Heart set on eternity
By Ivan Ho 01 Jan 2018
Life of vanity without God
I said in my heart, “Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.” For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth? So I perceived that nothing is better than that a man should rejoice in his own works, for that is his heritage. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?
This passage in the book of Ecclesiastes sounds rather bleak, and unfortunately many tend to take verses from this book out of context and come to the wrong kind of conclusions. If we read carefully, the book was written by king Solomon who, coming to the end of his life, told of the things he observed in human life. We ought to read the book in its entirety rather than to take certain verses here and there and make principles about life out of it. Some wrongly conclude that our life is nothing but vanity, not unlike some Buddhist teachings.
The above passage actually describes the condition of men WITHOUT God whose lives are, at the end of their earthly existence, no different to that of animals! They labour, they plant, they build, they eat, sleep, get married and enjoy everything they can during their limited life spans on earth… then they die and their bodies return to dust. Just like animals, men without relationship with God will, after they depart from their earthly existence, perish in their soul and spirit as well, forever cut off from God. It does not matter what great things a man has done in his life, or how much wealth he gathers on earth, he cannot make his life on earth last any longer than what is given to him. When he dies, his condition would be similar to animals.
If a man has relationship with God through Christ, his spirit will go up to heaven after he dies. If not, his spirit goes down to earth like animals. What’s more, hell is the eternal destination of people who are cut off from God. For these souls, all is vanity after they die. There is nothing new on earth under the sun if Christ is not in our life! Everything that people chase after would be meaningless and vanity at the end of his life journey on earth.
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?
Reality sets in when a man faces death. He cannot take anything with him when he dies and all that he labours for throughout his life will be in vain.
Since there are many things that increase vanity, How is man the better? For who knows what is good for man in life, all the days of his vain life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?
As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, To go as he came; And he shall take nothing from his labor Which he may carry away in his hand.
It matters not if a man lives as long as thousand years, he will ultimately end up being worse than a still born child, if he has not seen the goodness of God in his life!
If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better than he— for it comes in vanity and departs in darkness, and its name is covered with darkness. Though it has not seen the sun or known anything, this has more rest than that man, even if he lives a thousand years twice—but has not seen goodness. Do not all go to one place?
That is the perspective of a person’s earthly mindset in that everything has a finite existence. A man who cannot see beyond his earthly existence only perceives that his life will cease to exist after he departs from earth. He lives, he dies, and after that no more.
What a meaningless existence if everything just comes to end after we die!
God sets Eternity in our hearts
The truth is that God creates you and I for eternity. His original intention is to create man to live forever.
I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, And nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.
When God created Adam and Eve, His original intention was to have them live forever. God knows that for man to live everlasting life, he must draw life from God by living according to His words. But when man breaks God’s laws through disobedience, his body and soul dies as a result! Man, due to his sin of disobedience, now lives in darkness, and life ends after he dies when his soul also perishes with him. That is the curse of sin and death over mankind due to our sins.
As sinners we live in despair and hopelessness until God sets eternity in our hearts by restoring the sense of eternity in our soul so that we begin to see that there is life beyond death.
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.
Not only in our hearts do we have a sense of longing for eternity, God promises eternal life to everyone who has been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
When a person repents and turns to Jesus and accepts Him as Lord over his life, the curse of sin and death is instantly broken. God now conveys him from the kingdom of darkness into the eternal kingdom of His Son. In Christ there is no longer death, but only eternal life.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
There is a huge contrast of life perspective between a man who is in crisis and a man who is in Christ. A man in crisis mode, when facing trials and difficulties, can only set his sight on the temporal. On the other hand, a man in Christ sets his sights on things that are not seen. His heart and mind is not set on temporal things but on the eternal kingdom of His Son.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:16-18