“So Wyyyschokk, we meet again… for the FOURTH time.” Hmmm. That doesn’t sound as epic as I would like it to. It would sound a great deal more emphatic if I could say, “We meet again… for the LAST time”… but let’s keep it real. He is probably going to kill me again. Maybe several more times. And if you were fighting a hyper-intelligent giant spider in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order you would have the same realistic view that I do. Kind of hard to keep charging into that fight with confidence knowing you will probably get a few more opportunities to try again.
The great part about Fallen Order is that once an enemy has defeated you, the next time you bump into them they will be encapsulated with a glowing aura. Just in case you weren’t sure which one had dispatched you last time, they are visibly highlighted on the screen to insure there is NO confusion as to who had previously embarrassed you in front of all of your friends. Maybe it is just me, but I kind of feel like my enemy KNOWS it is glowing. Maybe even reveling in it. Taunting me with its shiny new coat, as if to say “Thanks for letting me kill you. I am MAD shiny now and all the other spiders are, like, CRAZY jelly of me.” I am not sure why the spider talks to me like a thirteen year-old YouTuber in my mind. It just does.
We have become accustomed to “game over” screens in games demonstrating a mere inconvenience… oftentimes followed by a “continue” button or a “reload your last save” opportunity. Most games permit us the opportunity to start back at a point that we recently saved at or a previous checkpoint, perhaps with a minor slap on the wrist by removing unsaved progress or repopulating enemies you had previously cleared. While this is typically unsavory and met with reluctant groans as we march back towards our most recent failure, it sure beats the alternative of not having a continue option at all. I mean… what if that was your only life in the game? One life, one fall, game over? And now you have to start ALL over again, just because of one misstep, one distraction, or a surprise glitch that cause you to perish? There used to be a time when that is EXACTLY what would happen.
Game over screens used to be incredibly final… there was no recourse, no second chances, no save points. Just the harsh reality that everything you had accomplished, all of your hard work, and all of the progress you had made had been completely wiped out. I’m not sure the Princess would ever even KNOW we tried to save her. Our options were to start over from scratch or simply move on to something else, like making a sandwich. All of the begging, pleading, and controller-throwing in the world had no impact on the harsh, cold, black, and direct glow of the “Game Over” screen from the television.
Over the years game developers have found that the secret to longevity and popularity was not only the quality of the game, but also the accessibility. Adding the option to continue, save your progress, and respawn with minimal fuss has obviously made even the most demanding of games (I’m looking at YOU Dark Souls) much more fun to play as well as more compelling to continue playing. Imagining modern gaming without this luxury almost seems impossible to consider. Medieval, even. Definitely uncivilized.
So let’s get real with a troubling but critical part of life… and that is that as much as we rail against it, put it off, and try to ignore it the truth is it will eventually end. All of us are touched by the pain of death throughout our lives… through our loved ones, our pets, people around the world we may have never met but are touched by their stories, and inevitably ourselves. It is a tough subject to tackle, but I believe a large part of our struggle with death is not only because of the pain it causes but also because we lack a clear understanding of what awaits us all on the other side.
Conceptually many of us have some version of the afterlife that we believe in, and for most of us it is encapsulated by either a vision of an eternal paradise or a picture of eternal judgment. The problem is that our view of eternal paradise is often skewed by the life we lived on earth. If you struggled with poverty in life, then the ideas of warmth, food, and shelter will permeate your view of what “heaven” is. If you lost loved ones that you are eager to reconnect with then your afterlife vision is concentrated on restoring those connections without a clock or a calendar to interrupt. The truth about what awaits us on the other side may not be as cut and dried as we would like, but just as we have found to be true time and time again we can find all of the answers that we truly need in the Bible. Let’s start exploring what happens when we hit continue…
In Matthew 24, shortly before He is about to be crucified, the followers of Christ came to Jesus wanting to know more about His return and the end of world as we know it…
Matthew 24:3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
For the next two chapters Jesus expounds upon the end times, covering everything from the end of times, the Great Tribulation, and His return. But in this message, His final recorded sermon in Matthew before His betrayal and death, He continues this thought all the way through to Judgment Day and beyond. But between the “End of Days” and “Judgment Day” He stops to give the following illustration that gives us our first glimpse into what the after life holds…
Matthew 25:14-23 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
To fully understand this we must examine the context. The verses prior to this is Christ explaining that we must be prepared for His return. The verses after this explain what the final judgment looks like. And in between these two is this analogy of how what we do in this life is SO much more than simply a list of rights and wrongs. The “talents” that were given to each servant has a literal interpretation in the form of money/resources that each servant was given to invest and grow until their Lord had returned to collect. But in a figurative sense this can also very much refer to the very real “talents” and resources that each of us have been blessed with on this plane of existence. What is important to notice is the reward that was given…
‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
Note what was said. In this example, a clear analogy for when we stand before Christ to give an accounting of ourselves (as evidenced by the continuation of the thought in the following verses), the reward was not MERELY to enter into heaven. It is SO important that we all catch this. The reward was to be made a RULER over many things. Not in this life, but in the life to come. The reward was in the level and caliber of responsibility in the afterlife, not simply a free pass through the pearly gates. Many people struggle to conceptualize eternity and envision it as some place where people just float around on clouds finding old loved ones to talk to and some mansions to hang out in. Almost like a retirement home for saints. Perhaps there will be shuffleboard. But that is NOT what Christ is demonstrating here. He speaks of eternity in heaven with a purpose… an exponential purpose based on how faithful we have proven to be with our life here on earth.
