We have been exploring the subject of eternity over the last three “Follow Me” columns. With this entry the series will be completed. But as it ends, our homework, the hard work, “the heart work,” begins afresh. Up until now we have focused on 1) a vision, 2) a promise and 3) a scriptural display of what constitutes eternity, God’s ultimate home for us with Him.
But first things first! Stepping into eternity means that for now we have to first step back into this world, the present age of human misrule, and move toward God’s promised realm step by step, person by person, heart by heart and need by need in a manner initially foreign and contrary to us. After all, the Kingdom of God is not merely a destination, but a way of traveling through the experiences God allows or places in front of us.
So how do we exist—or, dare I say, spiritually thrive—in the here and now? How do we live in the light of eternity today in a darkened world headed down its own course when Jesus tells us, “Follow Me,” directing us to a road far less traveled by our fellow man? Let’s begin by understanding the ultimate great light of Jesus Christ, which our Heavenly Father has given for us to emulate within our current sphere of influence—providing us a personal glimpse of what makes eternity eternity!
“Let there be light”
It’s always good to start at the beginning of a book to gain a sense of the development of the main characters. So let’s go way back and weave a thread to sew this column together. Genesis 1:1 Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
American King James Version×tells us that in the beginning there was God, who created the heavens and the earth. Then after a time of darkness (verse 2), the first act in renewing the creation was God declaring, “‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (verse 3).
The apostle John, at the beginning of his Gospel, identifies the uncreated light bringer spoken of in Genesis in this way: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:1-5 John 1:1-5  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
 The same was in the beginning with God.
 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
American King James Version×).
Then in verse 14 John identifies this “Word” who was with God the Father as Jesus Christ, declaring Him “the true light,” yet light that the people formed by Him refused to accept (verses 9-10).
Both creation accounts, in Genesis 1 and John 1, emphasize contrast between darkness and light. It’s an analogy lost to a large degree on the world since Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb more than a century ago. That is, until we experience an electrical blackout and reach for a flashlight or light a candle so we can see and move without stumbling, thereby lessening our fear of the unknown. In days gone by, a single candle or oil or kerosene lamp placed by a farmhouse window could pierce the extreme darkness of the countryside as a welcome beacon to a stranger seeking solace in the grip of darkness.
Yes, Jesus of Nazareth in His preexistent role as the Word created light. Beyond that He proclaimed: “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12 John 8:12Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
American King James Version×). Light and life go intrinsically together. Light makes living things grow.
Now let’s go to the end of Scripture and discover one more aspect of this ageless thread concerning light. As we saw last time, the New Jerusalem of eternity to come is described at the end of the Bible in these terms: “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23 Revelation 21:23And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
American King James Version×).
It’s here that the knot of understanding is tied tight. Jesus Christ is the Creator of light in a physical world of darkness, the saving Light in a world that favors spiritual darkness, and the One existing in eternity along with our Heavenly Father (verse 22) who has not only life but light self-inherent. Again, light and life go hand in hand.
Inaugurating the Kingdom of God experience
Some questions then: Do we have to wait till the future for any experience of God’s Kingdom of light and life? Are all its aspects placed on complete hold until a set future time? Just how near is “near” when it comes to experiencing eternity now?
In relation to Jesus saying the “Kingdom of God is at hand” in Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15  Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×, The Interpreter’s Bible states: “This was, beyond all question, the main subject of Jesus’ teaching. The changing climates of opinion have passed over this theme, what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God, more almost than over any other subject in the Gospel . . .
“The kingdom is the reign of God, His sovereignty over mind and heart and will, and in the world. It is sonship to God and brotherly relations with men. It is in the future. But whenever a human life is brought into harmony with the Father’s purpose, it is present” (Vol. 7, 1987, p. 656).
Our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to earth to inaugurate the Kingdom experience. He is the Kingdom personified. He was eternity made flesh to connect with us. The commentary continues: “Jesus called men to repentance as emphatically as did John [the Baptist]. But there is here this notable addition, believe in the gospel . . . Jesus never minimized sin or repentance . . . He proclaimed, ‘A new order is at hand. Get a new mind that fits it.’”
Jesus gave those who trusted His offer of brotherhood, friendship and a brand-new existence a new job description in line with His own: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 Matthew 5:14-16  You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light to all that are in the house.
 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
It would take a while for them to grasp their calling, but they ultimately did on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem when they were “all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1 Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
American King James Version×). The Spirit of God then became theirs.
As New Testament scholar N.T. Wright describes in his book Simply Jesus: “A new power is let loose in the world, the power to remake what was broken, to heal what was diseased, to restore what was lost” (2011, p. 193).
It was a peek at eternity in motion. The disciples’ collective light imbued by the living light of the Spirit of the Father and Christ in them was tangibly noticeable. When hauled before the Jewish authorities, a noteworthy comment is made about the proceeding—those in judgment “marveled” at the boldness of these disciples they deemed uneducated “and they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
American King James Version×).
They were in the truest sense the real deal. The life, the love, the light of the One they had rubbed shoulders with on the roads of Galilee and Judea was now walking inside of them!
So how about us?
We have come to see that eternity is not a realm to be understood through physical measuring instruments like a ruler or clock, but is ultimately about a relationship in a new existence we’re being prepared for in which Christ’s prayer for His followers is fulfilled: “. . . That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us . . .” (John 17:21 John 17:21That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
American King James Version×).
In the course of this series we have peeked into that world in which there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more night, no more shut gates, no more defilement and no more curse (Revelation 21-22).
As we wrap up this peek into eternity, let me again draw your attention in these final chapters of Revelation to the ultimate Eden-like setting in which God dwells and will once again walk and talk with His special glorified creation at last made fully in His image through the mold of Jesus Christ. We are shown a paradise garden flowing with “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal” and “the tree of life . . . [with leaves] for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2 Revelation 22:1-2  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
 In the middle of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
American King James Version×).
Now in conclusion, allow me to share a short thought-filled examination. We can call it the “Living in the Light of Eternity Today Test.” A few instructions first. It’s not multiple choice. (Sorry!) The answers are either yes or no. You don’t have to turn it in. Neither do I, as I’m taking it along with you. God above already knows our answers up to this point in life. Are you ready?
• Do we personally bring life, healing and “times of refreshing” where relationships have died and hope is lost?
• Do we prepare a place in our lives for others who have only known closed doors?
• Do we build walls or do we build bridges in regards to relationships—and who goes first?
• Do we use our ears more than our mouth, and do we exercise patience more than anger?
• Do we seek cures and solutions from Scripture for people whose lives are in pain?
• Do we bring joy into lives filled with sorrow?
• Do we wipe away tears from those who cry, or do we make them cry?
• Do we bring blessings where there have been only curses?
• Do we bring light where only darkness has been known?
Summing up, do people think of us like the disciples of old, recognizing we have been with Jesus? Do they see through the evidence of His presence in our lives as we’ve responded to His invitation of “Follow Me” in the journey toward eternity?
If the exam is tough on you, understand that it’s meant to be. All of us have more homework, hard work and heart work to do in our common pilgrimage toward the realm of eternity.
Till next time, then, stay on the road to eternal life as we respond to Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me.” And always remember the echo of His personal encouragement to every disciple: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 Matthew 28:20Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×). As He lights our way and lives in us, we can also be light, living the future now in anticipation of the fullness of eternity yet to come!