Growing In Godliness Blog
Forever Is Composed of Now*
By Tom Rose
Forever is an easy way to think of eternity. It never stops; it just keeps going on. It’s timeless. After this life is over and judgment occurs, each of us will continue in an endless existence in either heaven or hell. As shocking as this statement may seem to some, Christ Himself said as much in Mt. 25:31-33, 46.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. And these (goats) will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous (sheep) into eternal life.”
So what determines whether one is a “sheep” or a “goat?” Again, Christ answers that question in Mt. 7:21-23.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
In essence, whether we choose to obey God and His laws in this life will determine our place in the next.
Returning to the title, you are probably wondering how Now is composed of Forever. When I reflect back on the moment when I decided to be baptized, I recall an unmistakable urgency. It was not a casual action, and it was not something to be put off for a later time. Although I was raised in a 5 generation Methodist family, at barely 18 years of age I obeyed the Gospel and was baptized during the first semester of my freshman year in college. I had learned God’s plan through dating my future wife while attending Sunday evening church services and needed to act upon my understanding.
Although that was almost 60 years ago, it modeled exactly what had happened in first century Christianity. In Acts 2:38, a crowd of three thousand were baptized on Pentecost. In Acts 8:26-39, an influential Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by Philip in a desert. And in Acts 16:25-34, Paul baptized a Philippian jailor and his family at midnight. In each case, and every other recorded baptism in the Bible, the believer was immersed in water as soon as possible after the individual recognized the need for it. Thus, the operative word was Now.
In modern society, to leave a “legacy” ordinarily means to specify the distribution of property – money, in most cases – to heirs according to the terms described in a will. However, it is a relatively rare event for most people to be mentioned in a will. And yet, people talk all the time about the life of a person, now deceased, how it enriched them. Aside from the obvious things, each of us will leave behind for all the world to see the value system that marks everything we did. Somehow, people who never asked us directly what we valued in life never doubt for a moment what it was. They know what we thought of people of other colors and creeds by the language we used and the lives we connected with. They know how we treated strangers, how we loved the individuals closest to us, and how we cared for those who loved us - even how we spoke to them in hard times or gave ourselves away to satisfy their needs. They know the depth of our spiritual life by the way we treated those around us, and what we thought of life, and what we gave our lives to doing. Therefore, our legacy is far more than just our fiscal worth. And though we add to it every moment of our lives, during our lifetime, we are given both the vision and the wisdom to understand that our legacy is what we choose it to be.
In closing, it is the power of the present that makes us aware of our future and how much of it may be left. Although it is truly a gamble, you reason if you are young and healthy, sixty years, probably. However, for most older adults, ten years, hopefully. Five, surely. But the truth for all of us is, tomorrow, God willing. Thus, the question comes, “What could you do today that would influence your life for all eternity?” The simple answer is: put on Christ in baptism (Gal 3:27), and if you’ve not yet done so, earnestly consider doing it because “Forever Is Composed of Now.” Your life, your legacy, and your relationship with God will be immeasurably better – both in this life and the next - for having done so. Indeed, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
*This title came from a line in a self-published book by Kristen L. Crawford entitled, Within the Shadow of Myself: A Poetic Memoir, p. 28. ISBN 9798644302284