What Time Is It?
What hath cyber Monday to do with eternity? For starters, yesterday offered a $2 billion glimpse into where America's treasure is being stored up (cf. Matt 6:19-21). But the fact that mobile devices have become the purchasing organ of choice brings into view, too, the perspectives on this world and the next espoused by the famous duo whose fingerprints, along with our own, cover our digital companions.
In an interview shortly after Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer last year, his biographer Walter Isaacson recalled a conversation with Jobs where the CEO discussed his views about God, the afterlife, and the design of his ubiquitous Apple products. "Sometimes I don't [believe in God]. It's 50-50," said Jobs, "But ever since I've had cancer I've been thinking about it more, and I find myself believing it a bit more." After a short pause, he added, "Yeah but sometimes I think it's like an on-off switch. Click, and you're gone . . . And that's why I don't put on-off switches on Apple devices." Strange, isn't it, that the very devices which tether so many to this world themselves embody their inventor's fear of death?
Bill Gates, Job's longtime rival in computerdom, offered a complementary remark (to TIME Magazine, of all things): "Just in terms of allocation of resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning." Small wonder that this quote, rather than the other, comes from the billionaire computer wiz who has never received a cancer diagnosis.
Of course, iPads eventually run out of juice and, just as surely, our Sunday mornings will give way to a cataclysmic and glorious transformation of all things. Both are terrifying prospects for those whose biological clocks are set according to the wisdom of this age. By contrast, Christians must learn to number their days aright (Ps 90:12); to refuse to count slowness as some count slowness (2 Pet 3:9); to hold onto their iPhones loosely (1 Cor 7:31); and to rejoice in the dawn of eternity in Jesus Christ (2 Tim 1:10).
So, with the tragic words of Jobs and Gates still lit up on your screen, set your watches to this observation delivered in a sermon by Geerhardus Vos:
"Time, especially time with the wasting power it acquires through sin, is the archenemy of all human achievement. It kills the root of joy which otherwise belongs to working and building. All things which the succeeding generations of mankind have wrought in the course of the ages succumb to its attacks. The tragic sense of this accompanies the race at every step in its march through history. It is like a pall cast over the face of all peoples...
Now put over against this the triumphant song of life and assurance of immortality that fills the glorious, spacious days of the New Covenant, especially where first it issues from the womb of the morning bathed in the dew of imperishable youth. The note of futility and depression has disappeared, and in place of this the rapture of victory over death and decay, the exultant feeling of immersion in the atmosphere of eternity prevail . . . It is the prerogative of God, the Eternal One, to work for eternity. As the King of the ages he discounts and surmounts all the intervening forces and barriers of time. He who is made to share in this receives the highest form which the divine image can assume in its reproduction in man. Neither things present nor things to come can conquer him. He reigns in life with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord" (G. Vos, "The More Excellent Ministry - 2 Corinthians 3:18," in Grace and Glory, p. 46).
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