David Jeremiah - Is He From History or From Eternity?
Today, I wanna talk with you about one word, and I want you to repeat the word after me. The word is "eternity". Say the word "eternity". We talk about it a lot, but it's pretty evident to me, as I study this again, that it's something we don't really know a lot about. I wanna tell you about The Eternal Indian who stands on the banks of Rock River overlooking the city of Oregon, Illinois. Its creator, Lorado Taft, began working on it in 1908 by creating models. And then, three years later, when the statue was dedicated, people marveled at its size. It seem to grow out of the ground and tower majestically from the top of the bluff where it is stationed. It's one of the largest monolithic statues in the world.
The Eternal Indian was inspired by the Sauk leader Black Hawk, and the statue's folded arms and massive robe and determined eyes are designed to convey the unconquerable spirit of Native Americans. But here is the problem: The Eternal Indian is crumbling. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised in an effort to restore this 108-year-old image, including a grant from the Illinois legislature. Visitors often find the monument covered with tarps or scaffolding. They can't see it because it's being repaired. Past efforts to restore Illinois's crumbling Eternal Indian have fallen apart.
Recently, the paper quoted a local resident and restoration advocate who said, "It's a faith thing. We're all hoping for the best, but we have no firm guarantees, and I think everybody is a little antsy about that". The Eternal Indian who's crumbling. Hardly anything is eternal. In fact, nothing in this world is eternal and, given enough time, everything crumbles and returns to dust, and that's why you and I live in an antsy world, isn't it? We see around us the things that we used to think were immovable, and they're gone. And, unfortunately, for us today, the word "eternal" and especially the word "eternity" has lost its meaning.
I discovered this week that "eternity" has been in the name of at least three different movies, two different television series, eight different music albums, and eight different songs. Eternity is the name of a perfume, a mobile phone, a puzzle game, a superhero, Kid Eternity, a Christian magazine, a newspaper, a science fiction magazine. It's ironic that a word that means forever has been given as the name for so many things that don't last very long. And eternity is a time thing for us, but eternity is not time. Eternity is beyond time. We don't understand eternity because we have no precedent.
Donna and I were talking about it this week at home, and we were talking about how hard it is to wrap our minds around something that never began and never ends, something that has no beginning and no end, but that's what eternity is. Oh, we try. We try to understand it. We come up with little stories that help us comprehend how long is eternity. Here is one that I remember. Imagine a little bird taking a grain of sand and flying to a distant planet. It would take him a million years to get to that planet. Then he would drop the grain of sand, and the little bird would fly back to the earth, taking another million years to get home. He gets another grain of sand and flies back to the distant planet.
Back and forth, back and forth he goes, and when he will have transplanted every speck of earth to that distant planet, it will only be breakfast time in eternity. That's how hard it is to comprehend it. We need crazy little stories like that to even get our mind in the middle of it. We live in a world which, given enough time, everything crumbles and nobody remembers us and life is ultimately meaningless and absurd. And if you don't understand what God has given to you in his Word to give meaning to this life, it's very difficult to make it all the way through, because in Jesus Christ alone is it possible for us to discover the meaning of eternity. And I want to explore that meaning with you this morning for a few moments in three areas of life.
I wanna talk about eternity in history, eternity in your heart, and eternity in heaven. First of all, eternity in history. Let's begin. In many respects, the idea of associating history with eternity is absurd. Eternity is, you see, one of the great mysteries of the universe, one of the great mysteries of God. Eternity is the attribute of infinity in relationship to time. It means that the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have always existed. The past, present, and future as we know it are eternally present in the mind of God. God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, live in the eternal present. We see life through three different lenses.
I just went back and reviewed something from my past. I look forward to some things we're going to do this year. That's future. And here we are today in the present, but when God looks at life he doesn't see them that way. He sees everything in the eternal now. Everything is now to God. Everything is now to the Lord, Jesus Christ. This is a mystery, and it is difficult to get our minds around it. And it stretches us, does it not? It reminds me of that powerful thought that if the God you worship is small enough for you to understand, he's not big enough for you to worship. I don't understand all of this. I learn everything I can from the revelation of the Scripture, but when I've learned all I can learn about God, there is still so much more about God that I cannot know. One day I will know, but I don't know now.
