The title of this article may be a bit misleading. It is not so much eternal destinies that I have in view. The title might be put into clearer focus by asking a question: “Where is history going?”
Currently, there are three worldviews which are competing for the spotlight in answer to this question. In the teaching of many Eastern religions, history is cyclical. On both the personal and cosmic plain, it is nothing more than a repetitive cycle of events. Thus, teaching about reincarnation is common to many. History is a recurring cycle with no ultimate goal other than the individual’s “perfection” through many lives.
Secular humanism answers by telling us that history is going nowhere. We are the accidental byproduct of evolutionary forces which are controlled by no transcendent wisdom or purpose. Jacques Monod’s oft-repeated expression that we are here as a result of “a throwing of the dice” perhaps best encapsulates the mindless, purposeless power that guides blind evolution.
The third answer is the biblical one: there is a transcendent, all-wise and all-loving God who is guiding history “after the counsel of his own will” (Eph 1:11). The Christian worldview posits a Creator-God who is in control of history and guiding it all toward its ultimate purpose – the glory of His Son (Col 1:15-17). He is moving history toward its ultimate goal – not a utopian society, but new heavens and a new earth. There, and there alone, sin will no longer be able to raise its head. No dissenting voice will be heard in the chorus of praise to the Lamb. No self-will will interject itself into that society. History has a goal.
Given the three options, it is likely that most would prefer the last: history that is headed somewhere instead of nowhere; history that is headed somewhere rather than repeating its sad and sordid past. But personal preferences must not be the judge of truth. What we would like is not necessarily always what is true. However, what is true is always what we will like and prefer.
How are we to judge among the three contestants? What standard can we apply to assess the validity of the claims made by each?
The Eastern cyclical concept of history does have in its favor the uncanny tendency for history to repeat itself. But this repetition is actually only a reflection, expressing the evil of the human heart. Repression, rebellion, struggle, independence and liberty have all played out, and replayed, on the human scene for millennia. Their recurrence on the larger landscape of history hardly argues for a grand design of individual reincarnation with the recycling of the soul. History repeats itself because the human heart has not changed from the Fall in Eden to the present day. Human beings will always strive to be as gods, controlling and oppressing others. Likewise, individual testimonies of having a sense of having lived a former life or in a former existence lack any objective basis for credibility.
The secular view of history is based on the twin foundations of the absence of God and the belief in materialism. To the secular mind, there is nothing outside the material universe. Thus there can be no “guiding force” other than chance. There is no transcendent wisdom, only the evolutionary forces which have brought us to this point in history. Our destiny lies a billion years in the future when our sun will self-destruct, taking our earth into oblivion.
The Christian worldview, a view that recognizes a sovereign, wise and purposeful hand directing history, is based on the Word of God. But before any object and counter this assertion by calling this a circular argument, consider this: an event has taken place within history which has defined history and confirmed its destiny. It is only the Christian worldview that provides objective evidence for its claim that history does have a goal.
God incarnate entered history! He lived amongst us as a Man; He taught truth concerning the direction of history. He spoke about issues relating to a time before history began its course (Joh 17:5,24). He spoke of the course of history (Luk 11:50-52). He spoke of future events in history (Mat 24-25). He made reference to heaven and earth passing away (Mat 24:35), and of a day when He would come with power and great glory (Mat 24:30). All the events of time are moving to a culmination, a grand crescendo of divine making. He spoke with the consciousness of a Hand which was controlling and guiding everything to its goal.
The Eastern mystic and the Western materialist may well challenge this on the basis that this is all contained in a book, the Bible, which they claim is accepted on “blind faith.” What they fail to appreciate is that the Man who spoke these words and made these assertions was put to death and then rose from the dead. A Man, while dead, in death, had the power to raise Himself from the dead (Joh 2:19). The Man who could do this must be God; and if He is God, His words must be true. The resurrection of Christ is the validation of all He preached. While the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is a truth revealed in Scripture, it is also an event open to examination by any open-minded investigator. Many, initially unsympathetic to the truth of resurrection, have approached the events and subsequent events in secular history and have come away with the conviction that the only plausible explanation is that the claim of resurrection is true. Nothing else fits the facts. Always remember that historical events are not confirmed by “scientific” methods, but by criteria established to evaluate their validity.
Resurrection confirms that history has a destiny; we are not traveling in circles nor aimlessly wandering through the universe. As individuals, we have an eternal destiny. As a civilization, we are moving to a cosmos in which He will have the preeminence (Col 1:18). There is an “end” in view. There is a day circled on God’s calendar when the Lord Jesus, the faithful steward, will deliver up the Kingdom to God His Father, so that God, the triune God, can be all and in all (1Co 15:24-28).
History not only has a destiny but has a glorious consummation, a consummation befitting the wisdom, power and love of the God who is directing it all. So great, so wondrous will it be, that the greatest earthly celebration will seem like a poorly planned and poorly executed preschool graduation. And perhaps the greatest thing is that grace has fitted us to be celebrated attendees!