A Biblical Roadmap from Here to Eternity

*A BIBLICAL ROAD MAP: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

Based on 2 Peter 3:3-14

By David N. Samuel

Introduction:

It is very helpful when we are on a journey to have a map, and to see where we have come from, where we are now, and where we are going. The theme of this passage is the end of the world and the consummation of all things. A vast and awe-inspiring subject, painted here on a large canvas. Peter introduces this subject with some words about the ‘last days’, that is, the period leading up to the end of the world and immediately preceding the Lord’s return. What will be the nature of those times? The ‘last days’ can be used to describe the whole of the Christian era, from the first to the second coming of Christ. That is how the phrase is used in Hebrews 1:1, “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” So in that sense ‘the last days’ are gospel times. But that does not seem to be how Peter is using the expression here. He is rather applying it to the time immediately before the end of the world, as Paul does in 2 Timothy 3:1, “This know, that in the last days perilous times shall come”. Or rather, it is perhaps more true to say that Peter is speaking here of the end not of the world altogether, but of this present world order, to be superseded by another world order which will be brought in by God and Christ. These are his words, “But the heavens and earth which are now… are reserved unto fire… (i.e. they will one day be dissolved in a great conflagration)… Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth”, (which will be fashioned out of the ruin of the old), “in which the righteous shall dwell.”

He then gives his grounds for this assertion, namely, that the heavens and earth that were of old likewise perished, “being overflowed with water.” The antediluvian world passed away in a great ruin, as a consequence of the flood, but out of the ruin God made a new heavens and earth, the one which we now inhabit. But this world will also pass away, not this time by water, but by fire, and will be replaced in its turn by a new earth and heavens in which the saints, the righteous will dwell. In destroying the present world and fashioning a new one, God is not doing something entirely unprecedented. It has been done before, and therefore we have perfectly good grounds for believing what God has declared in his Word he will do again.

Scoffers

Nevertheless, despite all this, and the solid grounds we have for believing it, there will come “in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts”, that is, people who dismiss all this as myth and fairy stories, and who prefer to follow their own inclinations and prejudices. They will pour scorn on any such idea as the end of the present world, and will deride the teaching of the Bible on the second coming of Christ. These are men who will have no time for anything but their own views, theories and prejudices, and will treat the Bible with contempt.

Now Peter is not speaking here simply of unbelievers in general, for there have always been such people. There were such men in the days of the Psalmist, who wrote of them, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalm 52:1). There were those, also, who mocked Paul at Athens, and said, “What will this babbler say?” There have always been such people, who have rejected the Christian faith in a general way. But what Peter means here is that these mockers will be specially prominent in the last days, and the particular target of their scorn and contempt will be the promise of Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. They will be specially incensed by those particular teachings and will make them the object of their ridicule. The scoffers will be specially active and reject out of hand the very notion that the world could come to a sudden end, and that the Lord could come again, as impossible.

The Nature of Unbelief

“These men,” says Peter, “will walk after their own lusts.” That means they will follow their own ideas and desires. They will regard themselves as free sprits, free-thinkers, not bound by any religious teachings, particularly those of the Bible, but free to follow their own thoughts and reasonings, unrestrained by the Word of God. They will consider that they are the men, and that wisdom will die with them, as Job said.

And this will be their downfall, because such a spirit of autonomy in man blinds him to the truth, and cuts him off from reality. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” and they shall know the truth that shall set them free. Knowing the truth is not simply an intellectual attainment, or purely mental thing, as many suppose, but it depends upon the right moral attitude, upon a certain humility and moral disposition. But these men, of whom Peter speaks, have not got that, and are therefore blind and cannot see the truth.