So, what that means for you and for me is that since Jesus is God, and since he has no beginning and no end and he has existed ages before he came into the world to be our Savior, when the prophet Micah predicted that Jesus would come to be our Savior, did you listen to his words? Listen to how he described it. He said, "Out of you shall come forth to me the one who is to be ruler in Israel". Who is that? Jesus Christ. "Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting". In other words, Jesus Christ is coming to be the ruler of Israel, but he's been around forever. He's never had a beginning. One day, Jesus was talking to some of his friends, and he stunned them. They never did get over this. They were talking about Abraham and David and all of that, and Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I AM".
In other words, here is Jesus, 30 years old, saying that he knew Abraham, almost like, "Abraham and I were buddies". Jesus didn't say, "Before Abraham was, I was". He said, "Before Abraham was, I AM". In other words, Abraham had history. Jesus doesn't have any. He is forever, and the Bible tells us, men and women, that Jesus in his eternity is the Creator of this world. I know you know that the Bible says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth", but God tells us in his Word that, yes, it was God who did it, but was the second person of the Trinity who was the executor of creation. Here is what the Bible says. "All things were made through him", by Jesus, "and without Jesus nothing was made that was made". That's what the Scripture means.
Colossians 1:16 says, "By Jesus all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth". And Hebrews makes it very clear, "God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son". Who is that? Jesus. "By whom he has appointed heir of all things and through whom he made all the worlds". Stop and think about this. The baby born in Bethlehem was here when the world was created and actually created the world as we see it today. Jesus Christ the Creator of the world. Well, you say, "How does that affect me"? Well, listen up. The Bible says that you and I were chosen in Christ before the world began.
Ephesians 1:4 says, "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world". What that means, men and women, is since we are in Christ before the foundation of the world, we have been loved by Christ for a lot longer than you may think. We have been loved by Christ throughout eternity. Jeremiah 31:3 says it this way, "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love". Sometimes, we think Jesus only loves us if we do good things. You know, we sometimes pick that up along the way growing up in our culture. "If you'll be good, God will love ya. If you be bad, he won't". That's nothing to do with God's love for us. The Scripture tells us that long before the world was, long before there was a creation, long before Abraham, Jesus loved us. That he loves you.
I remember reading that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was asked what he believed to be the greatest challenge we face as Christ's followers. And without a moment's hesitation, he said, "Every Christian I meet cannot quite believe that they are loved by God". One of the great, great problems people have is accepting the fact that Almighty God loves them. Maybe you're like that. Maybe you don't believe Jesus loves you at all, or maybe you only know a Jesus who loves you in varying degrees, or maybe you're on the performance track, where you think he loves you on the basis of what you do, but hear me this morning.
If you don't get anything else, get this: God, through Jesus Christ, has loved you before the foundation of the world. Before you could do anything good or bad you were loved by God. That means he doesn't love us because of who we are. He doesn't love us because of what we've done. He loves us because of who he is. When we succeed, he says, "I love you". When we fail, he says, "I love you", because he is love. There is nothing you can ever do to make him stop loving you, and there's not anything you can ever do to make him love you more than he already does, because his love is eternal. It's a part of who he is as God, and it's always been true. Everything you have ever done or thought, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent, was in the future when God set his love upon you. He loves you, my friends, like you cannot imagine.
Well, you say, "I don't feel loved". Let me tell you with authority that is not God's problem. We cannot blame God for our feelings. God has told us the truth. He loves us. Believe it. Eternity in history, God loves you. Here is the second thought: eternity in your heart. This is really an amazing thought. Hold this because it's important to this. He's loved us forever. Then, he set about creating us, and he created us, men and women, with eternity in our hearts. He created us literally so that all of us were made for him. It should say on us, "made for God", because every one of us have been created for his pleasure, and the Bible tells us that when God created us he left a space within us vacant, a space that only he can occupy.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11 we read these words, "God has put eternity in our hearts". That means that every one of us has a hunger and a longing for God, even if we don't know it. That even when we might be rebelling against God, we might be saying, "I won't have him to rule over me", there is still this empty place in our hearts, and God is the only one who can fill that. One of the challenges we have in our culture is we try to fill that with everything else, don't we? We try to find meaning through riches or relationships or pride or money or sex or drugs or whatever. Everything we stuff into that space doesn't fit, 'cause that space was made for God. He created eternity in our hearts.
