The Other Side of Eternity
“Between temporal and eternal things there is this difference: a temporal thing is loved more before we have it, and it begins to grow worthless when we gain it, for it does not satisfy the soul, whose true and certain rest is eternity; but the eternal is more ardently loved when it is acquired than when it is merely desired.” Augustine, an early church father and bishop of Hippo, penned these words on eternity thousands of years ago, but the sentiment still remains into the modern day. Eternity has much more to offer us than anything this temporal life can provide. This is due to our spiritual structure. The blueprints of our design contain with it an eternal factor, one that cannot be satisfied with the finite and the temporary.
A few thousand years later, C.S. Lewis is quoted explaining, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world.” This great theologian also recognized the innate desire the human soul has for something beyond that which can be attained in this life. His conclusion is that we were made for something else.
Even more recently, Francis Chan, a well known American pastor, stated, “People accuse me of going overboard preparing for my first ten million years in eternity; in my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten on earth.” When put into perspective, it seems awfully silly to focus so much time and effort on the temporal. Bills, taxes, jobs, events, etc. take up most of our headspace, but in reality, we waste so much time on that which moth and rust will destroy, and it is incredibly difficult to let go of the temporal.
Perhaps this is due to our lack of awareness when it comes to eternity. People have a hard time comprehending big numbers. For example, if I received one dollar for every second that I have been alive, I would still not have a billion dollars. One billion is a rather large number; however, it is infinitely small compared to the eternal fate that awaits every believer. The issue is, we cannot comprehend eternity even more than we can comprehend a billion dollars. Since we cannot recognize eternity’s existence, we focus on what we can understand: the handful of years we are allotted in our temporal lives.
How do we train ourselves to focus on eternity? How do we avoid our present struggles and stresses that plague the lives of those who cannot see past their death? Jesus explains the secret to being able to shift our focus in Matthew 6:19-21. He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Perhaps Ozymandias would have done well to memorize this verse before his mighty boast and inevitable death.
We too would do well to memorize this verse and keep it close. Jesus makes it clear that those earthly treasures will be destroyed, and we will spend no time in eternity cherishing those things that thieves may steal. Those things that most occupy our time, whether they be toil or leisure, should not be at the forefront of our priority list. Even those necessities, food, water, and shelter, are not our main concern. As Christ elsewhere commands, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (v. 33). His kingdom will last into eternity, and we should dedicate our infinitely short time on earth to his cause. This means abandoning the common mentality of wealth, security, and prosperity. This means focusing less on fixing systems such as our government and putting our full energy into people, into souls. Voting is meaningless in the face of the gospel, as only the gospel has the power to save. This means that we may not, at times, have a place to lay down our head. Ultimately, this means that our lives on this earth are forfeit, and pouring our heart into this side of eternity is a foolish gesture.
When we focus on the eternal, we will see transformation in our lives. We will see the selfish move aside for the selfless. We will love more and better, and we will see that love used by God to multiply his kingdom. We will fear less, as we will better understand the world cannot take away from us that which God has given. No man and no system can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39), and nothing can steal or destroy those treasures we store up in heaven. If we prioritize those things that are eternal and let go of the temporal, if we learn to live for the other side of eternity, then our heart will remain in the eternal, and we will be better for it.