I’m going to begin this article by first asking a few questions.
Eternity, what is it?
What is your understanding of it?
Is it a concept or a construct?
Is it a place of imagination or reality?
Can we go there, or will we end up there?
Do we have to die first?
How do we exist in it?
If we can get there and exist in it, how will we see each other?
I am sure you can think of many more questions, but these few will keep us going for a while.
What can we base the idea eternity upon, because we have nothing to compare it with. Our own perceptions cannot really identify or describe it, because it simply does not have substance as we understand it.
As far as we know, it exists in another dimension where there is no time, and all of space lies within it. It does not function according to the known laws of the universe. How then can we describe a place we have never seen or been to? There’s another question.
If I was going on holiday for instance, particularly to a place I’ve never been to before, I can surmise at least about the weather and compare certain things to my previous experiences abroad. I know what it’s like to travel on an aircraft and leave the aircraft on a hot or humid day. My memories and the holiday pickies will help me put the pieces together to create perceived scenarios. I might not have the same experiences but I may well have similar ones.
But how do we build a scenario when the pieces are not there and how can I perceive a place that has no counterpart in my material world?
If I were to dive into the world of virtual reality, even that which presents itself in all its sensory overload cannot give me something tangible. I’m just in a hyper make-believe-super-enhanced world that stimulates my cognitive senses. The palette for eternity just does not exist.
The Bible speaks to us about God giving us a promise to take us to a very special place. It’s called the ‘Promised Land’. On earth, this land, flowing with milk and honey is a reflection of or a blue print of a place called heaven that exists in another dimension. We call this the ‘spiritual realm’.
This perfect place is where we commune with God and in which our communication transcends our present format.This place is idyllic, peaceful, incorruptible; sickness and death have no place in it. There is no evil, no time, no day or night. Everything in it exists in an eternal state. God is sovereign, watching over His family. That’s what we understand.
If such a place were to exist on earth, it would suffer because its ideology would conflict with everything around it. Would this place need to be fortified, protected from outside interference? Would those living in it be influenced by the outside, for example, noise and air pollution, planes flying overhead, storms and climate change?
A mechanism would have to be put in force to protect it , you would think.
Eternity can only exist in another dimension if it is not to be affected by external laws. This dimension is yet unknown. It is something that the scriptures tell us that those who are saved and living in Christ will enter into. We will rule and reign with our King eternally. In this respect, we will transcend our biological form. Eternity will not be a literal place we travel to, but a place that we will occupy because all that is around us will be shifted or replaced.
The term ‘resurrection’, embodies the idea that we will, having first died, be raised to an incorruptible state. Our corruptible stuff will simply be exchanged for something that rust and moth cannot destroy. But in order to make the exchange we must first give up our present life in this world and pursue the higher things. We must ultimately die to live.
The transcendence of our bodies eliminates gender, procreation and preoccupation. The eternal world is a complete opposite and inverse of this material world, made from the matter of our physical cosmos.
We will all have different concepts of eternity. Some of us may have no concept at all and will choose to believe that it is pure imagination and does not exist.
For those who believe, we can raise more questions; will we be able to see each other or recognise each other as we are now, and if we can, will we display age? Will we be able to pick up the phone and see if our dearest may want to go to the nearest ethereal cafe for a chat and a coffee? Will we see previously departed loved ones, including our pets? Will we see our ancestors too, for that matter? If procreation and gender does not exist, will we perceive our parents and siblings?
Jesus spoke to His disciples telling them that there will be no giving in marriage and we will be as the angels, neither male nor female. This concept is just beyond belief for some, I would imagine.
The contemplation of eternity, has already raised too many questions. At this moment they are all unanswerable and eternity remains unfathomable.
Once in eternity, what will occupy us, what will be our purpose?
Again the Bible alludes that we will exist in a perfect spiritual state, a supernatural form. The ancients, through meditation, believed that a form of this higher state can be achieved on earth, and many sects try to attain this today through various practices.
Jesus upon the cross alludes to a garden paradise where He will be. For believers, is eternity in heaven a place where we have to constantly praise God; a place where there is constant prayer? I can understand the praising and worshipping aspect, but what would we have to pray about? God’s Will will have already been done. Will songs of worship resound from a select group, an angelic chorus of angels dedicated to the task, and will the sound of music take on another vibration too?
My thought is that we who are made in the image of God will complete our transcendence into this perfect form and unite with our maker. This is the bridal consummation. All forms of worship will be directed toward our Christ and His bride by a priesthood dedicated to His service.
In the Hebrew, the word for the concept of eternity is the ‘Olam Va’ed'. Strong’s H5769. It can be found in the recitation of the ‘Shema’. Olam Va’ed means a far off place, unseen beyond a distant horizon; there is no end or beginning - a vanishing point. A person cannot see beyond or behind this all encompassing plain.
Strong’s 166 Greek defines the word ‘aiónios’ to mean:
age-long, and therefore: practically eternal, unending; partaking of the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting.
Eternity exists in, out and beyond time.
We get the word ‘aion’ or eon from it. For Christians it means also a different quality of life that represents God’s work in us and thus eternal life can be obtained now. We reach toward it and enter in through faith. However achieving it, seems to be time dependent.
I suppose we can continue discussing eternity forever. I know one thing for sure, all our questions will be answered once we get there or into it. That’s if we believe, of course.