Life EverlastingOn the old Jack Benny radio program a robber demanded his money or his life. When Jack Benny made no immediate response, the robber became impatient: "I said, your money or your life!"
"All right, all right," Benny replied, "I was just thinking it over."

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?"
"Worse than that," Charlie replied. "Sometimes I think life and I are going in opposite directions."

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.

The Psalmist says, "We spend our years as a tale that is told" (Psalm 90:9 KJV). Some people are like a paper-back novel. One look at the cover tells you the whole story. Others are like the Congressional Record. You ask, "How are you?" and find out you don't want to know that much. Others are like a mystery novel with confusing twists of plot that no one understands. Others are like a love story with each chapter more passionate than the preceding. "We spend our years as a tale that is told."

Life is more than mere existence. 

  • To live you must think and remember. To lose your mind is to lose your life, for it is no longer you that speaks and acts. That's what the cruel disease of Alzheimer's does. It takes our loved ones from us before they die. To live you must think and remember.
  • To live you must love. As important as thinking is to life, love is even more important. As the song says, "You're nobody till somebody loves you. So find yourself somebody to love."
  • To live you must choose. Sickness narrows the range of our choices. And death reduces them to zero (See John 21:18).

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
saw that."

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…

Life everlasting is a present possession. In insurance lingo it is not an ordinary life policy with no benefits paid until someone dies. The benefits of life everlasting begin the moment you believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus came that you might live all the days of your life. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24 NASB). H-A-S spells "You've got it!"

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.

"My dear friends," John writes, "we are now God's children, but it is not yet clear what we shall become. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he really is" (1 John 3:2 TEV). "We shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ's full stature" (Ephesians 4:13).

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!
Please e-mail us at dougbeyer@juno.com.

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