A few years ago I visited Qumran, in the Judean desert, the site of the famous Dead Sea scrolls and where a Jewish community, even in the time of Jesus, once lived, moved, and had their being. But now all that remains are rocks and stones scorched and bleached by an unmerciful sun. And the people? Gone, vanished into oblivion, as if they had never been.
“I explain the same thing to everybody,” wrote Elizabeth Wurtzel in her famous memoir Prozac Nation. “It all seems pointless in light of the fact that we’re all going to die eventually. Why do anything—why wash my hair, why read Moby-Dick, why fall in love, why sit through six hours of Nicholas Nickleby . . . when all of us are just slouching toward the same inevitable conclusion? The shortness of life, I keep saying, makes everything seem pointless when I think about the longness of death.”*
Eternity awaits us all: either eternal death or eternal life.
It’s logic; macabre, yes, but logic nonetheless.
And what of the billions of others absorbed back into the earth before us? Though their molecules linger, none of these people (except some names, some memories) do. We, like muskrats, die, and given enough time, it would be hard to tell the difference between us. Of humans and animals, said Solomon, “all go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust” (Eccl. 3:20). Except that God has placed “eternity” (verse 11) in human hearts, which means that we, unlike muskrats, know the impassable gap between our own temporality and the eternity that, without divine intervention, will grind us and the muskrats into oblivion.
But that’s what the death and resurrection of Jesus is all about: divine intervention. That’s what the whole plan of salvation is about; that’s what the covenant is about; that’s what the “everlasting gospel” is about: divine intervention, without which we would be nothing but “hunks of spoiling flesh on disintegrating bones.”* Think about how hopeless, how desperate, our situation must be in that only this, divine intervention of the most intense kind, could save us.
Eternity (olam, in Hebrew) awaits us all: either eternal death or eternal life. And the self-sacrifice of our Creator Himself, the one without whom “nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3), the one who is “before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17), the one who holds eternity in His hands—that self-sacrifice was more than enough to give each one of us, no matter our past, an eternal future with Him in a new heaven and a new earth. If the death of Jesus, our Creator and Son of God—if that’s not enough to atone for the finite sins of finite beings like us, what is?
Eternity’s coming, and it will unfold either with us (John 10:28) or without us (2 Tim. 1:9). With so much having been done to assure us of life, eternal life, in the presence of Jesus, how tragic, by our choices, to spend it in oblivion instead.
* Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book is Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.