Summary: Is eternity only a future thing? No, it fact, it has already started. Which aspect of eternity are you displaying in your life on a daily basis?
Tonight, I would like to spend some time together thinking about eternity. To help us begin to wrap our minds around this huge topic, I want to start off by just brainstorming what comes to mind when we see or hear this word. What comes to mind? What do you feel?
***Allow a few minutes to share***
Eternity can often be a very uncomfortable topic to discuss for a lot of people. I know for myself growing up, I used to have many sleepless nights worrying about what eternity would be like, asking where I would go and what would happen. Often Hell is either a scary topic for most people or a humorous one for others. I think Christians tend have one of two approaches to talking about Hell; either they avoid the topic or they put too much emphasis on it.
On the flip side, even Heaven can be rather scary thing to think about at times. I mean, an eternity is a really long time and at times the thought of singing forever, as awesome as singing is, can be a little overwhelming. People think of heaven sometimes as sitting on clouds and just floating around, that doesn’t sound much fun.
All and all, I think many are overwhelmed with the idea of eternity simply because it’s a big unknown when it comes to specifics. Most who have a relationship with God would agree pretty quickly that there will be an eternity in Heaven for some and an eternity in Hell for others, but when you start talking about what they look like specifically, everybody has different opinions as one denomination says this and another denomination says that and then you have everything in between.
For our time tonight, I don’t want to get into debates about the specifics, but instead I want to rest in the common agreement that there is an eternity that consists of Heaven or Hell. From there, I want to turn our attention to something that I think a lot of people who have a relationship with Christ overlook when it comes to the issue of eternity. I know at least personally, it is an idea that is relatively new to me and has changed the way I think about eternity that I think is for the better.
In my opinion, I think one of the biggest misconceptions that a lot of people buy into today is that eternity is a future matter; Heaven and Hell are future places that we will go to when we die; and then everything in our lives, when we have a relationship with Christ, is based on getting into Heaven and avoiding going to Hell. Again, notice the future tense there. Now, before you get up and leave because you think I am saying there is no after life or anything like that, let me explain the misconception at hand. The piece that so many of us miss is the fact that eternity, Heaven AND Hell, are not only future matters, but instead they are both present realities in our world and our lives on a daily basis. Living in eternity does not start when we die, it has already begun and we choose what part of eternity we live in everyday!
Matthew 4:17, records the words that Jesus began to teach as He started His public ministry. “Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (MKJ) This Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus spoke of was not something off in the distance and it was not describing some place or realm. Instead, Jesus was referring to a present reality, something that was here and at hand. One writer says of this phrase that, “the kingdom is something that happens rather than something that exists.” The first words of the public ministry of Jesus talk about a present reality of Heaven.
Right after Jesus begins preaching this message, he begins to recruit followers asking them to, “Come, follow me.” Crowds begin to gather around Him wherever He goes as he continues to preach this message, “The Kingdom of Heaven is here!” Eventually, Jesus decides it is time to go into more details about this Kingdom of Heaven and so he heads up to a mountainside and begins to teach his disciples and anyone else who wants to listen. This teaching is known as the Sermon on the Mount and is the longest teaching that we have from Jesus that has been recorded. And again, what is the topic of this more direct teaching? Living in the Kingdom of Heaven!
The Sermon on the Mount goes on to cover such a wide variety of issues that are all are concerned with living in the Kingdom of Heaven, in a present reality. Jesus talks about living as salt and light in the world, He talks about following God’s law, anger, sexuality, worry, money, spirituality, and a broad range of issues that come up in relationships. All of this is all about living in line with God’s Kingdom and following Jesus’ example as the head of this present Kingdom. Jesus is not preparing these people for death and the afterlife; He is preparing them for life now in the Kingdom that they may continue there in the next life.