FROM UNLASTING TO EVERLASTING
Someone defined New Year’s Eve as “the ceremonial rite of passage from one year to another, a sanctioned party that makes way for another 365 days of drudgery and responsibility. December 31 is the night the civilized world stomps on the gas and blows last year’s gunk out of its carburetors.” This is fitting for the worldview of skepticism that sees human beings as having come from nowhere and from nothing and destined to return to nowhere and become nothing.
We prefer the description of the scholarly sage who, 165 years ago, eloquently wrote: “Human life is a journey—a long and toilsome pilgrimage, and each New Year’s day is but one of the mile-stones which serves to tell every one of us, how much of that journey is behind—how much, in all probability, remains to be traversed by our weary feet. To the young, the middle-aged, and the old, this period calls for reflection. Let us, then, give a moment to serious thought. . . . Let us, then gird up for the [New] year . . . and if spared to see its close, may we be enabled to look back upon it as one of the happiest in our lives—one in which we have done more for the cause of God and humanity, then in any which has preceded it!. . . Let us read more, meditate more, pray more; and in order to be strengthened for every good word and work, let each offer for himself the fervent petition, ‘Teach me my days to number, and apply my trembling heart to wisdom’” (“New Year’s Day” 43, 45).
The reference in the above to numbering one’s days is an application of the sentiment of one of the greatest world leaders in human history—Moses. From the title of the biblical Psalm 90, we read: “A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God.” Impressed with the brevity and uncertainty of human life on Earth, Moses prayed: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12, English Standard Version).
The popular British apologist, C. S. Lewis, captured the power of this Psalm and often referenced its implications for the human situation. Lewis observed: “In Psalm 90 (4) it had been said that a thousand years were to God like a single yesterday; in 2 Peter 3, 8—not the first place in the world where one would have looked for so metaphysical a theology—we read not only that a thousand years are as one day but also that ‘one day is as a thousand years.’ The Psalmist only meant, I think, that God was everlasting, that His life was infinite in time. But the epistle [2 Peter 3:8] takes us out of the time-series altogether. . . . Hence our hope finally to emerge . . . from the tyranny . . . of time . . . and so to cure that always aching wound (‘the wound man was born for’). . . . [W]e are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. ‘How he’s grown!’ we exclaim, ‘How time flies!’ as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal” (114-15, emp. added).
In his book, A Severe Mercy, Lewis’ friend Sheldon Vanauken includes letters that he and his friend had exchanged. In one of those letters, Lewis is discussing the realities of time and eternity. He asks: “If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it that you don’t feel at home there? . . . Notice how we are perpetually surprised at time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up & married! I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal” (90).
The passing of another year should be a wake-up call to all that is unlasting in contrast to that which is everlasting (God). God is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2). However, our years come “to an end like a sigh. . . . [T]hey are soon gone and we fly away” (90:9-10).
There is an impulse in us that urges us beyond the temporal (the unlasting) to the eternal (the everlasting). As always, the Bible says it best: “. . . [H]e has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This “is one of the profoundest utterances,” not only of the Preacher (koheleth) in Ecclesiastes, but it is foundational to a true awareness of what it means to be human. “In fact, the impulse of man shows that his innermost wants cannot be satisfied by that which is temporal. He is a being limited by time, but as to his innermost nature he is related to eternity. That which is transient yields him no support, it carries him on like a rushing stream, and constrains him to save himself by laying hold on eternity” (Keil and Delitzsch 261). But, as C. S. Lewis asked and answered: “In heaven’s name, why? . . . Indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.”
Biblical revelation affirms, as human experience verifies, that we battle against the tyranny of time. We were meant to live forever. Death goes “against the grain” as evidenced by the implications of the mission of the greatest Person in human history (Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8) who entered space and time to “deliver all who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:15).
Fred Heeren, in the closing words of his apologetics text, Show Me God—What the Message from Space is Telling Us about God, is on point in the following:
. . . The word “everlasting” (or “eternal”) suggests what everyone wants more than anything: more time. But even more important, this running theme throughout the Bible is always connected to the one thing that can give us a point to our lives. The word “everlasting” always appears in connection with our Creator, or with those who are close to Him. Who would know the point of living better than the One who made us? And how might we better satisfy our longing to see the future, than by sticking close to Him! All our explorations into the greatest discoveries of the century have been leading us, not only to some metaphysical concept about a Creator who worked in the remote past, but to the One who desires to make personal contact with us so that He might lead us into the future—and fill our lives with meaning now.
You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence, With eternal pleasures at your right hand.-- Psalm 16:11
Lead me in the way everlasting
--Psalm 139:24b (393)
In 2017, go with God. Happy New Year!
Charles C. Pugh III
Heeren, Fred. Show Me God—What the Message from Space is Telling Us about God. 1995. Rev. ed. Vol. 1. Wheeling: DayStar, 1997.
Keil, C. F. and F. Delitzsch. Commentary on the Old Testament in 10 Volumes. ca. 1872. Vol. 6. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982.
Lewis, C. S. Reflections on the Psalms. 1958. London: Fontana, 1961.
“New Year’s Day.” The Millennial Harbinger. 2.1 (Jan. 1852). College Press Reprint, n.d.: 43-45.
Vanauken, Sheldon. A Severe Mercy. 1977. New York: Bantam, 1979.