I have owned one bottle of cologne in my entire adult life. It’s called “Eternity for Men.” I can’t remember the last time I used it, which is why, after several decades, I still have half a bottle remaining.
Maybe it’s time for me to toss my bottle of Eternity. I don’t know if it’s any better or worse than other colognes, but the designers could have put “Forget about it” on the label and that would have been a great description of how the scent has impacted my life. But the concept of eternity, unlike the cologne, is one I want to remember every day. How about you?
Many of us are like the little kid who, when asked what he thought “eternity” means, said, “I don’t know but it sounds like a really, really long time.” That’s the mystery because, in fact, eternity is timeless.
I recently had occasion to think about eternity from the perspective of two Scriptures that I was asked to read and comment on at the memorial service for Ceil Rosen, wife of Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus. The first passage from Ecclesiastes 3 is often read at funerals, while 1 Corinthians 13 is a favorite at weddings. One of Ceil’s daughters asked me to tie the two together, particularly Ecclesiastes 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 13:12-13. In these two passages we see the gift of eternity, the mystery of eternity, and the promise of eternity.
The gift of eternity
Both of Ceil’s daughters came to know Yeshua (Jesus) through her witness, and both read Scriptures to her and prayed with her often during the last several months of her illness. Ceil seemed to find comfort in Ecclesiastes 3:11 as she and her girls talked about the hope of heaven.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
It’s a good verse to reflect on when the prospect of death can be, frankly, fearful. After all, the very thing that can cause us to fear is evidence of a wonderful gift; we would not be afraid of death if we did not instinctively long for the eternity that God has put in our hearts!
Even our inability to “find out what God is doing from beginning to end” can be a comfort. He’s all knowing and we aren’t . . . we can stop trying to analyze and find answers for why everything happens the way it does, as we enjoy the blessings as well as endure the pain of this life.
The mystery of eternity
God has given us the gift of eternity in our hearts, yet that very gift remains a mystery to us. We can’t wrap our minds around certain painful events any more than we can understand how there can be such a thing as forever. Yet the more we know God, the brighter will be our glimpses of eternity. And the Lord does give us glimpses, hints here and there, whispers of His eternal love for us. These bits of timeless reality are sometimes seen in the lives and loves we enjoy while on earth.
Maybe that is one of the reasons death is so agonizing. In the loving relationships we so cherish while on earth we are experiencing part of the eternity that God has placed in our hearts. When a loved one dies, the longing for forever wells up. Longing rages against loss, and for some that longing turns to despair. But for those of us who have found shelter under the wings of the Almighty through faith in Israel’s Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), that pain we feel so acutely right now as we miss believing loved ones can be mysteriously married with a very real hope. It’s the hope of being reunited with them and with all those who have trusted in God – a hope of being reunited forever in eternity.
The promise of eternity
We can hold the gift of eternity in tension with the mystery of eternity because of this promise:
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
God has put eternity in our hearts and that is why death is so strange and painful. We long to be in the arms of our loved ones, but most of all to fully embrace the love of our Creator. We cannot fathom eternity nor all that God is doing during this fleeting life of ours. But one day we will know, because of the love of God that we experience through Messiah. Meanwhile we are called to love as He loves. Ceil Rosen’s life is a beautiful example of that love: love without pretense, love that doesn’t keep score, love that is full of grace. Simple and powerful. This is the eternal love of God. It’s a love that we can reflect in our lives . . . just as Ceil did in her life.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”∗
This is the love of God in Jesus. Unshakable!
The first album I ever produced as music director for Jews for Jesus was called “Times and Seasons.” One of the songs, “The Seasons of Our Love,” seems to reflect on Ecclesiastes 3 as well as 1 Corinthians 13:
And when time has reached its goal, and the Lord is all in all,
We’ll discover a season without ending,
With the nations gathered home we will sing the endless song,
Praising Jesus the Lord of time for evermore.
And we’ll never miss the springtime of our love,
For we’ll have found a love far deeper than we knew.
Ceil Rosen joined Moishe in the arms of that deeper love on December 7, 2018. We had a wonderful celebration of her life on January 5, which was videotaped.
Some of you may know, without Ceil Rosen, the ministry of Jews for Jesus would not have been born. Many Jews and Gentiles are with God forevermore through the witness of Ceil and Moishe, and they influenced countless people to consider and share the gospel. That’s why I wanted to devote part of this newsletter to her memory.
∗The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis (G.Bles, 1946).