Sorrow

An Eternity Worth Waiting For

wine-glasses-on-table Despite being bound to a wheelchair as the result of a traffic accident, he was the most joyous, Spirit-filled believer I had seen up to that point in my life. I remember Paul Lundgren’s[i] overflowing joy as he sang about Jesus and his hope of seeing Him face to face. He spoke with excitement of eternity and of his hope of walking again, this time on streets of gold.

As a high schooler who prized involvement in sports (despite an overall lack of athleticism), his joyfulness amazed me. He could not do what I enjoyed doing the most and yet I had never before seen anyone so joyful or so in love with Jesus. Paul Lundgren knew his hope resided in eternity and as a result he could rejoice despite the paralysis in his legs. To this day I am still humbled as I recall his amazing perspective of life.

Isn’t this what our thrilling hope is all about? Isn’t this what we are waiting for? We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Jesus will return for us and we remain with him forevermore.

In recent posts, I have emphasized Jesus’ soon return for His church, especially in light of daunting current events. However, I thought it might be good to focus our thoughts beyond His appearing, to the eternity we will someday celebrate with Him.

Eternity

In his book Desire, John Eldredge quoted Pascal as saying, “Our imagination so powerfully magnifies time, by continual reflections upon it, and so diminishes eternity . . . for want of reflection . . . we make a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing.”[ii] Eldredge then expanded on that sentiment, “We make a nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about.”[iii]

We all fight this tendency, do we not? We focus far too much of our attention on this life rather than eternity. It’s far too easy to think of this moment as all we have, but so much of Scripture speaks of our life in eternity and the joy that awaits us there.

Let’s look at some verses from Isaiah 25:

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,

    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain

    the covering that is cast over all peoples,

    the veil that is spread over all nations.

8     He will swallow up death forever;

and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,

    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

9 It will be said on that day,

    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.

    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

What pictures come to mind when we think of eternity? Does feasting with the best wine and food imaginable match your picture of eternity? Do you envision a time with no more death, sorrow, suffering, pain, or tears? Do you see endless joy?

So often our eyes remain focused on this life that we miss our coming celebration when we are forever with our Savior.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations. With sheer delight we will cry out, “This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” There is much emotion and excitement in these words. Someday we will express our overflowing gladness and forever celebrate with the One who saved us and gave us eternal life.

Someday we will be the ones uttering the words of verse 9 above, rejoicing because being with the Lord will far exceed our wildest expectations.

Our lives in eternity will not disappoint even our most imaginative or fanciful pictures of what we think it will be like. Jesus has great plans in eternity for me and for everyone who believes and thus hopes in Jesus, our wonderful Savior. Let that sink in a little more; the Lord not only has plans for our current lives, but also for when we reign with Him in the millennium and then for all eternity.

The Isaiah passage dispels our inclinations to dismiss eternity as nothing and solely focus on what we can attain in this life. We have so much to look forward to in eternity. Our future life will be marked with ever increasing joy and unimaginable blessings. We will rejoice in our great salvation as we realize its full extent. Our waiting will not be in vain.

I do not believe we will experience sadness over anything lost from this life. Jesus’ promise to “make all things new” brings wonderful assurance of the joy that awaits us (Rev. 21:5). We will not mourn the loss of our current life and the things we currently enjoy.

Our coming eternal joy will supersede all the things of this life and never fade away. The newness of eternity will never fade; we will always celebrate Jesus and all the wonders of our future lives.

The New Earth

My eternal focus did not include a restored earth until I read John Eldredge’s book Desire several years ago and began to think about the new earth of Revelation 21. Eldredge said this about it, “How wondrous this will be! Creation can be so breathtaking now. What shall it be like when it is released to it full glory?”[iv] I love to explore nature and enjoy all the wonderful views of the mountains, lakes, and oceans. Such enjoyment of nature will not be lost in eternity; creation restored to its full glory will be even more spectacular.

John Eldredge added this about our hope for a renewed creation:

Our search for the Golden Moment is not a search in vain; not at all. We’ve only had the timing wrong. We do not know exactly how God will do it, but we do know this: the kingdom of God brings restoration. The only things destroyed are the things outside God’s realm—sin, disease, death. But we who are God’s children, the heavens and the earth he has made, will go on. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together” (Isa. 11:6 NIV). . . If all we’ve got are halos and harps, our options are pretty limited. But to have the whole cosmos before us—wow.[v]

Our view of eternity can be so terribly dull compared to what God has revealed about it. The new earth alone will be amazing beyond anything we can comprehend. Although we do not know everything of what our eternal existence will be like, what we do know is far more than enough for us to cease making “a nothing of eternity and an eternity of nothing” as Pascal urged us to do.

The grandeur of what lies ahead will be so much greater than anything we can ever conceive. We will forever have kingdom responsibilities perfectly tailored for us. We will not feel one second of boredom or frustration in eternity. The newness of eternity will never cease.

As our realization of the wonders of eternity and the new earth grows, our tendency to search for our “golden moment” in this life fades. It’s not that we quench our desires; it’s just that as John Eldredge stated in the above quote, our timing is all wrong. Everything we long for in our hearts is coming, but it’s in eternity rather than this life. Our hope as believers rests in the future Jesus is preparing for us.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives?