I feel like some of you are not convinced. This whole idea almost seems counter-intuitive to our concepts of a peaceful eternity with clouds and harps and white robes. But keep in mind that even on a perfect, sinless earth, God still started out by giving Adam a JOB and RESPONSIBILITIES (Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:19). These were not part of the curse of sin entering the earth… this was what God expected from Adam and presented to Him as his role while Adam was STILL an immortal being (Romans 5:12). So now let’s jump all the way to the very end of the Bible as we find John laying down the final beats of the New Testament and opening up a glimpse into what truly lies beyond all of this…
Revelation 22:1-5 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.
First, did you catch that? Just like the analogy in Matthew 25, we are referred to as His servants using the EXACT same word, demonstrating that even in eternity we will continue to serve Him. And in what manner? The last sentence I underlined there, “And they shall reign forever and ever” is our final clue. I have heard it so many times that I never really stopped to analyze what that actually meant. The word “reign” in that sentence is the Greek word “basileusousin”, from the root word “basileuó”, meaning to be king or exercise kingly power over. Every time this word is used in the New Testament it is an active word referring to a position of authority as well as typically associated with a level of elevated responsibility. It is the same word used earlier in Revelation 20 when it refers to what the remaining saints on earth will be doing with Christ during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. And those people are not playing on harps… take a look…
Revelation 20: 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
We have literal people sitting on literal thrones, we have judgment (authority and responsibility) that is committed to them, and we have them “reigning” alongside Christ. And the exact same word is used to describe what ALL of us will be doing for all eternity in the life to come. I know this may be incredibly challenging for those of us who have a distinctly different view of the afterlife. But all of these verses point to a “Continue” button that is hit once we pass on from this place to the next. A purpose that is built off our faithfulness to the level of talents and responsibilities we were given during the duration of our life here. And I find that INCREDIBLY exciting and reassuring, because I can only imagine what all of that entails.
What will we be ruling over? Who knows… the universe is a pretty vast place and we haven’t even scratched the surface of one tiny solar system. The Apostle Paul put it best in 1 Corinthians 2:9…
It is my prayer that in some small way this informs the way we all look at death. It is still painful, often abrupt, and always unwelcome. But it is NOT the end, and everything that happened on this side of it MATTERS. We have each been given unique callings, specific talents, and a carefully crafted destiny from our Creator. And we are each placed exactly where we are meant to be placed in order to invest our talents/resources for the betterment and growth of His Kingdom. A Kingdom we are ACTIVE participants in, both here and in the hereafter. We are actively developing the skills and attributes that we will carry for all of eternity into a future that is beyond what we can possibly conceive. But of the few things we know for sure about it, we know that when we enter into the joy of the Lord we will be rulers over SOMETHING. Personally, I am pulling for a small assignment over maybe one or two small galaxies. Nothing fancy. Definitely at least one water moon.
But while we can all imagine and wonder at the sheer scope of what God has been planning for His children from eternity past until now, for now we have some work to do. The only servant who drew the displeasure of the Lord was the one who BURIED his talent (Matthew 25:24-30). Let us all prove faithful to the calling we have been given!
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