Eternal life, earthly life and God’s glory

Devotional thoughts for January 2021

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... where I discuss the thinking that led to this article.)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:11–13, NIV)

God has set eternity in the human heart. One of the results of our being made in his image is that it’s our nature to contemplate eternity. Two things come to mind. First, this is not true of any other animal. Second, this is what makes our lives on earth transcendent.

Most Christians understand that God has revealed himself through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Some understand that he revealed himself through creation (Romans 1:18-20). Some also understand that he revealed himself through the human conscience (Romans 2:14 -15). But our ability to contemplate eternity is a separate revelation: we are wired to be philosophers. This is why we understand eternity… yet we live full lives in the here and now.

The word “enjoy” in today’s passage is telling, too; it might be the key to understanding the difference between us and the other animals. Only beings who understand the “big picture” — the overarching philosophical themes of the human worldview — can be said to “enjoy” things. The lower animals do not enjoy things on our level. Their lives are driven by instinct. They do not process their experiences philosophically.

That type of processing is unique to us — but it has a downside. We live our lives with the constant pressure of the things we “ought” to do. There are no “oughts” among the animals. When a cheetah kills a gazelle, that is not murder. That’s just Tuesday.

Note also that our “oughts” come in three levels: we have the human conscience. This is our hardwiring; it gives us the sense that we should not murder. Then we have our human intelligence. With this, we learn that we ought not to murder (Exodus 20:13). Finally, we have our spiritual intelligence. With this, we learn, not only that we ought not to murder; we learn that we ought not to hate (1 John 3:15).

Now, these three levels of “oughts” are extraordinarily potent together. Without them, we’d be scattered around the world in tribes — numbering only in the millions. I think this is why God sent the flood. We were probably killing one another at such a rate that we were not filling the earth as God originally commanded (Genesis 1:28). So, the earth needed a reset.

The flood was that reset — and it seems to have worked. To say we have spread across the earth and subdued it would be an understatement. Some say we have subdued it too much! But since the earth exists to promote human flourishing, I think we’re more on track than we are in trouble.

You see, God created the universe for his glory. But without beings like us who can contemplate eternity, there would be no “outside others” with the capacity to give him glory. And without praise from us — created beings who are unique in that we can give or withhold praise — God’s glory would be less… and God — who is the Greatest Conceivable Being — does not exist in any state that is “less” than optimal.

Yet here we are… and it’s hard to explain us away.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20201228 There is extra value in being an eternal being).

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