Life At Its Best: Understanding eternity
Recently, I spent a week with a group of missionaries in India. This particular group has started more than 700 churches in places where it's illegal to share the gospel publicly. The persecution they endured testifies to their love for God.
I sat amazed as I listened to some of their experiences of mockery, imprisonments and even beatings. After several hours, I asked one man, "How do you put yourself through that kind of pain?" He replied, "I endure it because I know that Jesus, heaven and hell are real. And I understand that as long as there are people living without knowledge of that reality, I have a job to do."
What a response.
That's the kind of passion our understanding of eternity should bring. Colossians 3:1-2 encourages us, "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up . see things from [Christ's] perspective."
Jesus has a complete perspective of eternity. He knows both the awesomeness of heaven and the agony of hell. That's why he's given us a vivid description of both, so that their realities will fuel our passion to reach the lost.
In Luke 16, Jesus contrasts two people. One was a rich man living in luxury, completely unconcerned with salvation or the ways of God. The other was Lazarus, a beggar who lived on the streets, but was totally dedicated to following Christ.
One day, it came time for both men to die. Lazarus, the beggar, was taken to Abraham's side, which signified heaven at the time, but the rich, unsaved man was taken to hell. When he looked up, the rich man saw the beggar through the chasm that separated them.
He cried out desperately, "Have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire." But Abraham replied, "No one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us."
This story depicts two truths about eternity. First, it confirms that heaven and hell are real. It shows that after death, we'll reach one of them, and that we'll never be able to get to the other.
Secondly, it proves that, not only are heaven and hell real, but we'll be real human beings when we inhabit them. We see this through the rich man's cry because of the agony of hell.
Why does Jesus show these details of eternity so vividly? Because he doesn't want them to be far-off, imaginary places. He wants them to be real in our hearts. And he wants their reality to stir a determination in us to convince people of the message of salvation.
Today, I urge you to learn what God says about eternity. Then, let that knowledge inspire you to convince people of the reality of eternity and of the lasting hope of heaven.
Jim Graff is the Senior Pastor of Faith Family Church in Victoria. faithfamilyvictoria.com.