for brief quotations with proper credit, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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For further information, go to the author’s website
"In The Coming Glory, Paul Swets gives an elegant and yet direct account of Christian hope for the dying. Utilizing his wisdom from years of pastoral work, Swets offers a compelling taste of Christian hope that is accessible to a very broad audience."
Dr. J. Todd Billings Author of Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ
“GLORIOUS!! I have just finished reading The Coming Glory and I have tears in my eyes, thinking of the people who will be comforted and encouraged through the last stage of their earthly journey, and their loved ones too. So much to love about this book—it is saturated in Scripture, Paul’s pastor's heart shines through every word, it is theologically rich, and the whole gospel is here. The way the author weaves in the great hymns and confessions of the faith is beautiful.”
Rev. Dr. Suzanne McDonald Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology
“When I was a pastor, I would have been delighted to have these concise, well-crafted treatments of key eschatological themes. I would have valued especially a book like this to put in the hands of lay people facing death, along with their caring families. We meet a warm pastoral tone throughout the book. Readers will sense that they are hearing from a man with long experience and a caring heart.”
Rev. Dr. William C. Brownson President Emeritus, Words of Hope
“So encouraging! I couldn’t put it down. The Coming Glory would be a wonderful book for a small group book study. I like the large print. I was comforted by the appropriately placed Scripture and hymns. Paul has offered answers to seekers and those looking toward eternity.”
Marty Greendonner Retired Teacher
"The abundance of Scripture is the most valuable part of The Coming Glory. By bringing together quotes from throughout the New Testament, this book is able to give a fuller sense of the Bible's perspective on some big questions and answers. The use of many short quotes followed by commentary was effective at bringing out the meaning."
Rev. Nicholas Monco, OP Diocese of Grand Rapids
“The Coming Glory beautifully presents the end of our earthly lives in terms of a natural departure, leaving one place to go to another. Through an instructive lineup of Bible verses, Paul Swets shows how to find comfort for the journey and how you can know for certain that the astounding good news of heaven is for you!”
Carla Sinnema Teacher
“Tremendously inspiring! The Coming Glory is full of words that speak to the mind, heart, and soul with confidence and assurance as we face death. It would be an immensely helpful tool for ministers to give to parishioners facing life-and-death situations.”
Rev. Dr. John W. Tien Retired Pastor
“Having lost my spouse, I turned to sources of comfort and assurance. Grief and uncertainty occupied my thoughts. I found answers in The Coming Glory. Death brings loss and is certain. But this book offers life and hope that we survivors all need for continuing our lives on earth. I thank God that Paul Swets wrote this book. I recommend it to everyone, especially those who find themselves perplexed by the same questions I faced.”
Dr. Rodger Rice
Retired Professor of Sociology, Calvin College
“The Coming Glory feeds its readers actual bread, rather than merely the stone of human opinion. The author's own constant reliance on Scripture gives readers like me confidence that they can depend on the promises and hope described in this book. Swets points readers to the gospel and to the person at the heart of it—Jesus. He shows why the gospel is the natural response to many of the fears and challenges people may have about departing this life.”
Rev. Dr. Han-luen Kantzer Komline, Assistant Professor of Church History and Theology
The Coming Glory is dedicated to individuals and families who suffer the grief of impending death and want true hope.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with
the glory that is to be revealed to us.
A Note to the Reader
How Can I Prepare for My Departure?
What Happens Right After Death?
How Can I Get Ready for the Return of Christ?
What Will Our Bodily Resurrection Be Like?
How Can I Face God’s Judgment?
What is the Meaning of the “New Heavens and
What Comfort Do I Have Now?
About the Author
The Coming Glory is a gentle word for a difficult time.
Paul offers an honest, truthful and hopeful journey for any facing the reality of death. It will honor your journey. It will awaken you to a future hard to imagine. It will prayerfully hold your hand as you walk through the valley.
Frankly, I couldn't stop reading The Coming Glory. I was moved by the truth, I was moved by Paul's honesty, I was moved by his courage. I was moved to tears by this last paragraph: “The time for my departure is getting closer day by day. Although I deeply love this life, I can hardly wait for the coming glory.”
