The choice is ours
The choice is ours
OK, just what is eternity?
The dictionary defines eternity as the quality or state of being eternal, an infinite amount of time, state after death (immortality). I love definitions where a different form of the word is used to describe the word itself (eternity is eternal). So, ‘eternal’ reads as indefinite duration, continuing without intermission or timeless.
One Hebrew word is used for eternity, ad (H5703) and it means perpetual, everlasting, world without end. Two words are used for eternal. One word is used with two spellings and they are owlam or olam (H5769) and they mean always, evermore, continuance, everlasting, perpetual, world without end. And the other word is actually two words with the same definition which are quedem or quedmah, (H6924) everlasting, with context of ‘being from before until after’ (always been and will never end).
Interesting that there are no Greek words used for eternity (New Testament), but words used for eternal are aidios (G126) everlasting (forward or backward); aion (G165) perpetual, everlasting world began but no end; aionios (G166) perpetual, for ever, everlasting, indicating past or future.
So eternity or eternal can be from ‘before, ‘during’ and continuing until ‘after’ (whatever). Always existing but clearly having no end and, possibly, no beginning. Get the picture?
Paul tells the Thessalonians that in the end times, the Lord, Himself, shall descend from heaven, with a shout, the voice of the archangel, with the trump (G4536) of God (that is echoing as with a trumpet). Then, those who gave their hearts to the Lord and are no longer on this earth, shall rise first. Then, those who are yet alive, on the earth, shall be caught up into the clouds, with them, to be with the Lord forever (1 Thess. 4:16-17). That is eternally. Jesus says that all who believe on Him will have everlasting life and He will raise us up on that last day (John 6:39-40) - to be with Him forever.
The book of Deuteronomy says that God is above all things. He is the eternal God, who is our refuge and we will dwell safely in His presence (Deut. 33:26-29), forever. Peter tells us, however, that day will come as a thief in the night so we don’t know (exactly) when His return will occur. Yet we continually await the new heavens and the new earth so we can dwell in absolute righteousness in the Lord (2Peter 3:10-13). Jesus says that if we know Him, we will hear His voice and follow Him, because we dwell in Him. No one will be able to pluck us out of His hand because He and the Father are one (John 10:27-30). AND He desires us to be one with Him (John 17:17-21).
Paul reminds the Thessalonians not to be concerned about those who have already passed from this life, but because of their faith in Jesus (and ours), we all will rise on that day. We won’t prohibit those who have already passed from this life (1Thess. 4:13-15). We will meet Him, together, those who have been and those who are. After all, death and the grave could not hold our Lord Jesus (Acts 2:24, 1 Corinth. 15:4, Psalm 16:9-11), right? So death will not have an impact on us – eternally.
Paul explains to the Corinthians that there are two bodies to be considered, one natural and the other spiritual. The natural body is after Adam and is weak and has a limited existence. The Spiritual body is raised in the power of Jesus Christ and is eternal. The natural body cannot inherit heaven. So, on that last day, in the twinkling of an eye, we all shall be changed and sin and death will no longer have dominion over us (1 Corinth. 15:39-58). I don’t know exactly what our new body will look like but here’s what Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection: As Jesus stood in their midst “ Peace be to you. Why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet. It is Me! A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have (Luke 24:39). (‘nuff said?)
Jesus relates signs of the end times (as what we know) in Matthew chapter 24. In part, He tells us that the Son of man (Jesus) shall come in the clouds with great power and glory and He will send His angels to gather the elect (saved) from the ends of the earth (Matt. 24:30-31). So we need to always be ready, watching, for the Son of man comes when we least expect it. We should be wise and faithful servants, doing as God expects (Matt. 24:43-47). Note in the parable of the ten virgins. Ten awaited the bridegroom (Jesus). Five (in Jesus) had enough oil to last (were prepared) and five (who didn’t stay with Jesus) ran out of oil (were not prepared). Five went with the bridegroom, when He came (while the others were out looking for their oil). Note that the five, who were left behind, knew where the bridegroom lived and went and knocked on His door, but the bridegroom declared that He didn’t know them (Matt. 25:1-12). They were left out (in the cold) because their love for the Lord had grown cold.
Do only Christians exist in eternity?
The book of Revelation, chapters 21 & 22, give us a pretty good idea of what life will be like after this one is over. At least some of what we can expect.
Understand, we were originally created to be eternal beings (Gen, 3:22). In eternity, we will exist either in the presence of God’s love or apart from that love.
We read about a great white throne where the dead shall stand before God, both those who were ‘great’ as well as those of ‘lesser reputation’ (in man’s eyes). The books will be opened and then another book shall be opened – the book of life. No matter how they died or where they died, death and hell will deliver up the dead and they will be judged according to their works. And all those whose names were not found in the book of life were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. In other words, eternal separation from God (Rev. 20:11-15).
