If you were asked, “What is eternity,” would you have a good answer? Eternity is forever or you might even say eternal life is the ultimate promise of almost every religion. Once you enter eternity, what would be like? Is there some type of instant perfection that never goes away? Will we ever get bored in eternity? What is there to keep the inquisitive mind of a human active and stimulated, forever?
Apologetics is often called the defense of the Christian faith. The word “apologetics” is derived from the Greek word apologia, which means an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens, it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. For those who are seeking eternal life, are you ready to defend the concept of eternity, timeless existence? Once time is removed, can you defend eternity without including God in the discussion? Is there or was there a Creator of our Universe and all that is in it? Is the Universe we live in everlasting?
All discussions on eternity usually include the idea of a Creator. Creationism, the idea that our universe somehow happened, is a hard concept to understand. The idea of randomness should be tested against the idea of purpose and design. Because randomness is generally chaotic, evidence of purposeful design should lead us to the idea of a masterful Creator. God, as an eternal being exists without the concept of time. To be eternal, God must be absolute. God, by human definition, always existed and always will.
(Genesis 1:1)1NIV New International Version Translations – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The very first verse of the Bible that Christians subscribe to reinforces the point: God was there before our world, before us. It was God who established the boundaries and concept of time. The world subscribes to the idea that our universe is nothing more than an improbable and spontaneous set of matter and anti-matter that just happened! If that is the case, humanity is nothing more than a subset of the randomness, lacking purpose, and design. Watching today’s news may lead you to believe that yourself!
If we are to ever understand the idea of “forever,” there are two areas to consider:
- Purpose – What is the purpose of our Universe, our world? What is the purpose of God and of humanity itself?
- Design – Are our universe, our world, and our humanity on earth part of a purposeful, useful design? Is it the result of a random collision of particles in the absence of time?
To help understand the purpose, all things should be compared against each other. Within that view, the interrelationships of dependence and service to each other become clearer. Let us take a simple example:
A single-cell amoeba exists, it moves and is a predator to bacteria, protozoa, and algae. It can eat almost any organic nutrients in its habitat. As for what eats an amoeba: they are preyed upon and eaten by small fish and crustaceans such as tiny shrimp. Larger fish, birds, and reptiles eat crustaceans and shrimp. This trend of purpose continues and creates a chain of purpose that leads right through the plant and animal kingdom. It ends with us, human beings. Is this a purposeful design or a result of randomness? Did we really evolve from the amoeba?
(Genesis 1:26-28) – Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
It would be narcissistic to think that the chain of purpose ends with humanity. It is reasonable then to ask what is the purpose of humanity. Our Bible tells us that humankind’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.2This is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” God’s purpose for humanity is then by definition, something eternal. We were conceived by God in His eternal past with the intent to create something that will remain in His eternal future. Whatever God wants, intends, and desires are His plan according to His will. God is absolute. When He wills to do something, when He resolves to do something, He will do it. God’s purpose then becomes part of God’s design, His plan. His pleasure is always good. His will is always good. His intentions are always good. God’s plan is always perfect!
(Ephesians 3:11-12) – “according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
The world we live in may look like a world built of chance and chaos. Yet, our world began with a purpose. It is being sustained for a purpose. God has an ultimate eternal purpose for our world in mind. This is God’s world, and His rule is purposeful, not capricious, and arbitrary. An English theologian, William Paley, summarized it in 1807:
“In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone and were asked how the stone came to be there: I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, e.g. that, for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case, as in the first? For this reason, and for no other, viz. that when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive (what we could not discover in the stone) that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; …This mechanism being observed (it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood), the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker: that there must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer: who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.”
Humans are not the originators of the physical world. We can only be credited with discovering and copying a few parts of it. In the fields of engineering, chemistry, ballistics, and aerodynamics, and in almost every area of human endeavor, God has been there first. We observe, then create, and then seek credit. It is the Apostle Paul who states it most succinctly:
(Romans 1:20) – “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Therefore, if God exists, eternity exists. Add to this thought that Christ, the Incarnate God, came to earth to show us that both God and eternity existed. Christ came to show us that humanity would be part of God’s eternal plans. What then will it be like to be in eternity with God?
(Revelations 21:2-8) – I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
God is planning to establish a new heaven and a new earth, where Christ will spend eternity among His redeemed people in perfect and constant communion. There, we will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth, living with God. Sin and its horrible effects on humanity will be gone. Hallelujah! Our experiences will be assured by the promises of God. And the best news, we live as God’s children without the fear of a second death.
Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Hebrews 12:22 affirms our eternal joy. “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,”
Eternity is our future home and our future hope. That ought to make a difference in our lives today. Until sin is defeated along with death, there is no way humanity will ever fully understand eternity. Our definition is limited by the temporal intellect of humanity. Your faith must tell you that eternity is true. To spend “forever” with our God and with our Savior will be better than to spend it with the sin of our world, a second death. Our limited view of the world seems to tell us that eternity is real. That being the case, it appears that the choice is not whether you will be part of it. You already are! The choice is who you will spend it with!
- What do you think about when discussing eternity?
- Ideas to Explore: Finding people that we love that have died? Reuniting with our past pets? Asking God a list of questions as to why there were injustices on earth.
- Do you believe that we can ever fully conceptualize eternity?
- Ideas to Explore: Can anything temporal ever conceive eternity? Is a peaceful eternal existence worthy to pursue? What happens if there is no eternity? What happens if there is? What happens if you are with the wrong group forever?
- If God is eternal, if eternity and our joy are predicated on our relationship with God, why do so many people neglect their relationship with God?
- Ideas to Explore: Is a relationship with Christ the keystone to the relationship with God? How do we get to know God and Christ better?
- How does the world lie to us about God?
- Ideas to Explore: Creationism? Worldly pleasures? Deceit? Fear?
- How would you explain eternity to a child?
- Ideas to Explore: Use your personal testimony. Search for the child’s fears and try to elevate them. Be their living example of what a good relationship with God looks like. Share your hope and joy.
- As a Christian, are you already in an eternal relationship with God?
- Ideas to Explore: Once we accept Christ as our savior, there should be no fears to be concerned with.
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 2This is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?”