(Photo: Dan Delzell)
There are plenty of people, especially in America, who feel that Christians place too much emphasis on eternity. But is that a legitimate criticism? Or is it simply man's attempt to try to make Christianity only apply to this life here and now? Interestingly, those who are uncomfortable with the supernatural are also uncomfortable with the biblical teaching about eternity.
Christians have just celebrated the resurrection of Christ. We do this because that event really happened, and because it is the key to our own glorious resurrection one day. Should we downplay that reality just because some folks don't want to think about eternity? Or is it our duty to present the message which Christ Himself taught, as well as the apostle Paul and many others?
Think of it this way. Should doctors place less emphasis on physical health? Should financial planners place less emphasis on IRAs? Should mechanics place less emphasis on repairing automobiles? People do what they know how to do. Christians, by God's grace, know how to communicate the fact as taught in the Bible that everyone has an immortal soul. Christians know how a person can joyfully live forever, even though his body dies. What doctor or retirement planner or mechanic deals with such a critical issue?
Jesus said it best: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul?" (Mark 8:36) Did Jesus place too much emphasis on eternity? Of course not. He died and rose again to secure eternal life for all who believe in Him as Savior. He didn't die to only give us peace for a few years on earth. He died to give us an eternal relationship with our Creator in a place of inexpressible joy.
It is understandable why this message is unsettling to so many people. It would be unsettling to me too if I didn't know the Gospel. That doesn't make me or any Christian better than an unbeliever. It just makes us aware of the reality of eternity, and the importance of Christ's death and resurrection. Many don't yet see it. They don't get it. Some of them are highly intelligent, but they lack spiritual understanding. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten them to know the truth about heaven and hell.
The minute that Christians start to downplay eternity is the minute that Christians begin to get away from a huge part of the Bible. Jesus talked about it all the time. And read how many times Paul addresses the topic of heaven in his epistles. He does so over and over again. When a person has received the free gift of eternal life through faith in Christ, it is something he then wants others to receive as well. It is such good news. What else can compare with it?
Christians who are flowing in God's love are Christians who attempt to lead others to see how Christ opened the way to heaven for us. (see John 14:1-6) That's what love does. When you know that people are in a bad spot, you want to help them. Without Christ, a sinner is still under God's wrath. (see John 3:36) When you know what God has done to rescue them, you try to get them the help they need. That's what God did for us, and that is what Christians do when they are flowing in God's love. We are simply beggars telling other beggars where we have found bread.
You might as well tell a Christian not to breathe if you are going to tell him to place less emphasis on eternity. Breathing comes naturally to the body. Emphasizing eternity comes supernaturally to the Christian. Why would we ever want to hide the truth about heaven and hell from others? Jesus never did. Whether man goes to heaven or not depends upon what he does with Jesus and the free gift that is being offered to him. We are all sinners in need of God's grace, but we don't all accept the message of salvation. There will always be those who choose to go their own way rather than God's way.
You will exist forever, no doubt about it. Whether you believe that right now or not does not change the reality of your situation. You can run from it. You can deny it. You can even laugh at it. But eternity isn't going anywhere. It is what it is. Meanwhile, you have only begun your eternal existence. So far, your experience has only been in this realm. One day, you will go to your eternal place of residence. Where would you like that to be?
When the Son of God left heaven, He came here on a mission. He completed the work the Father sent Him to do 2000 years ago. Christ will return to earth one day. There is no getting around Jesus, at least not ultimately. You might feel like you are able to successfully avoid Him for now, but that won't last. You will meet up with Him, either as your Friend, or as the One who will send you away forever. That is what the Bible tells us. No one made it up. God told it to us just the way it is going to happen. What remains to be seen is whether you are going to accept Christ as Savior as you become His disciple, or instead reject Him. There is only one wise choice.
You could spend your entire life on earth pursuing various pleasures and goals, but if you neglect your soul you will not be glad for long about the choices you made while you were here. Right now, your decisions probably seem to make sense to you. One day, your eyes will instantly be opened to see and experience your eternal place of residence. God wants you to go to heaven. He said so in His Word. (see 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9) Just because He wants you to join Him in heaven does not mean that you want to join Him there. Well, do you?
I guess that points toward the need for a conversation between you and God. This would be a perfect time to have that conversation with Him. He will speak to you through His Word. You can speak to Him in sincerity and truth through prayer and faith. The clock is ticking. The end is coming. And your life on earth is quickly winding down. Was this your last Easter before Christ's return, or perhaps before your own death? The older you get, the faster time will seem to go. And yet through it all, your soul is not aging. That is because immortal souls do not get "older." They just move from one realm to the next when the earthly body dies.
Is any of this getting through to you? I hope so. All of us who are Christians want to see you with us in heaven, even if you don't currently want to see us there with you.
Christians will continue to place much emphasis on eternity, even as we place much emphasis on feeding the poor and helping the needy. Those are just things that we do because our Lord wants us to do them, and because He has filled our hearts with a love to reach others with His grace and assistance. Some of that assistance helps the earthly body, while some of it helps the immortal soul. Both types of aid are needed in this life, but only one Person can bring you safely to paradise.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven after His resurrection, He gave his disciples a commission to go into all the world with this message of God's love and salvation. (see Matthew 28:19) That is our job, and it is a labor of love. That is what we do as Christ's disciples. And besides, if Christians don't attempt to help you connect with the Person who is "the resurrection and the life," (John 11:25) who will?
If you ever become a disciple of Jesus, you too will become interested in the welfare of the souls of others. If you repent of your sin and turn to Christ in faith, the Holy Spirit will give you that desire to see others come into God's family forever. It certainly is not a natural desire that any of us acquire by our own doing. This emphasis on eternity is something that really kicks in after you become one of the Lord's disciples. It becomes a passion for the believer because it is the passion of the Lord.
Why else would He have died and rose again for our salvation? He didn't go through all that just to give us a few peaceful years of service here on earth. Are you kidding? If that's all we were going to get, do you really think God would have even sent His only Son in the first place to suffer so intensely and die for our sins? Paul described it well: "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Cor. 15:19) Amen to that!