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Today: Sunday, August 25, 2019


Eternal life?

First published 25 Aug 2019

Eternity does sound like a very long time - everlasting in fact!  It’s perhaps not surprising therefore that people sometimes ask - ‘Would you really want to live for ever?’ 

We have lost several friends who have died recently.  Mostly they had reached a good age and we miss them - some them very much - because they are no longer with us, but they had lived out their lives on earth and have moved on to the dimension of eternity.  But what have they ‘passed on’ to?

One straightforward answer is simply that we do not know.  And that is true because of the limitations of our knowledge, and also because whatever is ‘beyond death’ is so difficult to grasp.  But there are some distinct clues in the Bible which can take us further than this.

To begin with, while we often use phrases like ‘everlasting life’, that doesn’t mean simply a slight variation of life on earth, as though things carry on more or less as normal, though in a different setting, and in a world without end.

Nor is it a case of thinking of all the nicest possible things that might make up your ideal picture of heaven - a place of blissful music (well my kind of music anyway!), constant sunshine, wonderful relationships, and forever peace and harmony.  That might be a dream holiday, but it is not an adequate picture of heaven!

The subtly different message of the Bible is that eternal life means life with God, life in relationship with God.  We cannot visualise eternity because we are trapped in time, but eternity and God are beyond and outside time.  The language of eternity is much more about a quality of relationship, an entering into the being of God, rather than endless existence.

When we use phrases like that, it’s not surprising that our minds get stuck.  We are talking about a mystery that is too big for us to understand.  But what we can do is know that God is love, that he is our destiny and true home, and that whatever it means to be beyond the world of time with all its limitations, God is the timeless and eternal reality.

The Christian invitation then is to come into this relationship now, to reach out and take hold of the hand of Jesus as he draws us in love to God.

St Paul says that there is nothing - nothing ever, nothing at all, in earth or heaven, life or death, anywhere or anything, that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (see Romans 8, verses 38 and 39).

Heaven and eternity may be too big for our minds, but the love of God in Jesus is infinitely big and can become the basis for all our trust and hope and daily living and eventually our dying.

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Eternal God, all life is in your hands.  Help me to reach out my hand in faith today, and to rest in your eternal love always, knowing that eternity with you is your priceless and immeasurable gift, through Jesus your Son.

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