Now the nature of their scoffing will be this: “Where is the promise of his coming?” that is, where is the fulfilment of his promise? Where are the signs and indications that it is going to be fulfilled, and that Christ will come again? They are not asking, where in Scripture is the promise of Christ’s return? They know that is what Christ said, and that it is recorded in the Bible. But they are mocking this and saying, “You see, there is nothing in it. It will not stand up to examination. It is a vain hope that Christians have. Where is the evidence? What do you base your faith in it on? You are simply clinging to an empty promise and vain words. Your belief in Christ’s return is no more than a dream.” And they said all this not in a spirit of genuine enquiry, but in a mocking, scoffing tone of disbelief. It is not merely a simple denial.

Uniformity of Nature

The reason they feel so confident in their rejection of the second coming of Christ is this: “Everything”, they say, “has remained the same since the foundation of the world.” There will be no sudden, cataclysmic end of the world, because “since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” The course of nature and the world, they say, has been uniform and unchanged. Nature is fixed and settled. The world is stable and goes spinning on its way. Therefore, the predictions and prophecies of an impending end of the world are false. The sun rises and sets as it has always done; the tides ebb and flow, and one generation succeeds another. Everything is predictable, therefore there is no substance in the promise of his coming.

Now since the nineteenth century and the rise of evolutionism there has been a growing confidence in this way of thinking. Darwin wrote at the end of the ‘Origin of Species’: “As we look back at the development of living things on earth from the earliest times, and from, perhaps, one or a few forms, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence, we may look with some confidence to a secure future of great length.” Everything, he argued, will gradually go on to ‘perfection’.

Many today share that outlook having been indoctrinated with that teaching. It is the ‘comfort blanket’ in which people wrap themselves against the cold winds of reality. Evolutionism, and all that it implies, is taught universally in our schools and universities. It is the current orthodoxy. Sometimes it takes ridiculous and risible forms, such as, the BBC’s series, ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’, and its sequel, ‘Walking with Cavemen’. It leads directly to the rejection of any notion of the intervention of God in his creation, and of a sudden, imminent end of the world. But, as we have seen, it is not an outlook which is new, but is in fact, very ancient. It is identical with the view of the scoffers to whom Peter refers in his second epistle.

Peter’s Counter-Argument

We come now to Peter’s counter-argument, and it is this: These scoffers are wrong on a simple matter of fact, which invalidates their whole position. It is not true that the world has always gone on in an even, predictable and uniform way. In this respect the scoffers are “willingly ignorant”. By that he means they are not just unaware of this fact, but that they deliberately shut their eyes to it, and refuse to accept it. They adopt this position of wilful ignorance because it does not fit in with their ideas and presuppositions about the world and human life.

The great historical fact that they refuse to accept is the universal flood recorded in Genesis. They refuse to believe that “by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” (2 Peter 3:5, 6). This great historical upheaval is meticulously recorded in the Bible. We have the history of Noah and his family, of the building of the ark, as he was instructed to do by God, of the great cataclysm itself when the rains fell and the waters of the abyss rose and overwhelmed the land. But all this they refuse to believe. They reject it and remain wilfully ignorant.

But not only do they reject the testimony of the Bible, they also reject the evidence of the flood in the world about them. This world is now the ruin that the flood left behind. The hills and rugged mountains, the caverns and gorges all testify to that great upheaval that took place. The sedimentary rocks with their strata are a great charnel house of the remains of the creatures that perished, all precipitously, in the flood, for only so could such thicknesses and layers of rock, which were once mud, have been laid down.

The World Before the Flood

Peter is very exact in his description of the old, antediluvian world. He says that it existed by the Word of God; “by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth…” That is, the world was originally formed by Divine power, by Divine decree or fiat. It emerged out of a chaos of waters, as we read in Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and void: and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” This corresponds to Peter’s description, “The heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water.” This is a difficult expression, and has presented a problem to translators. The word sunestwsa, translated here, “standing” means, in fact, “consisting of” and the literal translation would read, “the earth consisting of and by water”. This presents a difficult problem, and translators have tended to cut the knot rather than untie it. The truth is, however, exactly what Peter is saying, viz., that the world that passed away in the flood was different from what we now know. It was a terraqueous earth “consisting of and by water”, i.e., formed over a great abyss of water; as the Psalmist expresses it, “He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:2). So that when the earth ruptured the fountains of the great abyss overwhelmed the whole earth, as indeed we are informed in the Genesis account of the flood.

