THE THEOLOGY OF ETERNITY
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 7, 2012
 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him,  saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
-- Mark 10:32-34, ESV
Two men were stabbed last Friday. One incident happened in the wee hours of the morning, the other in early afternoon. In the first case, a motorist took a wrong turn into a crime-ridden neighborhood shortly after midnight. He was robbed, carjacked, and stabbed with a knife. The latter case occurred not in the hood, but in the operating room of a local hospital. The surgeon inserted the scalpel in the abdominal area, and then proceeded to remove an infected gall bladder before it ruptured. One stabbing was a frightening crime, the other an amazing, life-saving operation. One stabbing was very bad, the other was definitely good. It all depends on the context.
Christians need to interpret their lives in the correct context. If you look at things according to the context of this earthly life alone, life can look bleak. You have no control over things as a child, you are riddled with anxiety as an adolescent, you struggle to make ends meet as a young adult, lose your life savings to taxes and medical bills in mid-life, then in old age return to the lack of control and anxiety you experienced as a child. But, if you look at this life as a brief opportunity to glorify God and do good to others as you prepare for your eternal reward, life has a deeper meaning. It all depends on the context.
Today I want to teach you, or share with you a lesson that Jesus taught, about the theology of eternity. Theology, or the study of God, is not something stuffy and impractical. It is the most interesting and practical study in the world. In the theology of eternity, we learn to look at life with Godward lenses, through the telescope of eternity, and in the context of God’s great love for His children.
Being a follower of Christ can be frightening, or the most amazing life possible.
In this text, the third time in Mark that Jesus predicts His death (ref. 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34), the disciples of Jesus were both “afraid” and “amazed” at the same time. If their flawed view of the kingdom of God was correct, a great battle awaited them in Jerusalem (identified in this text, but not in 8:31 or 9:31) for worldly power and riches. And though a successful outcome was guaranteed, there would be casualties of war. Fear would be a proper emotion. On the other hand, if Jesus’ view of the kingdom prevailed, with the King dying for His subjects, what would Rome do to the followers of the King after they killed Him? And, how could they get their hands on their “hundredfold” (ref. vs. 30) blessings after Jesus was dead? Such a thing would make any mind bedazzled, confused, filled with wonder, which is what “amazed” means.
The theology of earth says following Christ is frightening. The greatest commodity on earth is freedom, especially the freedom to do as one pleases. But followers of Christ give up that freedom to become bondservants of God. In an effort to please the Lord, we give up our time to build churches that become broken down by inept leaders and dishonest members. We give up our treasure in tithes and offerings and then don’t have enough money to buy the bells and whistles our neighbors own. Some of us surrender career and family to pursue full-time ministry or mission work, and all of us try to be pure in a sex-crazed culture, honest while those who spin it seem to win it, and serious about life while everyone else just wants to have fun. At the end of the day, if Christianity merely means being a good boy while the bad boys have all the fun, then it means nothing. Maybe that’s what Peter meant when he lamented, “We’ve left everything to follow you” (ref. vs. 38). Thinking his life might end in Jerusalem, Peter was “afraid.”
The theology of eternity says following Christ is amazing. What does it mean to be amazed? It means to be pleased at the outcome, even though you can’t figure out how it happened. It means to be pleased with the destination, even though you have no idea how you arrived. It means to trust that someone else has a better plan for your life than you could have ever drawn up for yourself. After following Jesus for three years, “amazed” is the best word that can describe the disciple’s feelings. I’ve followed him for thirty years now, and I feel the same way. Forgiveness for my sins, that’s amazing. Spirit-indwelling and spiritual disciplines I never thought I could do, that’s amazing. The fellowship of true Christians now and the promise of eternal fellowship with them and God, that’s amazing. I cannot explain it, but I gladly accept it. When I trust in Christ instead of myself, then in the theology of eternity, following Christ always makes me “amazed.”
Life is to be interpreted through personal experience, or according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the whole is amazing, how do we interpret the parts? Jesus gave His disciples a wonderful way of interpreting every episode in their lives. The first half of vs. 32 finds them in confusion over where they’d been and where they were going. They may have been second-guessing their entire lives, or at least the last three years in which they had followed Jesus. And instead of Jesus taking each one and explaining what happened to them, “He began to tell them what was going happen to Him.”
The theology of earth says life is about me. Me-ology is the primary philosophy of the day in today’s world and in the typical church. Church members are just as quick as club members to made career decisions based solely on money, make marriage decisions based solely on happiness, and make a myriad of other decisions based solely on what’s best for “me.” It is the spirit of the age and the theology of earth. If that’s what Simon Peter meant by his statement recorded previously in vs. 28, he would have been dead wrong.
The theology of eternity says life is about Him. Take the most painful episodes in your life – the death of a parent, the abandonment by your spouse, the rebellion of a child, or the collapse of your business – and now interpret it by grace through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it as unjust and unfair as the death of Christ? No! Is it as permanent as the death of Christ? Yes, meaning it is not permanent at all. There is resurrection. There is redemption. There is a resurrected, redemptive meaning in everything that happens in this life, although it may not be revealed until the life to come. Now, take the most wonderful episodes in your life – successful marriage, happy children, healthy grandchildren, job promotions, awards, etc. – and interpret it by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Are any of these things greater than gospel salvation? No. Do any of these things make you better than Jesus, or anyone else for that matter? No. Do any of these things make you an important person? Yes, for if you are important enough to God for Him to give His only begotten Son for you, you are important enough to receive a few blessings in this life and even more in the life to come! Now, what are you going to do with your sorrows and blessings? Use them, both, to glorify God and the gospel.
The death of Christ is an insignificant tragedy, or it is the most important event in the world.
All of life all boils down to what a person does with the information Jesus provides in this text. The Son of God and Son of Man deliberately walked into a machine-gun blitz of jealous Jewish leaders, corrupt Roman officials, and indifferent everyday citizens, who together conspired to put Jesus to death, according to the divine permission and intention of God the Father. After which, according to Jesus, and more than a few eye-witnesses, He rose again from the dead.
The theology of earth says the death of Christ means nothing. Most people, in human history, simply don’t care about the cross of Christ. If they believed it even happened, and most do not, it simply does not matter. Life is about freedom, life is about me, I am a good person, I am the captain of my own ship. “I am” is the theology of earth, which is ironic, because God is the great “I Am.”
The theology of eternity says the death of Christ means everything. Because of the cross, God has a way of showing me His eternal love. Because of the cross, God has a way of expending His holy wrath upon sin while saving a sinner at the same time. Because of the tomb, there is a monument to the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And because the tomb is empty, because Christ is risen, there is the hope that all of my problems are redeemable, all of my life is meaningful, and when I die I too shall ascend to Heaven and live forever in the glorious, never-ending kingdom of God.
I do not understand a lot of things in life. I do not understand how electricity turns on a light bulb. I do not understand how the late Neal Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969. I do not understand how a doctor stabbed Courtney Grace twice in the chest two years ago and caused her collapsed lung to heal. These things simply amaze me.
But absolutely nothing is more amazing than the grace of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. It makes life worth living now and promises an unimaginable eternity ahead. So take the theology of eternity with you today, be amazed by God’s grace, let the Lord guide you through this life and beyond.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org