Life Different in Kind
Thursday of Pentecost 12
31 August 2017
We seek not merely eternal life, but the life of peace in the presence of Christ beholding His blessed face (1Co 13:12). In fact, the hope of a life without end is hope in a monstrosity. Many people desire the life of this world with such lust that they would accept unending life in this mortal coil. How horrid this would be, as decrepitude of spirit and body would bring anesthetizing lassitude to a body wearied by the changes and decays of this world kept alive by a heart broken by spiritual bankruptcy, each beat a spasm of pain in the longing for ultimate redemption. Life with no end is not the eternal life of which Scripture speaks and our Lord Christ promises us.
Even where our lives might be extended another one or two hundred years to grant us the horrifyingly long life just described, the external conditions of the world would never rightly accommodate that grotesquely long life. The peace for which all persons long would never be reached. How often haven't we enjoyed a moment of peace, perhaps curled up with a good book by the fireplace on a rainy evening, only to have that moment shattered by a telephone call presaging disaster; our peace interrupted by the jarring ring tone. Life without end would lumber from one disturbance to another, magnified by the failures of our progeny for ten generations instead of four. How many ruined Christmas dinners could we possibly tolerate before we would recognize the failure of unending life to live up to its hoped for grace? Much about the external weakness and anxiety of life in this world could not be ameliorated by mere unending life. The devil would hound us until our unending days would turn to ash in our mouths. The secular hope of unending life becomes a saecula saeculorum of death.
The goal of our faith is a kind of life that is far superior to this life, no matter how long it might be here. The goal of our faith is perfect peace with Christ and a harmonious life in which body and spirit would now work in perfect harmony. The conditions of God's eternal life would support a life that does not end by giving full blessedness and a body renewed like Christ's in His resurrection. The troubles and blessings that challenge the life in Christ in this world would end at the consummation of the age. Eternal life, then, is a life different, not just in length, but in kind, one characterized by the perfect fellowship we will have with Christ.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"Not even the saints and faithful worshipers of the one true and most high God are safe from the many temptations and deceits of the demons. For in this abode of weakness, and in these wicked days, this state of anxiety has also its use, stimulating us to seek with keener longing for that security where peace is complete and unassailable. There we shall enjoy the gifts of nature, that is to say, all that God the Creator of all natures has bestowed upon ours, gifts not only good, but eternal, not only of the spirit, healed now by wisdom, but also of the body renewed by the resurrection. There the virtues shall no longer be struggling against any vice or evil, but shall enjoy the reward of victory, the eternal peace which no adversary shall disturb. This is the final blessedness, this the ultimate consummation, the unending end. Here, indeed, we are said to be blessed when we have such peace as can be enjoyed in a good life. But such blessedness is mere misery compared to that final blessedness. When we mortals possess such peace as this mortal life can afford, virtue, if we are living rightly [that is, by faith], makes a right use of the advantages of this peaceful condition. When we do not have it, virtue makes a good use even of the evils a man suffers. But this is true virtue,when it refers all the advantages it makes a good use of, and all that it does in making good use of good and evil things, and itself also, to that end in which we shall enjoy the best and greatest peace possible.
"And thus we may say of peace, as we have said of eternal life, that it is the goal of our good; and the rather because the Psalmist says of the city of God, the subject of this laborious work, 'Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. He makes peace in your borders' (Ps 147:12-14). For when the bars of her gates shall be strengthened, none shall go in or come out from her. Consequently, we ought to understand the peace in her borders as that final peace we are wishing to declare. For even the mystical name of the city itself, that is, Jerusalem, means 'Vision of Peace.' But since the word peace is employed in connection with things in this world in which certainly life eternal has no place, we have preferred to call the goal or supreme good of this city life eternal rather than peace. Of this goal the apostle says, 'But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.' (Rm 6:22).
"On the other hand, as those who are not familiar with Scripture may suppose that the life of the wicked is eternal life, either because of the immortality of the soul, which some of the philosophers even have recognized, or because of the endless punishment of the wicked, which forms a part of our faith, and which seems impossible unless the wicked live for ever. It may therefore be advisable, in order that every one may readily understand what we mean, to say that the goal or supreme good of this city is either peace in eternal life, or eternal life in peace. For peace is a good so great, that even in this earthly and mortal life there is no word we hear with such pleasure, nothing we desire with such zest, or find to be more thoroughly gratifying. So that if we dwell for a little longer on this subject, we shall not, in my opinion, weary our readers, who will attend both for the sake of understanding what is the goal of this city of which we speak, and for the sake of the sweetness of peace which is dear to all."

Augustine, The City of God, 19.10-11
21:1-11; 22-27

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 
 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day- and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. (ESV)
Lord Christ, give me the kind of life You won by Your passion and resurrection. Help me to see signs of it here, not in long life, but a life in which Your peace is mine through Your Word and sacraments. Let me see You face to face when You call me from this mortal coil with all its trial and trouble. Amen.

For all those whose days are ending, that they might have the hope of Christ and the eternal life He alone can grant
For LCMS Disaster Relief teams, which will be coming into SE Texas to help with recovery following the catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, that they would be kept safe in their travels and labors
For first responders who have helped so many people in peril and brought them rescue in SE Texas, that they would find the rest they need and kept safe in the continued conduct of their duties
Art: Albrecht DURER,  The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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