Stephen Witmer’s burden in his new book Eternity Changes Everything is to help Christians understand how their future should change their present. His opening illustration resonates with all of us. He talks about how relaxed he is in the days leading up to a vacation. Things tend to roll off his back and he is a genuinely nicer guy. This is true because he knows it will be great when he gets there and nothing can stop him from getting there. His pre vacation mindset bears a great analogy to the way Christians should live in this world. Christians live with certainty concerning their future destination and know it will be great when we get there. But do we really know this? Tim Keller tells the story of his brother-in-law who did not wear his seat belt. Those around him chided him for his refusal, but to no avail. Then one day Keller arrived at the airport and his brother-in-law picked him up wearing his seat belt. A friend of his had a wreck a needed over two hundred stitches in his face. Seeing his friend in the the hospital brought home the reality of what can happen when you don’t wear your seat belt. He gained no new information that day, but what he already knew became real to him. Witmer writes this way about eternity and the present. Some Christians are ignorant about their future and need to hear about the promise of what belongs to them in Christ. Many Christians know the truth about the future, but fail to live in light of its reality. Witmer wants Christians to know the truth and to see the truth change them in the here and now.
Chapters two and three explore the new heavens and the new earth. These chapters don’t contain typical Christian niceties about “heaven,” but a real look at the new heavens and new earth. Witmer shares what will remain in the new heavens and new earth as well as what will be removed and what will return. The picture is of a renewed creation that is not stained by the failure and futility which currently exist because of our sin. Most importantly, God will be there. He will dwell with his people and they will experience the fullness of His love. God is with us now, but Christians will experience His presence in a way they never have before.
In the fourth and fifth chapters Witmer explains why this future is certain. First the future is certain because this is what Jesus is bringing about in His Kingdom. Jesus has already experienced victory over Satan and obtained the inheritance for His people, but this ultimate future must be realized. It will only be brought about when Jesus returns. Since Jesus has died, been resurrected from the dead, and will come again, the future of the world is certain. This certainty also exists for the Christian. The person who has trusted in Christ experiences the reality of hope in the here and now. The Father has planned the Christian’s salvation, the Son has purchased it, and the Spirit has applied it. Therefore, the Christian can look confidently towards the future because he knows what awaits him when Christ returns.
The final half of the book demonstrates how the coming future changes the Christian’s life in the here and now. Witmer introduces the illustration of a tightrope. The Christian walks a tightrope in this world balanced by his future hope. For example, the Christian is content in this world. He knows what awaits him in the future and this helps him to face everything coming at him in the present. At the same time, the Christian is restless because he knows things are not as they should be. He knows what the future holds and is labors to see current reality align with the reality of what is to come. He develops this illustration further in later chapters with how the Christian relates to this present world.
Eternity Changes Everything is a short book, and those who approach it need to realize that this is not an extended treatise on all issues related to heaven, hell, the new heavens, and the new earth. This is a book intended to help Christians recognize the reality of their future hope and see how this hope should shape and change their lives now. Knowing that is the purpose, Witmer accomplishes his intended purpose. Eternity Changes Everything stirred my heart for Jesus’ coming Kingdom, and guided me in thinking through how my future hope should change me as I live in this world now.
(I received a copy of this book through the Cross Focused Review Program in exchange for an honest review.)
You can read more book reviews and notes here.