The Power of God’s Word

This serves to remind us that the world was not only created by the Word of God in the beginning, but has been sustained by it at all times, and is so today. Men ought to have respect not so much to what they call the uniformity of nature, (which is only the product of observation and carries with it no guarantee as to the future), but to the Word of God, that is, Christ Himself, who is back of all things and by whom all things are upheld (Hebrews 1:3).

This, then, is a complete refutation by Peter of the argument of the scoffers and sceptics. Christ will, indeed, come again, because he has said so, because the Word of God declares it, and that is what counts, that is the fundamental reality undergirding all things, and which determines everything else that happens in the world. The so-called uniformity of nature cannot prevent it, because it is itself dependent upon the Word of God. The great facts of the flood and creation show that to be the case. The ancient world that existed before the flood passed away when the time came and God passed judgment upon it. The world that then was perished, and a new and different order and economy was introduced, viz., “the heavens and earth that now are.” But we must never forget that this order also is upheld and sustained only by the Word of God. There is no such thing as autonomous nature, independent of the sustaining Word and will of the Creator. “But the heavens and earth which now are, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment…” (2 Peter 3:7). They are preserved or reserved, as the Scriptures have it, against the last time, when the present order of the world will be destroyed also and replaced by another. How conscious ought we to be of the direct will and keeping of God. Every moment, every hour we, and the entire world in which we live, are sustained by Him – kept in existence by his Word. Not a sparrow falls to the ground, “without your heavenly Father”, that is, without his permission. How oblivious people are, in general, of this fact, and go on day after day taking life and the world for granted. They fail to see that they are kept from utter annihilation only by the Word and decree of Almighty God. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). Let us always remember this, that we are kept by the power of God. Whether it is common grace, which applies to all men, believers and unbelievers alike, making life in general possible in the world, and granting such conditions as we require for it to be carried on; or whether it is special grace, which is given to the Christian believer and preserves him in the way of life and salvation, it is all ultimately traceable to the will and purpose of God. It is God’s Word that ultimately upholds the world, till the time comes for his ending it (Hebrews 1:3).

The Passing Away of this Present World

Now Peter tells us that this present world will also, in God’s time, pass away as did the previous one – the world that existed before the flood. The difference, however, will be that, whereas the former perished by water, the present world will perish by fire, in a great conflagration. “The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire” (2 Peter 3:7). “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). That does not mean that the whole universe will perish, but that part of it which we immediately perceive. By the heavens is not meant the starry heavens, but the frame of things immediately around us on this earth. There will be a great conflagration embracing the whole planet.

Such destruction of the elements could not occur without “a great noise”; a noise like the whizzing of an arrow, as the expression implies – a great whoosh! like a devouring flame. The word today is ‘fire-ball’. It is interesting that the ancient philosophers said that the world would be destroyed by fire. Where they got it from we cannot tell. Fire and water are the two unruly elements, and have been spoken of as alone capable of destroying the world. They are also means of cleansing and purifying. The Stoics preserved a doctrine of conflagration which they got originally from the Eastern philosophers. But the testimony of Scripture is paramount. “The heavens shall vanish away like smoke” (Isaiah 51:6). “Heaven and earth shall pass away” (Matthew 24:35). “The fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). St. Paul also speaks of the Lord being “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The prophet Malachi declares, “The day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble” and so on, in many other parts of Scripture.

