This is not the end...
A. W. Tozer once said, "We are too quick to live this life and forget that there is another world to come...this is not the end." The band Gungor has a song titled as the above (This is Not the End) on their Ghosts Upon the Earth CD (Love it!), which focuses on the same idea.
Our lives here are but a vapor, but this life is not all there is. Sometimes I wonder how much we let that idea sink in.
We get caught up in so many things here. Jobs, loves won and lost, health and how to keep it, which can lead to all sorts of research on what diets are best, what exercises will give us the most benefit for the least work. Hobbies and toys and all things "social" step into our existence and grab fistfuls of time, some good. Some not so good.
We chase goals and dreams and some make it. Some don't. We work at jobs we love and jobs we hate, and sometimes it takes all we have just to get through another day. And all the while, we focus on ourselves and those we love most. If we are truly magnanimous, we might even love the world beyond our immediate concern.
But even as we watch the evening news and see the horrors going on in the not-so-distant world, we rarely look beyond what we see, both good and bad, to the world that lies beyond it all.
If this truly is not the end...what then? What do we do with that information? If there is a world beyond ours that we step into when we die, what do we know about it? Should we know about it? If so, how much?
Most religions teach there is a heaven (and some include hell) beyond this world. They don't all agree on how to get there, though most would agree that it is possible to not make it. For most religions of the world, the heaven they foresee is one to be earned. And yet even if a life is given in the pursuit of gaining it, there are no guarantees...
There are others who are assured that heaven is not only is a place, but they are sure they know who will be there and who will not. In self-righteous judgment, they can read minds and hearts. The only trouble is, they often don't stop to read their own.
So if this is not the end - then what?
Jesus spoke often of the coming kingdom. In part of his teaching, he referred to the great wedding banquet, known as "the marriage supper of the Lamb". He made some pretty pointed comments as to who would be there and who wouldn't. He warned the religious leaders of his day, those who expected to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that if they were depending on their good works, they were going to miss the wedding invitation. The place they thought was theirs, reserved by right of being a religious Jew, earned by their careful giving, lengthy prayers, and strict adherence to their man-made rules (that they thought enhanced the Law of God but didn't), wasn't good enough in God's eyes.
What is good enough is the recognition of sin in our lives - best pictured as Jesus did when he told the parable of the man beating his chest and bowing his knee before God, too ashamed of his sin, his failures, to even lift his eyes to heaven in prayer. And yet still risking it all by praying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."
Those are the ones God invites to follow Him into the next life - a life of joy and love and beauty so grand we cannot begin to imagine it. It is a place where tears are dried and pain ceases. Where work is never hated and all of the stress that this life brings will no longer remain our focus. A place where Love Incarnate reigns.
There is more to come for those who love Him, who know Him.
There is also more to come for those who don't. But theirs won't be the happy ending will all long for.
This is not the end.