The Stabilizing Force of Eternity
Our previous look at our eternal home revealed a fascinating truth: there is a direct continuity between this universe and the New Heavens and Earth. But many Christians regard this and other information about eternity as esoteric or fantastic, and not really “practical.” It is instructive, however, to see that the Bible consistently links a proper understanding of eternity to the way we must think and live today.
The New Testament has six major passages that explain various aspects of the new creation (1 Cor. 15, 2 Cor. 5, 1 Th. 4-5, 2 Th. 2, 2 Pt. 3, Rev. 21-22), and five of them provide detailed applications of these truths to our lives. We are to abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15.58) stiving to please Him (2 Cor. 5.9). We are to encourage one another (1 Th. 4.18, 5.11), while remaining alert, calm, and self controlled (1 Th. 4.6,8). Peter reminds us to live spotless, blameless, and peaceful lives (2 Pt. 3.14).
These admonitions are familiar and anticipated, yet one application is noteworthy for the number of times that it occurs, and that it is somewhat unexpected.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable”(1 Cor. 15.58). “So then, brothers, stand firm…and establish [your hearts]” (2 Th. 2.15, 17). “take care that you [do not] lose your own stability” (2 Ptr. 3.17).
Looking forward to our eternal home ought to stabilize us now.
At first glance this seems a bit odd. How would information about what will happen in the SEEMING far distant future enable me to stand firm in the turmoil of sin-corrupted living? What is the connection between the promises of eternity and our struggles with anxious thoughts, shifting relationships, and unexpected bills? Let’s think this through.
What do we normally consider to be stabilizing influences? A reliable job, stable income, strong relationships, sufficient food, good leadership in government. Yet aren’t we quite often reminded just how shaky these can be?
This life is inherently unsteady, because we are finite-life is bigger than any of us, and sin is fatally unreliable. All too often we compound our problems by attempting to control the vicissitudes of life with sinful responses, the very thing that creates instability. Shouldn’t there be something better for us to pin our hopes on, to build our lives on?
By meditating on the way we will live for eternity we are better able to handle, even overcome, the uncertainties and instabilities of this pilgrim life. Here are three key applications of these truths.
Eternity stabilizes us in both prosperity and unexpected calamity, for eternity moves the best and worst case scenarios out of the extreme category. We can live without being controlled by fear and sorrow, or pleasures and gain. Viewing life from an eternal perspective smooths out both the highs and lows.
Eternity stabilizes us in our hopes and ambitions, for we begin to realize that we don’t have to fill our bucket list, we don’t have to chase the possessions, relationships, and power that dominate so many in this present age. God has those things for us in eternity! Why settle for temporal, fading dreams and goals when God has lasting and substantial realities laid up in store for us?
Finally, just as there is a direct continuity between this earth and the redeemed New Earth, so there is a direct continuity between your present life and your redeemed eternal life. You pick up in eternity where you left off in existence…but you leave sin behind! So you are building for eternity in what you learn and how you live today. This encourages me to “reverse engineer” life. Think about it: we will live for all eternity employing virtues and activities and promises that are so strong and stable that they will last forever! If they are that reliable, should we not begin to live that way now? Won’t those fixed values help us to navigate the turbulence of this present life?
God intends the promises of our eternal home to stabilize us in a topsy-turvy world. These truths are not distracting wastes of time; they are practical as potatoes. We on a trajectory into eternity and, as A.W. Tozer said “we do well to think of the long tomorrow.”
Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This is a comprehensive explanation of the biblical truths of our eternal home. The first half of the book explains the biblical theology of eternity, and the second half answers all the questions we have wondered, but are afraid to ask.
Randy is the director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries, and he has put a tremendous amount of thought into how eternity ought to impact our lives. He has written several other smaller books that highlight and expand on specific aspects of eternity. Among them are The Treasure Principle and The Law of Rewards.
Joni Earekson Tada also wrote a very beneficial book, Heaven, Your Real Home. As with all her books, this is deeply thought-provoking and incredibly vivid. Her devotional based on this book is also worth reading.
Erwin Lutzer’s Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ and One Minute After You Die are also helpful, as is John MacArthur’s The Glory of Heaven.