Modern Knowledge

Our modern knowledge of the world makes such a consummation more, not less feasible. All the elements of the world are combustible. By ‘elements’, of course, St. Peter meant all the things contained in the world, in the heavens and the earth. He did not mean what we mean by ‘elements’. The ancients in that sense thought of four elements – air, earth, fire and water. But it means that all things in the world will be burnt up and consumed by fire. All things are combustible, once the heat reaches a certain intensity; even water is highly combustible being composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. But Peter means also all the things that are in the world – all the works of nature and art; all the things that man has made, that seem so lasting and secure and enduring. The whole mineral, vegetable and animal creation; all towers and bridges, palaces and productions of genius.

There is a sense in which the world is already poised over such a general conflagration. The centre of the earth is a mass of molten, liquid fire. The deeper you go into the earth the more intensely the heat is felt. This fire occasionally breaks out in the form of volcanoes, which act as safety valves. Such fires are only restrained by the Word of God, as Peter says. The great conflagration of the last day could burst out, rising from beneath the surface of the earth, like the great flood of waters, when the fountains of the great deep were broken up.

Every so often the watcher of the sky sees a distant world burst into great brilliance, shine brightly and then go out in darkness. What is happening? A world is on fire. And according to Peter, that is what will happen when the Day of the Lord comes.

And when that happens, all things shall be dissolved. The elements shall melt with the intense heat and dissolve. And that is precisely the correct term; for fire, in fact, destroys nothing. We speak popularly of fire destroying, but in fact nothing is destroyed, but only dissolved and reduced to another form. Fire transforms solid matter into liquids, and liquids into gasses. But nothing, in fact, is lost of the sum of the total matter. Only God can destroy in that ultimate sense, and annihilate by an act of ‘decreation’ or ‘uncreation’. And so what the fire of the Day of the Lord will do is to change the creation and transform it into a “new heaven and a new earth”.

The First State of Creation

The present world will, therefore, be dissolved by fire, just as the ancient antediluvian world was by water, and another world will be prepared to take its place; one which will be fashioned out of the fiery destruction and ruin. The first state of the world was that of paradise and innocence, a perfect world peopled with perfect human beings. But that first state did not last, for sin entered and mankind was ejected from the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, the world was not at that time destroyed, and the conditions that prevailed, prior to the flood, were more congenial and propitious to life generally than those which followed that universal cataclysm. This we can conclude from the fact that human beings lived for much longer periods of time before the flood. It would appear that a new course of nature was ushered in after the flood. Prior to that there was no rain upon the earth, but instead “there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:6). There was no rainbow until after the flood, when the first rain had fallen upon the earth (Genesis 9:13). Nature had a wild luxuriance at first, and all life must have benefited from the favourable conditions which prevailed.

Man’s Astonishing Powers

But not only was the earth more clement and hospitable to life in general prior to the flood, but the people were superior and more advanced than they have been since; the very opposite in fact of the now familiar myth of the ‘cave man’ and the sub-human forms that populate the imagination today. They were, of course, the same species as ourselves, but with enormously enhanced powers that we have since lost.

Not only did they live much longer – seven, eight, and nine hundred years in many cases – but they were capable of exercising greater powers of mind and soul. It is recognised that the powers of the human brain are far greater than the uses to which we now put it. It is as if great areas of this marvellous organ, the human brain, are shut-off or closed down, and so are no longer accessible to us, as they were to Adam at the beginning. “God created man in his own image”, male and female, and commanded them to be fruitful, to subdue the earth, “and have dominion” (lordship) over every living thing in it. Adam named, classified, all the creatures that God made. That is a most astonishing feat. The nomenclature and classification of all species of flora and fauna is a vast scheme which is still incomplete. Yet one man was able to comprehend the whole of it at the beginning. Man was originally god-like. “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness”, said God. Such is the high-calling and the astounding powers that God gave to man originally. But the fall of man stripped him of most of those powers, and the realm of nature itself has also suffered as a consequence of the fall. It is subject, says Paul, to vanity, futility (Romans 8:20); that is, frustrated in that it cannot fulfil its original purpose. So we see what a terrible catastrophe the fall of man was for himself and the whole natural world. It affected not only him but the whole creation.

