We sometimes say that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. We say this because we tend to see these things as unavoidable. Try as one may to escape it, eventually the tax man catches up with everybody. And, despite our best efforts to prolong life, eventually everyone will die.
No one relishes the idea of these two certainties. We do whatever we must in order to deal with them as best we can. Thus, we try to take the kinds of actions during the year that will help minimize our tax bill at the end of the year. Likewise, we try to make the most of our lives, because we know at some point they will end.
If these were the only certainties in life, it would make for a dreary existence. It would be impossible to have any true joy or hope. The scriptures, however, teach us that there are indeed other certainties for which we should prepare. Unlike death and taxes, though, not all of these certainties are bad.
One certainty is that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again. When He was taken up into heaven in the clouds, two angels assured the apostles that He would return again in the same manner (Acts 1:9-11). Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica to comfort one another with the assurance that the Lord would come again and they would meet Him in the air (1 Th. 4:13-18).
Another certainty is that when the Lord comes again, the physical realm will be utterly destroyed. Peter spoke of this in 2 Pet. 3:10-13, telling his readers that the heavens would be destroyed by burning and the elements will melt with intense heat. This is because God has preserved the present world for fire, and for the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men (2 Pet. 3:7).
This, of course, leads us to the next certainty. At the end of time all of mankind will stand before God to be judged according to His word. John the apostle described this scene in Rev. 20:11-15. All the dead, both great and small, will stand before God’s throne. The books will be opened, and everyone will be judged by what is written in the books. Those whose names are not written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:14, 15). There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
This certainty establishes another certainty. There is a place of punishment and a place of reward. The place of punishment, called the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10, 15), is what we commonly call hell. It is a real place that is characterized as “outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 25:30).
As certain as hell is, so also is the place of reward for the righteous. In Jn. 14:1-4 Jesus promised the apostles that He was going away to prepare a place for them to be with Him for eternity. That place is heaven, the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2), where the righteous will be in the presence of Almighty God forever and ever.
These certainties should receive greater attention from us than even death and taxes, for they relate to our eternal destiny. When the time is right, our Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God (1 Th. 4:16). He will deal out retribution to those who do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel (2 Th. 1:7, 8). This will happen because God said He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Ex. 34:6, 7).
On the other hand, those who have obeyed the gospel, and have lived faithfully for the Lord will be ushered into eternal bliss, where every tear will be wiped away (Rev. 7:17). Of this we may be certain.