At midnight in Sydney as the year 2000 and the new millennium began, the word Eternity lit up on the Harbour Bridge.
The back story is the personal story of 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 St Barnabas’ Broadway, an Anglican Church in Sydney that provided food and shelter for the homeless. However, to get a meal involved first hearing a sermon! Stace turned to Jesus Christ.
One night, at another church, he heard a sermon on Isaiah 57:15: For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits Eternity, whose name is Holy;… “I wish that I could sound or shout Eternity to everyone in the streets of Sydney,” the preacher said. “We’ve all got to meet it. Where will you spend Eternity?” Taking up the challenge, the almost illiterate Arthur Stace, started chalking Eternity, in a distinctive copperplate script, on the streets of Downtown Sydney. Over 35 years he chalked it 500,000 times. Eternity became the mystery and the fascination of Sydney.
And how important this word is for our world today – a world challenged by a pandemic with its drastic health, social and economic consequences. Eternity opens up a new way of looking at life.
New life. In his Letter to the Colossians, chapter 3:1 Paul the Apostle writes: So if you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. In Colossians 1 and 2 Paul tells us that with the coming of Jesus Christ the new age of God’s kingdom has dawned. This new age co-exists with the old which the New Testament refers to as the world. For the present a door is open, allowing people to pass from the old age to the new. In Colossians 1:13 he puts it this way: God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…
When we come to our senses and turn to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our whole relationship with God changes. In Colossians 2:20 Paul speaks of everyone who turns to Christ as dying with him. Now in Colossians 3, he says: So if you have been raised with Christ…
New perspective. While physically we are still in the old world, God’s people now move in the sphere of resurrection life. And Paul wants the light of this sphere of eternity, to fall on everything we say and do. ‘Live,’ he says, ‘as though you belong, not on the earth, but in heaven.’
Now, it’s natural to let the concerns of this world dominate our hearts. But Paul urges everyone who has this new life in the Lord Jesus, to see the challenges and troubles of life through the lens of their new resurrected and eternal life.
Because Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God, he sits on the throne of holiness and great power. No longer should we feel that we are helpless victims of a troubled world with all its faults and failures, disease and death. And when we truly see that life now is fleeting, we will experience a greater joy and peace as we center our lives more and more on the Lord Jesus.
Paul develops this: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God, he says in verse 3. From God’s perspective, everyone who lives without him is dead. We may be healthy and enjoying life, but as far as God is concerned, we are dead. However, when we truly turn to Jesus Christ, God raises us up to a new life with Christ.
For the present others only see our physical bodies. The reality of our new and eternal life is hidden. Indeed, because those around us cannot see, let alone understand the life we now have, there will be misunderstanding, mockery and even anger at the lifestyle changes they observe. But, because our faith is grounded in the God who keeps his promises, what is now hidden will one day be disclosed. Everyone will see it. Paul puts it this way in verse 4: When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
In today’s world of scientific progressivism, the idea of Christ bursting through the skies in a blazing display of power and glory, seems pure science fiction. But the Bible leaves us in no doubt. From cover to cover it tells us that the world is going somewhere and that the final outcome will be the return of God’s king.
Do you realize that it is only some twenty-eight life spans ago – a life span being 70 years – since the events of the death and resurrection of God’s Son? During the course of his public life Jesus had predicted these events. He also spoke of his return. In the same way that his death and resurrection were fulfilled, is it not conceivable that his third prediction will also take place?
And when he returns, what a day that will be! This present age will be seen for what it is – passing. And the pure joy and glory of God’s people will be manifest for what it is, an experience of life in all its fullness, for all eternity.
Eternity awakens our minds to see life now through the longer lens of a time without end – of God’s country.
It is nothing short of a miracle that Arthur Stace’s one-word sermon on New Year’s Eve of the new millennium was seen by an estimated four billion people around the world. In this troubled world, let’s live in the light of eternity and the return of God’s King.
A Prayer: O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: do not leave us desolate, but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to where our Savior Christ has gone before, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore. Amen.