Of bucket lists, fear of death, and eternal perspectives

Example of a bucket list
I read Tim Challies' link to Randy Alcorn's piece on 'bucket lists'. Alcorn, whose niche field of study is heaven and whose ministry is named Eternal Perspective Ministries wrote an essay recently titled "You don't need a bucket list". It is sooo true, having an eternal perspective changes everything.

Bucket list is a term popularized by a 2007 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The term refers to a person making a list and doing all that is on it before one dies, or 'kicks the bucket.'

Mr Alcorn wrote:
The idea is, since our time on earth is limited, if something is important for us to do, we have to do it now, because this is our only chance to do it.

This makes sense from a naturalistic worldview, one which doesn’t recognize any afterlife. It also makes sense from various religious worldviews that maintain there may be existence after death, but without resurrection and physical properties, and with no continuity between this life and the next. The one worldview in which the bucket list makes no sense is biblical Christianity.
For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure, but our exit from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, and entrance into a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.

The resurrection's reality makes bucket lists unnecessary. The interesting thing is I never talk about bucket lists. However the day after I read the Alcorn article, someone raised the topic and I became involved in a discussion about bucket lists. The conversation brought the Alcorn article to mind. I love how that providentially happens!

I was saved when I was 42. I had many years decades of secular living before the eternal perspective came in. In the conversation I explained that I've already checked everything off my bucket list. The other person said I should make a new list.

I thought to myself, "Why? I did all that I'd wanted before, I now have all that I need for victorious living, and in the future I'll have the entire world, universe and best of all, Jesus."

That thought got me thinking further about why secular people make bucket lists in the first place, or at least why I did.

It's the fear of death.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Death comes for all of us eventually. EPrata photo
And again in Romans 8:15 we read of the fear-

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Note the connection in the Hebrews verse of the fear of death and slavery. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says,

Christ by delivering us from the curse of God against our sin, has taken from death all that made it formidable. Death, viewed apart from Christ, can only fill with horror, if the sinner dares to think.

Because, behind the fear of death is the fear of judgment. All people know and understand that there are standards to behavior. God has made it plain to them. (Romans 1:18-20). We all have a conscience and a moral compass. We instinctively know that murder is wrong, for example. Each person has a conscience in them and knows that they do wrong, all the time. What they suppress is Who they do wrong against. Therefore they suppress the truth and focus on this life rather than an afterlife. And because an afterlife is too terrible to contemplate, we try to make this life as fun as possible. Hence, a bucket list.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything. The disciples who were with Him heard His words about going away and were mightily troubled. However Jesus reassured them, that His death would bring eternal life, and they would be with Him forever. (John 14, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" speech).

All of the disciples of Jesus since that upper Room Discourse are similarly reassured. The atoning work of Jesus on the cross and the Father's approval of His Son's work by raising Him from the dead, reassures us that all who are in Christ will possess the very great treasure. This treasure is eternal.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Why cling to a bucket when we have all treasure already? When nothing will be denied to us, and we can do, see, and experience all that Christ will has to offer?

As Alcorn said, it is good to want to experience new things, and to have goals written down on a list. There is nothing wrong with that. However, the impetus behind the bucket list is removed from us due to Christ's resurrection. There is no need to hurry up, no fear is warranted, no worries about missed opportunities. The best is not now, but is actually to come. Maybe I'll make a POST-bucket list.

--Fly over to Saturn to view the rings up close
--Applaud Jesus' formation of new Earth and new Heaven
--Do good work for Christ without selfish motivations or sin polluting it
--Have long conversations learning from Abraham, Noah, Enoch, Elijah, ...
--Sit at the feet of Jesus and watch Him rule and reign in perfect love and justice
--Smell a flower
--Look up all my ancestors, all the way back, who made it to heaven
--Read the bible with perfect understanding

But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55"O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"(1 Corinthians 15:55)

Life everlasting in Jesus


  1. I"ve had so many mini mind-explosions over the last 24 hours. This is the 3rd. Come to think of it, this would put perspective to why I don't feel the need to travel the whole world, like some do.

    For one, I've been to different countries because I was born in Sweden.
    And I've seen many exotic locations -- ones I could never have seen as a tourist, either -- from nature and travel shows.
    Finally, the real adventure is in eternity, when I'll have an endless time to explore.
    And I'm personally suspicious that there will be some way that God will let us "see what happened" in history -- rather than forgetting it, the more to give Him glory for what He did -- so in that sense I would get to travel the whole world anyway. But even if not, I'm content because the world isn't the greatest thing there is to see. God's majesty is.

    :) Thanks for the epiphany.

  2. It is interesting to me that you wrote 2 posts, covering 2 of the topics in Christendom that are frustrations for me. Fringe eschatology and professing Christians short-sightedness on eternity. Both make me figuratively bang my head against the wall, on almost a daily basis. I am so thankful to the Lord for opening my eyes and giving me understanding about these things, but the flip side is the frustration I feel when those around me who should know better, don't. And you can't reason with them. Those ignorant about eternity are especially sad. They have, what I have labeled in my mind, "flannel-graph Christianity". Their understanding of our purpose, destiny and future are flat and never progressed beyond what they learned as 7 year olds in children's church. How they are robbed! I can only imagine how silly they will feel when they finally arrive in the New Jerusalem, realizing how uninformed they were here on earth, and how they missed out on the richness of having an eternal perspective, and looking toward the glorious destiny that awaits the bride. *sigh* I think this is one of Satan's greatest "wins". He cannot ultimately win, but the fact that professing Christians are so clueless gives him some victory temporarily.

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    I hope you feel better soon.
    This was a really good article and made me think about how a lot of people try to "live it up" prior to having children or getting married--a different kind of bucket list you might say. It could probably be another article in itself. I have been listening to Voddie Baucham lately and his take on marriage and family is refreshing.
    Jennifer--I relate to your feelings. There are many truths of which I spent years as a "Christian" (more likely a false convert) unaware of and now that God has graciously provided me with a clearer understanding of the gospel I look around and think, People, come on!! Can't you see?! But they don't. And I didn't. And that's why we need to pray for them and for opportunities to share the gospel with them.


Post a Comment