It is easy to be completely forgotten on earth, even by your own family. Apart from extensive family research, most folks cannot state even the most basic facts about their own flesh and blood who lived more than about four generations in the past.
I have gone to a number of the Williamsport High School football games this year because of our church boys who are star players there. It has really struck me what a difference my experience is from just five years ago. Then, at the end of my coaching stint of 13 years, I could not have gone to the game and been able to even watch it. Many people would have been talking to me about a whole host of topics – school sports and academics, student relationships, etc. Now, I can walk in and simply exchange polite greetings with a few people I know, looking to see if there is anybody in the stands with whom I can sit and converse.
To some extent I think we all wonder (especially as we age) about our careers of choice and lifetime interests and investments. What did it all amount to? Will anyone miss us when we’re gone, or did we merely leave a dent no more permanent that what remains when we pull our hand out of a bucket of water?
It is a wonderful truth that God remembers us and what we’ve done. We are more than a memory on a gravestone. He gives us eternal life through our faith and membership in the Family because of the work of Christ. And, as the Scriptures say, God remembers our labor for Him … Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
These thoughts are both comforting truths and sobering realities. Between Easter and next summer I plan to do a series of messages on the book of Ecclesiastes, where Solomon supports the idea of joy in this life and in the work of one’s hands. Yet at the same time, it makes sense for us to also think about how we may apply our lives and energies toward large-segment investments in stuff that has eternal value and consequences. We should labor for things that God has a passion for and that are a part of the true reality – not this world, but the world to come.
Matthew 6:9-10 – 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”
So the things that count for eternity, the things that define and comprise the eternal state … these things would seem to me to be definitional about formulating our values systems and energies here – on earth as it is in heaven.
The Scriptures do not actually talk in great detail about eternity and all about heaven. We get some basic ideas about it; and it surely includes a focus upon worship around the throne. But also among those details we see about the after-life are a couple of statements about the diversities of people who are there.
Revelation 7:9 – After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
A further reading of this passage through the end of the chapter reveals that this particular group of saints are those who came out of the Great Tribulation period (after the rapture of the church) and who were martyred for their faith. To fully understand this passage involves a great deal of information about the topic of eschatology (the doctrine of future things). Yet it does not take that detailed theological knowledge to see that in the presence of Christ are people from all the nations and ethnicities. God didn’t have to include that detail for our understanding of this passage, but it is included because it represents the heart of God.
Again in Revelation we read of the very final, eternal state …
Revelation 22:1 –Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
The passage contains both picturesque and literal images. But note that there is a tree of life, just as in the original Garden of Eden. The picture is that of life – with the words added, “for the healing of the nations.” Again, God could have simply had John write more generally about all those who were there upon the reward of their faith in Christ. But rather, the idea of the diversity of “the nations” reveals once more the heart of God for all peoples.
So we should want to invest in all peoples. For many of us who grew up decades ago in very homogeneous neighborhoods (and therefore churches) with few minorities, our inclination for doing something to care about the nations was to have a passion for the work of missions around the world. And this is appropriate. But now at a time of human history with migrations of people groups and multi-cultural communities, it behooves us to have God’s passion for what He has already revealed it is going to look like at the end of it all: the coming together of all the nations and peoples of the world. We in the evangelical church would never say about world missions, “Well, we’ll be involved in that if it naturally develops somehow, perhaps through our own people being called.” No, we have a philosophy about it, and we put together a missions committee to oversee it. So why would we not be intentional in the local context?
Let’s be intentional. Let’s think about how to become increasingly more on earth, as it will be in heaven.