At the conclusion of the Apostles' Creed we are going to think it over.
In a Peanuts cartoon strip Linus said to Charlie Brown, "I feel
kind of depressed today. Do you ever have the feeling that life has
passed you by?"
The Apostles' Creed points us in the right direction when it affirms, "I believe in life everlasting." Do you? In order to believe in life everlasting, you must first believe in life.
I BELIEVE IN
Life is more than mere existence.
Jesus came that we might have life "more abundantly" (John 10:10). We can be more or less alive. The most alive person in our midst is the one who thinks most deeply, loves most devoutly, and chooses most freely. Life cannot be measured by brain waves and heart beats. Our bodies are as useful and necessary as the strings on a piano. But as the tune is not the strings, so life is more than physical phenomena.
A boy whose name I do not know wrote this essay on anatomy. "Your
head is kind of round and hard, and your brains are in it. Your hair
is on it. Your face is in front of your head where you eat and make
faces. Your neck is what keeps your head out of our collar. It is hard
to keep clean. Your spine is a long bone that keeps you from folding
up. Your back is behind you, no matter how fast you turn around. You
arms you have to pitch with and so you can reach the butter. You fingers
stick out of your hand so you can throw a curve and add up arithmetic.
You legs are what, if you have not got two of, you can get to first
base. You feet are what you run on; your toes are what always gets stubbed.
And that's all there is to you except what's inside, and I never
What's inside is the most important part. On the physical level, life is a losing struggle to keep money coming in and teeth, hair and vital organs from coming out.
The supermarket of life offers us a wide variety of attractions, but it always ends at the checkout counter. I believe not only in life
I BELIEVE IN
Just as we don't have to die to experience some of the agonies of hell, so we don't have to die to experience some of the blessings of heaven. Paul said that we have received "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession" (Ephesians 1:14 NIV). The Holy Spirit living within us is the down payment, the first installment of what we shall someday have in full.
Life everlasting is a present possession and a future possession. In a cartoon Calvin says to Hobbes, "What if there's no afterlife? Suppose this all we get." After pondering that question Hobbes says, "Oh, what the heck. I'll take it anyway." Calvin replies, "Yeah, but if I'm not going to be eternally rewarded for my behavior, I'd sure like to know now."
It is common to think of this world as the land of the living and heaven as the land of the dead. In truth it is the opposite. This world is the land of the dying. All our family and friends, indeed all life on earth, will eventually die. This is the land of the dying, but we are going to the land of the living where "death shall be no more, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. For the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4). We are not living till we die; we are dying till we live.
A popular radio psychologist is fond of saying, "Life is not a dress rehearsal." I beg to differ. This life is a dress rehearsal for the next life. Earth is the world we live in. Heaven is the world we live for.
Belief in life everlasting has been dismissed by skeptics as "pie in the sky, bye and bye." They accuse Christians of trying to escape the realities of this world by hiding in dreams of the next world. "Get real," they say. Okay, let's face it. Either there is "pie in the sky" or there is not. And if there is not, then Christian faith is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. On the other hand, if there is some kind of "pie in the sky," then this truth, like any other, must be faced realistically.
Life everlasting is a future possession and a progressive possession. Someday we will finally become prefect (Hebrews 12:23). We are a country mile from that now, but we hold to the promise of scripture that we shall eventually reach perfection. Being perfect doesn't mean we are fixed forever in a changeless, static, petrified precision. The only reason anyone would want to go to that kind of heaven is to stay out of hell.
The heaven pictured for us in the scriptures is a heaven where there are exciting things to do. "His servants shall serve him" (Revelation 22:3). We will continue to work for God but with a difference. Our service will be uncontaminated by impure motives and unimpeded by physical weakness.
We will be perfect, yet progressing. Just as a perfect bud becomes a perfect blossom and then a perfect fruit so our growth will be perfect at each point in its development throughout eternity. In his vision John mistook an angel for God (Revelation 19:10). That suggests the possibility that someday we ourselves will become what we now conceive God to be.
C. S. Lewis challenges us with the sobering realization that we live
in a society of quasi-gods and goddesses. He reminds us that the dullest,
most uninteresting people we know may one day become creatures which
if we saw them today, we would be strongly tempted to worship, or else
monsters such as we meet only in a nightmare. We conduct all our relationships
knowing that none of our friends, strangers, or enemies are mere mortals.
Kingdoms and empires, nations and civilizations these are mortal,
and their life is to ours as the life of a flea. But it is immortals
we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit immortal horrors
or everlasting splendors.
LIFe has a big "if" right in the middle of it. If you have the Son you have life (1 John 5:12) abundant and everlasting. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." Do you have that life? Don't be caught dead without it!
Questions? Comments? We'd love to hear from you!