4. Made to Last Forever
This life is not all there is. Life on earth is just the dress rehearsal before the real production. You will spend far more time on the other side of death—in eternity—than you will here. Earth is the staging area, the preschool, the tryout for your life in eternity. It is the practice workout before the actual game; the warm-up lap before the race begins. This life is preparation for the next.
At most, you will live a hundred years on earth, but you will spend forever in eternity. Your time on earth is, as Sir Thomas Browne said, “but a small parenthesis in eternity.” You were made to last forever. The Bible says, “God has planted eternity in the human heart.” 37 You have an inborn instinct that longs for immortality. This is because God designed you, in his image, to live for eternity. Even though we know everyone eventually dies, death always seems unnatural and unfair. The reason we feel we should live forever is that God wired our brains with that desire! One day your heart will stop beating. That will be the end of your body and your time on earth, but it will not be the end of you. Your earthly body is just a temporary residence for your spirit. God’s Word calls your earthly body “a tent,” but refers to your future body in heaven as “a house.” The Bible says, “When this tent we live in—our body here on earth—is torn down, God will have a house in heaven for us to live in, a home he himself has made, which will last forever.” 38
While life on earth offers many choices, eternity offers only two choices: heaven or hell. Your relationship to God on earth will determine your relationship to him in eternity. If you learn to love and trust God’s Son, Jesus, you will be invited to spend the rest of eternity with him. On the other hand, if you reject his love, forgiveness, and salvation, you will spend eternity apart from God. The brilliant Oxford professor and author C. S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right then, have it your way.’” Tragically, many people will have to endure eternity without God because they chose to live without him here on earth. When you fully comprehend that there is more to life than just here and now, and you realize that life is just preparation for eternity, you will begin to live differently on a daily basis. You will start living in light of eternity, and that will color how you handle every relationship, every task, and every circumstance. Suddenly many activities, goals, and even problems that seemed so important will appear trivial, petty, and unworthy of your attention. The closer you live to God, the smaller everything else appears. When you live in light of eternity, your values change. You use your time and money more wisely. You place a higher premium on relationships and character instead of fame or wealth or achievements or even fun. Your priorities are reordered. Keeping up with trends, fashions, and popular values just doesn’t matter as much anymore. St. Paul said, “I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.” 39
If your time on earth were all there is to your life, I would suggest you start living it up immediately. You could forget being good and ethical, and you wouldn’t have to worry about any consequences of your actions. You could indulge yourself in total self-centeredness because your actions would have no long-term repercussions. But—and this makes all the difference—death is not the end of you! Death is not your termination, but your transition into eternity, so there are eternal consequences to everything you do on earth. Every act of our lives strikes some chord that will vibrate in eternity. The most damaging aspect of contemporary living is short-term thinking. To make the most of your life, you must keep the vision of eternity continually in your mind and the value of it in your heart. There’s far more to life than just here and now! Today is the visible tip of the iceberg. Eternity is all the rest you don’t see underneath the surface. What is it going to be like in eternity with God? Frankly, the capacity of our brains cannot handle the wonder and greatness of heaven. It would be like trying to describe the Internet to an ant. It’s futile. Words have not been invented that could possibly convey the experience of eternity. The Bible says, “No mere man has ever seen, heard or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love the Lord.” 40 However, God has given us glimpses of eternity in his Word. We know that right now God is preparing an eternal home for us. In heaven we will be reunited with loved ones who are believers, released from all pain and suffering, rewarded for our faithfulness on earth, and reassigned to do work that we will enjoy doing. We won’t lie around on clouds with halos playing harps! We will enjoy unbroken fellowship with God, and he will enjoy us for an unlimited, endless forever. One day Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” 41
C. S. Lewis captured the concept of eternity on the last page of the Chronicles of Narnia, his seven-book children’s fiction series: “For us this is the end of all the stories. . . . But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world . . . had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, and in which every chapter is better than the one before.”42 God has a purpose for your life on earth, but it doesn’t end here. His plan involves far more than the few decades you will spend on this planet. It’s more than “the opportunity of a lifetime”; God offers you an opportunity beyond your lifetime. The Bible says, “[God’s] plans endure forever; his purposes last eternally.” 43 The only time most people think about eternity is at funerals, and then it’s often shallow, sentimental thinking, based on ignorance. You may feel it’s morbid to think about death, but actually it’s unhealthy to live in denial of death and not consider what is inevitable.44
Only a fool would go through life unprepared for what we all know will eventually happen. You need to think more about eternity, not less. Just as the nine months you spent in your mother’s womb were not an end in themselves but preparation for life, so this life is preparation for the next. If you have a relationship with God through Jesus, you don’t need to fear death. It is the door to eternity. It will be the last hour of your time on earth, but it won’t be the last of you. Rather than being the end of your life, it will be your birthday into eternal life. The Bible says, “This world is not our home; we are looking forward to our everlasting home in heaven.” 45 Measured against eternity, your time on earth is just a blink of an eye, but the consequences of it will last forever. The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next. We should be “realizing that every moment we spend in these earthly bodies is time spent away from our eternal home in heaven with Jesus.” 46 Years ago a popular slogan encouraged people to live each day as “the first day of the rest of your life.” Actually, it would be wiser to live each day as if it were the last day of your life. It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our final day.
Point to Ponder:
This life is not all there is.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Why do you think God made us to last forever?
Why do we spend more time worrying about what won’t last and so little time preparing for eternity, which will last forever?
What are you doing right now to prepare for eternity?