Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Bound by Time

Man is a creature bound by time. His entire existence is measured by date and duration. Nine months in the womb. The first birthday. Becoming a teenager. Sweet sixteen. High School, then college graduation. Marriage, children, anniversaries, retirement, death. We celebrate the various milestones in our lives. Figures such as 1, 16, 18, 21, 40, 50, 65, 80, 90, 100 all bring immediate and sometimes visceral memories and emotions.

To the young, even a handful of decades are hard to grasp. When their elders talk of the “old days” they marvel at a time without DVD’s, laptop computers or cell phones. That the hoary head was once full of vim and vigor amazes them, and they can’t imagine themselves dealing with baldness, wrinkles and arthritis.
So, its not surprising that man has a difficult time with the concept of eternity. In the song Amazing Grace there is the line,

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.”

We sing about it and contemplate it, but we strain to know what eternity will entail. How can a man who only knows time understand timelessness? How can the finite grasp the infinite? As a despondent Job proclaimed in the midst of his travails, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue” (Job 14:1-2). The boundaries of our life, and its fragility, is noted by James, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). The limit of our time on earth has been set by God, “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Fortunately, God’s revelation gives us a glimpse of eternity. The Holy Spirit reveals it to be an opportunity for man. What makes eternity special, as it indeed is, is the possibility of experiencing it in the presence of the Almighty. This hope is ours due to the sacrifice of God’s son, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The word “everlasting” has a number of synonyms that give us a concept of the life promised. Words such as “perpetual”, “eternal” and “forever.” Jesus promised, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

As can be seen from the verses above, the important point made by Jesus is that what God has made available for man is everlasting life! Life is defined by the relationship we sustain with God. It is life, because it is eternity in God’s presence. We are united with Him. We live forever. In contrast, separation from God is described as death. As Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

There are some that believe the concept of eternal death or destruction entails the annihilation of those separated from God—that they perish, or cease to exist. However, the picture drawn by scripture is far different. “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 where ‘Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:43-44). Jude declares that the ungodly will follow the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (verse 7). There is no significance to that phrase if the suffering from that eternal fire is not itself an eternal suffering!

We may not fully comprehend the nature of eternity. However, we can know that “life” in that context is the greatest of rewards, and “death” in that context is a horrible fate. “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11). Are you ready for eternity?