The Restitution of Creation

But the promise that runs through the Scriptures is that God will restore both man and the creation. As Paul puts it, the creation was made subject to vanity (i.e. futility, corruption, and ruin) not willingly, not of its own inclination or tendency, but because God for the sin and rebellion of man had cursed it. But the redemption of man holds forth the promise and hope of the restoration of the creation also, and of its eventual deliverance from futility and corruption. The creation will, when Christ returns and the redeemed are manifested with him, be restored to that condition of liberty which it had lost.

Paul describes the whole creation groaning and travailing in expectation of this deliverance, and of its restoration. And the redeemed themselves live also in earnest hope of it, for they have an earnest or guarantee of it, the first fruits of the Spirit in themselves. They therefore groan within themselves, waiting for their deliverance and for the new heaven and earth which God will recreate.

It follows from this that all merely human ideas and hopes of creating a perfect world and a perfect society are illusory and vain. They are literally utopian, in that they can have no place or reality in the present state of the world. They spring from human pride, and from sin and rebellion against God. As often as men aspire to them, they end in ruin and despair. The age of reason, the French revolution, all ended in despair and chaos, as have the more recent attempts to establish communism.

The Christian hope transcends all this. As Peter puts it, “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness”, or in which the righteous dwell, since righteousness is a quality that only exists amongst people not things. After the great conflagration that will attend the second coming of Christ, the righteous will inhabit the new earth. The renovation of the natural world so as to become the dwelling of the righteous is spoken of frequently in Scripture. Jesus declared, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” That clearly is not the case at present, nor has it been in past ages. It has been, and is, the great ones and the tyrants who partition the earth amongst themselves. The same words are found in the Psalms, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psalm 37:11). Also in Hebrews we read of “the world to come” (oikoumenhn), which means the habitable world in which all things are subject to the Saviour, the representative or proper man. This will be the reign of Christ and his saints in a new, restored earth. The marks of that reign will be justice, peace and the Divine Presence. Our Lord bade his followers pray, “Thy kingdom come in earth as it is in heaven.”

Peter spoke, when preaching on the day of Pentecost, of this new heaven and earth as “the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19ff). “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus which before was preached unto you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” This restitution of all things is the physical and moral regeneration of the creation, which Peter later speaks of, in his second epistle, as the new heavens and the new earth. Since all the prophets testify to this and Peter appeals to them, let us look briefly at their testimony.

The Testimony of the Prophets

We must not imagine that the prophets wrote like the poets, and dreamed up an idea of a romantic state of things, that never was, nor ever will be, only to please their fancies, or credulous people. What they speak of is no insubstantial thing, nor is it the state of heaven and eternal life, which is to come afterwards. What they foretold was the restoration of the natural world conjoined with the regeneration of its inhabitants. Thus Isaiah 65 joins together the renovation of the natural and moral world. “For behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Having set down the natural characteristics of that new state as being rest, longevity, ease and plenty, the prophet then describes the moral character of it, such as, divine favour and such a particular protection that the inhabitants are heard before they pray. And, lastly, he describes it as a state of universal peace and innocency. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord” (v. 25). This state of peace, justice and innocency is again fully described in Isaiah chapter 11. “But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth… the leopard shall lie down with the kid… And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together… They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” It is impossible to understand this state of things as applying to any order that has been or is. It can only refer to the restitution of all things, which also is the subject of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, and more fully expounded in the passage from 2 Peter that we are considering. It is that state of things also to which our Lord referred when he spoke to his disciples of the regeneration of all things: “And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28). paliggenesia means ‘rebirth’, a renovation or renewal of the original state. Our Lord is saying that the earth will be restored to its original, pristine state, and the disciples will have a share in the rule of that regenerated state of the earth. This state of things is foretold in Micah 2:2-4. “The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains…” The nations shall flow to it, and they will beat their swords into ploughshares, and there will be universal peace.

