The Bible testifies that God’s children, who will inherit salvation, are citizens of heaven (Php 3:20). As heavenly citizens, we must set our minds on things in heaven rather than things on earth. God does not want us, His children, to be bound to our physical life alone. So God teaches us to live for eternal things that we will enjoy when we return to heaven.
As everyone has certain rights and duties as a citizen of a country on this earth, so each and every one of us has certain rights and duties as a citizen of heaven. Let’s find out what our life on this earth means to us and what we should do now for eternal life that we will enjoy in the future.
Humans are living a life limited to time and space on this earth; they are confined to the planet earth and have a limited life span. So they think of the visible world as real and only run for their earthly life; they devote everything they have—their youth, passion and effort—to their life on this earth. However, the Bible shows that there exist not only the visible world but also the invisible and eternal world beyond the limit of time and space.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Co 4:16–18
The visible world is only temporary. If we only believe in what is seen and just live for transient things, our life will fade away and disappear with the passing of time, although it may seem gorgeous and splendid right now. And we will finally end up just feeling that everything is empty and meaningless.
God has taught us that the invisible world is the true and eternal world. Since we are children of God, we should rely on God’s word and live for eternity, looking forward to the invisible world. We need to always examine ourselves to see whether we are losing the eternal things, being enraptured by the temporary things, or if we are spending every moment of our life on eternal things.
The reason God has allowed us to have a short life span on the earth is to let us know the vanity of life which is but a point in time and to realize the true value of invisible, eternal things so that we can go to the everlasting world. The book of Ecclesiastes clearly shows us God’s teaching that we should live for the everlasting world with eternity in our hearts, turning away from our transient and empty life.
Those who value wealth above everything else will devote their whole life to making a fortune. And those who value learning above all else will devote their entire life to storing up knowledge. But Solomon, who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, said that all those things are meaningless because they are only temporary, not eternal.
Solomon, the son of David and the third king of Israel, is famous for his exceptional wisdom and knowledge as well as for his great wealth and honor. He possessed a lot of servants and livestock and stored up so much wealth; he also built a splendid palace and had so many beautiful wives and concubines as well. He did everything he wanted, just as he said, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” At the end of his life, however, he came to the conclusion that everything he had toiled to achieve was meaningless and wearisome, saying, “The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing” (Ecc 2:3-10; 1:8).
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? . . . All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow. I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. I devoted myself to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. What a heavy burden God has laid on men! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind . . . Ecc 1:1–18
Even Solomon, who lived the kind of life that everyone would most like to live, concluded in his later years that life was vanity, saying that everything on this earth is meaningless and futile. It was because he realized that all the wealth and honor he had enjoyed throughout his life were only temporary and that everything he had worked for was in vain after all.
Human beings run so swiftly like an arrow, like a bullet from a gun, focusing only on the things that are transient and short-lived, thinking that their life on this earth is everything, because they do not know the eternal world. But if they look back upon the past at the last moments of their life, they will realize that all their labor at which they have toiled under the sun is in vain. If God had not awakened us to this fact, we would also have wasted all our precious time in our life without knowing the eternal world, indulging in temporary things, as the people of the world do.
However, God has called us to Zion and awakened us to the fact that there exists the eternal world where we can enjoy greater happiness, peace, joy and pleasure than those that we have pursued on this earth. God has also taught us how to live our life in the wisest way and has changed our life by allowing us to prepare for the eternal world, not just for transient things anymore.
Solomon finally realized what human beings should value above everything else, and stated at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes as follows:
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” . . . Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him─before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” . . . Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. Ecc 12:1–14
In Ecclesiastes 12, it says, “. . . the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’” Here, “the years” means the twilight years. And it also says, “Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets.” This refers to the time when man dies. The above verses show that everything we have toiled to achieve for our earthly life is ultimately meaningless, a chasing after the wind, in the face of death.
Life sometimes feels long or seems to last forever, but it passes by so quickly; human life is, indeed, nothing but a breath. If we are only bound by what is momentary, we cannot help but live a meaningless and futile life. Even the heroes like Alexander the Great and Napoleon uttered the same words as those of Solomon at the last moments of their lives; they said that though they had run their whole life for their dreams and ambitions, they finally came to the conclusion that everything was empty and meaningless.