Rev. Jon Brown, Lead Pastor, Pillar Church
A Note to the Reader
Death is not the end of our story. Glory is coming!
Life would be senseless, absurd, tragic if death were the final chapter of our story. Of course, it is no good to concoct an imagined future in order to feel better. We need truth—truth that draws us closer to the Author of our faith and prepares us for the coming glory.
Professor J. Todd Billings, who is wrestling with incurable cancer, writes, “For true hope in the face of death, we have nowhere else to go besides the Word of God, which finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.”1
The Coming Glory will help you catch a glimpse of what the Word of God teaches about life after death and what is ahead for you. Scripture reveals that the coming glory is the presence and power of God manifested in Christ and all his redeeming work. Our appropriate response is wonder, awe, and worship.
Mystery is abundant. The Bible doesn’t tell us everything. The Apostle Paul acknowledges that there is so much more ahead than we can know now. As he considers the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope this gives to you and me, he exclaims,
No eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of mankind imagined,
what God has prepared
for those who love him.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Like many Christians, you might be confused about the mystery of what is ahead. Yet, what the Bible does reveal is a true future reality glorious beyond compare.
Death is a present reality that stirs fearful emotions now. You likely have a bundle of feelings that must not be stifled—shock, depression, panic, guilt, anger, hope.
Please share your story and questions with a friend or pastor—someone who will hear you out and listen to your soul. Most importantly, pour out your anguish to the Wonderful Counselor who loves you and knows you better than you know yourself.
As a minister of pastoral care, I have had the privilege of hearing the stories of hundreds of individuals and families in the midst of life-and-death crisis. You might think of this little book as a friend that comes alongside you and gives you hope.
Endnotes at the back of the book provide information on source materials and biblical content not included in the text. Also, there are chapter summaries that give brief answers to each chapter question, and a recommended reading list.
Dear friend, God’s gospel can move us from anxious despair into calm assurance and true hope. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will excite our minds and comfort our hearts with the plain (but mysterious) and simple (but profound) truth of the gospel.
Paul W. Swets Holland, Michigan
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death,
so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)
How Can I Prepare for My Departure?
The time for my departure has come.
2 Timothy 4:6
Departure is a gentle way of saying the Apostle Paul knows he’s about to die.
You or a family member may be at the point of “departure.” It is hard to accept this reality. We don’t want to depart from all we know. We don’t want to leave loved ones. We fear suffering—our own and that of our loved ones. We don’t know what’s on “the other side.” We grieve deeply. Our sorrow, fear, and confusion are understandable.
The Psalmist, in the midst of his suffering and grief, pleads with the Lord in this prayer of lament.
Be merciful to me, LORD, for
I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Thankfully, God hears our cries of lament; our passionate expressions of grief, even anger.
The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
The LORD hears us! And he will answer according to what is best for us, but not always the way we want him to. God is God and we are not.
Mike prayed for relief, but he was dying. He knew it; his family knew it. He was firm in his faith. The family thought he was well prepared for death, but near the time for his departure, he said, “I’m confused.” For the first time, he was face to face with an enormous new reality—his impending death. Uncertainty made him very uncomfortable.
Mike is like many facing their last days. I have had the privilege of coming alongside hundreds of them with their families—waiting, listening, comforting. I remember the intense emotions in the midst of grief: fear and confusion, yet sometimes magnificent peace and calm.
How do you or I prepare for death? After a heart attack, a five bypass surgery, a TAVR surgery, and an on-going Inclusion Body Myositis condition, I ponder this sobering question. It motivates me to prepare for my own departure.
“Departure” is the word Paul chooses—not dissolution, not destruction, not annihilation. Departure suggests leaving one place in order to go to another place, like a ship departing from one port to go to another port. Some have likened the death of a believer to leaving earth’s shore, ideally with supportive family and friends gathered around, and arriving at heaven’s shore to the cheers of the waiting heavenly host.
You or your loved ones might be facing a departure now. Questions abound not only about procedural details, but also what happens to you after you leave earth’s shore. What you have believed all your life might not be clear or comforting. Perhaps you, like most of us, have not thought about the spiritual implications of death for yourself or your family…until now. Now is the best time to make sense of your condition. You can choose now to learn and believe the hope Scripture teaches.