Recently, I reviewed a book that I had read many years ago by Don Richardson, and the title of the book is, "Eternity in Their Hearts". And this book is about missions and how missionaries would go to these foreign lands like Papua New Guinea, where no one had ever been before, and yet without any witness from any person they would discover in the minds and hearts of these people that they had some kind of lingering hunger after God, and they were trying to find out who he was. They would search. They would go. They would build their own idols.
Somehow, even in the pagans who did not ever have a witness from God, there was the evidence that God had put eternity in their hearts. And then, a missionary would come connect the dots between God's love and that person, and oftentimes whole civilizations would be changed and churches would grow. God has put every one of us in a place of knowing God if we want to. He's built this place in us that's specifically for him, and if you do not know that, if you do not accept it, it doesn't go away. It will continue to be there.
And do you know that even after we become Christians there is still a bit of that within us? The Bible says that all creation is groaning waiting for the day of redemption. What that means is that in this world in which you and I live we can have the joy of knowing Jesus Christ in a personal way, but we were not built for this world, and this world was not built for us. We were built for eternity. Until we get there, we're not gonna have that wonderful feeling that everything is right.
I think when we get to heaven the first thing we're gonna do is say, "Oh, man, this is what I've been looking for", because even as Christians, Romans tells us that we have a hunger in our heart for something more. Have you ever noticed that when you start out in life and you have this goal, "If I can only get to", and you get there, and you realize it's not enough? I was thinking about that this week.
I remember when we started our church my goal was someday maybe to have a church that had a thousand people in it. When I got to a thousand, I just knew so many people that had 5,000. And I don't care what you do. There's always somebody bigger, and I finally settled it once and for all. I went to India where there was 200,000 people in church. I've given up that game. I'm here to do what God wants me to do, however many people he sends me, amen? But isn't that true? I have a story about guys who won Super Bowl rings. From the time they were in grade school, they wanted to play in college. When they got in college, they wanted to play in the NFL, and when they were in it they wanted to win the Super Bowl.
Do you know that about 15 years after the Super Bowls the study showed that almost all those rings were gone? They had been sold. They'd been given away. They'd been hawked. They weren't what they were looking for, and I've heard over and over again people who have accomplished great things. They get to the place they hope they could get to, and it didn't fill the emptiness in their heart. You know why? Jesus is the only one who can fill the emptiness in your heart. You can keep trying if you want to. It will be a frustrating existence if that's what you do.
So, eternity is in our hearts. In fact, Saint Augustine once wrote it this way. He said, "You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they learn to rest in thee". So, what is eternal life? John 17:3 says it this way. This is Jesus's definition of eternal life. Listen carefully. "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent". What did Jesus mean by "eternal life"?
Lemme tell you a story. I don't know how I got fixed on this, but as a young pastor, when I would ever go to do a funeral and go to the cemetery, I started kinda getting there early and walking around and looking at what people put on their tombstone. Turned out to be, sort of, a little gathering of humor for me over the years, and then, people found out about it, and they started sending me all these really crazy epitaphs. I got a whole book full of 'em, like, "Here lies the body of old man Peas buried 'neath the flowers and trees, but Peas ain't here. Just the pod. Pea shelled out and went to God".
There you go. That's on a tombstone someplace. Or this one: "Here lies the body of Mary Ann Brown. At death she weighed 400 pounds, but now in sweet repose she rests in peace and rest on Abram's breast". Little boy came along and saw it, thought they need another stanza, so he added, "It may be sweet for Mary Ann, but it's really tough on Abraham". So, I got all these epitaphs, but you know what, folks? The strangest epitaph you'll ever see, and you will see it over and over, you can go to almost any cemetery and you'll see it, here is what it says: "Born August 1, 1930. Entered into eternal life", and then there is a date. And the only thing wrong with that is that's not true. You do not enter into eternal life when you die. You enter into eternal life when you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior.
Jesus said, "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish". Eternal life is described by one Scottish minister as, "the life of God in the soul of man". When I accept Jesus Christ and he comes to live in that vacuum that God created in my heart, eternal life begins, and when I die, it just takes a step forward. So, I am living today. I have eternal life. We say that on occasion, but we don't really stop to think what it means. You don't get eternal life through death. You get eternal life through faith. When you see Jesus Christ and you receive him as your Savior, you become a Christian, the Bible says you have eternal life.
