In Time and In an Eternal Future

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 3 – The Image-bearers

[Bible references: Exodus 25-28; 1 Kings 5-6; Psalms 19; 37:4-5; Proverbs 3:5-6; 11:14; Ecclesiastes 3:1-27; John 10:27; Acts 16:6-10; Romans 1:8-10; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10; 15:42-49; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 4:10; 1 John 3:16] Gen 2:9; 1 Samuel 2:26; Ps 19:1-14; Ecc 3:-22; Matt 6:28; Romans 1:18-20; 1 Cor 3:7;15;42-49; 2 Cor 10:15; Eph 4:15; Col 1:6-10; 2 Thes 1:3; 2 Pet 3:18

Although we have not existed from all eternity, God created us with more than a mortal body. We are also endowed with a soul and a spirit that can be joined to God’s Spirit. In the present moment, our mortal bodies are created from the stuff of the earth, and we are born into particular times and places so that we may serve and enjoy God in those particular times and places.

… God made us as creatures. And the good part about being a creature is we were made to be dependent upon God and, by our very design, also dependent on other people and the earth … Often what we’re missing is the good of dependence. We need to cultivate an awareness of how our dependence and our needs open avenues of love … What if we stopped thinking of life as to-dos and started thinking of it as relationships? When we’re so task-driven, it’s very hard to appreciate love, because love is incredibly inefficient … 59

Our creatureliness which sets us in a particular place and time with a particular body is an opportunity to appreciate our finiteness and God’s infiniteness, to cultivate a sense of dependence on God’s provision and our dependence on each other and within the context of those relationships to truly learn how to love.

when we were younger, God didn’t expect us to be what we are now. He’s still taking his time, by his Spirit, to bring about order through developmental growth … Part of recognizing our limits is getting comfortable in God’s space and growing in dependance on him.59

Our creatureliness also forces us to deal with God’s ordering Creation through process. Everything, whether physical, social, emotional, intellectual or spiritual, is controlled by processes. Sometimes we desire to bypass those processes: we want to be instantly knowledgeable and wise and experts at what we do … and not dependent on anyone else. But it was precisely that kind of desire that led to our rebellion at the beginning of humanity.

Sometimes, I think we’re actually scared to death to pray, because if we actually take the time to get quiet, we might begin to fear that God’s not there or wonder whether he’s apathetic or just really angry. Only in prayer will we discover how compassionately God views us … cultivating the gift of encouraging and celebrating others. It’s a spiritual discipline, a healthy way of dying to yourself and encouraging others. We are all dying for someone to pay attention and notice our presence and being. When someone articulates that, it’s life-changing.[1]

As God’s image-bearing creatures, we not only have relationships with each other but also with our Creator. With other of God’s image-bearing creatures, our love can be expressed in our opportunities to support, uplift and encourage one other. God has no need of such support from us, but He offers us such support. When we recognize our dependence on Him, He gives us the ability to pray, to acknowledge our needs and to recognize His provision for us when He supplies our needs.

We think of prayer as mostly self-expressive—as a way to put words to our inner life … if we pray the prayers we’ve been given, regardless of how we feel about them or God at the time, we sometimes find, to our surprise, that they teach us how to believe … We sleep each night in our ordinary beds in our ordinary homes in our ordinary lives. And we do so in a universe filled to the brim with mystery and wonder. We always sleep in a crowded room in our crowded cosmos, so we ask for crazy things—that God send unimaginable supernatural beings to watch over us as we drool on our pillows … Sleep reminds us of how helpless we are, even merely to stay alive. In the Christian tradition, sleep has always been seen as a way we practice death. Both Jesus and Paul talk about death as a kind of sleep. Our nightly descent into unconsciousness is a daily memento mori, a reminder of our creatureliness, our limitations, and our weakness. [2]

As we pray in our mortal bodies, we remember that although our mortal bodies will return to the dust from which we are made, our bodies will be resurrected when heaven and earth are reunited so that we, with soul and spirit and new body, will be able to enjoy God forever into the future.

What is that phenomenon we call ‘beauty’ and why does it lie at the core of both collective civilisation and individual desire, even as we value it precisely for existing outside of practicality? In his essay The Weight of Glory [A sermon given in Oxford in 1942], C.S. Lewis explains it as an echo of eternity, imprinted upon humanity as an indication of our origin and destiny.[3]

Indeed, our God is a God of beauty, and he has created us to enjoy his beauty. Art and our appreciation of it are among the great gifts God has given to us. Sure, like anything, it can be turned into an idol. But art, beauty, and appreciation for the finer things of culture are all good gifts from a good God. [4]

In the meantime, while we await for our resurrection and to gaze on the beauty of the Lord (Psalm 27:4), we have reminders of our connection with our transcendent God in the beauty of His Creation and in our capacity to make things of beauty. Whether the beautiful things are of our creation or the Lord’s, they are a reflection of God’s own beauty.

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing … they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited … We do not want merely to see beauty … We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.


[1] Straza, Erin. “Learning How to Love Your Limits” Christianity Today 13 Dec 2021 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/january-february/youre-only-human-kelly-kapic-limits-god-design.html Interview with Covenant College theologian Kelly M. Kapic’s about his latest book, “You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News.”

[2] Warren, Tish Harrison. “The Cosmos is More Crowded Than You Think” Christianity Today 14 Dec 2021 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/january-february/prayer-night-tish-harrison-warren-angels-crowded-cosmos.html

[3] Wang, Irina “Beauty betrays eternity” Salt salt.london/articles/beauty-betrays-eternity/

[4] Meuhlenberg, Bill. “Art and the Christian”; Culture Watch 28 July 2011 billmuehlenberg.com/2011/07/28/art-and-the-christian/

Reflect

How does having an eternal future help us live in the world today?

Observe

Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-22.  In the midst of meditating on the limitations of life on earth, verse 11 slides in a reference to beauty and eternity. How does that verse impact the rest of the chapter?

Author: transcendenttouched

I have been teaching the Bible to children and adults for over twenty years. Most recently, including teaching Discipleship/Confirmation classes. I have also been involved in various church leadership roles for many of those years. Until recently, my writing endeavors have been confined mainly to poetry. I've written an anthology of my first 40 years of writing poetry in my book, Growing. I have also written an overview of the Bible called, God Reveals Himself.

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