I recently preached a series of messages about life in eternity. I talked about Heaven, Hell, judgment, and eternal rewards. What’s interesting is how many people had never heard anyone teach on the judgment of believers and unbelievers, or the five crowns of reward mentioned in Scripture. Most of them have a church background of some kind. Yet, these churches never discussed major details of what happens after life on Earth ends. As church-going Christians, why don’t we talk about eternity anymore?
The root problem began decades ago with the church growth movement. Seminars and books encouraged pastors to craft their messages around people’s felt needs. In other words, if you want to grow your church, then talk about what people want to hear—themselves! You may remember messages such as: Five Ways to Have a Better Marriage or Ten Ways to Lower Anxiety. I get the need for sermons to be practical. But we’ve gotten so focused on ways to cope in present life, that we’ve lost our perspective on eternal life.
I’m not saying believers have forgotten about Heaven. But most of those who came to me after this sermon series had never connected having an eternal perspective with having purpose in this life. We need to talk about eternity more, and here’s why.
Thinking eternally challenges us to live effectively.
Believers today aren’t coping with more than the early church did. Think about it. The first century church existed in a culture of paganism and perversion. Yet, they thrived through adversity and persecution; not because the apostle Paul taught them how to cope but because he challenged them to cultivate an eternal mindset.
“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1–2).
This eternal perspective made them effective. It enflamed both their evangelism and discipleship, and enabled them to persevere through great adversity. They understood they were being rescued from a passing planet Earth to the permanent kingdom of Heaven.
Thinking eternally changes how we live presently.
Bold Christianity has been greatly affected by cancel culture. Many believers are content with living in a spiritual bunker. Having an eternal mindset challenges us to get out of our comfort zone, to face our self-doubt, and to live with holy boldness. After all, isn’t that what happened with Moses?
Hebrews 11:26–27 tells us, “considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.” Moses was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he thought about eternity.
Thinking eternally encourages us to live ambitiously.
When I brought this point up in one of my messages, someone questioned the biblical foundation for such thinking. The key is having the right ambition. Paul instructed the Corinthians, “Therefore we also have as our ambition…to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:9–10).
Pleasing God in this life is why believers will be rewarded in the next life at the Judgment Seat of Christ. You may still wonder if getting a reward is a proper motivation for wanting to please God. Well, the Bible clearly states that God will reward believers according to our faithfulness. So why would desiring what God wants to give be wrong in any way? Could it be that anxiety is so rampant because our ambitions are so wrong?
Thinking eternally helps us live peacefully.
Anxiety has a strong grip in our present world. As followers of Jesus, we have a great weapon against fear, worry, and anxiety—live each day in anticipation of eternity and in preparation for our heavenly rewards. We each make a choice. We either live with anxiety about what we’ll lose when this life ends, or with anticipation about where we’re going and what we’ll gain.
“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,” (2 Peter 3:13–14).
We live most effectively when we think and behave eternally. As a believer, my focus is not the preservation of this life but preparation for eternal living. Therefore, I’m much more focused on pleasing Jesus than pleasing me. An eternal perspective isn’t a reminder that we’re dying; it’s the glorious hope that we’re moving into our greatest days of living. If we’re looking forward to eternal things, then we should talk about eternity more often.