This is what is meant by the new heavens and the new earth “in which dwelleth righteousness”, to which Peter refers, and which will emerge from the great conflagration of which he speaks, which conflagration will herald the Lord’s return. It is both a fearful prospect and yet, at the same time, one that holds out the great hope for the world and humanity.

Conclusion

Finally, since all these things will take place, says Peter, what sort of people ought we to be? (v. 11). That is the great question with which Peter concludes his second epistle. What sort of people ought we to be in all holy conversation, that is, in our faith and the practice of it; loving God and walking closely with Him, in holy living and behaviour towards others, both inside and outside the church; seeking their spiritual welfare and salvation.

The value of this survey of things through which Peter has conducted us in the closing chapter of his second epistle is, that it gives a grand sweep of events; we see what has gone before, where we are now, and what is to come. A road map is essential when we are on a journey. We can trace our journey so far, and see how much we have yet to go. Without it we are lost, we haven’t a clue. A Biblical road map does exactly that for us in spiritual terms. It shows how the world God created was once a perfect world, formed and fashioned by Him out of nothing originally, and out of chaos. But because of the sin of man that primeval world perished in a flood of waters, under the judgment of God. The world we now see and inhabit is not the world God originally created, but the ruin of that world, and will itself, in God’s time, perish by fire, and be replaced by a new heavens and earth in which the righteous shall dwell. A world that will be ruled not by angels but by the Son of God himself and by his saints. “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak… But we see Jesus…” (Hebrews 2:5ff).

I imagine that many people when they utter the Lord’s prayer, and say “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven,” have very little idea what exactly it is they are praying for. They might be thinking of this present world getting better and better; of society being improved by social legislation; and people becoming better behaved, and of growing prosperity, until some kind of perfect world is achieved. That, I think, is how popular thinking goes, following the evolutionary thought of the nineteenth century, and which is still current today. It is strange how much of this has rubbed off on the church so that its thought is not merely coloured, but actually controlled by it. But the Biblical picture – the road the Bible maps out for the future kingdom of God – is quite different; and that is because it also has a different view of the past. The whole Biblical viewpoint is at variance with worldly wisdom.

Now, seeing all these things we have described will take place, or as Peter himself puts it, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved,” that is, the present earth and heaven will be destroyed and re-created in the way he describes; “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” What ought we to be doing? and how ought we to be living? I conclude with these practical remarks:

1. Look to the end of things; only so can we get matters in their proper proportion and perspective. It is like the mathematical point outside the picture that gives the picture its perspective, because all the lines converge upon it. We have to look to the end of all things in order to understand the present and be able to order our lives accordingly. People today think very little about the end of the world. They live in and for the present; for the passing moment and the fleeting pleasure. They do not like the long view of life. But this is what we are called upon to do. “Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be…?”

2. It should make us more diligent and faithful, so that we keep close to God and look constantly to him. “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (v. 14).

3. It ought to make us less anxious about the material and temporal things of this world. Seeing there is nothing that is permanent, and all its works will pass away – the gold and silver will melt and dissolve; all that the world counts dear will perish – let us not become too attached to them, and build our hopes upon them. “Let us use this world as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away” (1 Corinthians 7:31).

4. It should give us a strong attachment to the things of the Spirit – to the Scriptures, which tell us the truth about all these matters that concern us and our eternal salvation; which inform us of the will and purposes of God, who created all things, and the purpose for which He created them and us. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2, 3). “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18). Thus, by doing this our natures will be refined and purified, and we shall be made “heavenly minded”.

5. It will give us a serious frame of mind – a mind which is able to judge and discriminate and sift the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the dross, the precious from the vile.

6. And, finally, it will make us more dedicated, more zealous, to work while it is yet day, to husband our time and opportunities, and to exercise a faithful stewardship of that which has been committed to us.

*A paper given at the Ninth Annual Assembly of the Church of England (Continuing), on Saturday 12 July 2003