So now, you have eternal life. What does that mean? Well, first of all, it means enjoyment. How many of you know, when you're not a Christian your attitude about Christianity is that you don't wanna be a Christian 'cause it won't be any fun? I had a guy tell me one day, "I'd be a Christian, Dr. Jeremiah, but it'll be really inconvenient for me right now". And what he meant by that was, he'd have to stop doing some of the stuff he was doing because he wouldn't think that would be right for a Christian to do. I'm here to tell you that the greatest joy you'll ever know you will know when you become a Christian. I'm not talking about happiness. I'm not talking about rah, rah, rah. I'm talking about the deep-settled peace in your heart that all is well with you and your Maker.
When you have that kind of joy, you've never experienced it before, you can't have it any other way except through receiving Jesus Christ and eternal life. You will have enjoyment, and then you will have enlargement. When you become a Christian, it isn't God's purpose to shrink you down, but to expand you. He gives you his Holy Spirit, and when the Holy Spirit comes he begins to identify gifts in you that can be utilized for the kingdom. One of the greatest things to see for me is to watch people become Christians, and then watch what happens to them after they become Christians as God begins to use them, and they explode into something far greater than they could ever have believed would be possible of them. Becoming a Christian is not dialing life back. It's turning it up and seeing how God allows you, through your faith, to touch people everywhere you go and to make an impact that you never thought possible.
Eternal life is enjoyment, and it's enlargement, but it's also enrichment. When you become a Christian, you get the Holy Spirit and everything the Holy Spirit brings to you. Your life is enriched. You know, I can say this is a fact. I've been a Christian for many years, and I've been serving the Lord now, as I just discovered, for 50 years as a pastor, and I look back over my life, and I'm just amazed at how God has changed me as a person. Everything that we have started, God got ahold of it. He took it to the level I could never have believed.
You know, back in Fort Wayne, one day I was in my office, and my secretary said, "There's a man here that wants to see you". And he came in, and he said, "Mr. Jeremiah, I'm the president of WPTA Television here in Fort Wayne. I've been here for a number of years, and I've always thought it would be great if we had a live television service for our people in Fort Wayne to watch". And he said, "I would like to suggest and propose that you start television at Blackhawk Baptist Church".
That's where television started for me, and I said, "You know what? That's great, but we don't have any equipment. I wouldn't have the first clue how to do that. How would we start"? "Oh, not to worry", he said. "We just retired a couple of cameras. They're out in the warehouse". He says, "We have a couple of TK RCA-45s out in the warehouse. You can have 'em, and we'll help you use 'em". Now, you probably don't know what an RCA TK-45 camera is, but I wanna tell you it took three people to carry it around. It was huge. Big-box cameras. They brought two of 'em in our church. Nobody ever told me anything about color balancing.
The first Sunday we were on TV, when one camera showed me I was in a green suit, in the other I was in a blue suit. I mean, that's the way it was. One Sunday, one of those old cameras caught on fire, and we had to evacuate the church. All of that way back then when we started, but look at what God has done now. God always saves us, and then, he wants to enlarge us and expand what we can do and take us to a level we never could have believed would be possible.
When I left college, my goal was to be a disc jockey. I was doing that right then. I didn't want to go into the ministry because I thought by going into the ministry I wouldn't be able to fulfill my love for radio. Are you kidding me? I was on a couple of little stations as a disc jockey. "Turning Point" is now on 3,000 stations in America alone. Who does that? God does that. God saves us not only to bring joy to our hearts and to expand our influence, but to enrich us. That's what eternal life is all about. Never forget it. Eternal life is enjoyment, it's enlargement, and it's enrichment.
When you become a Christian those things happen in your life. It doesn't mean you don't have issues, you don't have trouble. You start living life in a whole different way. The Bible says that for 40 days after Jesus had risen from the dead, he was here on this Earth showing himself to his disciples, and then he ascended to heaven. The Bible says in Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 12, "By this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, sat down at the right hand of God". Where is Jesus right now? He's at the right hand of God, and the Bible says he went into heaven, and he sat down. He didn't sit down because he was fatigued. He sat down because he was finished. He had finished what he came to do, and he sat down at the right hand of the Father.
