♪Anybody here want to live forever,
Say, I do.
Anybody want to walk on streets of gold,
Say I do.♬
How can we live forever?
Today I want to talk with you about time and eternity, about our human predicament and how Jesus came to change it all. I want to visit with you today about the eternal now, when the limits between this world and the next come down. By faith in Jesus Christ, we belong to the One whose name is the great I AM. So I ask you, when does eternity begin?
Most people would say it begins when we physically die. But in John chapter five, Jesus says that the one who believes in Him has already passed from death to life. It has already become a reality.
When we think about time and eternity, we find two different realms. The eternal, spiritual realm is without limit – infinite. But the realm of time within this created order means all of us who live here, live with limits. We have defined space. We live a designated period of years. Everything eventually comes to an end.
Have you ever seen the animated classic children’s movie, Toy Story? The main character, Buzz Lightyear, cries, “To infinity . . . and beyond!” How long is eternity? How does one define infinity? It is hard to wrap our minds around forever – something without limits, without end. We are in such a time-obsessed culture. It is difficult for us to imagine anything besides finite time.
Think about it. We have clocks in every room of our house. They are in our automobiles and trucks, on our computers and cell phones, even on our wrists. We are governed by time.
We also live by the dates on our calendars. We have appointments to keep, deadlines to meet. Every year we celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. Most of our energy and efforts go toward achieving temporary goals and attaining temporary possessions. We get wrapped up in the here and now.
God, in contrast, is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. My finite brain can think about something that starts today and has no end, but it’s hard for me to grasp something that has no beginning; it just goes infinitely . . . to no beginning.
God transcends time. He is above time. God created time when He created this beautiful world in which we live. Motivated by love, God – it says in Genesis 2 – created Adam and Eve. He breathed into them, and they became living beings.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is an intrinsic interdependence between humanity and God. He has inspired us – literally, breathed life into us – and infused us with life. There is an intimate connection between the Creator and the created. We sing in our hymn, “Breathe on me, breath of God. Fill me with life anew . . .”
So we live in this world in our physical bodies. They are God’s gift. But the Bible also says God’s Spirit resonates with our spirit (Romans 8:16). God has given us His Spirit. God has given us a soul. From the Greek “psyche,” It means the essence of our being. Theologically it means God has placed eternity with our breasts so we are able to know God relationally in His love.
So we live life within time in these amazing bodies in the beauty of creation as God’s gift, but we have limits. We are finite beings.
Further, we have a human predicament – death and eternal death (even worse). We live out our lives in a broken, sinful world. Sin is in everyone. It contaminates everything relationally.
Sin is within me. It entered God’s perfect paradise through Adam and Eve’s disobedience. At that moment, physical death entered this world. Romans 6:23 says,
“The wages of sin is death.” Therefore, our bodies age. We feel pain. We become sick and weak. Eventually we die, literally when the breath goes out of us. We are truly transient – just passing through. We are temporary.
Most people live in fear of the eminence and certainty of our physical death. A musical group, Kansas, used to sing, “Dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.” Psalm 103:15-17 says it this way.
“Man’s days are like grass. Like a flower of the field, people flourish. The wind blows and it’s gone, and its place acknowledges it no longer. But the loving kindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting to those who trust Him.”
• Sin is disobedience. Literally it means, missing the mark or falling short of the goal.
• Sin is a rebellion against God’s authority, against God’s right to be God and to rule over us.
• Sin is the rejection of God as the source of life, the One to whom we are accountable.
• Sin is unbelief. Sin is when self rises up to take total control and in defiance say I’m gonna do what I want to do.
However, an even deeper predicament exists in the sinfulness of humanity. In our rebellion, in our rejection, sin breaks fellowship with God as the source of life. It also, therefore, brings eternal death. We are in danger of perishing eternally. Eternal death is the state of existence where we are lost – apart from God’s presence of love and life.
Sin also brings judgment and condemnation. We are guilty before a holy and perfect God. It is my sin. I am a prodigal. I sing in the hymn, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” I run my own path. I fail to trust God as I should. I’m not faithful.
