A Critical Look at Our Everlasting Eternal Lifeline

Written by Jim Symcox

Imagine standing on the shore of a vast sea looking out toward the horizon. At eye level, imagine seeing a line, like a perfectly straight steel cable, extending as far as the eye can see in either direction. At your far right and left it falls from view, but just as the sea goes far beyond the horizon, so does the line. We’ll call this line our “Eternal Lifeline,” a short segment of which crosses this paper just below.

Presently, we’re experiencing a time along our eternal lifeline that we know as life on earth or “life in the flesh”.

Eternity is forever, but our lives on earth began at an exact moment in time.

Let’s place an ‘X’ on our lifeline to represent this starting point.

What do we call that point? Birth? No, conception! Though the Bible is clear that God knew us and the plans He has for us, even before creating the world (Ephesians 1:4, 2:10), Scripture and medical evidence agree that our earthly lives begin at conception (Psalm 139:13). For a while, we lived as embryos or pre-born children. This manifestation was perfectly natural and normal for us. As embryos, we were cozy and comfortable, surrounded and nourished by fluid, and fed through the placenta, an amazing temporary organ provided by our Creator God. We probably didn’t think too much about it then though.

Let’s place another ‘X’ just beyond the first one and label it “birth.” Our lives changed as we entered the physical world as an air-breathing baby. We manifested life for a time as an infant, toddler, child, teenager, young adult, mature adult, and finally, perhaps, as a senior citizen. Someday, at a point-in-time just as precise as that of our conception, our bodies cease functioning – through wear and tear, disease, or catastrophe – and we change again. James says, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14b). Physical death occurs as our ‘flesh suit’ stops breathing and processing brain waves. Just as our time in the womb prepared us to enter this mortal life in the flesh, we realize that our time walking the earth is really a time of preparation for our eternal life.

So mark your lifeline with another ‘X’ well to the right of the first two ‘Xs.’

Looking Toward Home

For the Christian (any person who has a relationship with God through their faith, believing and reliance upon His Son Jesus Christ), life doesn’t end with physical death. We graduate, according to our Lord’s appointment calendar, into our next stage and continue to manifest life in another form after death; a spirit-based existence in which our souls are made perfect in holiness and we enter a life of worship in Heaven (Hebrews 12:22-24). Prior to this ‘home-going,’ we actually begin to participate in eternal Kingdom life when we’re born again as God’s redeemed children in Christ. As Christians we’re privileged to experience both physical life and eternal life concurrently as we live as children of God on earth yet are very much an integral part of God’s heavenly realm through Christ (Ephesians 1:3 and 2:6) and the throngs of “witnesses” that root us on as we run our race (Hebrews 12:1).

Place another ‘X’ on your lifeline to indicate the moment of your new birth and entry into God’s Eternal Kingdom.

Upon physical death, we put off what the Bible describes as the “mortal” or “perishable” and put on the “immortal” or “imperishable” (1Corinthians 15:50-58). Mortal and immortal simply describe two different manifestations of the same life, just as with embryo and toddler. From conception to our final form of life in Heaven, we experience several different phases or manifestations of the same life… our one life.

We benefit greatly by recognizing that we’re not physical beings who later gain a spirit, but spiritual beings who temporarily inhabit an earthly body. Further, we can look forward to the promised day when Christ returns in glory to usher in the new heaven and earth, and we receive perfect resurrection bodies (2Corinthians 5:1-5, Philippians 3:20-21, 2Peter 3:10-13).

As Christians, when we pass into our immortal heavenly life, do we expect it to be of the same quality, lesser quality, or greater quality than our present life on earth?  This seems like a silly question, doesn’t it?

Inherent to our faith is the promise that our heavenly life with Jesus will far surpass our earthly life. Paul said that he’d “prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2Corinthians 5:8) and “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Corinthians 2:9). This ‘quality’ difference is too great to be fully understood or described this side of Heaven!

Perhaps the ‘heavenly difference’ can be described in part as the absence of all of the negative aspects of life as we know it on this fallen earth. There will be nothing that hurts or destroys; only love, peace, harmony, and physical beauty like we’ve never seen, and emotional beauty that we can’t experience on earth. We currently have only a faint sense of the eternal wonder that lies ahead.