When Alexander the Great looked back over his life on his deathbed, he lamented deeply after realizing that it was less than 3.3 ㎡ of space for his tomb that he could occupy, although he had conquered such a large territory by killing so many people and defeating a lot of countries. So before his death, he told his generals: “When you carry my coffin to the grave, let both my hands hang out of the coffin, so the public can see my empty hands while I am leaving the world.” He wanted to tell people that life was so meaningless by showing that even the one who had the whole world in his hands ultimately ended up leaving the world empty-handed.
Like this, the vanity and emptiness of life for temporary things on this earth can only be deeply understood by those who reach the end of their lives. As for us, however, before our lives end up meaningless, God has set eternity in our hearts and let us realize this fact: To fear God and keep God’s commandments is the whole duty of man, and that is the way to obtain eternal life and go to the everlasting world.
God has given us a precious blessing—“eternal life”—to lead us to the eternal world where nothing is futile or meaningless. And God has also taught us how not to live a vain and meaningless life—what kind of life we should live on this earth. That is the “life of an evangelist” whose duty is to preach the truth God has taught us.
Preaching the gospel is the act of serving and sacrificing for other people’s salvation, not just for our own, and for the eternal world. When we have the spirit of service and sacrifice for others, when we earnestly pray to God for them and love them with the heart of God, lowering ourselves, we can preach in a gracious way and lead a soul to salvation. God is pleased with that kind of preaching.
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 1 Th 2:3–4
Preaching the gospel is the work that pleases God. The Bible says that the gospel is something that has been entrusted to those who are approved by God. So, those who preach the gospel are truly the ones who live for eternity, because they are doing the work of proclaiming the eternal world and leading people to that world.
We should make efforts to live for eternal things, not for transient things, by preaching the gospel to many people around us without remaining silent. In the process of preaching the gospel, we may be persecuted and insulted by people around us, but it is only temporary. This will ultimately enable us to receive a medal when we go to the eternal heavenly kingdom and it will become a splendid career which proves that we have participated in suffering for the kingdom of God. That will also be a source of good pride for us and the subject of our talk forever in the kingdom of heaven, although it is just a short period of time in our earthly life.
So the prophet Daniel wrote in the Bible, “Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever.” As God’s children, we all need to get rid of the foolish thought of giving up on the gospel without enduring temporary hardships, and we have to preach the gospel faithfully in obedience to God’s pleasing will, looking forward to a medal which each of us will receive in the eternal kingdom of heaven.
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Lk 15:3–7
Jesus says that if we lead a sinner to repentance, we can please God more than the ninety-nine righteous persons do. Saving each and every soul is something that pleases God so much and it is the work for eternity.
Would you choose to live for temporary pleasures on this earth or for eternal delight you will enjoy in the kingdom of God? It depends on your decision. However, your moment of decision will decide your destiny forever.
Now we have the opportunity to store up blessings, but if we return to the kingdom of God, we cannot change anything—neither our time we have spent on this earth nor our traces we have left behind. During this precious time of opportunity given to us by God, let us make a decision worthy of God’s will and live a beautiful life for eternity, not a vain and meaningless life for temporary things.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Co 15:58
Solomon said that all the labor at which man toils under the sun is utterly meaningless. However, Apostle Paul emphasized that our labors and efforts for the work of God are never in vain.
We used to live in a confined frame of time before. However, by the grace of God we have been able to look up to heaven and see the eternal things in it. God wants us to share this realization with others for their salvation as well as for our own salvation, and also wants us to put forth more effort to do the work of God, forcing our way into heaven with firm faith, so that we can all enter the kingdom of heaven together for sure.
All our brothers and sisters in Zion! Let us live for eternity to please God by preaching the glory of the New Jerusalem and the gospel of the new covenant to the whole world, as good gospel workers. There are still so many souls who are only living for temporary things, as we did in the past when we belonged to the world. Being God-pleasing witnesses, let us provide them with the opportunity to realize the eternal kingdom of heaven and live for eternity.