The world we see around us is not the real world. That may come as a shock to many in this materialistic age. We can also add that the body we are presently living in is not our real body. With these two statements we should quickly realize that a great percentage of our efforts in life are being spent chasing after things that are not really real. How sad it is that our time in pursuit of real and lasting things accounts for such a minute fraction of our lifespan on this planet.
Now I don’t want to sound like some oriental mystic and say that everything around us is an illusion. That is not true according to the Bible. Everything in this world is important and is placed here to help us understand and proceed to the world that is real.
All the things we see were created by a loving God. All these things are vitally important to us, and we must be good stewards of them, but these things do not make up the real and lasting world that we should be seeking.
OUR WORLD IS PASSING AWAY
The Bible makes it very clear that the world around us will not last. In 1 John 2:17 we read: “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God
When we look at the Book of Revelation the passing of this world is painted for us in most vivid detail. Because of man’s evil and rebellion, there will finally be a succession of plagues including blood, contamination, crashing asteroids, gigantic eruptions, supernatural locust invasions, disruption of heavenly bodies, etc. When these dreadful plagues are all finished the world and universe as we know them will be finished too. Billions of godless people will die in the process. This is God’s judgment by fire of which 2 Peter 3:7 speaks: “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (cf. Mal. 4:1). The good news is that even though the world is lost, the righteous will survive as we mentioned earlier in 1 John. Then the Bible assures us that we will forever enjoy a new heaven and new earth (2 Pet. 3:13).
All this should not surprise us because we see the world’s passing illustrated every day of our lives. For instance, we see our own physical bodies passing away. Long ago the sin virus crept into the Garden of Eden, and we understand that death has resulted because of it (Rom. 5:14). Indeed, the Bible states quite simply: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Not only do our bodies die, but we are also watching our whole creation decay and pass away. Sin has deeply affected our world and cosmos. Because of it there is death, destruction and decay all around us. The apostle Paul speaks of the creation as being in pain concerning this: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom. 8:22). He makes clear that the creation is groaning for deliverance from the corruption of sin.
This may all sound a bit pessimistic but it should be noted that some of our leading scientists and physicists are beginning to share similar views. For instance, the second law of thermodynamics states that the energy in our universe is being used up; that the universe is actually decaying at a given rate. This is the very thing that Hebrews 1:11-12 talks about when it speaks of the world’s demise in relation to Jesus: “They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe.” So we see that Jesus is the real and lasting one. It is actually Jesus who will orchestrate this evil world’s judgment and ultimate demise.
HOW DO WE DISCOVER WHAT IS REAL?
The Bible records for us many great men and women of God who sought for what is real and lasting. In Hebrews 11:10 we read about our spiritual forefather, Abraham. We see that he is commended by the Lord, “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Father Abraham was in search of unseen things; of a heavenly city.
The great Apostle Paul concludes for us in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Imagine that; everything we can see, even including the heavenly bodies, is passing away. Even the present Jerusalem is in bondage and is passing away. If we focus on all these seen things, we will lose the unseen world and we too will pass away.
Now how can we discover that which is unseen and eternal? The Bible makes clear we cannot do such a thing on our own. It rather instructs us: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down)”or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:6-9).
Pure religion must begin by accepting Jesus and afterward it becomes a lifelong quest for that which is true and real. We see that the revelation of this true, real and unseen world is found in the Bible, God’s holy word. It is sad indeed that the Bible is spurned and ridiculed by so many millions in our “enlightened” society.
So the word of faith; the life-saving word is given to us. The living word, Jesus, has actually come down to live among us in our world (Jn. 1:9-12). This living word is the only one who can introduce us to this real, spiritual and eternal world. He came down from heaven freely giving his life for us. He came to live and then die an atoning death for all of us. Then he was raised from the dead by the mighty power of God. There is no other way into the real world. In fact, Jesus makes this plain by saying: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
SOME ETERNAL THINGS
Now let us think of some things besides God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son that are eternal. Well, the truth of God is eternal as we see in Psalm 117:2 “the truth of the Lord endures forever” (NKJV). Along this same line, the word of God is eternal. Isaiah 40:8 says: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” The Kingdom of God is eternal as is seen in Luke 1:33. It is said of Jesus: “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” It is this kingdom that we are to seek most of all, and God promises if we do this, the necessary earthly things will be added to us (Matt. 6:33).
Let us go on with some more examples. The love of God is eternal for he says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). Then, the life that he grants to us is an eternal life as we see in 1 John 5:11-12: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
We might add that the things we do for the sake of Jesus and his kingdom will also last forever (Lk. 12:33; 2 Cor. 4:17). Years ago I remember seeing a little plaque on the wall that read: “Only one life, twill soon be passed. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” In Matthew 6:20-21 Jesus says: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Obviously things like moths, rust, thieves, decay, death, etc., all serve as continual reminders to us that the world we live in not the real world. None of us will ever be truly satisfied with such a world. There is a very good reason for this and that reason is given to us in Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” Thus we all have a vision of eternity. In each of our hearts we have an inexpressible longing for it. Perhaps the great church father, Augustine, summed it up best long ago when he said: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”*
*St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 1,1.5