Eternity – part one

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Death is not final

Jesus loved a pair of sisters called Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. When Lazarus died, Jesus visited their town, and Martha came out to meet him:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day’”(John 11:23-24)

There will be a “last day” on earth where everything – this world system – suddenly ends. Everyone on earth who has ever died will be raised to life again. “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:19). In the broader context of the Bible, “those who have done good” means believers (see John 3:18).

Jesus told Martha:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11: 25-26)

He went on to raise Lazarus from the dead.

Not many days later, Jesus was crucified, but the life that was in him was indestructible (Hebrews 7:16). And so Jesus destroyed death from the inside:

“This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

The word “destroyed” means “rendered powerless.” Death is not a good thing in itself – it is still sad to lose someone – but for Christians it is the doorway to God’s presence. It is not something we need to be afraid of:

“He ... shared in their humanity so that by his death he might ... free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Paul called it “better by far” to be in the presence of Jesus:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith” (Philippians 1:21-25).

There were two thieves on either side of Jesus when he was crucified. One of them became a believer, and Jesus said that he would be with him in paradise the moment he died:

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:39-43)

(There is a story song by Don Fransisco from the thief’s point of view called Too Small A Price).

Before he died, Jesus reassured his followers that he would come back and take them (and us) to be with him forever:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3)

From that time on, death will have no place in our experience:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4)

Instead, we will experience the fullness of the life God created us to have, with each other and in God’s presence forever.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

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