Tuesday, May 09, 2006

by Mark Larson

Four out of five Americans believe in life after death, according to a General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center that has tracked such convictions in the United States for nearly 25 years. 81% of the U.S. population is convinced there is a Heaven or Hell, or something awaiting them on the other side. Are you one of them?

Do you believe in an afterlife in which all who die will enter an eternal realm?

Inevitably, questions about Eternity also lead people to questions about life and an examination of the meaning of life. That is why understanding the truth, as revealed in Scripture, is so very important. Knowing the truth about Eternity can make a big difference in the way a person views life and the way he or she chooses to spend it.

Our Understanding of Eternity Comes from God

Though man is bound by time, we have the capacity to image Eternity beyond this present world: “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set Eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end” (Eccl. 3:11, NASB). We cannot fathom or comprehend all that God has accomplished from beginning to end in all that He has made. However, everyone one of us has the ability to understand Eternity! Though it may seem difficult to imagine Eternity, it is not impossible for us to do so.

God’s eternal power is seen in the Creation (Rom. 1:20). We are privileged to be able to recognize the eternal God that is behind this temporary, present world. The Universe exhibits great power. Only power that has existed from all Eternity could have caused it. God is that great eternal power! It is in this sense that God will set Eternity in our hearts as we come to see His eternal power in this world that He has made.

By looking to the Eternity of God, God’s eternal nature, we can understand what Eternity is. Eternity is an important attribute of God. God is the “I AM,” the Eternal One (Exod. 3:14). God “lives in Eternity” or “lives forever” (Isa. 57:15). He is “the everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). God has always existed. He is without beginning and will never end: "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8). Since God represents Eternity, we can learn much about what Eternity means by looking unto God who is eternal as revealed in the Scriptures.

Imagine Eternity!

Like God, Our Existence in Eternity Will Last Forever and Ever. The duration of God’s existence stretches backward in time without limit and stretches forward in time without limit: “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God” (Ps. 90:1-2). The Lord is eternal or forever God. Likewise, all who enter Eternity will stay in Eternity forever and ever. Some will “go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal” (Mat. 25:46).

Just As the Years of God Have No End, the Years of Eternity Will Have No End. On average, our life on earth, at best, lasts a mere 70 or 80 years (Ps. 90:10), a very short moment of time in comparison to Eternity! Just as the years of God’s existence have no end, neither will the years of our existence have no end in Eternity. "But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end” (Ps. 102:27). Our life span on earth is as brief as a vapor that quickly vanishes away (James 4:14). “Our days on earth are as a shadow” (Job 8:9). While on earth, a lifetime may seem like a long time, yet from the standpoint of Eternity, it is a very short or brief period of time.

In Eternity, the years are countless or without number, far beyond all comparison to any amount of time we have ever known or have measured in earthly history. Consider this example by way of comparison: In Astronomy, the distance light travels in a year is called a “light year.” A “light year” is six trillion miles, the yardstick astronomers use for measuring large distances. Since many stars and galaxies are so far away, it takes lots and lots of time for photos of them to arrive to us. So as we look out into the Universe, we are, by necessity, looking back in time. If, for example, the Sun exploded, we wouldn’t know it for 8.3 minutes, because that’s how long it takes light to get to us from the Sun. The planet Pluto is 5 light hours away, and the next nearest visible star, Alpha Centauri, is 4.4 light years away. So then, how many “light years” shall we measure Eternity?

How far of a distance would Eternity reach and extend in time? Not even the distant stars seen by the most powerful telescopes some 13.7 billion light years away can measure the infinite, unlimited time or years in Eternity!

Time Will Be Insignificant in Eternity. “For a thousand years in Thy sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4). To God, time is insignificant in Eternity, no matter how long or how short that length of time is. The longest length of time a man has ever lived on the earth was in the case of Methuselah who lived 969 years! (Gen. 5:27). As impressive or amazing as that may be, in comparison to Eternity, it was to God like one single day! (2 Pet. 3:8).

When we enter into Eternity, time will be irrelevant. Time will be a non-issue having no bearing on Eternity itself. The favorite hymn “Amazing Grace” written by John Newton, expresses this truth very well in the verse which says: “When we’ve been here ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun; We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise then when we’ve first begun.” When God’s people are with Him in Heaven for all Eternity, it will not matter whether ten thousand years (as we count them) pass by or ten zillion years pass by, there will be no less days to sing praises unto God!

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

What we “sow” in this life will have a direct impact on what we shall “reap” in the life to come in Eternity (Gal. 6:7-8; See also 1 Tim. 6:17-19). That is why we must sow carefully. How we spend our lives on earth will determine our eternal future!

The Egyptians believed in Eternity or at least an “after life.” When a Pharaoh died, he was buried in a tomb called a pyramid designed to protect his body forever. They believed that if a Pharaoh’s body was destroyed, his “Ka” (i.e., soul) would have no where to go and would die. If his “Ka” died, he would not be able to be united with the Sun. This in turn would cause the gods to become angry and they would no longer protect the land or the people of the Pharaoh. Therefore, they put forth much effort to preserve the body of Pharaoh. On average, it took forty years and about 100,000 workers to build just one pyramid!

Why did the Egyptians go through so much effort and spend so much time to build their pyramids? They understood that the afterlife or “Eternity” would last a lot longer than their lives on earth and that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than life on earth. Despite their false concept of God, the Egyptians worked hard to prepare for Eternity as they understood it. How much time and effort are you putting forth to prepare for Eternity?

“For a little reward men make a long journey; for eternal life many will scare lift a foot once from the ground.” – Thomas a Kempis. As the saying of Kempis well illustrates, many people scarcely “lift a foot”, let alone obey the gospel to prepare for Eternity (2 Thes. 1:8). Yet, these same people will make great sacrifices to gain earthly rewards that do not last (Mat. 6:19). Such people do not truly believe in Eternity nor understand that Eternity lasts forever. They may claim to believe in Eternity, but their lives spent on themselves instead of God says otherwise (Luke 12:15-21).

If we want to ready for the Judgment Day and be ready to enter into Eternity, we must prepare by taking heed to the words of Jesus Christ (John 12:48; e.g., Mark 16:16; Rev. 2:10) as also revealed to His apostles (Gal. 1:10; e.g., Gal. 5:16-24; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Cor. 15:58). How we “build in life” or whether or not our lives are founded “upon the rock” (i.e., Christ and His word) will determine where we will spend an Eternity (Mat. 7:24-27). When “the storm of the Lord” arrives (Jer. 23:19-20), will you be ready to enter Eternity?
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