NOVEMBER 11 2017
TIME AND ETERNITY.
Jeremy Rifkin gave his book TIME WARS the subtitle of “The Primary Conflict in Human History”. I bought it in Los Angeles on December 5 1987 at a book fair on the grounds of the UCLA, the University of California. Yes, thirty years later I still love books and book stores.
Rifkin portrays the right perspective. He writes that a battle is brewing over our conception of time, the outcome determining the future of society. How true! The conflict is between those who advocate speed and efficiency and those who look for values more consistent with human needs and the dictates of nature. The real struggle – so said Rifkin – is between those who favor an artificial world where past, present and future blur together without benefit of real time or memory – a fully simulated ‘paradise’ – and those time rebels who question society’s capitulation to computer-related models and nanosecond-culture.
Rifkin, without mentioning it, touches here on the age-old division between Nature and Grace, in which Organized Religion has been an eager enemy of Nature, in essence battling God.
Eternity starts now.
My premise is that our life today determines our life in eternity. Eternity is not a matter of the future, it starts in the present. Already now and here, in this temporal life, we embrace eternity. If Christians are true to their status then they experience their religion as an existence before the face of God, the Creator.
We, as the human race, wander between the first and the second Paradise. We know the past and we all face eternity. That gives us a notion of time that determines our very humanity. It belies the belief that at death our life ceases to exist, that then all traces of our beings disappear forever.
Look at Creation: it breathes ETERNITY.
Scientists, acute nature observers, people who have far advanced in their fields, more and more realize that in their research and probing they have merely scratched the surface, have hardly made a dint into their field of enquiry. The reason is that the world, the cosmos, has been so created that scrutinizing created matter is an infinite enterprise, proceeds forever, so that we never will be able to describe and label at all.
E. O. Wilson, not a Christian, let me correct that, not a church adherent, in his book HALF-EARTH makes that very observation. Only a never-ending eternity is long enough to complete and fathom all that is inherent in creation.
Revelation 14: 13 encourages us in this regard because “our good works will follow us”. These good works apply especially to the acquisition of knowledge regarding creation, God’s ultimate work of art, just as our bad works – causing creational stress and distress in persons and nature – will forever come to haunt those who unrepentantly cause them.
The Apostles’ Creed confirms this where it says, “I believe in LIFE eternal.” That life refers to all living matter. That life also refers to all scientific enterprise, where we need ETERNITY to come to the bottom of all that is contained in creation. That means that this sort of searching starts in mortal life and continues in eternal life: so curious minds, don’t despair: there’s lots of time to come. All we need is unbounded curiosity: to live is to question; to live is to wonder; to live is to relax: we have all the time in the world.
This implies that dying does not mean that time stops: death is simply sleep, as Jesus always maintained. Death is nothing but an interval, a time to reflect, “the pause that refreshes”, as COCA COLA used to say. That also indicates that eternal life starts in the here and now.
So forget about dividing life into two sections where temporal time is seen as less valuable, while eternal life is regarded as of higher quality.
It is true, of course, that life today where the Christian can show only a small start of being obedient to God’s laws, is less perfect than life later in eternity, where all sin is banned forever. It is quite understandable that we call life after the Resurrection as ‘eternity’ while life from cradle to grave is seen as transitory: however the Scriptures tell us that we must include this period of transience as belonging to life eternal.
What is the situation today?
Back to Jeremy Rifkin, who sees a sharp division in his 30 year old book, a chasm that since has become so wide that it is almost impossible to distinguish church-going Christians from non-Christian. It is beyond question that society as a whole has chosen to live the planet-destructive way.
What Rifkin calls The Primary Conflict in Human History has largely disappeared: the MACHINE has won: we all are wedded to technology, the most trusted of all human enterprises. The old-age revolt of the godless versus the people of God has gone to the Satan crowd.
The Bible tells us that this has always been the case.
The prophets of old spoke with deep sadness about revolt, about how the human race had broken the COVENANT, had strayed away from the harmonious unity of the universe and chosen to go its own way. “Even the stork in the skies knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord”, lamented the prophet. (Jer. 8:7).
We all have ruptured the Kingdom; we all have brought dissonance into the world order.
At one time everything in heaven and on earth was united in one over arching purpose, in devout submission to him who created it all. We now have excluded ourselves from this goal. “The heavens declare God’s glory and the expanse tells us the work of his hands” sang the poet in Psalm 19, but we, the human race, we alone have refused to be included in that act of worship. We have torn ourselves away from this all embracing body and have declared ourselves to be sovereign. We have become a law to ourselves and by that act clothed ourselves with the mantle of loneliness, no longer able to hear and understand the song of creation, and, sadly, in turn no longer seen by creation as part and parcel of it.