Although the best of life on earth doesn’t approach the quality of our heavenly life to come, there’s certainly quality and beauty to behold here on earth. God pronounced His creation “very good” (Gen 1:31). But in its fallen state, it just can’t compare with what’s to come. When we look west over an ocean horizon at the most beautiful sunset we’ve ever seen – the sky ablaze with blues and reds, oranges, pinks, and yellows – we’re compelled to exclaim, “Lord, it’s so beautiful.” But the Bible’s amazing descriptions of Heaven make it seem as though God is saying, “My child, everywhere your eye shall fall in Heaven is more beautiful than that.” No matter how good or beautiful life on earth is, our perfect heavenly home is infinitely better and it lasts forever!

Life-Shaping Questions

So, why does God leave us here on earth after salvation? Why does He give us time between the ‘X’ of “new birth” and the ‘X’ of physical death on our lifelines? Since Heaven is a certainty and much preferred to anything we’ll experience here, why does God leave us here?

If we didn’t have Scripture, four theories might flash through our minds:

■ Are we being made to suffer after accepting Christ? Although the Lord uses our trials to sanctify us and demonstrate true faith to others, God isn’t punishing us. Nothing pleases God or causes the heavenly throng to rejoice more than our coming to faith in Christ (Luke 15:9-10, Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 7:1, Philippians 3:10-14, 1 John 4:19).

■■ Since God’s plan for our lives really ‘kicks-in’ and begins producing eternal fruit once we’re saved, can we become “more saved” by staying on earth longer? Salvation isn’t progressive. It’s like being pregnant, you either are or you aren’t. Salvation in Jesus is complete and permanent (John 6:37-40, 10:27-30)!

■■ Does God leave us on earth because He needs us to do His unfinished work?  No, God doesn’t really need us to do His work. He is sovereign and can accomplish His plan any way He chooses (Psalm 93, Luke 1:52, Ephesians 1:11).

■ Can we earn a greater portion of God’s love if we stay here for a while and do lots of good things like pray, fast, tithe, and minister to others? Not at all, God’s love is complete and unconditional no matter what we do (Romans 8:38-39).

When asked, “What’s the most quoted Scripture verse dealing with how we’re saved?,” many people will answer “John 3:16.” This is a good guess, but the wrong answer. John 3:16 explains why we’re saved. God so loved us that He gave His Son. The question of how we’re saved is more fully given in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.” Grace means unmerited favor. Our salvation is a gift, not a reward, which we receive through faith in Jesus Christ.

While many people can quote these two familiar verses, far fewer can recite Ephesians 2:10 which sheds light on our question by describing what should happen between the last two ‘Xs’: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We’re saved by faith for a purpose!

Let’s look a bit further. What Bible verse is most frequently quoted concerning the purpose of God’s Word? Would you agree that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a candidate?: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So we’re saved to do good works and we’re given God’s Word to be equipped for every good work. As those in Christ, we’re to do this while walking and resting in unity with Him (“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8;   “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28;  “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,” Romans 15:5; “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3;  “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1John 1:7).

Let’s look at another passage, before looking more closely at these good works. In Ephesians 4:11-12 (NKJV) we learn of God’s ministry gifts to the church: “And He himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry.” Church leaders are to equip us for doing the work. Yet, we typically have it backwards, believing that we’re hiring pastors to do most of the evangelizing, teaching, and serving. God’s plan is for His children – each of us – to do the ministry! Peter describes this as the “royal priesthood” of all believers “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”   (1Peter 2:9). Pastors, teachers, and other church leaders are to equip the saints. We lay people are the primary ministers. No wonder there’s so much yet to be done. We’ve been waiting for the wrong people to do it! This, then, is the purpose for the time between the last two ‘Xs’ – to do the work of ministry.

Our next logical question is, “What’s the work of ministry?” It takes many forms, but for now let’s simply agree that it involves “turning lives towards God.” That’s it. That’s why we’re still here! God has chosen to allow us the privilege of being used to do His work. He could have designed other approaches, but He chose this way. He originally created man in His image and desires to use what we do, who we are, what we say, and how we live, to help turn the lives of others towards Him. Some will be saved in the process. Others who are already Christians may be discipled by us. Still others will have their practical needs met by Christ’s love flowing through us.

It’s eternally important for every saved person – and especially leaders – to understand this truth. Apart from a growing intimacy with Christ and God’s Word, it’s impossible to have an appreciation and desire for what lies ahead in eternity. Today, how much of your daily thoughts and decision-making are driven by the eternal perspective? Do you view ministry as an ‘add-on’ or as integral to how you and your team do business?

