Contemplations on Eternity   Leave a comment

Here are some Tweet-length headlines from the past month:

– A 7.6-magnitude earthquake hits Indonesia, taking 777 lives and counting

– The death toll in the Darfur region of Sudan has surpassed 450,000 since 2003

– Over a hundred people have died as a result of a tsunami in Samoa

– Since 2008, 14,000 in the city of Juarez as a result of drug trafficking

– The European Union concluded that Georgia started the war with Russia which killed over 600 soldiers and civilians

– Bomb blasts in Iraq has killed at least 15

– Israeli air strike kills 3 fighters from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza

– A small plane crashes in Randolph County, Indiana, killing the pilot

And that brings me to some staggering statistics. 26% of Americans die from heart disease and 23% die from a form of cancer. In addition, some of the other great killers in the world are respiratory infections (7.1%), diarrhea (3.7%), AIDS (3.5%), and road traffic accidents (2.2%).  This year, over 53 million people will die, with over 6,000 deaths coming this hour alone.

And, finally… the greatest and most all-encompassing statistic in human history: 100% of all people will die.

At some point, we all die. At some point, we who are living, will cease to live. And, after death, 100% will exist throughout eternity in one of two places: in the presence of God’s love and in the presence of God’s wrath. We know them better as heaven and hell.

Death comes for everyone but, whether they die in the womb from a miscarriage or during their childhood because of malnutrition or just before starting college due to leukemia or during their 30’s while crossing a busy street or in their 40’s during a storm or in their 60’s from a heart attack, many are blindsided by death. Some die “peacefully” and some die in horrendous pain. But, the fact still remains–you and I will die–eventually.

So, for those of you who realize that I’m writing about God and religion and faith… the question begs to be asked: Why would God do this? You might be okay with people dying, but why do children die of starvation? Why do people die from a massive tsunami in Samoa? Why does an earthquake destroy buildings, crushing hundred beneath the rubble. Why would God do this?

Or does He? Is God really that weak? He must be. He can’t even control the distribution of food. He can’t even hold back the waters. He can’t even…

God then interrupts with His interrogation:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sand together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed”? Job 38:2-11

The answer from God? He is not weak; and He is in control. He is the one who holds the waves back and He is the one who causes waves to land a mile inland in Samoa, devastating the country and its people.

But here’s the kicker… we deserve it. We earned it. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We earned it because we transgressed the law of God.

Have you murdered? Have you hated someone in your heart?

Have you committed adultery or rape? Have you lusted after a person who was not your spouse? Have you lusted after a person without yet having a spouse?

Have you stolen? Have you coveted another’s property? prosperity? praise?

You are a murderous adulterous thief. And so am I. If we see ourselves in the right light, we have earned our death and we have earned it plenty.

But I don’t want you to think that I stand here, looking down at those dying and suffering with a glib smile on my face. I’m mourning and praying over those deaths… and God is broken over those deaths, as well. The second part of Romans 6:23 states that He has given us a free gift of “eternal life in Christ Jesus.”

See, death from this world is not a big deal. Remember, we all die. But eternity… that’s another story. We either live eternally or we die eternally. And God, though we have worked and labored and earned wrath and judgment through our sins, He has offered us, through no labor or striving of our own, but by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, eternal life.

The most tragic thing about people dying in Sudan and Samoa and Indonesia is not that they died (because they will eventually die)–it’s that there are some of them who are dying eternally. Hell is not a place where people go and are given a slap on the wrist. Hell is the place where you are eternally met with the unbridled wrath of God–its fire is unquenchable (Mark 9:43). And those who are in hell will continue to earn their place in hell by hating God and sinning against Him (Revelation 22:11).

Conversely, there is the gift of God for all those who have confessed that they are sinners before God and turned to Jesus Christ as the Savior of their sins and Lord over their lives. Eternity with God. Eternity in the opposite of His wrath–His love. For those who die, even the most tragic of deaths, yet they have placed their lives in the hands of God, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

This is not a don’t-do-bad-things-or-else blog post. This is a you’ve-already-done-lots-of-bad-things-so-ask-for-the-forgiveness-which-comes-from-Jesus-Christ post. And, just as the people in hell will continue to sin and earn wrath, the people in heaven will be kept from sin and from wrath. What keeps someone from murder? Having love for a person who is worthy of that love. What keeps a man from committing adultery? Having a woman who enthralls his vision to such an extent that no other women exist. What keeps a man from stealing? So loving the things he has that he doesn’t need anything else. So, what keeps someone in heaven from sinning? Being with a God whose beauties overcome our desire to sin. God is beautiful and He is glorious and He will satisfy us fully and eternally.

Look to the beauties of God, and be won over–be captivated by all  that He is, all that He’s created, and all that He’s done. Death is an all-encompassing statistic. But so is eternity…


Posted September 26, 2009 by Mitchell J. Kim in Uncategorized

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