Often in preaching we hear the pastor talk about living forever as if the best thing about Jesus saving us is that we get to live forever. Can we as biblical believers really understand “forever” or “everlasting” automatically as something good?
Think for example of Ecclesiastes 3:11 which testifies that God makes everything beautiful in its time. Then Solomon connects this testimony of God’s good work with the reality of the nature with which he created us. God put eternity in man’s heart. Finally Solomon contrasts the eternity set in man with the temporary apprehension man has of God’s work. In other words eternity is not good since fallen men cannot discover the fullness of God’s good work. Similarly, Is. 57:15-16 makes clear that while the Lord inhabits eternity, currently he and man seem to be at odds. The passage then testifies that He is the one who will cease the contending between Himself and men.
Eternity by itself is not good and yet we all know that Jesus promises us everlasting life. Is. 45:17 makes it clear that Israel is saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, not to be shamed to all eternity. Romans 6:23 tells us that God gives us eternal life through Jesus our Lord. What we must never forget is that eternal life is good only if it is eternal life with God. For instance, 2 Peter 3:18 reminds believers to grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter points out that God deserves glory both now and through eternity.
If we do not have fellowship with God we do not have an eternal life to which we can look forward. The best for a person who has not repented of his sin and trusted Jesus is right now. Further, think of the frailty of our flesh, and the troubles of this world. For an unbeliever these are but foretaste of the eternal Hell that is to come. Just imagine if you had to live forever with different parts of your body crying out with the pain of cancer or broken bones. Forever in that state is a curse.
On the other hand, for a believer the momentary frailty of this life just reminds us to long for the true joy that we will experience forever glorifying the Savior. Jesus will redeem, rescue, restore and receive our praise throughout our everlasting life. The closer our walk with Christ, the more we will long for Jesus.
Just a few weeks ago, I sat by the beside of one of our saints. Her body had failed. Her eyesight was gone. She could hardly endure the pain. Eternity in that broken body would be torment. Yet her close relationship with the Lord helped her in her suffering to sing praise with me rather than curse God. She wanted the Scriptures read so that she would not forget her Savior. The prayers we offered up were that Jesus would deliver her into her new life with him, not the continued trauma of her existence. Truly Philippians 1:21 was our refrain, for us to live is Christ and to die is gain!