The Book of Revelation calls this state BABYLON. We all are in Babylon.
The frightening part is that Babylon, that glorious Babylon, with its infinite charm, basically presents a pathetic picture. With it insistent advertising, with its tinkering and peddling, with its visual effects, it may entice the naïve, the easily fooled, who fail to see that Babylon is an empty shell, “who was and is not”, the way John described this world-tyrant. It simply cannot endure because it is not vested in God. Outside God nothing is safe, outside God everything, however beautiful it may seem and however great it may appear, in essence is nothing other than vanity.
That we live in THE LAST DAYS becomes plainer by the day because today is being fulfilled the basic message of the book of Revelation: everything will become what it is. Today we experience that.
Everyday there are new revelations of long hidden sex crimes, of money secretly stashed away to escape legitimate tax, of the true nature of the electorate, wanting independence, revealing their base, nihilistic nature.
What we call world history is one tremendous masquerade where each single item carries a disguise, where everything is different than it seems. But soon, very soon, this entire tomfoolery will end and every mask will be removed. That is the meaning of everything that has happened and will happen, and that is what the last things are all about.
Today we see Revelation in spades, everywhere, fulfilling in its last chapter: “Let those who do wrong, let them do wrong even more, let those who do vile, let them continue to do more so; let those who do right continue to do right; and let those who are holy continue to be holy.” (Rev. 22: 11).
That hits the nail on the head. The masks have to go, the secrets must be unveiled: everything in the end must become what it always has been already.
Nature already is falling upon the human race as a provoked lion: nature will breach all constrains humanity has placed upon it, and will explode into extraordinary catastrophes, earthquakes, floods, failed harvests, pandemics. All these will be more severe than ever.
Humanity has not turned to God, has only become more outspoken in his resistance, more spiteful in its hatred, more determined in its powerless hate, more relentless in its rage against God’s children. Indeed, who is unjust, more injustice will ensue, who is vile, more vileness will follow. The masks fall off.
We already are seeing how human vilest intentions rise to the surface. All veneer is vanishing, melting away in the heat of the last days
Where is the church?
In these last chapters of Revelation we notice little of the church. We often do hear heavenly songs of praise but the hidden ways of the church on earth are no longer shown. History no longer concerns her.
Fortunately, in the melting pot of the final time the church too becomes more and more what she is; in spite of all pressure and persecution, the church slowly assumes the features of her true character: love for God expressed as love for the Cosmos. Then, in the end, the new Kingdom, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the New Jerusalem will dawn.
In the end everything in the world becomes what it should have been all along when Christ returns.
Nature has no independent existence but is an instrument in God’s hand and is part of God’s plan and does what God wants. She does not become that: she is that. And we humans, we who revolted against God, we who in the depth of our striving are the great fugitive from God, and always rebel against him, we grimly keep on embracing this world because this is our last and only refuge.
What happens in the end is not something new, is not something miraculous. No, all this amounts to is that when humanity has spoken its last and most important word, then God starts to speak his mighty word. That is the most radical revolution of all times, but in essence it is nothing else than that everything becomes what it is. The secret is dug up from every reality and exposed for everybody to see. The ultimate meaning of every creature becomes exposed and held up to public view in the hands of the True God.
That is the Judgment Day,
the most horrible what can be imagined
but also that is redemption,
the eternal liberation of all who have loved Jesus’ appearance on earth.
At one time he exclaimed on Calvary the triumphal call: “It is accomplished”. Already then the great plea was settled, and already then everything was changed. On the last day it again will be exclaimed: “It is done!” (Rev. 21: 6). That second exclamation is exactly the same as the first. It is the same word, but now it is in the acute, present tense, is now the full reality.
Now, indeed, it is for ever and ever ‘done’.
Thirty year ago Jeremy Rifkin reminded us that the battle between wisdom and foolishness, between TIME and ETERNITY was raging and quickly intensifying.
The real question is not that there is the conflict. That’s becoming more evident by the day. The real question is at which camp are we. There’s no such a thing as the right church or the wrong church: all of them have gone astray.
It boils down to John 3: 16: God so loved the world that, in order to free it from Satan’s clutches, he offered his Son as payment.
What is required of us? Love God and his creation, above all, and all human creatures as ourselves.
That transforms TIME into ETERNITY.
(Part of this has been translated from J.H. Bavinck’s book on Revelation.)