Looking at Things Eternal

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” —II Corinthians 4:17,18

THE ability to see is one of our most precious gifts from God, surpassing every other sensibility we possess in complementing life with usefulness, beauty, and human dignity. The natural eye is limited, however, reaching out only as far as its created boundary, to the material world for which it is so wonderfully adapted. Though now marred for a season by the ugliness of sin and death, this world evidences its potential for splendor in the natural beauty and fruitfulness which still survive within its soil, and in the hearts of man, and in God’s promise of their glorious future, seen and appreciated by the eye of faith. (Ps. 8:5; Isa. 66:1; 60:13) This eye of faith is even a still more precious gift from God than our natural eyesight. “Blessed are your eyes, for they see.” (Matt. 13:16) This ability to see, understand, grasp, and lay hold on spiritual truths is spiritual insight, and this cherished gift from God is given through his Holy “Spirit of truth.”—John 16:13

Our text reminds us that this world is temporal, fleeting, but for a moment, marked out by the few short years of our life-span upon earth. But for those of us now consecrated to the service of God, the transitory quality of our earthly lives is even more clearly defined because, by contrast, we are looking at, yearning for, and seeking the unseen, eternal things. The Apostle Paul has here given us the key to living fully consecrated lives. Our spiritually enlightened eyes enable us to live our days complemented with dedicated, useful service; in the beauty of holiness; and in the dignity of Christian integrity, following the exemplary pattern, Christ Jesus.

Although it is true that we are not “of the world” (John 17:16,18), the necessities and responsibilities of providing for our essential requirements as natural human beings living in this world are impossible to ignore. The apostle is not suggesting to us extreme or radical action in the form of isolation or reclusion from society. No, rather, his many letters to the churches contain more than adequate advice concerning our earthly responsibilities—civic, family, and other duties. These needs and obligations require, at times, a great deal of our attention. But, the apostle says, our eyes are not fixed on the things of this life. Our eyes are focused on our clear goal of reaching the unseen things.—Ps. 57:7; Phil. 3:13

What are some of the unseen things that our blessed eyes can behold, enabling us to cry out to our Heavenly Father that he and our Lord Jesus are “more present to faith’s vision keen, than any outward object seen; more dear, more intimately nigh, than e’en the sweetest earthly tie”? In Colossians 1:25-27 (NEB) the Apostle Paul wrote, “I became its [the church’s] servant … to deliver his [God’s] message in full; to announce the secret hidden for long ages and through many generations, but now disclosed to God’s people … to make known how rich and glorious it is in you, the hope of glory to come.” Looking with the eyesight of spiritual understanding, we view a coming age, a hope of glory to come, a glimpse of which few have been privileged to see. Even the holy angels, who were God’s faithful servants for century-long eons and who desired to understand God’s plans and purposes, were denied the privilege to see until it became time in God’s plan for this revealment. (I Pet. 1:12) But we can gaze upon a world of heavenly beauty, glory and majesty, order and peace, righteousness, life and vitality that is beyond human description or comprehension. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.”—I Cor. 2:9,10

One unique particular of that Biblical vision of the new age to come which has been portrayed for us is its eternal character. “For the things that are seen are temporal,” they pass away, “but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Since the time when the closed doors began to open to us, and we have had a glimpse into this unseen world of mystery, our eyes have begun to see God! We have seen the grandeur and glory of his great attributes—justice, wisdom, love and power—all working together in perfect synchronization. In the loving plan he devised, his majestic being and name is proclaimed: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exod. 34:6,7) Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of God as “the high and lofty one who inhabiteth eternity” (Isa. 57:15); only his eternity extends into the infinity of the past as well as the future. In Psalm 90:2 we read, “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” God’s concept of time deals with eternity—he plans for eternity.

Through the Apostle Paul we are told that “he [God] has chosen us in him [in Christ] before the foundation of the world.” (Eph. 1:4) How far back Paul was looking, spanning the long epochs to the time before the foundation of the world! In a limited way, science has been able to measure creative time relative to our planet through the analysis of mineral matter which comprises the earth. As a result, geologists believe that these processes have been going on for over ten million years. Astronomers, through a different line of study concerning cosmic light sources and the traveling of emitted light throughout the universe, estimate the existence of matter at millions of light years. God’s plans, of course, extend to eternity.

“Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” “He has made known to us his hidden purpose.” (Eph. 1:8,9—RSV and NEB) It was God’s will that his faithful people of the Gospel Age, those motivated by love to choose the path of sacrifice, following in their Master’s footsteps, would know something of his eternal purposes—his secrets. His Word informs us “that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” (Eph. 1:10) The Christian, through his eye of faith, is looking ahead and praying for the reality of this vision of harmony and beauty. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:10

“In whom [in Christ] also we have obtained an inheritance,” continues the apostle in Ephesians 1:11. This inheritance, so far beyond the ability of the natural mind to comprehend, we see with new eyes that overstep the dimension of the present and pierce the limits of human reasoning. Paul refers to them as the “eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” (Eph. 1:18) Phillips renders this passage so beautifully: “That you may receive that inner illumination of the Spirit which will make you realize how great is the hope to which he is calling you—the magnitude and splendor of the inheritance promised to Christians.” This is our eternal inheritance, if we are faithful even unto death. This is God’s eternal plan for his church.

As splendid and magnificent as these promises are, they are a goal that we can reach! Not in our own power or wisdom can we attain, but through the boundless power and wisdom of Jehovah God. “And how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. That power is the same divine energy [mighty power—King James] which was demonstrated in Christ when he raised him from the dead and gave him the place of supreme honor [at his own right hand—King James] in heaven.” (Eph. 1:19,20, Phillips) We think of the wisdom and power required to design, create, and sustain in perfect order the vast array of galaxies and their innumerable billions of celestial bodies. But then we realize that they are all inanimate objects. The smallest animate creature is a higher creation—it has life! And in raising Christ Jesus from the grave to glory, honor, and immortality and placing him at his own right hand with the same divine nature that God has always possessed, we see the greatest unveiling of God’s power! Paul tells us that this same mighty power is being exercised toward us, guiding our lives, and teaching us his righteous ways. If we are faithful, this same great power will also resurrect us to a similar nature—the divine nature. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”—II Pet. 1:4

From all outward appearances we are just as much subject to the environment of the temporary world in which we live—that is of sin, sickness and death—as the entire world of mankind. But looking again with our eyes of understanding and from God’s viewpoint, we realize the immeasurable gulf between our situations. All men are still under the curse of death. Except that we have passed from death unto life through faith in Christ Jesus, we too would still be under that condemnation. But “there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1; John 5:24; I John 3:14) True, we are still subject to death, but our faithful Lord Jesus also had to experience the hold of death’s grip. He died as a sacrifice for man’s sins, and we are also bidden to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God.—Rom. 12:1

There are things in our present lives which are not temporal, they will not pass away. The Apostle Peter, in enumerating some of them, says that through the possession of these eternal things now, we can obtain the fruition of the promise: “According as his divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness … whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.”—I Pet. 1:3,4

We are told to diligently cultivate these qualities of grace in our lives, for they are eternal. First, Peter mentions the element of faith. Faith in God is a handhold on eternity. Because of the many enemies—the world, the flesh, the devil—who desperately try to make us lose our faith, our lives are referred to as a fight of faith. “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” (I Tim. 6:12) And our weapon in this battle is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” the truth.—Eph. 6:17

“Add to your faith virtue.” Virtue is eternal. We must live with positive Christian integrity, not only abstaining from evil or harm, but acting with goodness and love at every opportunity. This preparation will ready our hearts for the future work of restoring and blessing all the families of the earth. Virtue will eternally be at work when, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, all things will be gathered together in Christ, both in heaven and on the earth. “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”—Rev. 5:13

Add to virtue knowledge. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. Length of days [eternity] is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor.” (Prov. 3:13,16; 2:1-6) It is our privilege to have a glimpse of God’s plans and purposes now, but it will take forever to know and appreciate God fully. This gift of knowledge is another handhold on eternity.

“Add to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love].” We are told in I Corinthians, chapter thirteen, that all these graces are elements of love. And we know “love will never come to an end. In a word, there are three things that last forever: faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of them all is love.” (I Cor. 13:8,13, NEB) “God is love;” God is eternal.—I John 4:16; Deut. 33:27

Peter tells us that any man who does not earnestly cultivate these earmarks of Christian character is “blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall, so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—II Pet. 1:9-11, RSV

Our enlightened eyes show us that the “sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”—Rom. 8:18; II Cor. 4:17

Dawn Bible Students Association
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