Our Actions have Eternal Consequences

How we use the time between the last two ‘Xs’ has much to do with how – not where, but how – we spend eternity. Again, let’s turn to Scripture to see if this makes sense. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says, “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

After being saved, we’re given the span between the last two ‘Xs’ as foundational time to join God in His work of turning others to Himself. He doesn’t force us to work with Him, but continually invites us. When we respond, by performing good works that pass through the fire, He prepares heavenly rewards for us. Seems simple, no?

The problem is us. It takes time to do good works, and we often selfishly devote our time to things described by Paul “as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18) as temporary (seen) as opposed to eternal (unseen). Temporal things will burn, while eternal things are fireproof in God’s eternal economy. Yet some temporal activities are necessary, such as sleeping, which, unfortunately, isn’t described in the Bible as ministry. Still, to be good stewards of this body and life, we need to spend time on such activities as sleeping, eating, and hydrating. Our Creator God knows that. He doesn’t ask us to be foolish in serving Him. It’s our discretionary time that gives us an opportunity to obey Him by sharing in His work or, alternatively, choosing to do something else. When we choose His work, there’s a reward. If we choose something else…anything else…we suffer eternal loss.

There’s one more ‘X’. It’s a point in time, just as specific as any other, that occurs on our eternal lifelines following physical death. Place another ‘X’ on your line a little past physical death. This is the time we’ve just spoken about, when all our works are tested by fire. It will happen for us just as surely as our conception, birth, and death happened. This is the Bema, or judgment seat of Christ, where the works of the saved are judged by our King. Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” 2Cor 5:10; see also “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Mt 16:27;  “He will render to each one according to his works:” Ro 2:6;  “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Rev 20:12 and “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” Rev. 22:12). Though our salvation is secure, our eternal rewards hang in the balance.

Imagine standing alongside Jesus, His arm around your shoulders, as you gaze into the mouth of a fiery blast furnace with a conveyor belt running through it. All your earthly activities and possessions are placed on the belt. There might be houses, stock certificates, precious metals, jewelry, cars, boats, prestigious titles and degrees, piles of money, your company, reputation, clothes, fine food and wines, club memberships, movies, and hobbies. They’ll never survive this fire… not even an ash!

What will pass through the fire, you ask? Consider the neighbor you helped find God, the widow you helped to know His love, the kids you taught in Sunday school and led to Christ, the co-worker you shared the Gospel with, the suppliers you encouraged to grow in their faith, the children and other family members you prayed into Jesus’ hands, the customers you sent Bibles to who were saved, and all the other things done at the prompting of our guide and counselor, the Holy Spirit, in obedience to God. These works will survive! They all pass through the fire, without being scorched or scratched, and are integral to our eternal rewards.

Is it important that we understand what the time between “new birth” and physical death represents? After our salvation, nothing else is as important! Our eternity is shaped by our understanding and application of this truth “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” Mt 16:27; “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Gal 6:7-8).

How does this relate to you? Business leaders typically spend more time at work than in any other single waking activity in our time between the ‘Xs’. Work provides our broadest ministry reach based on God’s specific calling and provision in our lives.

As a ministry priority, the workplace is typically second only to our families. When we fail to grasp our Kingdom purpose and potential, we can squander it and suffer tragic eternal loss. We all need people around us who will continue to remind us that our lives are precious – with enormous eternal value – and encourage each other to capitalize on the opportunities God provides. We should strive to push back the noise the world throws at us while holding up God’s calling on our lives as the only really worthy thing among so many things. Truly, we should make the focus of our existence the commitment of finishing strong in our God-ordained ministries and help each other to one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Mt 25:21).

How does your “Eternal Lifeline” currently translate into actions in the “here and now”? What would you hope might be said by those who know you best during your ‘home-going’ celebration? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Jim is President of the Hard Facts – Soft Skills company.  He is a former Texas state trooper, entrepreneur, and corporate executive, and brings a uniquely powerful perspective and incredible resume to improving performance, productivity and profitability in organizations.  Jim has been coaching and mentoring leaders, professionals and business owners for many years. He is licensed and certified as an Executive Leadership Coach with the Leadership Coach Academy and he is an active member of the International Coach Federation.

To contact Jim, please call: (210) 494-HFSS (4377); send an email to:  jims@hf-ss.com;  or go to the

Hard Facts – Soft Skills website: www.hf-ss.com for more information.