All of us, at one time or another, have been asked the tantalizing question, “Do you want to take a peek?” We reply, “A peek at what?”
Well, here it comes again: “Do you want to take a peek?” I'm talking about something not too many people have dared to consider. I mean peeking into eternity.
It is not easy for the human mind to understand such a concept. Whenever I dare to consider eternity and what it must be like, that proverbial rubber band in my mind tends to snap with an exploding bang after just a few moments of pondering the mentally impossible. Perhaps you, too, have experienced the effect that painfully informs us we are still trapped in the world of time and space.
Well, join the crowd. The simple answer to our human frustration is that God intended for us to measure eternity not with our gray matter, but with our hearts.
Begin with the end in mind
Why speak of this subject in a magazine devoted to prophecy? Prophecy was not intended to solely be a mechanical exercise of putting scriptural equations together, but rather it is designed to prepare us for an existence beyond human comprehension.
The prophet Isaiah introduces us to the concept of eternity in association with God. His writing proclaims, “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place'” (Isaiah 57:15 Isaiah 57:15For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
American King James Version×). Thus, when we consider the God who reveals prophecy, we begin with this end in mind.
While other scriptures may help us define eternity, it is only here that God discloses that which He considers home. The prophet Isaiah offers us deeper understanding regarding God and eternity. The Hebrew word denotes “duration or continuity.” How do we measure something that is continuous?
The method of measurement is beyond anything caught in the world of time and space. It requires entering the stream of eternity that knows no spring and fills no ocean. Indeed, there is something beyond, and God asks us to take the time to think about it.
In doing so, we share in the same dilemma as the Spanish Empire at the cusp of the Age of Discovery. They were equally perplexed by the reality that there was a whole new world before them. They created a story in stone as a reminder of this very fact.
In Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, there stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been a part of Spain's motto for centuries.
Before Columbus made his historic voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth. Thus their motto was “Ne Plus Ultra,” which means “no more beyond.” The word being torn away by the lion is “ne” or “no,” making it read “Plus Ultra,” for Columbus had proved that there was “more beyond.”
There is a famous saying regarding the great explorer: “He couldn't tell anyone where he was going. He didn't know where he was when he got there, and he couldn't tell anyone else how to get there when he got back. And he did all of this on borrowed money.”
Serious students of Scripture can derive amazing parallels and powerful lessons concerning eternity from both the dramatic inscription on the monument and that humorous saying.
Most importantly, for persons of faith, there is an even greater reality embedded in our minds and hearts than any earthly monument can depict. It is the reality of another lion, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” none other than Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:5 Revelation 5:5And one of the elders said to me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
American King James Version×), forever tearing away and demolishing the word no to fill Christian lives with hope.
The book of Revelation additionally defines this Lion of Judah as “the First and the Last” and the One who holds the keys of the grave and death (Revelation 1:17-18 Revelation 1:17-18 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
American King James Version×). The powerful ramifications of a seamless world between life and death through Him and by Him are startling.
When have we arrived?
But how do we know when we have arrived at the eternal realm where Christ waits (John 14:2 John 14:2In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
American King James Version×)? He said to “follow Me,” but how far? When, where and how do we plant the flag? We don't want to make the same mistake as Columbus, who upon landing on shore called the indigenous population something they were not. After all, India was still half a globe away.
Unlike Columbus, God is able to offer us a description of what our destination is like. After all, He inhabits eternity! Christ came out of eternity into our finite world of time and space and has returned in fullness to that realm.
Crossing the threshold of eternity
We will know we have crossed the threshold of eternity when we discover a totally new environment never beheld by those whose origin is dust. Revelation 21:1 Revelation 21:1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
American King James Version×describes this as a “new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”
This same verse says there is “no more sea.” So often we focus on a new heaven and new earth, but why “no more sea”? Could this be alluding to the absence of the fear of eternity as well as speaking of a body of water?
Consider for a moment that in antiquity the oceans and seas were considered hostile forces. Sailors hugged the coast in their travels and rarely ventured into open waters. Seas were considered naturally fearsome and likewise created social gulfs between humans.
The prophesied eternal environment is totally opposite from anything cultivated by human nature. It will be sent from heaven by God, and there will be no apprehensive barriers between God and man or with any other citizen of this timeless society.
We will know we have crossed the threshold of eternity when we discover new emotions as described in Revelation 21:4-5 Revelation 21:4-5 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
5 And he that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said to me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
American King James Version×. Here, God our Father gives us a completely different list of noes, not to discourage us or hem us in, but to encourage us and allow us to expand. The list is a rolodex of wonderment spilling out no after no—no more tears, no death, no sorrow and no pain.
The study of eternity continues in Revelation 22:3-5 Revelation 22:3-5 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
American King James Version×, which expands the list of noes to include no more curses and no more night (darkness).
What makes the difference?
Let's ask ourselves what makes the astounding difference between the world of time and space and that of eternity? How do we know we have arrived?
The key is discovered in Revelation 21:22 Revelation 21:22And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
American King James Version×. One more “no” is mentioned. There is no more temple! Verse 22 proclaims, “The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”
This is the same revelation first hinted at in Ezekiel 48:35 Ezekiel 48:35It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.
American King James Version×, which speaks of the eternal city of God. The book of Ezekiel ends with this resounding statement of cause and effect: “THE LORD IS THERE.”
Revelation ends where God began in Genesis. God is again in place among His special creation. It has always been God's desire to be in the midst of His creation, walking and talking among His servants. His desire has always been for us to experience His love in one continual uninterrupted existence that never ends.
Do you know a little bit better where you are headed? Can you describe where you have been in Scripture, and can you show others the way? Can we come to appreciate how God through Jesus Christ has torn down every negative “no” to show us that there is much more beyond our world of limitations? Rather than “no more beyond” sculpted in stone, we can come to recognize that the end of what we presently know is but the beginning of what God has to share.
Is eternity coming a little easier to your mind? I hope so. I purposefully avoided overwhelming you with intricate numerical figures or theories to dazzle your mind. It is better to enlarge your heart, if but for a moment. When it is all said and done, it is not the size of the universe that counts, but the size of our surrendered heart that glorifies God.
Leave some things to God
I wish I could tell you more, but God hasn't chosen to tell us everything. The wisdom of Scripture is to simply leave some things for God. Allow Him to surprise us.
Perhaps the message of Isaiah 30:21 Isaiah 30:21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left.
American King James Version×(“This is the way, walk in it”) in regards to the subject of eternity is best summed up by something I recently heard: “We don't have all the answers, because we don't even know all the questions. If you think you do, just wait until the next time a child offers one up. But this we do know—God has all the answers!” WNP