This is an article from the archives, which I first wrote ten years ago.
“…whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16b KJV)
Allow me to share with you a profound sentence. It was innocuously nestled inside Day 8 of an advent devotional called The Christ of Christmas.
…now you are born again in a life that will outlast the stars.
There, simply stated, as if it were common knowledge, was a truth so powerful that it blew away everything else I was thinking. Now read it one more time. Your life will outlast the stars! Rich or poor, righteous or wicked, Christian or non-believer, your self does not end when you die.
I have struggled to accept this truth since I first began to understand it. On occasion, it has terrified me. Sometimes I’ve been furious with God for bringing me into existence at all, since I can’t choose to unexist. What right had He? Many times I’ve merely marveled at something that is quite literally beyond my ability to comprehend.
About the same time I read that sentence, I saw the movie The Fountain, directed by Darren Aronofsky. It uses parallel, overlapping storylines about the search for the Fountain of Youth, which the main character (Hugh Jackman) thinks can save his beloved (Rachel Weisz) so that “together [they] can live forever.” The movie is more mood than plot, a tapestry of sound, images and exquisite music, woven together until the three stories fall to pieces in a lonely resolution.
Afterward, I couldn’t help wondering why it is that humans would risk everything in life for the chance of making it last a little longer. Perhaps we want a way out of life’s tragedy, or at least for a way out to be possible. “What if?” we ask. “What if we could live forever? What would it be like?” Invariably, and often to our surprise, the answer is unhappy.
It’s no mystery to me, however, why the stories of earthly immortality are infected with melancholy. Why would anyone want to live forever on this planet of pain? This sphere of limitation that, absent God, keeps us imprisoned in ourselves, isolated from those we love, and hampered by our weaknesses and failures — always striving but never attaining? That kind of eternal life would always be overshadowed by the sense that death is not how things were meant to be, but neither is living forever.
In fact, living forever on earth is not so far removed from what hell would be like. Right now, this world is ruled by the devil (John 12:31), but God is very present and active in it. Imagine if the presence of God were removed (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9), and people had only themselves and their evil natures, forever. A sobering thought.
Yet for believers, God speaks of “everlasting life” as if it were not just a good thing, but the best thing! John 3:16 is probably the most memorized, most quoted verse in the Bible, but that may sometimes cause us to forget the enormity of what He’s promising. I encourage you to rest a moment from the cares of your day. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and step into an eternal perspective, as you meditate on life where the joy will go on and on long after the stars have burned away:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. … 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. (Revelation 21:3b-4, 22:5 NIV)
Abigail can be reached by email here.