He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11
The commodore rose to face me. “In as much as you have been found guilty of kidnapping and piracy, the penalty for which is death, it is the judgment of this court that you are to be hanged by the neck until dead. May God Almighty have mercy on your soul.”
Casting a wayward glance in the direction of the gallows, my friend whispered to me, “What say you cheat the hangman?”
“Oh? And how would I do that?” I asked.
“I know some fellers aboard the Flying Dutchman who’d be mighty pleased to make the acquaintance of such a fine corpse.”
“Corpse? Flying Dutchman? What are you talking about?”
“Life and death, heaven and hell – it’s all a matter of longitude and latitude. Right now you’re above the equator, as it were, on the sunny side up. But as soon as your neck snaps you’ll have a whole new perspective on the matter. The thing is, you got ter be careful you don’t get caught in the between.”
“In between what?” I asked.
- from Eddie’s novel, Dead Calm, Bone Dry
Ah, that great “in between” – the realm of mystery that lies between our last breath and the gates of Hell or Heaven. We speak of deceased parents watching over us and talk of what lies beyond the grave, but we speak from ignorance. None of us knows. How can we? No one has been and returned. We can only guess at what’s to come.
He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom …
How do we plan for life after death? How do we pack and prepare for an existence hidden behind an impenetrable veil? This is the question that haunts us as we receive the doctor’s news that our ailment is of a terminal nature.
And yet God has given us hints of what we might expect in this place called eternity. Here are a few.
Relationships endure. We see this in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus and in the transfiguration of Christ when the disciples recognize Elijah and Moses. Though any speculation about the next realm is risky, the Bible appears to suggest that bonds established on earth extend beyond the grave. Therefore, love, for love lingers long after we’re gone.
Rules matter. God has placed his commands in our heart. Though we may not believe in a heavenly deity, His sense of justice, equality, and fairness drives us to forgive the unforgivable – to act in ways that defy the cannibalistic instincts of our unbridled nature. And if God’s rules are stamped upon our heart, how much more will they be revealed in the age to come?
Reverence is our natural position. In this life we boast of what we’ve accomplished and brag of who we’ll become, but there lies within us a deep sense of reverence for beauty and power. We long for sanctuary and security. This, too, hints at our eternal destiny.
“Careful you don’t get caught in the between,” says my character, Will Shakespeare.
And so I will. I will listen to those dying in Christ and ask why they have hope beyond the grave.
And when pressed for an answer, I will say, “I can’t tell you what comes after my last breath. I can only tell you what I believe. And I believe the dead don’t stay dead.
For those in Christ, that’s Good News.