Forever is a long time. Have you ever thought about when it starts?
Having an eternal perspective has a lot to do with our concept of time, most importantly how we spend it.
You’ve probably been thinking a lot about time recently. It shows up every day in questions like: “When will this quarantine be over? When will things get back to normal? When will the unemployment check come? When will I get to be with my friends and family again? When will stores and restaurants open? When will we be safe? When will we be free?”
We are asking those questions now because we’re in a pandemic that has completely disrupted our normal lives. It started on the other side of the world. It made its way to our country, then our state, then our city, then our neighborhood. It kept coming, restricting us and boxing us in until it isolated us within one small space. If you’re lucky, that space is your home.
For many, COVID-19 has caused extreme sickness and death. For everyone, it has resulted in some measure of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual warfare taking place around the clock.
The virus started over there, distant. But it’s here now, internally; it got in.
The pandemic has me thinking a lot about the Gospel. COVID-19 has transformed not only our lives, but our culture and our world. Things won’t go back to the way they were before.
But nothing has the power to transform and alter individual lives, cultures and the world like the Gospel, and spreading the Gospel has everything to do with eternity.
In the big picture, we don’t know when eternity started because God is eternal and has always been. Our eternity started when we were conceived. Our lives began and we were set on a trajectory toward one of two final destinations: Heaven, the place where people are forever in God’s presence, or hell, the place where people are forever separated from the presence of God.
We all live for some time on earth, then die and transition to either heaven or hell. I think a lot of people, including Christians, believe that eternity starts when they die.
It doesn’t. It’s now; we’re already in it.
For Christians, it means that when we received the Gospel, the transition began. Unlike the external nature of the virus that worked its way from the outside in, the Gospel transforms from the inside out. We accept it, receive it, internalize it.
Then it launches an assault on our physical nature, on sin. It puts some things to death and brings some things to life. It starts on the inside, then we externalize it, and it starts to spread and transform the lives of those close to us: our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, our country, the world.
It starts in here, then it gets out, and goes over there. The Gospel spreads, reconciling people to God, ensuring their final destination in His presence. Eternity is here. We are free now.
We are not waiting, we are working. We spend our time on earth differently. Nothing matters more than spreading the Gospel.
I don’t think there is anything like a full-blown assault on the physical to drastically and dramatically confront us with the spiritual. This season affords each of us the opportunity to stop and consider how much of our lives are founded on the superficial and temporal, rather than being grounded in the eternal.
Consider Hebrews 11:13-16, which comes from a passage nicknamed “The Hall of Faith”:
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
What things about your life and how you spend it are being exposed and revealed in this season? What things do you need to let go of? What things do you need to embrace?
Eternity is here, now. Stop waiting for it. Start living in it.
Tiana Miller is a Women’s Ministry associate at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.