Stephen Witmer is a humble New England pastor and the coolest seminary professor I ever sat under. He recently published the book Eternity Changes Everything: How to live now in the light of your future. Written for those who believe, his thesis is simple—forever matters for you today.
The forever Witmer paints, using the Scriptures as his brush, isn’t filled with pink clouds, harps, and angel wings. Eternity with Christ is about a new heaven and new earth, a bodily resurrection, and the death of death itself. God’s final plan is to dwell with us and reveal moment by moment his infinite love to our finite beings. This may sound complicated, but Witmer’s writing style is clear and simple, and with it he helps his readers catch a glimpse of their future with God.
The best part of all, is that nobody can change this future. Christ’s kingdom came with his first arrival and the rest of it will come with his return. Witmer assures us we have a certain future because we have a certain Savior. The victory is won even though we’re not yet home. This means “eternal life,” through faith in Christ, starts today and is like a downpayment on our “resurrection life.” But why does all of this hope for the future matter right now?
When we really understand our future, we’ll feel more contentment with today and yet more desire for what is yet to come. Witmer writes, “The central point of this book is that Christians are meant to live, and can live, in a healthy, exhilarating, joyful, productive, frustrating, painful, challenging tension between restlessness and patience” (62). This “tightrope” balance between the two frees us from the world’s unsatisfying grip just as it helps us find satisfaction in Christ.
Witmer helps us understand what it means for today that our homelands are not Boston, London, or Hong Kong, but eternity with Jesus. It not only helps us live differently, but actually changes us internally. When we are satisfied with our future, we can release the present to God. We all struggle with holding onto what we want or don’t yet have, but we don’t need to because our future is really really good. We don’t need to be consumed with regret or unmet expectations because God uses our mistakes and our lives to prepare us for a perfect forever.
The question some of us may ask, and Witmer answers well, is if everything will one day be exactly right, why care about the earth or our neighbors? He explains that we care for the earth because we serve a King who loves creation. This earth will one day become what it should be, the new creation, and we get to help prepare that future now. The best way we can care for our neighbors and truly love them is by sharing the good news about the King—the gospel. The gospel is the greatest instrument of change this world has ever known. Even now people are becoming who they will be forever. This means our good deeds and our good words have eternal significance.
There’s a lot that goes into our eternity and the best way to prepare for forever is to enjoy and yet not settle for God’s blessings now. We all need Witmer’s Scriptural encouragement. We are not to give into despair, or get so wrapped up with the things of this world that we can’t let them go, but are to remember that Jesus is coming and his coming will be good. The goodness of the eternity Jesus has in store for us should shape us day-by-day as we feel contentment and also longing. Witmer closes by praying what you’ll also feel by the time you finish reading his book, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Editor’s note: this review is co-posted at Pastor Romig’s blog. Used with permission.