If you know how a movie ends, does that ruin it for you? Do you guard yourself from spoilers before you see it? Or are you one of those people who reads the last page of a book, just to reassure yourself it’s got a happy ending, then go back to read it from the beginning again?

I am halfway between the two – I am keen to know the ending but do not want to miss anything that led to it, either. So, I stay up late into the night (or very early in the morning, depending how you look at it!) to finish off a book. A well-crafted ending will demonstrate that the story was building up to this point all along and that this conclusion was inevitable. 

In many ways, the Christian life is kind of like going back to the beginning of the book after reading the last page, because we already know how our story ends. One day, in the not-too-distant future, our risen Lord Jesus will return. Those who have died in faith will rise again and those alive in the faith will together be taken up to heaven to live with Christ forever (1 Thess 4:16-17). This will be a place of great joy, where God will dwell with us and death and suffering will be a distant memory (Rev 21:1-4). 

It is hard to imagine a better ending than that! To live eternally with our creator God and Saviour Jesus, celebrating all that he has done for us until the end of time. It will be the happiest of all happy endings. More glorious than we could ever have dreamed. 

But knowing that God has very graciously given away the ending for us, what do we do in the meantime? What decisions do we make with our lives to fill the pages in between? Does the fact that we know our ending impact what we do in between?

The Bible absolutely argues that this is so. From Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins (Matt 25:1-13) to Paul’s thoughts on suffering (2 Cor 4) and Peter’s letters to elders of the church (1 Pet 5:1-4), Christians have been urged to live in the here and now with the ending very much in sight. The Bible urges us to live in a way that is consistent with our future in eternity. So, what implications does our ending have on how we live out our lives? 

Relationships: God first! 

If we are going to live with someone, it is of great importance that we get to know them as well as we can beforehand. When we know God in this world and have a deep and profound relationship with him, then the prospect of spending eternity with him becomes more exciting and enticing every day. When we love someone with all our hearts, it is not a burden to find time to spend with them, but a joy. We create opportunities to keep devoting more time to being with them.

When we prioritise our relationship with God and grow deeper and deeper in our walk with him, our lives will naturally build around this most significant relationship. We want to be around other people that have this relationship, too. People who will support us in working on our relationship, as they are doing the same thing. People who will pray for our relationship with God to grow. People who would encourage us to prioritise our time in reading God’s word. People who will keep us accountable if they notice that our relationship with God is stumbling. 

When our relationship with God is stable and strong, it does not feel as difficult to give up or limit relationships that create barriers between us and him. It is not as hard to choose between God and a relationship. This can be for any relationships, whether it be familial, romantic or friendships. The prospect of being with anyone who would endanger our eternity with God discourages us from pursuing it. God changes our hearts to want him more than anything else. 

Furthermore, if there is anyone precious in our lives who will not be in heaven with us, it drives us to our knees in prayer. It creates a sense of urgency in sharing the gospel in the hope that their fate may be changed. It grieves us that they do not know the wonders of the Christian message and the forgiveness that is offered. So we continue to share the message with them, never giving up hope. 

Work: God first! 

Knowing that we only have a short time here on earth sharpens our focus on doing work that has meaning and purpose, not just for this world but the world beyond it. Any employment we seek is weighed up against how much it will impact our contribution towards God’s kingdom.

For some people it means being freed up from secular work to pursue vocational ministry full-time. For others it means being in a secular workplace as a missionary to meet with non-believers. For others still it could mean work is primarily in the household to raise children God has blessed us with to belong to God’s kingdom. 

Once we are in the workforce, there are numerous ways to engage with it that preaches our citizenship in heaven. I have been greatly encouraged by many other Christians who have shown me this through direct examples. People who have intentionally negotiated reasonable and/or flexible work hours so they can engage in kingdom work – taking a few hours off on a weekday morning to teach a Scripture class; working nine-day fortnights and spending that day volunteering for church; starting up lunchtime Bible study/prayer groups in their workplace. Others have chosen to walk away from employers that do not support their Christian values and have gone elsewhere. 

In a world that is obsessed with idolising career and chasing success, our counter-cultural attitude to work can preach our eternity more than a thousand conversations.

Generosity: God first!

Directly related to our attitude to work is our approach to money and hospitality. Some suggestions of how we can reflect our heavenly reality include:  

setting aside a portion of our income so we can financially support the ministry of our church;

giving so that gifted and godly people can be freed up from secular work to be in vocational ministry;

prioritising giving towards organisations that promote the work of the gospel, such as Bible translating and theological education – or even aid organisations that offer both gospel and aid. 

Spending money in this way does not make sense unless we see ourselves as stewards of money that belongs to God. Rather than seeing money as means to increase our own comfort levels and living standards, we obey the call from Jesus to store up our treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-21). 

But generosity is more about the heart than the dollar amount. Some people can give large amounts that make no impact on their daily living, while for others even a small amount can be costly. But some of the most generous people that I have known show their hearts in other ways as well, through hospitality in their homes, giving time to care for others and kind spirits that continually pray for others. 

I have given only a few examples of how our ending impacts us now. But in essence, our ending shapes all of now. A good understanding of our ending gives us reassurance in times of doubt, hope in times of loss and peace in turmoil. Our ending gives our life more than shape, but a meaning and destination that we strive towards. 

It will not always be easy to remember our eternal destinies. It will always be a struggle to live out our Christian faith with our ending in mind when the here and now feels so present and immediate. We can only remain focused on the end of our race through strength that God can give through the power of the Holy Spirit in Christ. 

In 2 Timothy, we see that the Apostle Paul is a great example of a person who fought the spiritual and material forces of the world to reach Christ. My prayer for all of us would be that we may be able to imitate him and be able to say at the end of our lives: 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Tim 4:7-8).

See you all on that day, standing side by side with me, ready to receive the crown of righteousness.

The Rev Susan An is Dean of Women at Moore Theological College.