The apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-2, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, and not on the things on the earth." He urges us to keep focused on our God and His purpose for us.
For our wedding anniversary, my wife and I went to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. From the street outside, there is a quite impressive view of the city's iconic skyline. From the vantage point at the museum campus, the skyline appears to be bordered on one side by the 100-story John Hancock Building and on the other by 110-story Willis Tower. It is a classic picture that has made for numerous memorable photographs and souvenirs.
Chicago's skyline is indeed a sight to behold, but after viewing it, we entered the Planetarium. We were there for only a few hours, but we learned some exciting information about what the Bible terms "the heavens." The displays at the museum attempt to explain the universe to the extent that we know, and as impressive as they are, we undoubtedly know about only a fraction of what is out there. The visit inspired us to look up some additional information about the mystery that is the universe.
The earth is God's gift to mankind, and He has made us beneficiaries and stewards of its untold wealth. For example, as of 2011, mankind has mined approximately 165,000 metric tons of gold in all of human history. That works out to more than 360 million pounds of gold with a value of more than $8 trillion, or about $1,200 for every one of the seven billion men, women, and children alive on the earth. (I'd like mine in $20s, please.)
But there is more! We live in the perfect spot in our solar system, with seven other planets circling a medium-sized star, a very small part of a much larger stellar system known as the Milky Way Galaxy, which spans about 120,000 light years. Astronomers estimate that about 400 billion stars of differing sizes and brightness hang within the Milky Way! And there are many, many other galaxies, some with more than a trillion stars—even giant elliptical galaxies that have one hundred trillion stars! Besides these, scientists have also discovered tiny "dwarf galaxies" with only a fraction of the stars in our galaxy.
Last year, USA Today reported that "in all, about 8.8 billion stars in our galaxy have planets that are nearly the size of Earth and also have a surface temperature conducive to the development of life." Scientists estimate that around 40 billion planets contain similar resources and potential life-sustaining environments just within the Milky Way—and that does not even include the wealth of material assets that may be available on them!
Ethan Siegel is a theoretical astrophysicist in Portland, Oregon, specializing in cosmology, the study of the universe and its origins. He states that, by looking at data from the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists extrapolate that the known universe contains at least 176 billion galaxies and possibly as many as a trillion galaxies! Even the lower figure is a 75% increase in the number of galaxies they estimated just a few years ago, and he wonders, "How many more?"
Scientists multiply the numbers of stars in the Milky Way by the number of galaxies in the universe, coming up with 1024 stars, which is one septillion. For the sake of round numbers, if we multiply the amount of stars by the number of planets in our solar system, we come up with 8 septillion planets in the universe! I cannot help but think of the reverence for God that we hear in that old hymn, "How Great Thou Art."
What makes this even more incredible is that Jesus Christ has been made heir of all things, and Romans 8:17 says that we are joint-heirs with Him! In I Corinthians 2:9, Paul muses, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those that love Him." He wants to share this amazing universe with us!
French poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, "True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new." He hit the nail on the head. Both God and Christ work constantly. The Weymouth version of John 5:17 translates Jesus as saying, "My Father works unceasingly, and so do I." Scripture suggests that, in the Kingdom, we, too, will be working unceasingly with God as His full-fledged children to develop the universe to bring it to the condition that it was meant to be before Satan's rebellion. Can we imagine the incredible projects that God has in store for us to do? What in this life can even begin to compare?
We have an incomparable destiny ahead of us, if we endure (Matthew 24:13). But there is more than just things in store for us. Above all, we are promised eternal life, the life of God. In John 17:3, Jesus says that eternal life is to know both the Father and the Son intimately. I John 3:2 shows us that, although we do not know all the details of what we will be like after our change, "we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
Much greater than all of this magnificent Creation is the One who created it all, our God. He and His Family will be glorious! Moses was in the presence of God for forty days, and his face literally radiated with God's glory. How much greater will be our eternal glory?
Revelation 1:13-16 gives a description of the glorified Christ:
. . . One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet, and girded around the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice like the sound of many waters. . . . His countenance was like the sun shining in full strength.
Recall that the apostle John writes that "we shall be like Him." It is hard to imagine that we could also have such glory and power, but that is what the Bible says. Paul affirms this statement in II Corinthians 3:18, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image . . . from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (New American Standard Bible).
Ultimately, we will share in all that God is and all that He has. And remember, eternal life is not only quality of life, but it is also quantity of days! As the firstfruits of His Family, we will be working with God forever! We can rely on His promise in Revelation 21:7, "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."
- John Reiss
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