Then we see God creating a new heaven and a new earth where there is neither sorrow, nor death, nor crying nor pain. Then, God will give us a holy new Jerusalem, coming down from the clouds where the glory of God will provide the light. It is made of precious stones and will be clear as crystal. There will be no temple for the presence of God (Himself) is the temple. The streets will be gold, like transparent glass. There will be a pure river of the water of life, crystal clear, coming forth from the throne of God and the Lamb. It flows In the midst of the street and on either side of the river is the tree of life with all manner of fruit and which leaves are for healing and therein we shall know the Lord is our God (Rev. 21:1-22:5), and with Him, we live forever. (Glory to God!)
Existing without God (the lake of fire)
We’ve already read about the lake of fire and brimstone being the final end of Satan, the devils and those who followed them (Rev. 19:20, Rev. 20:9-15). So just who does inherit hell?
The Psalmist tells us that the wicked and the nations that forgot God will be turned to hell (Psalm 9:17) and John reminds us that doubters, unbelievers and those who do evil works will have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (aka the 2nd death) (Rev. 21:8). Peter tells us that this is where the fallen angels are awaiting that final day (2 Pete 2:4).
Jesus compares the last day as God separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep lived in the love of God and were welcomed into eternity (v46) but the goats, because they could not show God’s love by having compassion for anyone, were sent away, into the everlasting fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels (v41 & v46)(Matt. 25:31-46). And then there are those who looked like they were doing the things of Jesus but never took time to get to know Him (Matt. 7:21-23, Matt. 13:25-28). Sort of like the sons of Sceva, who tried to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name, whom Paul preached. The devil said to them “ Jesus I know and Paul I know, but whooo are youuu?”, and the devil sent seven brothers running, beaten and naked. They didn’t know Jesus (Acts 19:11-20). Jesus also recognized where many of the scribes and Pharisees came from. They knew what to say and relished all the pomp and circumstance surrounding their position, but they did not live what they said (Matt. 23:1-7)! Consider, also, Jesus talked about the wheat and the tares. Remember, Jesus knows the heart of man (Luke 16:15). He knows that both good and bad abide in the church. So He will separate them on the last day and the ‘wheat’ shall be welcomed into His kingdom and the ‘tares’ shall be burned (Matt. 13:18-30). And those who have not obeyed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will be punished with everlasting destruction aw;ay from the presence of our Lord (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Those separated from God will experience suffering, pain, anguish, wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41-42, Luke 13:28, Rom. 2:8-9). We also learn from the parable of Lazarus and the rich man that in that dark place may also be loneliness. The rich man asks that Lazarus go back and warn his brothers. He seems to have no clue as to who is there with him or, perhaps, even time passage (Luke 16:19-31). The book of Revelation tells us that this torment will be for always and forever (Rev. 20:10-15). Hell, the eternal lake of fire and brimstone, will be a spiritually dark place where there is pain, suffering, torment and loneliness. And there will be no end. It will be eternal
Existing with God (heaven)
John tells us that the heavens and the earth as we know it today, will become new. There will be a new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:10-27). There will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. We will be able to freely drink of the waters of life and because we stood fast with God, we become His sons (and daughters) (Rev. 21:1-7).
As we continually seek to honor and glorify God in what we do and hold to the hope (promise) of eternal salvation, all who enter into the kingdom of God will find honor and peace and He will reward us for our obedience (Rom. 2:1-7). Jesus promises us a beautiful place to live when we are with Him (John14:1-3).
In the parable of the talents, Jesus said to the two who invested their talents and earned more “Well, done good and faithful servant. Because you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you a ruler over many. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matt. 25:14-25 foc v21 & 23). Also note that the works we do in this life are tried by fire. God considers our good works are precious like refined gold and silver, we shall be rewarded. But take heart, even though some may not have done the ‘works’, our soul shall still be saved (1 Corinth. 3:11-15). Remember, though we are rewarded for our works, our salvation is based in our faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9). We don’t work to ‘get saved’, rather we do good works because we are saved. Some may enter by in the ‘skin of their teeth’ and some may not have time to do much (ieg. A soldier who receives the Lord as he dies on battlefield).
As you read through today’s entry and the referenced passages, you can get a fuller picture of what eternity will be like.
And best of all. Most of all. Remember that our joy might be full, in the knowledge that we will have fellowship with the Father, through His Son (Jesus) (John 1:1-4, 1 Corinth. 1:9).
No, we won’t be just siting around on clouds, strumming our harps. I am persuaded that God will have ‘things’ for us to do. I’m not sure exactly what, but ...
Yet I am assured that living in heaven is eternal. It has no end. There will be no sickness, sorrow, pain nor need to shed [sad] tears. Tears of joy? Yes! I, personally, will be so thankful that Father has brought me into His eternal fellowship, I just might shed some joyful tears because He has been so longsuffering with and good to me, that He loved one such as I. That even in this life, knowing that He is my Lord and Savior, creator of ALL things, I can also call Him ‘my friend’! (respecting, of course, who He is)