“You shall not make for yourselves an image in the form of anything in heaven above or earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations for those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NIV).
These verses are the 2nd Commandment of the Ten Commandments. Although I’ve read and repeated the 2nd Commandment many times, I’ve never paid much attention to the second part of the commandment, which explains the consequences of obeying or not obeying the commandment.
But, God uses the pronouncement of a curse and blessing in the 2nd Commandment to make a striking contrast between the everlasting effects of His boundless love for those who worship and obey Him with the exigency of punishment for idolators.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”(Genesis 3:15, NIV).
In the Creation Story in Genesis 1 God created a good and perfect world populated by vegetation, animals, and human beings. Genesis 2 is perhaps a continuation of the Creation Story–possibly the next chapter in God’s already created order–describing the first people God chose to work His redemptive plans and purposes for all of humanity.
Genesis 3 is a creation story of sorts as it describes the formation of a different kind of world from God’s good and perfect creation–a new world order contrived by human beings. Genesis 3 describes the beginning of evil among humanity and it prognosticates the cosmic conflict between good and evil played out on the stage of this world.
In fact, this cosmic conflict may be the main point of the Creation Story in Genesis 1-3.
“By faith Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter when he was grown up. He chose to be mistreated with God’s people instead of having the temporary pleasures of sin. He thought that the abuses he suffered for Christ were more valuable than the treasures of Egypt, since he was looking forward to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26, CEB).
A few years ago I wrote a book entitled, The Kingdom Order: Living for the Future in the Present. It took me 12 chapters and about 250 pages in the book to make the same point about the Christian life that the Hebrews writer makes in these 3 verses describing the godly legacy of Moses.
Like Moses, Christians live life by looking forward to their reward–living forward!
Human beings were created for eternal life! God created people for eternity and eternity is ever present in the life we now live.
So, when you follow Jesus, you start to live life life forward…
“I heard a loud voice from the throne say, ‘Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4, CEB).
Because God is love, He is seeking humans to receive His love. But, God’s love is eternal so His love affair with the human race is of cosmic proportions.
You see, God is preparing a place for Him to live together with us, forever!
While God dwells with us (in us) by His Spirit in this world, in the world to come this cosmic love affair will no longer be constrained by distance. God plans to dwell among us!
“And this is the testimony: God gave eternal life to us, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have God’s Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12, CEB).
God is love. But, love, God’s love, is incomplete and unfulfilled unless it’s received and reciprocated. So, God is desperately seeking humans to love Him back. To have fellowship with Him. To enter into a love-relationship with Him.
But, the reality of God’s love is not the reality we see. The reality we see says that life on Earth is all there is. The reality we see tells us that when we die we’re done.
“O Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him? Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow” (Psalm 144:3-4, NASB).
Do you ever in your mind step out of your life and try to see the big picture, try to put your life in perspective, try to look at it from God’s point of view? If you do, you might see things the way David did in this Psalm. You might see that in the big picture of things, your life is like a breath or a shadow. You’re not here very long and your life in this world is soon forgotten.
Now, I’m not trying to be pessimistic or deterministic. I’m trying to make a point. We have a backwards view of life. We live our lives in this world like they are the main reality and life after death is the “afterlife.” But the reality is that eternal life is the real reality and our lives in this world are just an introduction, a pre-life training for eternity. And death is our graduation to eternal life!
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48, NASB).
This saying of Jesus alludes to the very last verse of Isaiah, which speaks of the punishment for rebellion against God as endless destruction.
John had asked Jesus what to do about someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but was not part of the group of His disciples. Jesus answered not to be so concerned about someone doing good in His name but be concerned about false teachers. Be more concerned about someone who causes others to stop trusting in God or prevents them from ever starting to trust in God.