Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Death #3: Life is short... or is it?    (4/25/2010 )

Methuselah died at the age of 969. His record has never been beaten, although his grandson Noah came close, at 950. You have to wonder how Mr and Mrs Noah got on all those hundreds of years, especially when Noah started building a boat in the garden…

No one’s ever managed to explain why some people in the early book of Genesis lived so long, nor how they were still having children between 65 and 500 years of age. Things seem to have been different before the flood!

But can you imagine living that long? Do you envy Methuselah? And what about his son Lamech, who died at the relatively tender age of 777?

Nowadays, if people make it into their nineties, they may be quite content to face their imminent death; their lives are complete. But for most people, life is a good bit shorter than that. It can be unbearably painful to face the reality of death prematurely, and it’s a bitter loss when someone is taken in childhood or before they’ve lived a full life.

But while we naturally shrink from the thought of dying, few of us could imagine not coming to the end of this life. A life that went on and on and on and on would soon become a kind of living hell. It seems we weren’t designed to live much beyond 100.

So, if there are a heaven and a hell, which last forever, what does that mean? Well,  ‘forever’ doesn’t necessarily mean an infinity of time, but a whole new state outside of time. Maybe hell will mean living locked into the consequences and the character of life as it is now. The Bible has some graphic pictures of what that might be like, but essentially it seems to be a permanent separation from God, an unnatural existence of our own choosing and making.

What makes heaven appealing, on the other hand, is not so much that it goes on forever, but that it’s a whole new world involving the total transformation of our earthly existence into something so different, so beyond time, so much about being surrounded and remade by God that, as one hymn writer put it, “Even eternity’s too short!”

God made us to love and enjoy him: that’s our intended destiny. We catch glimpses of that now, in this life, and we can gladly choose to grow in that direction. What lies ahead in the presence of God is pure light, truth, reality, peace and joy. That’s what Jesus came to earth to open up for us, and that we can choose as we turn to him and trust in him: eternal life, timeless and glorious.

Jesus promised his disciples: “I’m going to prepare a place for you; believe in me as you believe in God.”   He was inviting them, as he invites us, to come home to the Father with him. (John [NT] 14, verses 1-6).

So while life on earth is very precious, perhaps how long or short it is doesn’t matter quite so much? Of course, we look for long, healthy and good lives now. But there’s more to living than these few finite years: there’s something even more wonderful to look forward to!

Prayer: Eternal God, you made time and you are beyond time. Thank you for giving us the gift of life now, but prepare me also to move from this changing world of time into the glory of your company. Jesus, thank you that you opened the door through which I may stoop to come into that new world. Help me to see in your resurrection the light that gives me confidence for each day, and for my last day, and to trust you in life as well as in death. Amen.

Challenge: Many of us expect to live to a ripe old age—and then some. But what if we were to die suddenly tomorrow… what unfinished business would we leave behind? Are there relationships which need to be repaired? Apologies made? Debts repaid? Promises fulfilled? Do you need to write out a will? Consciousness of our own fragility could help us be more organised and could help to improve our relationships.

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