This does not at all imply that we ignore this life and not enjoy what the Lord provides for us here. It’s just that we recognize our inner longings for unending joy and realize that such feelings point to eternity.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives? If we know Christ as our Savior, this is our future. We will spend eternity in the most beautiful city imaginable with access to all the beauty of the new earth.

This is why Paul Lundgren could rejoice. He knew his paralysis was temporary; he looked forward to forever when he would walk again. Is this not our hope as well? We all look forward to a time when the heartaches and physical infirmities of this life will be at an end and we will forevermore be with our Savior.

[i] Paul Lundgren was a Christian singer from around 1970 with no relation to current singers with the same name. I heard him sing in Rockford, Illinois. He was not a widely known singer but sang in churches at least throughout northern Illinois at the time.

[ii] John Eldredge, Desire, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), p.110.

[iii] Ibid. pp. 110-111

[iv] Ibid. p. 119

[v] Ibid. p. 123

Jesus Remains our Only Hope

hope-post-photo In the aftermath of the election, I believe the biggest mistake we can make as followers of Christ is to put our hope in President-elect Donald Trump or think the rapture is not close because of his election. I am glad he won, but we dare not put our trust in him.

Some conservatives are saying Trump has given us hope. I disagree. Our hope comes from the Lord and Him alone. That has not changed. Perhaps on a human level, we see a brighter future than what we envisioned a week ago, but that can rapidly change.

Here is what Psalm 118:8-9 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” I am truly grieving today for those on both sides of the past (and continuing for some) election battle whose hope was placed in a candidate rather than the Lord.

In spite of the results, Jesus remains our only hope.

People Still Need Jesus

Many, many people in our nation need the Savior. This has not changed. The battle lines are firmly drawn, but the battle is not about politics or even who won the election.  The election has intensified the divide and all the more clearly revealed why so many need the Savior.

I feel great sorrow for those who are putting their hope on the temporal things of this world

I feel sorrow for those who are putting their hope on the temporal things of this world. With each passing day I understand a little bit better what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

What Scripture says about the end times is unfolding before our eyes. I very much believe we are living in the last moments of human history. The election has not changed my belief that Jesus may show up very soon. What I see on the news further convinces me that nothing has changed in that regard.

Much can happen between now and January 20, 2017. We need to remain vigilant in our prayers both for the safety of our newly elected leaders and for the Holy Spirit to work mightily in the hearts of people who so very, very much need the healing and the hope that only Jesus can give.

Jesus’ Return is Still our Hope

In addition, my hope remains fixed on Jesus’ return for His church. 1 Peter 1:13 says, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Despite what many of us regard as a victory, that does not change the focus of our hope.

It’s tempting to think that the rapture may not happen as soon as we thought because of what has happened. Those thoughts have crossed my mind a few times since Tuesday.

Jesus, however, said this about His return, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”[i] We must guard against thinking that somehow this turn of events in our nation has delayed Jesus’ return to take away His church. The election results did not surprise the Lord or cause Him to adjust any plans.

The events of last Tuesday call us to renewed anticipation of the rapture. If there ever was a time when we might think Jesus has delayed His return, might not this be the time? Scripture tells us Jesus will return in precisely such a time as when we think He might not appear.

In almost every epistle of the New Testament, the apostles directed the hope of believers to Jesus and His imminent appearing to take us home.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:3 Paul said this about the coming of the Day of the Lord (or what we refer to as the Great Tribulation), “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” Our world leaders today continually echo this assurance of peace exactly as the apostle said would happen before Jesus’ return for His church.

In almost every epistle of the New Testament, the apostles directed the hope of believers to Jesus and His imminent appearing to take us home. While it was not called the rapture at the time, this hope in the imminent return of Christ carried over into the early centuries of the church. Nothing has changed since that time to divert our hope to anything else but Jesus. Nothing.

We Still Need to Pray

I believe we need to continue praying and fasting for our nation; we cannot remain on our reckless path without dire consequences. The Bible contains both a message of love for the world and one of warning if people continue to reject its message.

I am not saying this because I am eager for God to judge the world. Heavens no. We pray earnestly because we know what is coming and want as many people to find eternal life as possible.

Is this not why Jesus has waited so very long to return? He does not want anyone to perish but for all to repent (2 Peter 3:9). He died on the cross because He so dearly loves all of us; this is why we both pray and warn others of what is to come before it is too late.

Yes, I took a strong stand in the election and I am relieved Trump won. However, a Hillary victory would not have diminished my hope. I realize my passion during the election could have easily been mistaken to assume my hope was in Trump or that I thought he was an ideal candidate. Such was most definitely not the case.

My passion remains for people who need the Lord; much still needs to happen to turn America back to the Lord.

We must continue to pray often for our country.

I feel uneasy about what might happen next in our nation. The election is over, but half of our nation remains committed to a vastly different vision for our nation. We must continue to pray often for our country.

The door to change is now open enough to allow a sliver of light to seep through; it can quickly close just as quickly.

I am not taking victory laps as a result of the election, quite the opposite. Any joy I might have had in Trump’s victory has been greatly tempered and that shock has brought me back to the realization of how very much people need Jesus, His healing touch, the living hope found only in Him.

[i] Matthew 24:44