Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsThursday 10 Dec 2020Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes
One of the really interesting songs that came out of 1986 was the song “Who Wants to Live Forever” by the British rock band Queen. It did very well, and is still considered a classic hit today. It was used in several movies including Highlander, where Connor MacLeod must endure his wife Heather growing old and eventually dying, while he is immortal and remains forever young.
It’s a fascinating question: who wants to live forever? I imagine everyone wants to live on beyond their allotted span of 70 to 100 years on this earth. Woody Allen famously said: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work—I want to achieve immortality through not dying”. Immortality is still seen as a good thing—the movie Pirates of the Caribbean was about a group of pirates who are condemned to live forever without any feeling; they can’t eat or drink or do any other things that pirates want to do.
What about The Lord of the Rings? The immortal elf Arwen cursed immortality as a gift. But all this, of course, is a negative view of immortality. Most of us still like the idea of living forever. The ancient Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul—at death the soul went to live on forever.
Fear of Death—and Immortality!
Today when people call something eternal, they usually exaggerate. Eternity has become almost a figure of speech—I waited an eternity for her says the cranky husband explaining why his wife was 20 minutes late for dinner. A minister asked a group of young people in his church if they wanted to live forever. The answers were quite a surprise. They replied with their own question Who wants to live forever? Why would they shy away from life that went on forever? Some said they didn’t know. Some said they didn’t want to be old, no pain, didn’t want cancer or anything else like that. Some sounded rather pessimistic about life. I like being 27 said one.
In 1948 the American academic Robert Ettinger wrote a short story for a magazine. It was about a man who was revived after centuries of being frozen. Then in 1964 he wrote The Prospect of Immortality—a book about freezing real people in the hope that future science will resurrect them, repair and rejuvenation, transplants, organ culture and regeneration. When Robert Ettinger died at 92 years, he became the 106th person to be frozen at a special institute. Followers of this procedure believe cold storage is preferable to the grave. It gives them hope of a wonderful afterlife. Sadly, that’s not possible. The Christian faith has a better answer than having your body thawed in the hope of being revived.
I think in the end the entire subject of immortality is based on fear—fear of terminal death and of endless life. What’s the point of clinging onto life if there is no hope of God or eternal life with him? The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the big announcement of life for everyone who believes in him. It’s the only life that can be truly called ‘eternal life, everlasting life’. Jesus talked like this quite often when he was on earth. In John’s gospel chapter 11 he said to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will not die”.
We Are Made for Eternity
In the story of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves a court jester was one day sentenced to death by the caliph, the supreme religious leader. The court jester used to entertain the caliph and his court at Baghdad—but this day his joke was not appreciated, and he was condemned to death. But the leader said, “I will let you choose how you are to die”. His reply was: “O most generous Caliph. If it’s all the same to you, I choose death by old age”. Clever response!
Here’s a theological question for you today: If we are meant for Heaven, why do we cling so much to life? Perhaps we don’t understand that well what’s going on inside us: We are made for eternity. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”. That’s the answer we’re looking for. God has set eternity in each of our hearts. We feel we are meant to live forever.
What this means basically is we have an inborn instinct that longs for immortality. Rick Warren in his book The Purpose Driven Life explains it very well: “God designed you in His image to live for eternity. Even though we know everyone eventually dies, death always seems unnatural and unfair. God wired our brains with this desire”. Yes, of course it seems very strange and not logical. We can’t work out what that means.
Let me quote Rick Warren again:
What is it going to be like in eternity with God? Frankly, the capacity of our brains cannot handle the wonder and greatness of Heaven. It would be like trying to describe the internet to an ant. Words have not been invented that could possibly convey the experience of eternity. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.