For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3
Over the course of my military career, I’ve been around A LOT of health/fitness-conscious people. Many of them have become true believers in things like cross-fit, yoga, and other forms of exercise and it becomes a way of life for them. Similarly, I’ve seen all the passing diet and nutrition trends that seem to come on strong, make a big splash, then fade off into the twilight as quickly as they arrived. My observation is that younger people generally want to look good by putting in the work (sweat equity), while older people generally want to look good by changing what they eat. Either way, the goal is to look good and embody the epitome of health.
Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay healthy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat healthily. I mean, we only have this one body and we have to make it last as long as we can, I suppose. We should all strive to “do better” regarding our own personal health. No, what I’m referring to here are the people that obsess about their appearance. They obsess about wrinkles, body-fat percentage, balding, gray hair, or dress sizes.
The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
In the passage above, Moses makes the declarative statement that the age of a man’s life would be between 70 and 80 years. Interestingly, Moses (who himself lived to be 120 years old) wrote this o/a the 15th century B.C. Life spans since then have varied greatly with parts of the ancient world and the middle ages only seeing life spans reaching into the 30s and 40s. However, it is curious to note that we are now back at a time when this 70 to 80 years of life, seems to be the norm, not the exception. But let us make the case for 80 years as a standard. Heck, we could even make the case for 100 years or 1,000 years of age. What do any of these lifespans mean in comparison to eternity?
According to the Free Dictionary, eternity is defined as:
1. endless or infinite time
2. the quality, state, or condition of being eternal
3. (usually plural) any of the aspects of life and thought that are considered to be timeless, esp. timeless and true
4. (Theology) theol the condition of timeless existence, believed by some to characterize the afterlife
5. a seemingly endless period of time: an eternity of waiting.
Even the Antediluvian patriarch Methuselah, who lived to the great age of 969 years old, has now been dead for over 4,000 years. We could fit 12 of our 80-year lifespans into his 969 years, and even he would say his life went by in a flash. Not only that, but he has now been in the eternal realm (at least by our measure of time) four times longer than he lived. Thus, Methuselah will spend all of eternity in the glorious presence of God.
Paradoxically, we live in a world absolutely fixated on the here and now, and this has blinded many to the real nature of reality. True reality, is not what we can touch or see, but the world we can’t see. The writer of Hebrews noted that the Law, the Temple, and everything else, are but shadows of the real things already in heaven. The real reality is the eternal realm. It is the timeless state of being that exists outside of our universal fish tank.
Author’s Note: I often use our fish tank to demonstrate to my children just as we exist outside of the fish tank in our home, God exists outside of our universe, and yet, we are not far away. We can add or take water out. We can add food or move the fish to clean the tank. We can add in décor or take everything out. Furthermore, we can look in and see Goldie’s entire existence all at the same time.
God exists outside of our fish tank so to speak, and He can tweak or change things according to His purposes. However, even though God the Father exists in the realm eternal, He still has nearby and has full reach and depth into our existence through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, he can look and see everything, all at the same time and He has determined the length, breadth, width, height, and duration of our existence. Here are some Bible verses affirming the sovereignty of God’s universal rule:
Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Isaiah 46:10
And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding Daniel 2:21
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; Acts 17:26-27
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
But for some reason, we live in a topsy-turvy, upside-down, bizarro-world. You’d think, given the demonstrated certainty of death and the brief nature of our present existence, we would be hyper-focused on the world to come and not on the chaotic, ever-changing world we see crumbling before our very eyes.
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17
Life here on earth without God, is at best, elusive. We come into this world helpless, wholly dependent upon others, but naively thinking, this is the way it will always be. However, we grow, learn, and realize that we will not always have someone to hold our hand. We are expected to become increasingly independent and capable of doing things on our own.
As children, we let our imaginations run wild, thinking magic, fairies, and monsters exist, only to find out those things are real, but not at all as we imagined them to be. We are then thrust into a public education system that begins by ignoring the reality of God, and pummeling our senses with the government-approved propaganda stating we are nothing more than evolved, cosmic accidents with no rhyme or reason for existing.
Growing older, we learn to lower our expectations in people and situations, and we end up settling for the reality that if we are really lucky, we can find purpose and meaning in our life. We hold on to that until we realize that even purpose alone cannot satisfy the deep longings created by the complexity of the human soul. This sentiment was perhaps best expressed by the aged and gritty Rolling Stone philosopher who declared, I can’t get no satisfaction!
