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Trying to Catch a Cloud: Why We Have a Hard Time Envisioning Eternity...and How We Can Change It! 


“Forever.” 


I’ve always been drawn to the emotional romanticism of that word. From the time I was young, I remember belting it out in any number of 80’s rock ballads (still my vote for the greatest genre of music ever :)


“We'll live forever, knowing together that we did it all for the glory of love.” 

 Glory of Love, Peter Cetera


“I’m forever yours, faithfully.” 

Faithfully, Journey


“Be courageous and be brave, and in my heart you'll always stay forever young.”

Forever Young, Rod Stewart


“I’ll be loving you forever. Just as long as you want me to be.”

 I’ll Be Loving You (Forever), New Kids on the Block


When I got into the church in the mid-90’s, I found that “Forever” had a lot of staying power there too:


“I could sing of your love forever.

I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, Delirious


“I sing for joy at the works of your hands. Forever, I’ll love you. Forever, I’ll stand."

Shout to the Lord, Darlene Zschech


Forever, God is faithful. Forever, God is strong.

Forever, God is with us. Forever.”

Forever, Chris Tomlin


“Forever” is how we express the total abandon of ourselves in language only the infinite can capture. But “forever” is also a reality that we have a hard time placing our hope in. When God speaks of eternity, He says that His plans are greater than anything we have the capacity to ask or to even imagine (Eph. 3:20), but if we’re being honest, most of us have an imagination problem. I think there are several good reasons. 


For starters, “forever” is beautiful, but it’s also kind of scary. We have no grid for “forever.” All of our lives and all of our practical experience in recorded history has ‘come and gone’ in finite spaces. Even good things have all had to come to an end. We have no firsthand experience of “forever” to compare. 


I remember the first time I heard about ‘eternal life’ in Sunday School, it filled me with panic. “What if I don’t like ‘forever,’” I thought. Goodbyes might break our hearts, but there is also something comfortable in the temporal that makes us still feel we are in some way ‘in control.’ 


Many of us have difficulty allowing our souls to rest in the hope of a life filled with dimensions entirely unknown to us. So, we either largely ignore it, or we base all of our projections concerning the unseen using the flawed logic and scarce resources of what we’ve seen. Either way, we stay ignorant of God’s most potent promise of hope as we keep clinging to what’s familiar


We need a gift of divine grace. Like John in Revelation, our souls need to peek behind the curtain to glimpse a vision of coming glory that can become an anchor for the tides of our ever-changing emotions. Here are three promises God gives about “forever” to help elevate our gaze and align our hope. 


“Forever” will be MORE REAL than anything we’ve ever experienced. 


Think for just a minute how we’ve portrayed heaven in media and cartoons. Precious Moments babies in diapers, floating around on clouds, playing harps. Adults in togas, subdued and super serious. (It also doesn’t seem like anybody’s heard a good joke there in a while.) There is always LOTS of fog…like a concerning amount of fog filling some eternal ‘waiting room' where everyone’s in a wispy dreamlike state. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot more like a welcome brochure for hell than anything I can look to for hope. 


We fear heaven because, even with all of its brokenness, we love this life and we’re afraid to lose it. But here’s the deal: the same architect who built this world in 6 days has been preparing the world to come ever since, and He says that this is “not even worth comparing” to what awaits us (Rom. 8:18)


God says that our lives on earth is:


“A mere breath” (Ps. 39:5)

“A vapor” (James 4:14)

“Outwardly wasting away” (2 Cor. 4:16). Thanks, Paul. I feel that one

“Futility” (Ps. 89:47)

“Grass blown by the wind” (Ps. 103:15-16).

“Groaning in a tent” (2 Cor. 5:1, 4).


This is the shadow (Ps. 144:4). That will be the substance (Heb. 10:1).


This is the tent we groan in (2 Cor. 5:1-4). That will be the home we delight in (Jn. 14:2)


This is the dream (Ps. 90:5-6). That will be finally waking up. (Rom. 13:11).


Though it is hard to imagine, you have not yet arrived as awake, aware, or alive as what awaits! 


“Forever” will be leaving fuzzy pictures and static for High Definition:


I remember the days when our TV’s could only get a handful of channels, and even these had to be expertly negotiated through gymnastics with rabbit-ear antennas. The picture was always grainy. The dialogue was littered with static. And no matter where you positioned the antenna, the reception was never reliable. Whatever worked yesterday gave no guarantee you’d be able to tune into anything today. Do you see where I’m going?


“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12


We don’t yet see God as He is. The best we have are grainy images. But one day soon, God is going to greatly upgrade our reception (1 Jn. 3:2, Rev. 22:5). Can you hear the awe of John in the book of Revelation as he tries to communicate the wonders of heaven in words we’ll be able to grasp? For sure, some of the imagery points to prophetic fulfillments of promises long ago, but I think there’s a lot more going on here. The beloved is also taking in realities for which this present world has no correlation.


How would you describe a color or a texture you’ve never seen before? 


What if you found yourself suddenly experiencing senses beyond the five we’ve been taught define our capacity? 


Do you think if we’ve only explored 4% of the ocean and of the realms of our universe, perhaps God holds myriad expressions of Himself we’ve yet to see? Heaven will be stepping out of the shadows of our fuzzy images in this world, and turning the lights on to realities we don't even presently have the ability to express. And it will mean never needing to wrestle to position our antenna in order to see again.


“Forever" will be Eden undiluted, unambiguous, and unhindered.


“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis


All of us have longings, an insatiable hunger which cannot be fully exhausted in our days on earth. We desire to go back before shame and sin, sickness and stealing; before separation. We long for intimacy and security, for peace and unrestrained joy. Whether we know it or not, we’re all longing for Eden. Somehow, the Story our King is writing is even better


“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:3-5


We will not be merely restored to innocence. We will live in unbroken intimacy


We will not simply be ‘bought back.’ We will stand as His Bride


God will not simply walk with us in the cool of the day. Somehow, our hearts will completely walk as one with Him


“Forever.”


May God grant you grace today to hope and grab a hold of the unspeakable glory that is to come. 


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