Learn from the Apostle Paul. Paul knew he would die soon. He accepts it. In fact, he even looks forward to it. Why? He is convinced that:
For me to live is Christ,
and to die is gain.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul mentions three actions that prepared him to depart in peace.
I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7
You and I might think we cannot say this with the confidence of Paul. After all, he was an Apostle. But even Paul admits times of failure.
I do not understand my own actions.
For I do not do what I want, but
I do the very thing I hate.
Even though Paul regularly failed to live up to all his intentions, he is able to affirm three major facts about his life.
“I have fought the good fight”
Paul draws this image from his love of sports. In several other places, he uses metaphors from the Olympic games: fighting, running, training, and winning.
Notice, Paul says “I have fought the good fight…” Life is a battleground. Death is an enemy. Paul understands our struggle for faith, especially critical when death looms and suffering, doubt, or temptation overwhelm. To Timothy and every believer, Paul encourages the fight against unbelief.
Fight the good fight of the faith.
Take hold of the eternal life
to which you were called…
1 Timothy 6:12
If you have been hurt in this fight, or feel you have already lost the battle for faith, do not despair. Victory is still possible. Even in the midst of doubt, call upon Jesus for help. Remember the father who came to Jesus and said,
I believe. Help my unbelief.
When you ask Jesus to help you believe him, Jesus will indeed help you. Then the amazing truth of the gospel will apply to you:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
1 Corinthians 15:54
Paul is saying that your death is not the end of the story. Christ’s resurrection guarantees your victory. It’s like the D-Day of World War II. Because the decisive battle had been won, victory was assured. Christ’s resurrection is the decisive victory over death and it’s a preview of the coming glory.
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun.
“I have finished the race.”
Think about the times you worked long and hard on a project and then experienced the joy of finishing it. Finish-line-joy related to completing one’s life task was brought home to me in a shocking way. My family had gathered around my father’s hospital bed as he was getting ready for his departure. Suddenly, with unusual strength, he sat up in bed, clapped his hands, and with a look of triumph said, “I’m dying!”
Did my father somehow hear “the distant triumph song?”
And when the strife is fierce,
the warfare long, steals on the ear
the distant triumph song, and hearts
are brave again, and arms are strong.
“I have kept the faith.”
What does it mean to keep the faith? It means to commit to, to persevere, to maintain faith in Jesus even when the fight is hard and the failures many. It means to keep on believing in Jesus in spite of our botches.
For God so loved the world that
he gave his only son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
If you confess with your mouth that
Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that
God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
Does the Bible imply that all we need to do is just say the words and all will be well? No! What we confess with our mouth needs to come from the heart, the very core of our being. When our confession of faith is authentic, we will aim to believe and act in a way that fits a follower of Christ.
And by this we know that
we have come to know (Jesus),
if we keep his commandments.
1 John 2:3
Jesus summarized the commandments of God:
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
None of us have believed or kept God’s commandments perfectly. But we can take heart because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin through his death on the cross and offers forgiveness to all who trust in him.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.
It’s never too late to ask Jesus to help you trust him, to declare with heart and mind as the early Christians did: “Jesus is my Lord!” This heartfelt affirmation enables you to experience the refreshment of God’s complete forgiveness of your sin.
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord….
Repentance of sin and faith in Christ give peace in your soul.
You can prepare for your departure by affirming your belief in Jesus Christ, who loves you and gives you eternal life.
God, it’s hard to get through my head that while I am yet a sinner, you still love me and want to save me.
I confess that I have not followed your commandments perfectly. I am sorry.
Please forgive my sins.
Thank you for your love shown to me in Jesus. Please give me faith that Christ is the one who will save me, just as I am, and give me hope now for life after death. Amen.
What feelings or thoughts do you have about your departure or that of a loved one?
How do you relate to the Apostle Paul’s statement about his preparation for departure: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”?
How prepared are you?
What comfort in this chapter will you focus on?
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me,
O LORD, faithful God.
I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand.