When the evangelist Leonard Ravenhill was asked what made the Puritans so different from Christians today, he replied, “That’s easy, they lived in eternity.” Today, we are not just preparing for the rest of our lives, but for the next billion years. This life is merely a prelude to eternal life. That makes our life now both extremely valuable and slight and momentary (2 Cor 4:17). Our present existence in this sinful world is the front porch of eternity. And how we respond to the gospel in the little time that we have will determine whether our eternal destiny is spent with Christ or away from him. Every person that you have ever met will one day be infinitely blessed in the presence of God or infinitely miserable apart from him. The only thing in this world that will last forever are the people who live here.
There are two common mistakes that people make with regard to eternity. The first is the mistake of making this world our home, to build heaven on earth. This was not the attitude of God’s holiest servants in Scripture. As the author of Hebrews says, “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Heb 11:16). A person who lives as if eternity does not exist will not lay up treasure in heaven but only focus on the here and now (Matt 6:19-20). The second mistake is not improving the talents we have been given because this life is so short (Matt 25:21). They ask, “Why polish the brass on the Titanic when it is sinking?” This was the mistake of many of the Thessalonians who were expecting Christ to return soon and therefore refused to work hard (2 Thess 3:10-11). But a right view of eternity recognizes that because this life is so short, we must work diligently for the building of Christ’s church because God has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matt 16:18). That means we invest in others because they are the only thing that will still be here in the New Heavens and New Earth (2 Pet 3:12-13).
God has put eternity into our hearts and no amount of chasing after the wind will ever satisfy us (Eccles 3:11). We should respond with the hymn writer Isaac Watts that, “All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.” What will it take for you to follow Jesus and find lasting joy and satisfaction in him? Salvation is both completely free and extremely costly. It is free for us because it cost the Son of God his own life. God’s justice and wrath were completely satisfied when Christ bled and died to take away our sin by bearing it in his body on the cross (1 Pet 2:24). That is why salvation must be by grace alone because everything that was necessary to reconcile us to the God was accomplished by Christ on the cross. And this free salvation will cost you your life. As Jesus says, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). You must count the cost of whether you are willing to repent and forsake your sin to follow Christ down the narrow road that leads to life (Luke 14:28). The only alternatives to the gospel are despair, hedonism, or legalism. And why would you choose a path that you know will only lead to misery?
Living in light of eternity also means we recognize that there is an invisible war going on all around us for our souls. Angels seek to minister to the children of God while demons tempt and afflict them. While our victory is secure, it is easy to become discouraged and depressed. But when we look by faith into those nail-pierced hands and see the side from which blood and water flowed, we are assured of his love for us. And while indwelling sin may remain, its day of execution is approaching.
When youngsters yell, “YOLO,” they are not far from the kingdom of God. But the conclusion they should draw from this truth is that because they only live once, they should live for God and not for themselves (2 Cor 5:15). Life is short, don’t waste it.