I remember as a very young Christian, a more mature believer told me he couldn’t wait for the Second Coming of Christ. I said nothing in response, but thought to myself, “I hope it is not for a long, long time!” I had plans for my life—a career, marriage, kids, owning a home, traveling, etc. I didn’t want to be shortchanged.
I think most of us think this way, particularly when we are younger. Our lives are in front of us. We have so much we want to do and experience. Even when we grow older, we look forward to grandchildren and to the leisure of retirement. Few of us look with keen anticipation to the end of our earthly lives, whether it is by physical death or the sudden return of our Lord. There are even many who proactively resist death. They try extreme diets, endure whatever medical treatments that provide even a glimmer of hope for a few more months or years of life. They continue to fight until their last breath.
What makes us so afraid of death and so inclined to cling to this life? Of course, part of this is not selfish. There are children to raise and spouses for whom we want to spare grief and perhaps a difficult life. But I think beyond this there continues to be a longing for this life. I think perhaps we have a distorted view of what heaven will be like. For me, early in my Christian life, I undervalued greatly how glorious it would be. One of the common views of heaven is that it must be very boring. One just sits with a harp and plays songs of praise to God. Forever. Imagine a 24/7 church service for your whole life! There will be no marriage, no sex, no sports, no coffee shops. Is this how you look at life on the other side of this world?
I recently began reading a book on the view of C.S. Lewis, my all-time favorite author, that this earthly life offers us glimpses of what our eternal lives will be like. I am forever grateful to Lewis for helping me see eternal life in a whole different way. Through his fiction, particularly The Chronicles of Narnia, and in books like Surprised by Joy, he paints a picture of heaven that I believe is much more accurate than what we often imagine or are taught by well-meaning pastors and teachers.
My wife and I have been blessed to travel to Europe several times and experience the wonderous beauty of the Alps. This picture was taken from our room in a guesthouse in
Austria. We were both in awe of the scene before us. I have had many other experiences of seeing the beauty of God’s creation, and I assume you have as well.
Now consider that this beauty is actually tainted by sin. Since the Fall, everything in God’s creation has been out of whack, including each of us. Everything has been distorted by sin. Lewis even goes so far as to say this in his message, The Weight of Glory: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship….”
We all have met lovely people and have experienced beautiful scenery. We likely, as Lewis writes in Surprised by Joy, have felt a strange sense of joy somewhere along the way in our lives—a moment of complete contentment, a moment of deep satisfaction or purpose, or a moment of awe when something wonderful happens to us that was completely unexpected. These are glimpses of Eternity—indescribable beauty and joy, where everything that was intended for us in the Beginning is once again reality.
This understanding has steadily increased my longing for the life for which I was originally created to experience. I am less and less interested in doing everything I can to hang onto this life. If I already experience mere glimpses of Eternity here in this fallen world and they are so wonderful, how much greater and more beautiful will be the untainted realm of heaven?! Imagine the mountains and the valleys! Imagine the rivers and the oceans! Imagine your most wonderful experience and square it!
This will be your life after this life, the life Jesus made possible by his sacrificial death. There is no need to fear it or to cling to your hopes and dreams for this life. Whatever they are will be far surpassed by Eternity, and be assured you will have no regrets once you get there. What lies ahead for you as a follower of Jesus has no comparison on earth. Only those occasional glimpses can provide you with a clue of what an amazing life awaits.
© Jim Musser 2020