Wednesday, August 2, 2017

THE PRESENCE AND POWER OF ETERNITY

'For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place …'
Isaiah 57:15 (KJV).

There was once an Australian soldier and evangelist John G Ridley MC who preached a sermon titled ‘Echoes of Eternity’. Actually, he preached more-or-less that same sermon more than once, and perhaps many times. A copy of an audio file of one taped version of the sermon, preached by Ridley in his later years, can be found here. Ridley was a dynamic and powerful preacher. He painted the most wonderfully evocative word pictures ...

… Eternity … This word is a solitary word, wonderful word, just like a great mountain peak standing up and leaping above all its fellows and casting a kind of glorious shadow over the whole mountain range, an Everest of scripture, snowcapped in the purity of God. Eternity! Eternity! … Eternity. What a remarkable, uplifted, glorified word! Once uttered, because there is only one eternity, and the eternal God is in command of it. I seem to hear it coming out of the past like a distant sound of thunder, bursting with a clap in the present, and rolling on with mumblings and rumblings into the unknown future. Eternity. Eternity. How can you preach on eternity? Yet, if a preacher does not touch on eternity, he’s missing the great mountain ridge and glorious throne that God has given us in this verse, who inhabited Eternity. … [We] are travellers to eternity.

... Eternity, Eternity, I wish I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You’ve got to meet it. Where will you spend Eternity? ...

When John Ridley preached this sermon in Sydney, New South Wales on what was perhaps the first occasion—this was way back in 1932a man named Arthur Stace (pictured), who had been a soldier himself and who was a reformed alcoholic who had been converted to Christianity a couple of years earlier, was so moved by Ridley’s words that he went outside the church building and wrote the word ‘Eternity’ in beautiful copperplate writing with chalk on the footpath. He continued to do that on the footpaths of Sydney and even beyond Sydney and the State of New South Wales for about 35 years—some 500,000 times.

Now, Ridley and Stace had their own evangelical understanding of the word ‘eternity’. By the way, that word appears just once in the King James Version of the Bible, and it is in the verse set out above.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up with the word ‘Eternity’.

What is eternity? Well, as I see it, we are in eternity now. We are immersed in eternity. We live, move and have our be-ing-ness in eternity. Eternity is not a ‘thing’ we enter into at death. No. Eternity is now. Everything is contained within eternity, that is, the eternal now. All duration – or time – is total and complete in the now. There is an eternal quality about the now. It is forever new. The present moment has its unfolding in the eternal now for it is nothing other than that which presents itself before us in and as the now, which embraces past, present and future. It is in the eternal now that we have our presence.

For me, God is the eternal now—omnipresence. There is only one eternity, one eternal now and it is both the medium in which all things have their be-ing-ness as well as Be-ing or omnipresence itself.

You may or may not share my understanding of the word eternity. That is your prerogative. The important thing is not to wait until you die in order to experience its tremendous presence and power.