One of the less talked about but highly important teachings of Scripture is the general concept of eternity. While believers well understand its importance, Western culture has steadily moved away from the Biblical concept of eternity.
A Gallup survey conducted last year found that belief in four concepts — angels, heaven, hell and the devil — is on the decline.
Yet, the importance of the concept of eternity cannot be understated. So crucial is the idea of life ever after that a person cannot fully understand the Gospel without a grasp of eternity. Forever describes the Lord we worship. His Kingdom is without end. Of Jesus, John writes, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” On the night of his arrest Jesus proclaimed, “From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The very existence of life presupposes eternity. To have a beginning (or big bang, as many in the scientific community assert), there has to be a beginner — someone without a beginning, a creator who alone has witnessed eternity past.
“God,” Ecclesiastes 3.11 tells us, “has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” God’s days are immeasurable. Our days are numbered.
In Jesus’ time, the Sadducees held only to the first five books of the Bible. Consequently, they did not believe in the resurrection and confronted Jesus about his view of eternity. “Have you not read what God said to you,” Jesus answered, quoting Exodus 3.6. “‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
Yet, like the Sadducees, people in the world today are caught up in the now. The idea of eternal life has long disappeared from the popular culture. Guided by urges of the physical senses, the virtues of this world find their limits in the present day and hour. That’s exactly how the Enemy wants the world to think. Impulse is a currency designed for a world of instant gratification.
But reality cannot be confined to today, tomorrow, or 100 years from now. To visualize of how insignificant our days on earth are, imagine yourself holding a single grain of salt on a clear night. The salt grain represents the duration of your life on earth. Now imagine yourself looking up at the stars. Try to calculate how many grains of salt it would take to fill the night sky from across the horizon up to the faintest star and beyond. That’s how insignificant this short life on earth is compared with eternity.
Every day, each of us make choices — some small, some great — that effect the rest of our lives. None of these compare with the choices we make that effect our place in the rest of eternity. Prideful insistence that God is not real, Jesus was just a man, or that life is over the moment we die represents an enormous gamble. Considering the length of eternity compared to our insignificant moment in time, the risk of being wrong and the eternal consequences that risk entails is far too steep to dismiss with a mere human opinion.
The Book of Revelation concludes with the promise of eternity for Jesus’ followers. “The Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”
Fortunately, as long as we live, eternity starts now. “In the past, God overlooked such ignorance,” Paul declared at a meeting of philosophers on the Areopagus, “but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”