Well, a lotta times children will ask you, "Is Jesus in heaven"? "Yeah". "Is he up there forever"? "Yeah". "What's he doing"? That's kinda what they ask, and we often wonder that, too. What is Jesus doing in heaven? Let me tell you a few things I've discovered from the Scripture. First of all, he's providing for you. At this very moment, he's seated at the supreme place of authority. He isn't resting. He's reigning. Sometimes, I look around, and I wonder, "What in the world is going on"? And I sometimes even say to Donna, "It's like nobody is in charge", but I wanna tell you Jesus is in charge, and no matter what's going on in this world that seems so disconnected to us, so crazy and unresolvable, Almighty God has it all in his hands.
You say, "Well, what if this happens"? Let me tell you what I know. Nothing's gonna happen that Jesus doesn't let happen or want to happen. He's in control, so when you go to bed tonight and you're tempted to worry about what's gonna happen tomorrow in this place or that place, with this leader or that leader, just rest assured it's all under control. We may not see it in the everyday things that go on around us, but I have it straight from the Word of God, on the authority of the Word of God, that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father, and he is in control. Hallelujah.
Here is the second thing. This will surprise some of you. Did you know that Jesus is praying for you? Or you say, "Pastor, that's wrong. I'm praying to Jesus". No, no, Jesus is praying for you. Listen to this. Jesus said to Peter just before Calvary, he said, "Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail". Who is the "I"? Jesus. Jesus said, "Peter, I've been praying for ya", and I wanna tell you on the authority of this and two other Scriptures that he's praying for you. Romans 8 says, "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us". Jesus is making intercession for us. He's praying for us.
Hebrews 7:25, "He is also able to save to the uttermost who come to God through him. He is always living to make intercession for us". I have to promise you that I don't know how this works, but since Jesus is the infinite, eternal God it is absolutely possible for him to at one and the same time be always praying for those of his family, including you and me. And he prays for us before we even know we need prayer 'cause he knows what our needs are. And this week, wherever you go, and maybe you have an interview this week for a job or you're facing a doctor's appointment that you dread, let me just tell you something. Whatever is going on in your life, Jesus is praying for you. When you pray to him, you know he's already praying for you.
The Scripture teaches that. I believe that. I've experienced that in my life. Here is the third thing. He's providing for us, he's praying for us, and he's protecting us. I don't know how he does this, but he has this way of caring for us. This is borne out in one of my favorite benedictions. Listen to this benediction. It's from the book of Jude. "Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy".
Did you know that one of Jesus's roles in heaven is to keep us from stumbling so that one day he can present us faultless before the Father? That's what he's doing in heaven. He's providing for us, he's praying for us, he's protecting us, and here is maybe the one you know best of all: he's providing a place for us, where we're gonna live someday. John 14 says it this way, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also". Jesus is up in heaven getting our residences ready so that when we get there we won't have to get a real estate person to help us find where we're gonna live.
You say, "Well, what are they gonna look like"? I have no idea, but here is what I do know. Jesus took 7 days, 24-hour days, to create the whole world, and we've given him a whole lot more time than that to work on our heaven, so I think it's gonna be pretty good. And if you take the descriptions of heaven that are in the Bible seriously, and I do, it is beyond anything you can imagine. He's getting ready for us, and one day we're gonna be with him, and we'll live with him forever. And you know how I know that? The Bible tells us that. The Bible teaches that. And when does that start? It starts the day, the hour, the moment when you say yes to Jesus, when you accept him as your Savior, and you receive the gift of eternal life. The Bible says this, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord".
I wanna ask you today do you have eternal life? Have you filled that space in your heart that just cries out for God? Are you still trying to figure out some way to bypass God's plan and stuff everything else into that space? I wanna promise you, you will never know joy and satisfaction and peace until you know Jesus. I'd like to ask you to accept him as your Savior today. I'd like to introduce him to you and tell you with absolute confidence that if you make Jesus Christ the Lord of your life today, it will be the absolute best decision you have ever made or will ever make. It will change everything in your life not only here, but in the future. Please don't walk away from that opportunity.