Wineskins Archive

December 21, 2013

AfterGlow: The Threat of Eternal Reward (Mar 1993)

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by Phillip Morrison
March, 1993

10“What do you want to do?” the young boy asks his friend.

“Oh, I dunno … finish school, I guess … then high school … college … job … wife … kids … retire, hang it up … tool on down to Miami … get me some white shoes and pants that come up to my chest … and complain about the government full time.”

“Nah,” his friend says, “I mean, what do you want to do this afternoon?”

Suddenly their faces light up, and they decide they should just act like kids … have fun … go to the beach … and drink Pepsi.

It may be a brilliant commercial … more entertaining than the programs it sponsors … sure to move a lot of product. But it portrays a shallow, misleading image of life. Life is more than what happens in the afternoon, or until we retire, or die. We exist today, and we will always exist somewhere.

This eternal existence became reality when Jesus was raised from the dead, foreshadowing the resurrection of all who die before he comes again. We will die and our bodies will decay, but we will not cease to exist. Whether it is characterized by reward or punishment, eternal existence is real.

Even without the threat of punishment, eternity can be a frightening concept. The late Charles William Eliot, President of Harvard, once exclaimed, “Eternity – for some who can’t spend one half hour profitably!” People who can’t decide how to spend a free afternoon profitably will surely be miserable in eternity. It is not surprising that such people are not impressed with the miracle of resurrection.

For the apostle Paul and for us, the resurrection is much more than a point of debate or discussion. It is the core of Christian doctrine, the center around which all of Christian life revolves.

For some reason – possibly because it seems so abstract and far away – many people have difficulty taking eternity seriously. Someone has observed that when you tell people there are 300 billion stars in the universe, they’ll believe you. But, tell those same people that a park bench has just been painted, and they’ll still have to touch it to make sure. Yet, they are often the people who will diet, exercise, or buy into some health fad which promises to extend life on earth a few more years, while refusing to modify the sinful lifestyle which will affect them for eternity.

Something has to change our point of view and persuade us that life viewed from an eternal perspective looks quite different from life as seen from the perspective of 70 or 80 years on earth. Nothing has so profoundly changed that perspective as the resurrection of Jesus. Friends who thought all was lost when he died had fresh hope when he arose on the third day.

“Easter,” Philip Yancey writes in Christianity Today, “gives a sneak preview of how all history will look from the vantage point of eternity. Every scar, every hurt, every disappointment will be seen in a different light, bathed in an eternity of love and trust. Nothing – not even the murder of God’s own Son – can end the relationship between God and human beings. In the alchemy of redemption, that most villainous crime becomes our healing strength.”Wineskins Magazine

Philip Morrison

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