Eternity in the New Year?

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“But these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” -Matthew 25:46


Eternity, for all the sure promises of our future home, is a great unknown for us mortals; the Bible says it is “beyond imagination.” Nevertheless, for all our yearnings for the return of the Lord, if indeed we are eager for His coming (Titus 2), we wonder what eternity itself is really going to be like. For those of us who have known life for a generation, even 70 or 80 years, life unending is not familiar. Based on our personal experiences, it is a bit incomprehensible. We cannot thoroughly grasp the concept of finite beings actually becoming infinite.

At the end of each year, we traditionally look back to at least all the celebrity deaths which transpired in it. Families remember their own loved ones who entered eternity sometime between January and December. The living look ahead, wondering what the next year holds for them. Not even the best prognosticators really know what this year will bring. The future is in God’s hands and known only by Him. The believer ought to be content to rest in those hands.

In celebrating Advent at the end of 2018, one of the thoughts we cherish in our hearts and minds is Advent’s second theme: the “soon” return of the Savior. Maybe in 2019? Even if He tarries, it is still a fact that some will cross into eternity in the new year! As the well-known hymn writer says, “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away.” Will it be you? Death is not always a function of age. It comes as a fulfillment of the phrase “every day ordained for you” in Psalm 139. Seeing eternity’s proximity, how do you consider and meditate upon what awaits you on the far shore of that river? Some will mourn and wail at the return of Christ, while others will hail their Savior and Lord with expressed and felt joy.

An active faith anticipates life beyond the grave promised to the believer, and an active faith is intent to be ready for it. The strictures of this life get most of our attention, but what thought do we devote to preparation for the next? Jesus told us, “Work [now] for the night is coming when no one can work.” But after we lay down our swords, after we enter our Sabbath Rest, what will life forever after entail?

We struggle with comparisons of experienced life and what we have never experienced. Never-stopping time greatly impacts our lives now. Timelessness is an entirely different existence. Perhaps you might think that timelessness invokes boredom. All we know of eternal life from the Scriptures tells us that boredom will certainly not be a reality in eternity. It is not wise to conjecture that some of our experiences in time will be a part of our experiences when time ceases; such comparison is foolish. God has taken care of all such concerns in His new heaven and new earth.

Are such comparisons and imagination apart from total dependence on God’s Word worth our time now with so much to consider before getting there? This is a good point! I rather think the Bible focuses our thoughts mostly on the here and now and the battles which engage us today. It is enough to know that eternity will be minus the pain and perseverance of the battle of this life and that a crown really does await the overcomer! The hope of the believer’s reward is enough to whet the appetite of those eager for Jesus’ return. It is more than enough for us to anticipate receiving our hearts’ treasure: Jesus Himself.

I rather think it is sufficient to know that eternity need never be feared for the followers of Christ; it is beyond our imagination in the best way. It is an inexperienced way of life, yet with continuity with what we have known of the wonders of creation past, even though we will dwell in a new heaven and new earth. We will not float on clouds. We will still put our hands in the earth, touch and taste water, and apparently sit down to a wedding feast whose menu is a mystery but includes the fruit of the vine. I believe it is a way of life far superior to extinction. It is enough to know that God created us for perpetual fellowship – fellowship with Him and with one another. Relationships are the essence of life, especially as they revolve around our relationships with our Triune God.

Eternity ought to be relished beforehand, not feared as an unknown for those who are truly in Christ, for God fully intends it as a perfect reward for His own family. He designed it as the home He knows we will enjoy forever, even as we enjoy Him forever. In 2019, or farther away, in the presence of Jesus, face to face – it is worth everything!


“The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of heaven breaks. The summer morn I’ve sighed for, the fair sweet morn awakes. Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but day-spring is at hand, and glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.”

(First verse of Samuel Rutherford and Anne Cousin’s hymn, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking,” 1857)

 

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Stephen Leonard

Paul Anderson Youth Home