Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Understanding Eternity

One of the issues that I seem to be continually addressing with people is the nature of eternity.
Most people seem to think that eternity is a state in which time goes on forever.
This is not an unreasonable idea, but the fact is that the exact opposite is true.

Eternity is time-less.  There is no time at all in eternity.
Everything is in the now.  Everything in eternity just IS.
And God did say his name is "I AM."

God has given us time "down here" so we don't have everything happening at once.
Events happen one after the other for us in our universe. 
Occasionally two things do happen together, simultaneously, and look at the trouble that gives us.  What would it be like if everything happened simultaneously?

We find this idea of timelessness difficult to comprehend, mainly because we have only ever experienced life in which time is an essential and controlling  ingredient.
So I have developed a few simple illustrations to help people see the difference between the eternity where God IS and the ages where we currently live.

The TV series.
An advertisement for an upcoming series on TV says there will be 6 episodes and then shows us a peek preview of the first episode.  It even tells us when the series will begin being telecast.
How does the advertiser know there are 6 episodes, and how can he show us a peek preview of an episode that has not even been aired yet?
The advertiser has already seen the whole series, or spoken to its producers, and knows all about it long before it begins to be shown on TV. (Eternity)
He even knows when the station plans to commence airing the series, whereas we can only see what the TV station shows us after it has begun to show us. (The Ages)

The Train on the Back Fence.
One house in which we lived had a major train line on its back boundary.  Through a knot hole in the fence, we could see trains coming and going, but we could only see one carriage passing at a time.  We never knew how many carriages there were until they had all passed and we had counted them.  (The Ages)
If however, when we heard a train coming we climbed up onto the fence, we could see everything about that train all at once.  How many carriages, what sort of carriages, what sort of engine, were all known to us before the engine had even reached our knot hole.  (Eternity)

The View from the Hot Air Balloon.
Watching vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians approaching a busy intersection from a hot air balloon hovering above and back a little from that intersection tells us everything that is going to happen at that intersection, and from all directions, long before any of it happens. (Eternity)
Standing at the intersection and looking in one direction would give an observer a more limited and sequenced view.  He could only see things as they arrived at the intersection in the order they arrived and from the direction he was monitoring. (The Ages)
Mother's Basket of Goodies.
Mother has a basket of goodies.  When she looks into the basket, she sees all the goodies at the same time. (Eternity)
Mother takes items out of her basket, one at a time, and gives them to her children.  They see the goodies as they are given to them, one at a time, and in the order in which they are given. (The Ages)

The School Teacher's Curriculum.
A teacher plans the curriculum for his class.  The contents, learning methods, tests, remedial classes, excursions, pupil and parent interviews, reporting procedures and the timetable for them are all planned before the school year begins.  When completed, the teacher can see all of these curriculum ingredients at the same time as a complete package. (Eternity)
The student, however, sees all these things as they happen on a day-to-day basis as the year progresses. (The Ages)

The Revelation.
In Revelation 4, John was told to "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this."
He was then able to see God's view of things by looking into his basket of goodies.  And his description was like .... "I saw ... then I saw ..... and I saw ..... then I saw .... " as he rattled off in quick succession all the things that caught his eye.  He saw them all "at once" because he was where God IS. (Eternity)
When John returned to earth, he had to wait with everyone else to see where and when each of those events he saw in heaven would arrive on the earth. He was back in the space-time constraint of the ages.  (The Ages)

How many books have been written by Christians, also confined to the space-time realm, trying to establish the order of arrival of all the things John, and the other prophets, have been shown?  
Maybe we just have to get ready for them all, then wait and see.

Blessings, Barry


  1. Hi Guys

    I am also fascinated with the concept of being outside time - but I don't think my mind is wired to understand anything outside the realms of cause and effect. But I try nonetheless. I believe there are very good reasons why we are limited in our space time. I'm not sure what they all are but one may be to limit our ability to sin.

    To be honest anything outside our time is completely alien territory - a bit like quantum mechanics (I don't get that either) but you are correct Barry - Forever and Eternity are two entirely different concepts. Forever goes in one direction but eternity has no direction and all directions. But both are used interchangeably in our language, and our Bible translations.

    Are we happily drifting into physics here?

  2. Following on from our discussion I could also add here that 'Eternal' punishment can not mean 'Forever in Hell' now that we have differentiated the two.

    So are we saying now that argument based on translating the Greek 'aionion' as 'Eternal' may be moot point?

    And Barry, thanks for those great illustrations. I particularly liked 'Mother's basket of goodies'

    thanks mate

  3. Hi Glenn and other bloggers
    We had better stay away from physics and quantum mechanics. Trying to understand the Bible, which has been written specifically for us, is enough for me to handle without taking on man's philosophical expeditions. :-)

    Not sure about the "aionion" translation now being a moot point.
    I understand what you are saying about "eternal" punishment, but we have to deal with "eternal" life as well.
    Both the punishment and the life referred to in the Scriptures are always age-during, so I think we still need to demonstrate that by requiring "aionion" to be translated correctly.

    Or have I missed the full consequence of your suggestion?

    Blessings, Barry


All relevant comments are most welcome. However, please express any disagreement you might have without being disagreeable and with grace towards those who might not hold your point of view.