10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil-this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. Ecclesiastes 3:10-14
As we come to the end of one year and the beginning of another, our society tends to stop and reflect on the lives of those who passed away. It is usually a somber time of reflection because there is such uncertainty for many when it comes to the afterlife. I thought now would be a good opportunity to begin the year taking a closer look at heaven.
Death is not a stop sign, it is a marker of where the greatest miracle of all will take place for the Christian, a reunion with the Creator. This is the great Reversal. As Christians, we don’t fear death because we look to “the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.” God turns the defeat of mortality into the victory of eternal life.
If we were to go back four thousand years, we would find the Egyptian culture was made up of people who not only believed in life beyond the grave, but we see individuals who were obsessed with life beyond the grave. Most Egyptians began preparing for the afterlife before they reached midlife.
If you ever get the opportunity to study Egypt, the tombs, and pyramids, you will discover what it took to build some of those monuments. Some studies show that it took hard labor from one hundred thousand workers for forty years to make one of the great pyramids. As you think about that, it makes you ask “why”? Why put so much effort preparing for death? Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb, on the afterlife?
The answer is that the Egyptians understood what many of us take for granted, that they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life. Though some of their beliefs of what would happen in the afterlife were a little misguided. The point is, they understood to the very core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life. So, they prepared for the afterlife during this life. God had placed that desire in their heart.
We live in a culture that lives for today, for instant gratification.
We live with a live-for-the-day mentality. We live with the belief that the only thing important in life is whether we’re enjoying the moment. Live life fast and hard, who cares about tomorrow? Instant gratification is what people are concerned about. There’s a total preoccupation with the here and now.
You see it in the morality of the day where the cultural attitude is: “Whatever feels good, whatever gives you or me gratification, it doesn’t matter what others think, so long as it is legal. If it does not hurt others, then fine. And if it is pleasurable, then let’s do it! Who cares about the consequences!”
We see it in nation’s economics. The national debt grows by the millions daily and who cares? It is not our bill to pay. You can have anything you want today; just sign on the dotted line. Easy credit, plastic; you won’t get a bill, at least not for thirty days. You can have it now. And if I die before it is all paid off, good luck collecting the rest. Thirty days will never come. Buy anything you want with a balloon payment. Five years later will never come. Right? You can have it now. Worry about the balloon payment later. Instant gratification. Instant pleasure.
The idea of get it now, pay later has worked its way in every area of our culture even when it comes to faith. People just don’t want to talk about the afterlife. Nobody intends to think about dying. No one wants to plan and prepare to die, but the reality is that unless Jesus comes again, we will all die someday. And here is the dirty little secret no one wants to talk about, “No one will know the day or the time that death will come.” We can pretend we are in control, but we are not.
We can say, “Not only am I not planning on dying today, but I’m also not planning on giving an account of my life today. Eat, drink, and be merry. That time to stand before God and give an account of the life we lived is far way off.” But are you certain of that? Remember this the Egyptians had one thing right, “You will spend more time in the afterlife than you will in this life.” So how prepared are you? Over the next few articles, we dig much deeper into this question for the New Year.