Where is existence going (i.e. eschatology), both immediately and ultimately?

Atheist View

The Atheist Perspective

Naturalism entails that any predictions regarding the future must be based on established science and accurate historical evidence of past trends. It must also consider the evident course of current technologies, since the future will be largely decided by the decisions humans make and the technologies they develop to realize their plans and ambitions.

First is cosmology. We know a great deal now about the likely future evolution of the universe. Certainly within a few billion years the earth will be consumed by the sun, although we have the means even now to escape this fate, using space travel to live elsewhere. But it's very likely that countless trillions of years from now all the stars in the universe will have burned out, and the remaining debris will have collapsed into black holes, which will evaporate after many more trillions of years, leaving the universe a sea of random electromagnetic noise and scattered subatomic particles. However, due to the Third Law of Thermodynamics, it will take infinite time for all the available energy in the universe to become unusable, which means human technologies will always be able to exploit remaining heat differentials to produce energy to sustain civilizations for eternity. However, this will require human civilization to have survived that long.

Which leads us to the real question: How will human civilization fare over the coming millions of years, since there is no god to save us and we are all left to our own devices? Judging from the past, and even considering the unexaggerated realities of destructive technologies (like nuclear bombs and global warming) and natural phenomena (like asteroids and supernovas), it seems highly likely that human civilization will continue indefinitely. This is not guaranteed, as improbable misfortunes can overcome us. And it won't be free of cycles of progress and decline, as failures and catastrophes set us back and we must recover. But in the long run, the odds are good we will overcome all obstacles and threats with new technologies, and continue doing so for all eternity. This will especially be true if we improve our moral cooperation with reasonable philosophies like secular humanism, working together to create a good society, rather than destroy ourselves in fits of barbaric religious violence and madness. It will also help if we increasingly learn to work for the common good rather than blindly ruin the earth in pursuit of mere profit and greed.

If we do this, within a thousand years human technology will be so advanced we will be able to create and live inside computer simulated worlds as real as our present world. Countless individuals and groups will each design their own universes, and individuals will be able to live in any of those worlds they want to, even hopping from one to the next if they grow to dislike the one they first choose. Everyone will live forever, and because these new worlds will be intelligently designed (and constantly subject to improvement in design) and because we will get to choose which one to live in (even creating our own if we want), they will be far better worlds than the one we now live in. Though none is likely to be absolutely perfect, there will certainly be many to choose from that we could fairly call paradise.

Of course, even if the human race goes extinct (either because of our own immoral stupidity or some unstoppable accident of nature), the odds are extremely good that there are many other civilizations in this universe, and since risk will be distributed among them all, it is nearly certain at least one intelligent species, somewhere in this universe, will endure for all eternity, creating and enjoying the virtual utopia just described.


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Christian View

The Christian Perspective

The Bible states that no one is perfect but God alone (Luke 18:19). As a result, all of us have earned death and condemnation (Romans 6:23). However, in an amazing substitution, God Himself lived the perfect human life in our place, and paid our fine on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5).

Those of us who put our trust in the work He did in our place will be forgiven (Romans 4:5, John 3:18). Those of us who put our trust in our own works will receive full payment for our deeds, and the payment that we have earned is condemnation and death (Romans 3:20, Romans 6:23).

In John 5, Jesus tells us that "an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment".

This time is often referred to as "Judgment Day". This day is coming.

Once Judgment Day comes, however, it is not the end.

One of Jesus' closest followers, a man named John, was exiled by Caesar to the island of Patmos. While he was on this island, Christ came to him in a vision. John wrote down all that he saw in the vision. This writing is referred to as the book of Revelation. It is the last book of the Bible.

The end of the vision describes not only Judgment Day, but things that happen after Judgment Day as well. The text of John's description, taken from Revelation 20:10 - 22:7, in the NASB translation, is included below:


The devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."

And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."

Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

And he said to me, "These words are faithful and true"; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."

Read Revelation

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