The life we currently live is as God declares, but a vapor; it is here today and gone tomorrow. Therefore, it is perplexing, to say the least, how much time people spend on their physical bodies now, which is in the very process of dying, and how little time people spend thinking about where they will go once their earthly existence comes to an end. The fact that we spend infinitely more time on the other side of that deathly vale than on this side of it, is the great lie people have bought into. The reality that people are so invested in their physical health that they will go to great lengths to extend their lives either medically or surgically, proves they don’t have a zeal for life, but rather, a tremendous fear of death.
The fear of death has been terrifying the unsaved for millennia. People of all cultures and ethnicities have gone on to create all sorts of elaborate rituals and schemes to obfuscate the reality of death or redefine the afterlife. The Vikings had Valhalla, to which they could only enter if they died heroically in battle. The Hindus taught reincarnation, in that death was not the end, only an endless cycle of death and rebirth. The Muslims believe in paradise and their arbitrary 72 virgins. Roman Catholicism teaches salvation through purgatory. Atheists believe in annihilationism. The Bible, however, declares that upon our last breath, and our last heartbeat, we enter into the realm eternal.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Hebrews 9:27-28
Seeing as how death has been sort of a permanent mainstay in human history, it would seem to lend credence to the second half of the passage. We live. We die. We are judged by God. For the unbeliever, there is no recycling, no raucous, beer-laden Valhalla, no virgin-filled paradise, and no self-flagellating purgatory. It’s one and done, and then eternal separation from their Creator. For the believer, we are judged at the Bema Judgment, and then we spend the rest of eternity with our Creator.
While many of us feel as though we have done dreadfully little on account of the Gospel which saved us (in comparison to what we receive in return), we continue to work, to witness, and to be the kind of people Christ called us to be. We do this even if we do not see the fruits of our labor or the worldly rewards in this life. To this point, the writer of Hebrews, detailing the life of the faithful patriarchs, concluded that-
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 12:13-16
Admittedly, the Christian life here is hard. I would venture to say that being a Christian in the 21st century is even harder, and why, so many are turning from the faith. G.K. Chesterton once said, the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried. Jesus promised us that in this life, we will have tribulation. He promised us that if we love Him more than the world, the world will hate us. In his epistles, the Apostle Paul taught us this world is not only, not our home, but is in fact, a battlefield. A battlefield in which we contend not with flesh and blood enemies, but dark, malevolent, and vicious spirits bent on only on our destruction.
While we take no personal trophies on our own accord, or in our own strength, we rest in the triumph Christ already wrought upon the cross some two thousand years ago. And though it seems like we are insignificant and unwanted in this world (we are), it is only a façade put on by our mortal enemy, Satan, who is still furious that in crucifying the Son of God, he sealed his own fate.
It is at that moment of death, in which, Satan has long delighted in taking those who have not yet claimed the free gift of salvation from Christ that separates our faith from any other. Paul writes that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Instead of meeting sneering demons, who gleefully drag those poor souls into hell below, we know that at our own moment of death, we will be greeted by God’s holy angels, ready to escort us to our heavenly abode (Luke 16:22).
While in our flesh, we might delight in the much-deserved death of the wicked, God does not. He is longsuffering that all might come to salvation, and thus, has delayed Christ’s long-overdue victory lap all these centuries so that one more lost sheep might be brought back into the fold. Thus we contend with this fallen world, and are persecuted, discredited, censored, silenced, belittled, abused, and murdered as those who Christ describes in His parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22).
Although God is longsuffering, His patience is not limitless. At some point (and we think soon), we will arrive at that fullness of times, when the full number of Gentiles are brought into the body of Christ (Rom. 11:25). It is at this point that even we, a generation of believers, will not taste even the bittersweet agony of death, but will instantly, put on immortality, and fly away to meet our loved ones and our Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18, 1 Cor. 15:51-56).
Lastly, while we don’t fully understand everything going on in the backdrop of our lives, we can trust in our God to be faithful (2 Tim. 2:13). He is faithful because it is His nature to be, and He has promised us that we can trust in His plan of redemption. Therefore, death is not the end for us, but the very beginning, of an infinite, and glorious future (Eph. 2:4-7).
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18