“…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6)
The Good Shepherd never leaves the sheep. Here David uses the word forever. Forever is a word that we generally associate with fairy tales or exaggerated statements like, “This stoplight takes forever.” Therefore, it is a word that is hard to wrap our minds around. How long is forever? Is there such a thing as eternity? It is difficult to define because it deals with the mysteries of time and limitations, beginnings and endings and the hope that there is something more than that.
For us time sets the boundaries around everything…good and bad. For example, we say things like, “all good things come to an end” or “It’s just a matter of time”. Our very lives are contained within the constraints of time. It is a constant reminder of our own mortality. Even a “long long time” still has an end at some point. It is no wonder that, in our fairy tales, we write “time” out of the story. The happy ending is when things do not end, “and they lived happily ever after”. There is no limit. No final act. No good byes.
On the other hand, the Bible uses these words in a very concrete way. It speaks about things lasting “forever” and being “eternal” on every page. In fact, it consistently points the believer to the assurance that eternity not only exists, but we can be a part of it!
When the Scripture talks about eternity it is not an exaggeration and it is certainly no fairy tale. Fairy tales are “make believe” attempts to offer an escape or just some comfort to those longing for something more in this world. It is a “wish and a prayer”. A break from the realities of this life.
Some say that the Bible is the same thing. A “make believe” story to help us feel better. It was Karl Marx who said that religion is the “opiate of the masses”. He believed that God was merely a story manufactured to bring hope to a world headed for certain doom. Friend, if there is no God and if all we have is fairy tales to bring us temporary relief than we are hopeless, but…thankfully, that’s not where the story ends!
When the Bible talks about eternity it is more than a drug or a dream. It is the Truth of the Gospel and the power of the cross which has vanquished the enemy of death and has opened the door to “eternity”. It is the proclamation of the reality of the Kingdom of God and the truth that we were created to be a part of an eternal Kingdom! To come into the flock of the Good Shepherd is more than changing from one temporary care giver to another…it is changing our perspective of life itself.
The mission of the church is not to be a hospice ministry that is here to make people comfortable as their life comes to an end. It is to be a witness to the transforming power of the Everlasting God who changes that which is limited to that which is limitless! It takes that which is mortal and makes it immortal (Read 1 Corinthians 15)!
Once again, it is the cross of Christ that makes this possible. Living forever is not a fairy tale. It is true that we were facing a certain end in this world but God came bursting into our world and made it possible for us to experience forever. Over the next few days as we work our way to the cross, we will look into this powerful truth.