Iron Age mirror Copyright: Wessex Archaeology
Archaeologists look back in time and help us discover life-like conditions of days gone by. Stone, pottery and glass hold up pretty well over the centuries. However, if something was metal, only gold comes out of the ground in pretty much the same condition as when it was buried. Copper and iron will corrode or completely disappear because of acids in the soil. Same thing with bone, which keeps well in alkaline soil, but is eaten up in clays or sands which are acidic. Wood, leather, or other textiles may only be found in waterlogged soil, which reduces decay. On the other hand if something has been burned, the charred or burned sections may preserve well. For example a 1,000 year old Anglo-Saxon bread roll was found in Suffolk, in the old remains of a burned house.
Looking backward through the earth’s treasure chest, we can glimpse into the past, before there was YouTube and Instagram. We don’t have the privilege of the digitalized version of life, instead we get the dark opaque view with little detail beyond the artifact itself. Which is a great metaphor for life itself.
We hang pictures on our walls to remind us of relationships, places, events, or days now long gone, which we want to memorialize in some way. With each passing day, the person, place or event grows dimmer in our minds, becoming more and more opaque, the image in the picture becoming just a reminder of the past. In many ways much like the Iron Age mirror seen above, it gives tangible proof that I lived in those moments.
As human beings we are bound by this present moment. Memorabilia from our past helps us have context for who we are, and how we got here, and for many people that is enough. Others however, want to know more. Many people want to look into the future and see things that we are not capable of seeing either. We do not have a magic mirror like Belle in Beauty and the Beast where we can ask to see someone or something distant from us. We long to know, will I be happy? Will I be successful? Will I marry? Will I have children? How many? Will I live a long time? Is there anything else after all this? We can’t know any of these answers, except in the present – as we live them.
When the Apostle Paul wanted the church in Corinth to understand the importance of Love as the dominant force of life, he wrote about how love acts in real time – the now. One catching phrase that I remember from my childhood was, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 – KJV) The opaque nature of human existence is seen so clearly in these words. I cannot know my future. Except to know, that if I am in Christ Jesus, when I do see Him face to face, I will know things, I will be aware of things, that are beyond my view or perspective today. This will be because I’m no longer bound in my preset present tense limitations humanly.
Will I know everything? Not hardly, I’m not God. But I will know more than I do today.
In the same way archaeologists help us look backward, prophets help us look forward. And we end up with just about the same amount of information forward as we do backward. What we know of the future is that Jesus is coming again. We know what this will look like, at least from a description standpoint, even if we don’t know the details of when or how. Scripture says He will come in the clouds.
We know that when He comes the earth’s shape and function will change, that He will be sovereign King of the planet for a time, and that judgment will be the end of human history after that. We know that after the judgment, God creates (or re-creates) earth and heaven into what His original design called for, and there we will live eternally as God’s family. In this place there is no war, no death, no starvation, no political upheaval, nothing but the perfect and complete will of God – resulting in peace and love forever.
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Just because we live opaque lives in the sense of looking backward or forward, does not mean we can’t live the vibrant and brilliantly shining life of love right now – in this moment. We remember the good times, and block out the bad. We look forward to the happy, bright future, not the tragedies that may come. We have a hope and a future, because of Jesus. Live for today, and quit trying to look through that dark glass for happiness. It will come, soon enough.
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