Eternity is a word so many people contemplate. They have serious questions and they need answers that give comfort and hope. How long is eternity? When does eternity begin? Where will we spend eternity? These and others are the questions we ask, especially if we are religious. I use the word religious because many religions have their version of the afterlife. In this article, I will address eternity from the Christian perspective.
What is Eternity?
“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; …” Isaiah 57:15
Did you know this is the only verse in scripture where the word ‘eternity’ is found? Nevertheless, it helps answer the question of what eternity is. God dwells in eternity. Eternity is a state of existence outside of time. It has no beginning or end. We have no experiential knowledge of it because we exist within the confines and limitations of time.
Who Will Experience Eternity (Eternal Life)?
Eternity is something, we as believers in Christ, look forward to. God planned an eternal future for humanity before He created Adam.
“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” Titus 1:2
We just need to understand that eternal life, while promised, is conditional upon our actions. It is the Gift of God (Romans 6:23) given to us by His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11) to those who lay hold on it through faith and righteousness.
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
“Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:19
When Will Eternity Begin?
Except for those who God translated under the Old Testament and Jesus took with Him when He ascended, for us, eternity begins when Jesus returns! Here is one verse that says this. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2 Can you see it? We do not see what we will be. This means we are not immortal or eternal yet. But when Jesus appears, He which is immortal, will bring immortality with Him and give it to those who are ready! “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” 1 John 5:11 “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:16 “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:53
Will there be a Difference Between the Living and the Dead?
Other than the obvious, this is the point of the article. Yet it's almost impossible to talk about eternity without mentioning death and sleep. The popular belief is that everyone leaps into eternity immediately upon death. Well, there are several verses we would need to reconcile for this to be true. This first verse says death is sleep: “Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;” Psalms 13:3 Paul said David is sleeping AND still in corruption… “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:” Acts 13:36 Remember 1 Corinthians 15:53? It says that corruption must put on incorruption and mortality must put on immortality. Hmm… And here we see that some sleep, but not all will sleep. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,” 1 Corinthians 15:51 “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” 1 Thessalonians 4:14 This being the case, those who sleep in Jesus will begin their eternal experience from the perspective of someone having just laid down to sleep. They close their eyes and no sooner than they see the darkness of sleep, they hear the Lord’s call! (1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Why is this the Case?
If we look again at time, those who sleep do not perceive its passing. Whether we sleep for 8 hours or 1000 years, it makes no difference. The passage of time is not perceived. So time is only perceived when we measure it by our senses. We measure time by the changing of day to night and back again. Within this framework our days are segmented into 24 hours and so on. From there we measure larger blocks of time as weeks, months, seasons, years, etc. So in a sense, when we die, to us it will seem as though no time passed at all. The transition will seem almost instantaneous. The reality is, when the Saints of old from Adam’s day rise, it will feel no different to them than to one who just died in the moments before Jesus’ appearing!
Why is this Important to Know?
I believe it is important to know this truth for several reasons. The most important reason is so people will have the correct impression of God. Right now, most people believe the dead go right to their eternal destination. By the way, Heaven is NOT the eternal home of God’s People. That would be the New Earth! See 2 Peter 3:13 as proof. At the same time, no one is suffering eternal torment now. This is why many come to God in the first place. They want to escape this terrible (and untrue) fate after death. Others cannot see themselves believing in a God of love who would treat the works of His hands this way. Because The Lord is a God of love and mercy, all who die without Christ will sleep until the time of Judgement (not judging). Note that Christ is judging everyone now. Peter taught that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). That’s the Church now in this world. Also, Jesus said when He comes, He is not coming to judge, but His reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12). So when Jesus comes, we need to be perfect and entire, wanting (lacking) nothing or we will face an eternity without Christ! (James 1:4)
Time controls our experiences in this life. When we sleep, our perception of time is altered. We regain that perspective once we know what time it is. The dead no longer experiences time while it passes. So they sleep through the years, decades, and centuries as though it were a few moments. This knowledge helps us to discern the truth about death and eternity from their perspective. It also lets us know that God's love extends to all, whether we accept Christ or not. All who pass on are at rest. They all will live again. Some will never sleep again. The rest will experience death once more. This time it will be for eternity. How will you spend eternity? I hope you found this article helpful. Have a bible question? Tell me what to write about. If you liked this article, then please subscribe. You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.