The journey of an eternity begins with a single step.
Yesterday, we discussed the incredible opportunity that Jesus’s promise of Abundant Life has made available to all of His followers. We learned that God’s Eternal Purpose is to renew, restore, and heal all things, and to unify everything in Heaven and on Earth in Jesus. His promise of abundant life really is a little slice of Heaven on Earth.
We learned that what the Scriptures really teach upends a lot of what we assumed eternity would look like; and even better, we saw that our entire lives & even whole communities can get turned upside down once they grasp the message.
We also learned that, as much as we love our church communities, they’re often not that well set up to produce these kinds of results in the Christian life. Unfortunately, most people haven’t heard the good news this way! I was thankful for the teaching and testimony of one particular believer in my life, who patiently opened up the Bible to me and showed me what was plainly in the Scriptures the whole time.
I know this is all likely very different from what you’ve heard until now. I can hear you saying “but Tim – this all sounds so – complicated! I don’t even know where to begin!”
That’s what we’re here to discuss today – what are the first steps someone needs to take to begin their journey into living in light of eternity? This is something we call The Overlap Life.
I’ve created some resources for you that I think will be helpful – it’s actually the first 3 chapters from my book, and their corresponding sections from the Life Change Guide I created for my book readers. This should give you some practical handles to be able to sit down and do something with this!
So, like most things, it’s best to start at the beginning.
Let’s open up Genesis 1 & 2, the first 2 chapters of the Bible. Let’s read a few verses, starting in verse 1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” — let’s stop there. From the very first verse, there are two distinct spaces – heaven, and earth.
Now, let’s turn all the way to the other end of your Bible, in the last chapters. Let’s read Revelation 21:1 — “Then i saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” Let’s pause there again. It sounds an awful lot like Genesis 1:1, doesn’t it? In fact, there are only 4 chapters in the Bible where everything is exactly as it should be – the first 2 chapters, and the last 2 chapters. In both cases, you have an Overlap of Heaven & Earth, where God is dwelling in the same space as His people.
In the first 2 chapters, God dwells with humans in the garden. In the last 2 chapters, God dwells with his humans once again, this time in a garden city. Both gardens include the tree of life.
In the first 2 chapters, a bride is created out of Adam’s side, and in the last 2 chapters, a bride is ushered in for the Son of God and a wedding feast is celebrated.
In the first 2 chapters we have the beginning of Time, in the last 2 chapters we have the beginning of Eternity.
What’s the point of all this?
The message of the Bible for all believers in Jesus is that what we were created for is what we’re destined for. I’m going to say that again.
The message of the Bible for all believers in Jesus is that what we were created for is what we’re destined for.
And what that means is that we are supposed to live our lives today as though we are on the way toward that amazing eternal reality. We are on the timeline between what humans were created for and what humans were designed for.
Here’s the issue. Most of us read the Bible in a way that ignores almost all of this.
Even if we know otherwise, we live like we believe that humans were totally evil and broken from the very beginning, that God kind of doesn’t really like the world, and that He’s going to save some of us out of it so that he can destroy it in the end and take us all up to be with Him in heaven forever. In other words, we’re ignoring the first 2 chapters and the last 2 chapters of the Bible. Which is a little bit like ignoring the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes of a movie. Nothing in the middle makes any sense.
One last verse. Turn with me somewhere in the second half of your Bible, to Colossians 3, verse 1. Paul’s writing a letter to some Jesus followers, helping them to live in light of the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Here’s what he says.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry..
So, here is how this works. It sounds an awful lot like Paul wants you to live with your thinking on Heaven and NOT on Earth – but he explains what he means by “earthly” stuff – and it’s all sinful! He DOESN’T mean that the Earth itself is sinful and wrong – in fact, in a bunch of other places, like Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15, he talks about how excited he is that this world will get remade!
Here’s the point – in Genesis 1 and 2, there’s an Overlap of Heaven & Earth, right?
And then in Revelation 21 & 22, there’s ANOTHER Heaven & Earth Overlap, right?
Well, Paul tells his readers that they are to imagine that they have also been made an Overlap of Heaven & Earth. He tells them to imagine that they have died, and they are with Christ. And because that is true, now we are supposed to live a certain way.
In other words, Paul wants them to live their life now in light of Eternity later, when we will be made like Jesus and made partners with Him!
What we just laid out is the exact path we need to take, that the Bible itself lays out, in order to live this truth in the contexts of our daily lives.
One person whose life changed drastically due to this message was my friend Richard.
Now, Richard had been raised in a Christian home, and heard over and over that Jesus was “the way to get to Heaven when you die”. Which is just true enough that I won’t argue with it, but it’s also NOT the whole story.
He struggled for most of his adult life thinking that the things he spent his time on were worthless – as if all God wanted him doing was witnessing to unbelievers all the time. His marriage was cold and perfunctory, his job was just a way to pay the bills, provide for his family, and give to the church. And he was tired. So, so tired from all the volunteer programs, church ministries, Wednesday night Bible studies, Thursday morning Prayer Group, and all the other things he had to say “yes” to if he wanted to be a “good Christian”. And he figured it would be that way until he died and went up to heaven to sing to God forever.
This thought worried him, because he actually wasn’t excited about eternity described that way, but he never told anybody about it. And that meant that he was harboring secret fears and worries for decades that he didn’t share with anybody. Richard, like many, was living a half-hearted version of the Christian life, because that’s what he had to do to cope with the belief that everything else in his life was useless because it wouldn’t go with him to Heaven.
Then, he read my book. And he came to discover that God actually loves all the beautiful things in Richard’s earthly life just as much as he did. He learned that God made the physical universe, and called it good. He learned that work, rest, and relationships were all part of humanity’s existence before the fall, and that they would all be part of humanity’s existence after the resurrection.
And he learned how to live his life in light of that fact – suddenly the good news felt good again, and he became very eager to share it. He took opportunities to rest and care for his physical body seriously, because he knew God made him that way on purpose. And his marriage drastically improved because he and his wife discovered newfound hope for their eternal future, and they spent many a date night, with the great gift of joy and life together, enjoying one another – in every sense of that phrase. Talk about a slice of heaven on Earth!
This is the kind of life transformation that is possible when you grasp God’s eternal purpose, the story God is telling, and the role you play within it — and when you have concrete tools for how to live accordingly in the here and now.