Eternity. Some years ago I made reference to the Sydney-born Arthur Stace. Born in poverty to alcoholic parents, he had little education and became a petty criminal, an alcoholic and homeless. In the aftermath of World War II, he joined the lines outside a church that provided food and shelter for the homeless. But all who were fed also heard a sermon! It was through this ministry that Arthur Stace became a committed Christian.

One night he heard a sermon on the text of Isaiah 57:15For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits Eternity, whose name is Holy; “I dwell in the high and holy place, with also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

The preacher stressed the point: “Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You’ve got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?”

Compelled by this exhortation, Stace, though almost illiterate, started writing in chalk in the early hours of the morning on the streets of Sydney the one word, ‘Eternity’. Written in a distinctive copperplate script, it is reckoned he wrote Eternity over 500,000 times. Eternity became the mystery and fascination of Sydney. My wife and I both remember seeing the word Eternity chalked on the side-walk at street corners in the city.

The word eternity awakens our minds to a larger picture of life and meaning – to a ‘time without end;’ to ‘another world;’ to ‘perfection;’ to ‘God’s Country’. From cover to cover the Bible tells us that the world is going somewhere and that the final outcome will be the coming of the Christ in power and great glory, to establish God’s kingdom and a new heaven and a new earth.  Eternity will become a reality.

The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has put the sense of eternity into each one of us (3:11). Indeed, deep down most people throughout the world have a sense there will be life beyond the grave.

In the New Testament Jesus gives us assurance of this. On the night of his betrayal and arrest he comforted his disciples: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many roomsIf it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-2).

In our troubled, uncertain and divided world where there are so many voices, we easily forget that God’s great plan is to open up the possibility of life with him in all its beauty and joy forever. The Season of Advent reminds us that because Christ has come, has died and been raised to life, we can be assured of his promise that he will come again and take us to be with him.

Scoffers. Amongst the verbal noise of today are the scoffers, who talk down the Christian hope of eternity as nonsense, a fairy tale for children. Such opposition is not new. In 2 Peter 3:2 we read: First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation !”

It seems that in Peter’s day God’s people were regarded as crazy because they believed that Jesus of Nazareth not only died and rose again but would return one day as God’s King. Certainly, the idea of Christ bursting through the skies in a blazing display of power and glory, is not an idea that anyone can easily accept. And if it was hard to believe in the first century, it is much harder for us to believe after some twenty centuries have come and gone.

But consider Peter’s words: This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles (2 Peter 3:1).

In Peter’s day, as today, it was in the interest of the false teachers to ignore the idea of Jesus’ return because they wanted to retain their selfish and licentious lifestyle. If we want to live our lives our way, the last thing we want to think about is God’s coming judgment. But 2 Peter 3 is insistent: the day will come when Jesus will return in all his power and glory as judge of us all.

Peter’s reference to the prophets and apostles is of fundamental importance. Our authority for our response to the skepticism around us is the Bible. Sadly, there are some theologians and church leaders who want to deny the second coming of Christ. But the fact is that the Bible leaves us in no doubt about the return of the Christ.

In the story of Arthur Stace we have a remarkable illustration of the power of God’s gospel to touch and transform lives. It was nothing short of a miracle that his life was changed and that he became committed to getting the essence of God’s gospel out to Sydney. The message from one insignificant man reached the world – for on New Year’s Eve at the start of the 21st century, his one word was emblazoned across Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Will you join me in praying that all of us will use the gospel opportunities we have, especially over the Advent and Christmas seasons?

You may want to check out 3 Modules re ‘Outreach’ on the Anglican Connection website. The Modules have been drawn from seminars I have been giving in various cities this year. Here is the link: https://anglicanconnection.com/outreach-christmas-beyond/

© John G. Mason, Anglican Connection

Note 1: Please let me know if you wish to add others to this list.

Note 2: If you wish to be removed from this list, reply with ‘Please remove’ in the subject line.