We will all die someday. Without God, we will live in a state of eternal death. That is why the Bible uses the word “perish.” It refers not to physical death, but to be eternally separated from God, permanently. If one dies in a state of rebellion and defiance wanting nothing to do with God, refusing to acknowledge God, rejecting the grace God so freely offers us in Jesus’ name, then – not because God wills it, but because people choose it – they will perish. They will spend eternity separated from God. They will receive exactly what they desire, which is to live without God.
I believe it was C. S. Lewis who defined hell as the absence of God’s presence. Albert Einstein said, “As darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God’s presence.” So, in response to our finite, temporary condition and our human predicament of death and eternal death, because of our bondage to sin and our separation from God, God sent Jesus, His Son, into our world. The eternal One crashes into time.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God didn’t send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).”
This is God’s heart in response to our predicament.
In Revelation 22:3, Jesus says,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Jesus is the absolute Alpha. There is no “before” before Him.
Psalm 90:2 says,
“From everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”
The Gospel of St. John tells us Jesus is the Word.
“And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word created all that exists (1:1) . . . The Word became flesh . . .” (vs. 14).
The eternal One entered the finiteness of time and creation to save us. Jesus comes to us from eternity and leaves His infinite power. He takes on self-imposed finite limits. He enters time and our world. The God who is everywhere present now comes to reveal Himself in the particularity of the physical body – the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Is Jesus, God?
• Do you remember how He stood in the boat on the sea of Galilee in the storm and told the wind and waves to stop (Mark 4:35-41)?
• Do you remember when He told the demons who were tormenting and possessing people to go to hell where they belong (Matt. 8:28-34)?
• Do you remember how Jesus healed the sick and gave sight to those who had never seen (Mark 8:22-26)?
• Do you remember how Jesus stopped a funeral procession and raised the boy of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), or how He stood outside the tomb and called for His friend Lazarus, who was dead four days, to come out (John 11:45-57)? The dead heard His voice and came out.
He is the Lord of life!
When God came in love, the unthinkable happened. He came to His own people, and they rejected Him. Worse than that, they killed Him! They crucified God on a cross.
But God always has the final word. God raised Jesus from the dead never to die again. He is the Lord of life.
Who is Jesus coming into our human predicament?
• He is the Rescuer, the Savior from sin who forgives us and wipes away our past mistakes.
• He is the Reconciler who brings us back into a relationship with God, the source of life.
• He is the One who releases us, frees us from all limits and from condemnation.
• Jesus is the Redeemer who restores our physical bodies and gives us new and glorified bodies.
• Jesus is the Ruah (the Hebrew word for the breath of God), who fills us with His Holy Spirit.
The moment the dead in Christ hear Jesus’ voice and believe, they have already passed out of death into life. That is the eternal now!
Charles Spurgeon, the “Prince of Preachers,” shared this analogy:
If you knew you had been poisoned, and the physician brings an anecdote and says, “Take it quickly or you will die! If you take it quickly, I guarantee that the poison will be neutralized. You will live!” But you say, “No, doctor. I do not believe. Let everything just take its course. I’ll have nothing to do with you, doctor,” well, sir, you will die, and when the coroner’s inquest is held on your body, the verdict will be, “Served him right!” Wouldn’t that be foolish?
I’ve stood at the grave of infants, of children, of a mother of small children, of older friends who have lived a long and full life. But yet it matters that God in Jesus Christ gives to us eternal life.
Do you hear His voice? Do you hear Jesus invite you to believe that He will forgive you, love you, and give you eternal life?
The eternal now is when the walls between this world and the next come down. In the love and power of Jesus Christ, we are free from limits. We are free from death. We are free from eternal death, and we are reconnected to the One who is eternally alive in love for you. The instant we believe, we pass from death to life.
Everyone who has the Son has life. Everyone who believes in Jesus and receives Him as the Son of God, as Savior and Lord, has eternal life. Eternity begins the moment we believe.
I invite you to place your faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg