“It’s going to be good!”

When I was a little girl, eternity looked pretty boring to me. Was life with God going to be like one long church service? No good books to read for hours? No horses to ride? No creeks to play in? No ball games? No friends to share with? Were we just going to wander aimlessly around heaven with nothing to occupy our hands and minds other than singing praises?

Frankly, the heaven in my imagination was so unappealing that I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for spending even a weekend there, much less endless time. But one thing I did know: heaven was preferable to the hell pictured by the preachers, so of course I must focus on heaven.

That was a young girl’s limited imagination. Now, many decades later, I still can’t imagine the great plans God has for His children. But I’m much more excited about stepping into them and discovering what He has in store for us.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3 NLT).

In these verses we have a promise that is far beyond the imagination of anyone, young or old. We can only look forward and say, “Wow. What will that be like?”

We will be like Christ. God began the process when He opened the way and invited us to come back to Him. He continued the plan when He adopted us as sons and daughters, siblings, if you will, of Christ. He gave us glimpses of the future when He sent His Son to model for us how to live out the life of His kingdom — pure, devoted to God, in close relationship with Him. And then God ripped open the limits of our earthly lives when He raised His dead Son to life, pulling apart the curtain to give us a peek and say, “This is your future too!”

As a guarantee of that future, He planted within us the beginnings of transformation. His own Holy Spirit is working as you read this, transforming, connecting you to your Creator and your God, the one who loved you so much He came into your world to rescue you.

And here’s the promise: the ultimate end of this process is that we will be like Christ.

That’s amazing to me for a number of reasons. My first thought is of how far I am—now—from being like Christ. I know I share His Spirit, but I also daily experience the war that still rages within, between my old person and the new person the Spirit has birthed and wants to grow.

Secondly, I wonder what it will be to be like our Lord. We will be like our God? That’s a bold statement. Yet we were created in God’s likeness in the beginning. He paid the price to bring His lost children back. He is now in the process of creating again — He’s established His kingdom and He is creating new lives in His people. And yes, this is the promise: His new creations will indeed share in all that Christ is and has!

I do not yet understand how seeing Him “as He is” will complete the transformation, but I suspect that knowing Christ fully, being with Him face to face, will have a transformative effect on me. We know that even now, the more time we spend with our Lord, the more He can change our minds, hearts, thoughts, and actions. Yet our sight is clouded. When we see Him clearly and when we are fully with Him, what exciting and incredible things will surely happen to all of us who love Him?

I take from this another promise: I will someday see His love clearly. I’ll be able to see it on His face and in His eyes and feel it in His touch and hear it in His voice, and I will finally understand the love that is so deep and wide and beyond my comprehension now. We know that in our life here, being loved has transforming powers. Perhaps knowing Christ’s love fully and finally seeing its depth will transform us completely. For now, it is enough for me to know that I will see Him and know, face to face, how much He loves me.

So, John writes, let’s work at keeping ourselves pure because we are headed for this exciting future. Of course John knew, just as we know today, that perfection before God is impossible—we still stumble and fall short of Christ’s purity and sinlessness. John knew this reality, and he reminds us (in chapter 1 verse 9) that God uses even our sin and confession to cleanse and change us, working toward the future promise of our complete transformation.

My little girl imagination had such narrow limits. Even now, my grown-up imagination can only go so far. But Scripture says that all of this Good News of what God is doing is so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching as it all unfolds.*

As one of my friends says, “It’s going to be good!”


*see 1 Peter 1:12



Eternity: Confidence in the Eternal

This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to [or to strengthen the faith of] those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began (Titus 1:1-2). NLT

Here we read something else about God’s plans for our eternity—He will give us assurance that it will happen. In this short letter, Paul repeats it again in the third and last chapter: God, in His grace, gives us confidence of our immortality.

Think about this for a moment. It is one thing to read that God promises eternal life; but as is the case with so many things we say we believe, this must sink deep into our bones (figuratively speaking) before we are truly confident of the promise.

God’s truth can make us confident.

As we’ve already said, we do not have the capacity to understand or grasp eternal. Or maybe we do have the capacity (since we were created to live forever) and our “sight” has been so dulled and weakened by our sin that only God’s power can bring that faculty, that sense in us, alive again. In human language, perhaps we need to relearn how to see the eternal, just as some people after devastating injury need to relearn how to walk or read or use an arm. Those glimpses I was describing yesterday are signs that God is teaching us, He is re-training that eternal part of us—bringing back to life the eternal dimensions He gave us to begin with and restoring sight that can see the eternal.

We do not have the ability to see the eternal; it is only by God’s grace that we learn to see and believe it. That’s all pretty hard to get hold of, very difficult, nebulous, and elusive.

But as the psalmist points out, our gracious Shepherd God provides all that we need; and the verse above tells us that He has provided something to bolster our confidence in our own eternity: His truth, found in the Word and in Jesus Christ, and made plain to us by the Holy Spirit.

* God’s Word teaches us how to live in His paths—in His eternity, if you will—even while we are living within our earthly dimensions.

* Jesus says that all of God’s truth resides in Him. Knowing Jesus, coming to Jesus, learning from Him, trusting Him with our lives and ourselves, putting ourselves in His hands and in His service—this puts us smack dab where we need to be to have our understanding illuminated by God’s truth.

* And this is so amazing to me — God puts His Spirit within each of His children, a connection that tunes us into God’s thinking, even, Paul says, to the “secrets” of God! (1 Cor. 2:10-12)

A simple illustration. I was arriving home late—much later than I’d expected—and so I had not turned on the porch light before I left. No moon lit the sky, and the street lights do not reach to the back door under the tree. It was very dark; I could not even see the sidewalk. My feet felt their way along, slowly, because I was remembering the big toad that sometimes hops among the flower beds.

And then my fears were realized. The lump on the sidewalk squished around my shoe. I let out a small shriek. Oh, disgusting, disgusting!

Finally at the door, I unlocked it and snapped on the light and looked to see what damage I had done. There, slightly flattened, lay one of my grandson’s squishy baseballs.

Finding God’s truth is very much like turning on the porch light. I love Jesus’ words that assure us His Holy Spirit will be our guide “into all truth.” We are not left groping in the dark. His Spirit gives us better vision, and we begin to see things as they really are. Seeing God’s truth may not be as instantaneous as snapping on a light switch (although sometimes it does happen that way!), but the point is that as we seek truth, we learn to see things as God sees them. We learn to see eternal things.

God doesn’t leave us floundering about, trying on our own effort to believe huge promises we can barely grasp; He gives us His truth to build our confidence! The more we get to know Him, the more clearly we can see as He sees.

The more we seek God’s truth, the more confident we become of the eternal dimensions of our lives.

Eternity: God’s plan before the beginning

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News (2 Timothy 1:9-10). NLT

From before the beginning of time, God planned for us to live forever. I have always thought of the “beginning of time” as the time of Adam and Eve’s creation. But perhaps, instead, the beginning of time is actually the time of their sin; that sin brought the curse of death into the world. Perhaps that is when “time” began—when we started measuring things with beginnings and endings, with birth and death.

But we were created to live without such measured limits. We were created in God’s image: in eternal dimensions. There is no beginning and ending in eternity.

This is about as far as my mind can go. We can only catch glimpses of the meaning of eternal. I see and measure and judge everything with my three-dimensionsal way of thinking and with my limited senses; eternity is outside of such measurement and perspective.

In the last few years, I’ve begun to catch glimpses of the eternal dimensions of the present, but those glimpses are fleeting and small; just as I reach out to grasp and savor them, it seems I cannot hold the idea or take it further. I imagine that glimpses are all that God can give us now. We will need new eyes to live in eternity.

Catch this point that Paul makes here: God planned life and immortality for us long before we even knew Him! Jesus appeared on earth to reveal the plan to everyone and to say, “Have faith in Me. Through me, you will have the immortality that God created you to have. I am the way to life in the eternal.”

Today, ask God for just a glimpse of the eternal scope of His plan for YOU, His child.

Eternity: No longer a slave to fear

“I have no need to live forever.” I’ve heard that comment; maybe you have, too. And I wonder if a person might feel that way because “living” here has not been a satisfactory, fulfilling, or joyous experience. Or, more likely, I suspect, this statement is made because to live forever—well, we just have no idea what that might be like, and so it is hard to hope and dream that this might even be possible.

But here is something we can all relate to: Jesus came to free us from the fear of death. We are all acquainted with this fear; we’ve felt the demon of fear clutching at us as we consider our own death or the passing of people we do not want to lose. Death holds a grip on our thoughts and hearts.

The shadow of death hangs over every person born to a human life. And while young people are often more inclined to ignore it than their elders, every day takes each of us closer to the moment our earthly life will end. Physical death can be ignored, but it cannot be avoided. Our bodies, in their flesh-and-blood existence, grow old and die. We fear what lies ahead for ourselves and we fear the loss of others dear to us.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying (Hebrews 2:14-15). NLT

Christ lived on earth under the same cloud; He was flesh and blood, and He would die. There was no avoiding it. And when we read of His agony in Gethsemane, we know that facing death and accepting that this was the Father’s will for His Son was no easy thing for Jesus. He was the Son of God, who would soon be given supreme power over everything on earth and in heaven—yet that night, He suffered as a human in the face of death.

But His resurrection was something new. When Christ—in His body—came out of the grave and again walked among His friends on earth, God was announcing to the world that the devil’s greatest weapon, death, has been conquered and need no longer be feared. For all who believe, the power of death has been broken.

I have to examine my own life. In what ways do I continue to allow the fear of dying control me? How can shedding this fear of death change my life? What freedom will that bring?

Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid.”

“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:17-18) NLT.

Years after He left this earth, the Son of God, alive and glorious and powerful, came to the apostle John to give him a glimpse of what was happening in human history and what is still to come in God’s plan for heaven and earth; and He commanded John to write a book recounting what he saw.

But faced with the appearance of his Lord in all His blazing glory, John reported that “I fell at his feet like a dead person.” (I probably would, too, if the Lord came to me today in such a way!)

Can you hear our Lord’s voice in His words above? His words reassure my heart and soul as they must have reassured John. “No need to be afraid. I am the beginning of all, the end of all. Everything exists in me. Yes, I died—but look! I am alive now and forever. And I have all power and authority over both life and death. Don’t be afraid.”

Isn’t that a comfort? The one we follow and call Lord is alive, and everything is under His control. When I try to peer into the future and feel tremors of apprehension, my Lord’s words quiet my soul.

Surely John must have recalled other things Jesus had said to His disciples: “Since I live, you also will live” (John 14:20). And as the Shepherd of our souls, Jesus promised, “I give [my sheep] eternal life, and…no one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28).

“Don’t be afraid,” our King tells us.

Hope knows that death is not the end of us. God has planned an even greater future for those He has invited to become His children.

Lord Jesus, set us free from all our fear!

Eternity: Hezekiah and the Promise of Life

Three books of the Old Testament—2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah—include the remarkable story of King Hezekiah’s grave illness. He was going to die. He knew it, all those around him knew it, and God even sent a prophet to make certain the king put his affairs in order, because he was going to die.

But the king pleaded with God, and the prophet had not even left the palace grounds before God told him to turn around and deliver a new message to Hezekiah: “I will give you fifteen more years.”

“I need a sign, so that I can be sure God will do this,” said Hezekiah.

In answer, God made the sundial go crazy—the shadow marking the passing of time moved backwards. Like turning back time! (I thought that was kind of a cool touch by God.)

In three days, King Hezekiah had recovered, and he lived fifteen more years.

I was intrigued by this story: What would it be like to have absolute assurance from God Himself that He was going to give me exactly fifteen more years to live? Many of us have probably pondered a similar question. If I had one year to live, how would I spend that allotted time? You may know a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and you wonder, If that were me, what would I do with the months I have left? Or you might already be faced with just such a decision, knowing that your time here is limited.

More and more I am intrigued by another thought:  I, too, have received a message from God that He will extend my life. So have you. However, instead of a message that I have limited time, Jesus brought this message for everyone: Those who belong to Him will live on forever.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life…The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son” (John 5:24, 26). NLT

The Son of God is very clear as He tells us: “Listen to my message and believe. Then you will never be condemned for your sins and you have eternal life.” Jesus Christ holds the key. He holds life.

This is hope: The marking of your time on earth by days and years does not measure your life. The God who does not lie has made a firm promise to His children that they will live beyond years, beyond numbers, and beyond time. Listen. Believe Jesus. He can bestow life that goes on when flesh and blood ends.

And when we contemplate that promise, how will we spend our days?