What’s it going to be like after the resurrection? Nothing in this world compares to the bliss of entering into the eternal reward of the World to Come.
In that place of “springs of living water,” God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The reward of the World to Come utterly transcends our ability to describe or even imagine: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The sages say that “one hour of the bliss of the World to Come is better than the entire life of this world.”
Despite that, there is one thing in this world that is even better than the whole World to Come. The sages explain that one single hour spent repenting and doing good in this world is greater than the whole life of the World to Come:
One hour of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than the entire life of the World to Come; and one hour of spiritual bliss in the World to Come than the entire life of this World. (m.Avot 4:21)
How can a single hour in this world be better than the infinite delights of Eden, the revealed presence of God experienced eye to eye, and the total restoration of our spiritual potential? Because in the World to Come, repentance and good deeds don’t really have any value.
Sin is really possible for us only in this existence. When we enter the World to Come, we will still retain our free will, so perhaps the potential for sin still exists, but in practical terms, there is no sin, because we will be like the angels who behold the infinite light of God. We will be like the Messiah, who beholds the glory of the Father. Then we will be one in purpose, will, and spirit with God, filled with infinite light, creatures of light who find no allure in darkness. We have no desire for sin.
In this world, God’s presence remains concealed. We don’t see God, and it takes faith to walk with him; it takes a real effort to set aside our own will for the sake of his. In the World to Come, however, God’s presence will be revealed. It won’t take faith or effort to submit ourselves to him.
In view of that future state of glory, it’s easy to see why the choice to submit ourselves to God and obey his commandments has meaning only in this world. In the World to Come, every tongue will confess him, and all creatures will serve him, but in this world, the path of repentance and good deeds requires a leap of faith and sacrifice of the will. That’s why repentance and choosing to do right is something that only has real meaning now.
That also explains why the repentance message is central to Yeshua’s gospel message. Yeshua really had only one main sermon and teaching, and it’s the same teaching he told his disciples to present: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). He told his disciples that he had been sent only to declare that message (Luke 4:43).
In a Jewish context, “repentance” does not mean to change your mind or even to feel badly about something you have done, but rather, it literally means, “to turn around.” It’s the same word Moses and the prophets used to describe what the nation of Israel must do to amend her relationship with God when she strayed from the commandments of the Torah. In a Jewish religious context, “repentance” means only to quit breaking God’s commandments, turn around, and start obeying them. Sin is transgression of Torah. Quit sinning, start doing good. That message is obvious when the Gospels are read from a Jewish perspective. The vast majority of Yeshua’s teachings and parables circle around the theme of repentance. For example, consider the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the sower and the seed, the rich man and Lazarus, and so forth—all parables about repentance.
Likewise, the Apostle Paul called the Gentiles to repentance. He described his mission saying that he “declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance” (Acts 26:20).
We can’t afford to procrastinate with repentance. Do it now, while it still counts for something. Do it while it still counts for something greater than the whole life of the World to Come.