There are several biblical insights that tell us the experience of eternal life available through Jesus will never be dull but rather the pinnacle of our existance.
When you hear the phrase “eternal life” does it excite you or concern you? I could understand at least one concern. Right now, with quarantine still somewhat in effect, life is a little boring. We just had a three-day weekend, and while I enjoyed sitting on my porch watching nature, it was a bit of a yawner. What will life be if it is eternal? Won’t Heaven and the New Earth become redundant at some point?
Let’s start with the experience of boredom itself. When we are bored the environment around us is failing to stimulate our minds sufficiently. We experience a loss of concentration, hormones that make us feel tired and perhaps a degree of anxiety. The biology that creates boredom is not the biology with which humans were created. We are a creation altered by sin and the curse. I definitely expect that boredom is part of the curse and once you leave your body in the grave, you will leave boredom in the grave as well.
Our new biology of a Heavenly body (1 Cor. 15:40) and then an earthly, resurrected body (1 Cor. 15:42-44) will have many differences, and with them many different emotional, spiritual and physical experiences. Can we say there will not nothing negative? Not quite. At least not until the re-creation of all things.
The one sort of negative picture we see is of Heaven in Revelation 6. The martyrs express a degree of impatience with the slow arrival of Judgment Day:
O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the Earth?Revelation 6:10
Feelings like impatience and the desire for vengeance show that biology change alone will not remove negative feelings. They don’t say, “Hey we are bored waiting here.” That is significant because they are asked to wait, which is typically and ingredient in boredom now.
With the environment of Heaven and eventually the new Heaven and Earth be that much more stimulating? I expect so.
To experience the glory of God in a direct fashion is an experience none of us have had yet. Even those who have had a vision of it were enthralled. It was life changing.
Near Death Experiences tell of the experience of color and of music that is so heightened. If you enjoy these things now, just wait.
Social interactions are another thing that will be changed. The experience of people currently is a mixed bag of joy, frustration, anger, love and boredom. But we won’t be this blend of sin and the image of God. People will be a joy to be around:
Be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.Isaiah 65:18
Then there is exploration. We like to travel, and there is much of the world that we have not experienced. Of the 48 contiguous states, however, we have hit a lot of sights. Our bucket list for the continental United States is growing short. So, over an eternity, won’t the New Earth become a “been there, seen that” experience?
A couple of things, I would not assume to be the same. First, our interaction with nature will be greatly altered:
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the dust shall be the food for the serpent. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountainIsaiah 65:25
Won’t it be a joy to experience the wide array of God’s creatures in a friendly rather than adversarial fashion. Imagine doing it with a body that is not as limited as the one you have.
In fact, I wouldn’t assume we will be constrained to the New Earth. With a whole new universe and a whole new Heaven (the former dwelling place of God), why is the earth our only abode? Angels move freely from Heaven to Earth even now. Does the following verse suggest the same for us:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens.2 Corinthians 5:1
A biology that won’t create the experience of boredom, an experience of God that defies comparison, a body or bodies that will have expanded limits, a new relationship with nature, and a whole new universe or two full of God’s creativity all lead to confidence that we will never be bored. That is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
One of the toughest decisions we may have to make is to stop medical interventions and to let a loved one die. We are eventually going to die no what we do. We know that. But somehow it seems right to pull out all the stops, no matter the cost in money and suffering, and to try to extend life–even if it is not right. The medical profession is geared to do the same thing. Even living wills often cannot stop efforts of relatives to keep life going.
It really doesn’t have to be that agonizing. I put the biggest part of the blame on the person who is dying. All of us should have detailed living wills, or at least candid discussions about death, even when we are in perfect health. One never knows when things can turn for the worst. Just look at those taken unprepared by the corona virus. When I say detailed, I mean have the will cover some common medical scenarios. For instance, if I have dementia, chronic pain, severe neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, “irreversible coma”, and the like; what do you want people to do if you are going to die with intervention? Name it. By intervention, I mean administer such things as intubation, restart a stopped heart, have major surgery, insert a feeding tube or even give antibiotics for sepsis. No one has to do such things.
More important than your desire or willingness to go through painful procedures that may not give you quality of life, is your understanding of what comes next. Your loved ones should know clearly your understanding. Of course, your understanding doesn’t make it so. But if you are closing in on death with no certainty, then you need to talk to people about what is known or believed and face the issue of death. Too many people have coped with death by ignoring it all their lives. That is very scary(and really foolish) at the end. I have tried to minister to plenty of people, often relatives of our congregation members, who have found themselves in that predicament.
This entire blog has been dedicated toward explaining the Biblical revelation about life after death and how it correlates with other experiences like Near Death Experiences.What Should We Think of Near Death Experiences? If someone is connected to Christ through faith and baptism, then they are ready. Death alone doesn’t transport us to a “better place”. Culturally, we just tell ourselves that to comfort us in our loss. Jesus himself says that a majority don’t go to a better place, and he is the one who gives insight into eternity with proof. He also is the only way to that “better place”.
Let me assume that you are ready. You may not have a seamless faith in Jesus, that’s okay. You are saved by a connection formed by God to Jesus and his death and resurrection. You are not saved by believing hard enough. You may have fear. Few don’t. Most people are afraid of the unknown. If you or your loved one is ready, then why go through the physical suffering that medical science now affords us? Say your good-byes. Say what you have to say. If forgiving or asking for forgiveness is appropriate, definitely do that. Medicine can make you comfortable through the death process. Know that eternal life in Christ is not only better, it is much better.
Should you continue to extend the life of someone who is clearly not connected to Christ? If you are a believer but your loved one is not, this is the time to pull out all the stops. I would do it even if they were unconscious. Tell them how you love them. Tell them why you are explaining the Gospel.Why Everyone Needs Jesus Don’t accept denial at this point. If they ask for baptism, baptize them. Pray like crazy, because only God can create a saving faith, if anyone can. Then, if it is their wish, let them go. You will not know the result until you arrive in Heaven yourself. Some pretty important stuff can happen at the final hour.
Earlier I said I primarily blame the dying person for not getting their loved ones ready for death. If we are the “loved ones”, we bear some responsibility as well. We should love each other, enjoy each other, talk frankly with each other about heavy subjects like death and life after death. But do not create a relationship so dependent on anyone that we cannot conceive of life without them. We put that level of dependence on God alone. Not everyone gets to die first. Grieving cannot and should not be completely avoided. Life and death decisions should be determined by the needs of the dying person, not their grieving family. The family needs to be strong and prepared. Again, denial about the reality of death is a lousy coping mechanism.
Covid-19 forced many people to die alone. This is very sad. Actually, I have found that some people prefer to be alone. They will let the people holding vigil at their bedside leave, and then they will sneak out. Most would like the comfort of someone nearby, even if it isn’t a relative. Again preparedness is important. I would love to die surrounded by my living family and friends, but I know that I am never alone if I belong to Christ. If you have the same faith, make sure your family knows it.
I am not afraid to die, even alone. In fact, I look forward to that day. I am here to do the work of God, enjoy the unique aspects of this life, enjoy my family and friends, and then to meet you on the other side.
O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57