Recently our daughter, Carolyn, and I flew from Toronto to Vancouver and back. While walking through the massive terminals at each end of the journey, I thought of these terminals again as symbols of our lives both while here on earth, and also in the hereafter.
Airline terminals surge with life and swarm with people of all ages, stations, ethnicities, and costumes. Everyone seems to be on a mission. Smiles are not common as they stand patiently in long lines, browse in shops, wearily scan newspapers, or catch naps in boarding areas.
Each activity is fleeting: The browsers soon move on. The sleepers come to life. Newspapers are scanned and left behind partially folded on empty seats. Lines move forward, or dissolve and then reform.
A notice over the public address system breaks into the background commotion, and people stir. They line up at what appears to be a break in the wall, show their tickets and disappear from sight, one at a time.
A little child may be fooled by their disappearance but we are not. We know that they have entered a long corridor that leads to a waiting airplane.
The travellers will be comfortably seated, their cases stashed overhead, and when flight attendants give the captain the signal that all is in readiness this enormous metal bird will taxi to the end of the runway and in no time will rise aloft, disappearing from sight.
Again, those of us who might be watching from the ground are not fooled by their disappearance. It is this constant vanishing from sight that takes passengers into the wide blue yonder. And it is this constant flow of arrivals and departures that make the vast terminals necessary.
The compressed “world” of the airline terminal can remind us, if we will allow it, that this earth, with its variety, beauty and allure, is nevertheless also our point of departure for a life beyond. And just as we know from experience that there is life beyond the break in the wall and the runway, so intuitively we sense that there is life beyond our present human existence.
It is God who plants that awareness in our hearts. We find it there either to take seriously or to reject and bury our futures in a dangerous uncertainty.
For those who take the life-to-come seriously, the New Testament shines with unusual brightness. It promises “life” and “eternal life” again and again as the result of our believing the Gospel. The word “life” here means more than a physical existence such as we have on earth – as great a gift as that is. It means a new and much greater quality of life that shines from the life to come back into our lives today, enriches our experience in the here-and-now and equips us for that larger, fuller life with God forever.
God gives us eternal life when we hear the Gospel and believe, heart and soul, in Christ Jesus as our Savior. It is a new mode of life and it is the supreme gift of the Gospel. This life to come when we depart this earth is most commonly spoken of in the Gospel of John and in John’s first Epistle.
How could St. John have said it more crisply than he did: “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life. And this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11,12).