Anticipating the Eternal

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I would hate to come from a foreign country and learn English. In addition to some mind-bending rules of spelling, pronunciation, and grammar, we have mind-boggling homonyms. Homonyms are words that are spelled the same, and sound the same, but have different definitions.

For example: It is one thing to run through an airport, looking for a terminal. It is another to put a new battery in your car and connect the cable to a terminal. But it is altogether different when the doctor comes into your hospital room to announce that your disease is terminal. The same word ends each sentence, but what a difference it makes!

If you find the airport terminal, you can depart on your flight. If you connect the battery terminal, you can depart in your car. If you get a terminal diagnosis, you will eventually depart this life.

For several years my wife, Pat, has been badgering/encouraging, for us to do some end-of-life planning. She is much more practical than I, and to be frank, I didn’t want to talk about it. So, I did the husbandly thing and put her off for years. I mean, the prospect of discussing death, wills, gravesites, funerals, caskets, tombstones and obituaries, was gruesome to me.

Finally, despite my reluctance, she made an appointment for us to meet and talk to a funeral director. It wasn’t altogether terrible. In fact, here in Monticello, we are blessed to have extremely professional and compassionate people in the funeral business. The gentleman who set up, what he called, the “final lay away plan,” was a good guy. Despite the dismal subject, he was jovial, knowledgeable, and enjoyable. Now, it was not fun picking out a casket, but Pat and I don’t want our children to be burdened with that. This is reality, and it makes sense to plan it, before you need it.

The difficult truth is this—we all have a terminal disease. Barring divine intervention, none of us will get off this planet alive. The latest statistics reveal that one out of every one of us will die sometime in the future.

As gloomy as all this sounds, there is eternal hope to terminal illness. Terminal is the opposite of eternal. The word, terminal means something that comes to an end—the word, eternal, means something that will not end—and all God’s promises come with eternal guarantees.

Truthfully, our physical lives will come to an end, but our spiritual lives can go on. We can believe this because of the promises in an eternal Book that is “Forever…fixed in heaven” (Psalm 119:89)—the very Word of God we call the Bible.

So, though the perishing surrounds us—in Christ—the permanent awaits us. What can we do to anticipate the eternal? What has God promised?

ONE: He Promised an Eternal Life

Through faith in Christ, God’s Word says we can have Eternal Life. Jesus said: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Not only can we have eternal life by believing in Jesus, but we will never be condemned for our sins according to His words in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” God gives eternal life to all who receive His Son as their Savior.

TWO: He Promised an Eternal Body

When Christ returns, believers in Him who have died are resurrected to a new life in a new body. Paul wrote: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). When “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), because “it is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42, 44), “the dead will be raised imperishable” (verse 52). God promises a new, spiritual, eternal body for every believer in Him.

THREE: He Promised an Eternal Kingdom

Countries and kingdoms in this world rise and fall—come and go. But when Christ sets up His kingdom, it will be eternal. Peter encouraged believers that, “an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). And the writer of Hebrews encouraged, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

FOUR: He Promised an Eternal Inheritance

Peter encouraged those scattered, persecuted believers in first century Asia Minor, by reminding them that in Christ they would, “obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for salvation” (1 Peter 1:4-5). Because of faith in Christ, believers will “receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).

It is depressing to focus on the terminal…but exhilarating to anticipate the eternal. Eternal life, with an eternal body, in an eternal kingdom, enjoying an eternal inheritance should be the motivation of our lives. It was for John Newton, who ended Amazing Grace with these words:

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

 

 

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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