Beyond the infinite

This final article at least in terms of the order of posting articles about spiritual hunger is really an introduction to the subject. But for whom? I wrote the article for my usual newspaper, but it was published in another one of theirs, called “Challenge The Good News Paper” which is an ‘outreach’ paper.

I was not consciously thinking about reaching out, I just wanted to write something that would express a view on the subject I was writing about. Namely, could God fill our needs for spiritual hunger? I believed so. So, I wrote with that in mind as well as quoting the Bible as backup. The answer, I said, was in God and I brought a lot of Bible to that, originally intended for another paper that would undoubtedly accept that sort of language but which was published in a similar one.

When Irish rock group U2 performed “I Still I Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” back in 1987 to immediate critical acclaim they inadvertently stumbled across a good point – what if all our searching, fantasizing, relationship endeavors and attempts, and general lack actually pointed us to a place beyond time where all our human struggles on earth would eventually be swallowed up in our first glimpse of eternity?

In the final scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, a 1968 movie based on the Arthur C. Clarke story The Sentinel, the pilot David Bowman concludes a quest about man’s innate desire for spiritual enlightenment, when he finds himself in the process of a phenomenal mind bending journey of his own. Eventually, he encounters the very essence of humanity’s deepest longings to exist forever and be immortal in some eerie and fascinating scenes.

Science Fiction explores the big questions of life – origins, existence, God, and meaning. In some ways we are all like pilot Bowman catapulted through infinity who was bound by time but somehow intrigued by timelessness.

Solomon said in the Bible that “eternity is in the heart of man”. The reality of existence beyond the grave is that it will never end, and while on earth humans only have glimpses of that divine space uncrowded by life’s concerns.

Sometimes our soul’s immense desire is to be in eternity, now; to experience the perfection and sublimity of heaven – to have the desire for endlessness and unseen, unidentifiable beginning fulfilled, where time will never end. It is a place where the need for the fountain of youth will be extinguished as being there will relieve our innermost needs.  The proverb says what man wants is everlasting happiness. That would seem to be well nourished in heaven.

If humans are intended for heaven and to be in relationship with God, why did God, the Creator of the heavens, make a place called earth that feels so limiting? If mankind was created for eternity why is there death, and why are our bodies restricted by gravity and an impoverished humanity that has a propensity to greed, selfishness, and murder?

The book of Genesis in the Bible tells us that the first human who had a relationship with God was Adam. Adam would have experienced a harmonious relationship with God – he encountered what it was to know God in a loving and shameless relationship, a state of eternal bliss and union. He would have known the state of being truly free – which is the essence of eternity and the goal of mankind throughout history. But it was broken because Adam used his freedom to selfish ends and thus sinned. This nature of sin – where Adam disobeyed God in the only way that he could have by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – characterises human beings today. His selfishness blocked the harmonious relationship that Adam once had, and we are affected by it in the present time, and in the future.

The effects of Adam’s sin are seen throughout history as mankind rebels against God in his heart, at once a rebel but still maintaining the image of God who created Adam.  Therefore there needs to be a salvaging operation from this undesirable state. Jesus was the only one acceptable to God to accomplish the mission: Jesus fulfilled the requirements of God’s law and when Jesus died by crucifixion during Easter he made it possible for mankind to enter back into relationship with God.

Jesus lived approximately 2000 years ago to become a perfect sacrificial offering on behalf of sin-infected mankind. God accepted Jesus as he was sinless and obeyed God fully. Jesus offers eternity, which begins by trusting in Him. Thus sin limits. It limits our understanding of heaven. It prevents us from being there. The only way mankind can have free access to heaven is through believing and putting one’s faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Because Jesus paid the price for our sins and rose from the dead we can experience the gift of eternal life by faith. The result is that it fulfils our deepest longings for meaning and purpose in this life and the joyful knowledge of spending eternity with God.

By Peter Veugelaers, in 2005, for Challenge The Good News Paper.

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