By Dan Schaeffer
A few months back I was reading an article about luxury items you could buy for Christmas, and one in particular caught my eye. You could, for a price, have yourself (or a loved one?) cryogenically frozen. It reminded me of a story in our local paper I read years ago of a man named Thomas Donaldson. The title of the article caught my attention. “Man Sues to Allow Freezing of Head Before He Dies.” Thomas Donaldson was a mathematician with a brain tumor. He was suing the state of California in hopes of clearing the way to have his head scientifically frozen before he died. He wanted his head cryonically suspended in the anticipation that scientists would discover a way to attach it to a healthy body and cure his disorder in the future. Cryonic suspension involves a controversial experimental procedure in which all our part of a person’s body is preserved at minus 320 degrees. Now the problem, of course, was that Donaldson wanted his head preserved now, while his brain was not significantly damaged yet. And of course, to carry out his request amounted to suicide on his part, and murder on the doctors. Donaldson said, “I am dying and want to be cryonically suspended so that I might later be revived and continue to live.”
Far from seeking to make fun of this man, I empathize with him. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has set eternity in our hearts. There is, deep within each one of us, the desire to live forever. Even those who feel suicidal thoughts would gladly choose to live forever if their life was more pleasant or fulfilling. Lacking a hope in eternal life, men will try whatever they can to live forever.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that the saints in the Old Testament looked forward in faith to the promises of God of life after death. The promises of resurrection were welcome to them as they all experienced the same feelings, that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. What they were all wanting, what their soul most longed for, was not to be found in this life. They intuitively knew that.
What they were really looking for was what the writer of Hebrews called “a Better Country; a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:16 NASB). But that alone would not be good news. Having a deep yearning for a better country would only be good news on one condition, and the writer reveals it. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.” That which they hoped for God had every intention of giving to them.
Job, in the Old Testament writes, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God, whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me.” (Job 19:25-27).
The hope of Easter, the Resurrection, was a hope imagined and cherished in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it was a hope personified in Jesus. Job’s Redeemer is our Redeemer, and also the first Man to be resurrected from the dead unto the newness of life that is glorified humanity.
We often emphasize, and rightly so, that Jesus came to die, and give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). But ultimately the purpose of His life wasn’t just to provide a death, even an eternally consequential death, but to procure life! Eternal life! Our Lord’s purposes went far beyond just providing forgiveness for sins; He looked forward to the eternal life we were being prepared for, the eternal life He enjoyed with His Father.
This was the life we lost in Eden, the life we had always been intended to live before sin entered the human race. It was a life without sin, without end, without pain or sorrow or suffering, it was a life lived with God-forever! The drama of redemption that we are so involved in was but a moment, and for a purpose. We rightly focus on it, for this is how we receive eternal life. But we need to learn to lift our gaze beyond the present and catch a glimpse of the eternal purpose Jesus focused on.
When our Lord came to die, He was not focused entirely on His eventual and certain sacrificial death. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus endured the cross, “for the joy set before Him.” (Hebrews 12:2). Death and sin have a shelf life, but not eternal life with God.
Yet, even heaven would be nothing more than a promise of a glorified vacation were it not for the promise of eternity. Any life, no matter how glorious, cannot satisfy our deepest longings. We long to live forever in this glorious life. It is in eternity that we can finally find our rest, because eternity leaves time for everything.
We stress so hard, we push ourselves so much because human life can be so short. We are often, unwittingly, trying to cram eternity into 70-80 years. We marvel at the composure of our Lord who gave Himself only three years to accomplish the great task of Redemption. He never seemed in a hurry, and He wasn’t, because His eyes never shifted from eternity.
We were created for eternity. We were made in the image of God, who is an eternal being. A million years is not enough time for you to experience the life God designed for you. What is it you feel you don’t have time for here on earth? What ambitions have you had to shelve? What opportunities were you denied? What limitations did you struggle with? What inequity hindered your progress? The answer to these disappointments shouldn’t be anger, bitterness, or even disillusionment or sadness. The answer is eternity. A human sin shortened life time was never intended to be all the time God would allow us to fulfill the potential God created in us.
Much of the stress and regret of modern life is found in the necessity of choosing how and where we will spend our time. We are told our world’s most precious commodity is gold, but that isn’t even close to being true. If you controlled all the gold in the world—for five minutes—and then had to give it all back, how much would you celebrate? Time is the most precious commodity we have.
Sin not only stole eternity from us, it destroyed our ability to truly enjoy the human years we have left on this earth. Sins effects are seen most graphically through time. Our bodies get weaker, our eyesight dims, our health deteriorates, our energy dissipates, our opportunities flee away, till at last we can even welcome the end of our earthly sojourn.
But because of Christ and His death and Resurrection we can tire of human life the way the butterfly tires of its suffocating cocoon. Our body longs to be released into the life we were always designed for. Paul says, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven…” (2nd Corinthians 5:1-2).
When Mary and Martha were mourning the loss of Lazarus, Jesus tried to help Martha break out of her limited earthly perspective about life. He simply told Martha that her brother would rise again. Martha politely agreed. “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” She knew at some point God would raise Lazarus again in the final resurrection. Then Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if He dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25, 26). At this point Martha probably didn’t, though she said she did. It’s doubtful she would have really understood what He meant. Then He raised Lazarus from the dead. And then, I think, Martha understood.
However Lazarus was raised only to temporary human life. Jesus was demonstrating His power over death. Lazarus would die again and would still one day need to be resurrected to eternal life.
It was our Lord’s resurrection on Easter morning that illustrated what life outside the cocoon of earthly human limitations would be like. He was fully human, yet in a way none had ever been before. He alone inhabits an eternal human body that is glorified, limitless, a body that time has no effect on. He didn’t come just to bestow eternal life, He was eternal life. It was from Him that eternal life issued. Because He had it to give, He can give it to us. Our life is as likely to end in eternity as His is, because He has joined us to Him forever.
This is the beginning of Easter’s promise; it is the hint of life in the Better Country. Being given the gift of eternity means that you will never cease to be; death is only the end of your physical bodies sin shortened existence. Your cocooning will be over, and it will be time to begin the rest of your life.
Easter’s Promise. A Better Country. Forever.