Thinking of Eternity


Sometimes it is helpful to stand back and view life a little more objectively than we normally do.  We often become so involved in day-to-day problems and responsibilities, the common needs of earning a living and solving problems, the physical needs of sleep and eating, and the family needs of relating to a spouse and training children, that we become lost in the “here and now” and don’t think of eternity and the eternal truths that will outlive us.

Imagine having a roll of string before you.  Take a scissors and cut off a small piece of string, about an inch long.  Now place that on the table.  Now, in your imagination, take the roll of string and attach it to a fixed object and begin walking away from that place, unrolling the string as you walk.  Leave the house and walk down the street or road.  Continue walking until you have used up the entire 500 feet of string.  That is a long distance!  Now, imagine in your mind that you had more rolls of string and you continued to unroll that string, one roll after another.  You would take that string to the next town, then to the next county, then to the next state.  Suppose you lived in Maine.  You take the string the whole way to California!  Then south through Mexico, through Central America, down through South America to the tip of the continent!

Our life is like that little bit of string we began with.  It may be 50 years, 80 years, or even 100 years.  But it is limited.  Compare that to the length of string that begins in Maine and continues to southern South America.  That is like eternity!  Our brief and limited earthly lives can hardly be meaningfully compared to the length of eternity!  Actually, that is less than eternity—for eternity has no end!  It is endless!  Everlasting!  Eternal!  It is the life of God!  Eternity has been compared to many different things, but the comparisons always fall short.  However, maybe the illustration above will help us to realize, in some measure, the magnitude of eternity that is before us!

Let me offer you another illustration, given by  Donald Bartow.  Here are his words: “I find the following illustration to be of help to me when I try to contemplate eternity.  It presumes that human beings can continue to make trips to the moon.  A crew goes to the moon and returns with a cubic inch of moon rock. A thousand years later another crew goes to the moon and returns with a cubic inch of moon rock.  A thousand years later another expedition secures a cubic inch of the moon.

“These voyages every thousand years continue until the entire moon has been carried to the earth.  It has taken millions and millions of years and millions of trips.  Even after the job has been completed eternity would have just begun.”

While I cannot agree with Ankerberg on some of his theology, he does give a helpful illustration of eternity.  Notice his description:

““How long is eternity?”  How long will I exist either with or without the eternal rewards God wants me to have?  If you’re a non-Christian, how long will you exist in hell?

“Let me see if I can illustrate this for you.  Many of you have a parakeet or you’ve seen one in the stores.  Picture a parakeet in your backyard next to a sandbox.  You take a pail, fill it full of sand, and then let some of the grains of sand fall through your hands.  One bucket of sand has thousands of grains of sand.

“Let’s imagine that you could instruct that parakeet to pick up one of the grains of sand in its beak, fly to the moon and drop it off.  Let’s say it takes one million years for the parakeet to get to the moon.  He puts the grain of sand down and flies back to earth.  It takes a million years for him to get back.  He then picks up the next grain of sand and flies back to the moon.  He drops off that grain and flies back to earth—a million years there, a million years back.  One by one the parakeet takes each grain of sand in your sandbox to the moon.

“When he is finished, you take him down to Key West, Florida and there you show him the Atlantic Ocean and the beach which runs along the coast.  You tell him, ‘I want you to start clearing off the sand on this beach one grain at a time.’  He starts there, then works his way up to Miami, then to Jacksonville, Hilton Head, Charleston, New York City, Boston, and up toward Maine.  He takes each grain of sand to the moon one at a time, a million years there, a million years back.

“When he’s done with all of that, you take him out to the West Coast and from Mexico all the way up to California and Oregon, you tell him to take one grain of sand at a time and fly it to the moon.

“When the parakeet finishes with all of that, you say, ‘I’ve got this other little spot called the Sahara Desert.  I want you to clear the sand off of that place one at a time.’  When he finishes that, you say, ‘Three-fourths of the surface of the earth is water.  Let me drain the oceans dry.  At the bottom of the oceans you have a lot of sand.  Take all of that sand to the moon, one grain of sand at a time, a million years there, and a million years back.’  When he finishes, if you could add up all of the millions of years it had taken to remove all of the sand from all of those places, eternity would just be beginning.

“Can you understand now why it would be foolish to live just for this life and ignore where we will be and how we will fare for all eternity?  Before you die, if you haven’t placed your faith in Christ, the Bible says you won’t be in Heaven for eternity: You’ll exist in a terrible place God calls hell, separated from Him and all that is good.”  (End of article)

Do these illustrations grasp your heart as they do mine?  In reality, it is impossible to grasp the concept of unlimited duration!  After one has been in hell for a million, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion years, he has no less time to continue in that horrible lake of fire!  After one has been in the indescribable blessing of God’s presence for the same length of time, he has no fewer days to sing the Lord’s worthy praise!  This is mind-expanding, even incomprehensible, to our mind with its earthly limitations.

Can we begin to see how insane it is to live for time when we must face eternity!  It is meaningless and futile to spend our lives concentrating on this present life when we will soon pass from this life into the vast and endless reaches of eternity!  Shouldn’t this truth touch our hearts and affect everything we think, say, and do in this fleeting life!  Shouldn’t this reality of eternity impel us to make use of every passing moment for the glory of God!  “LORD, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am” (Psalm 39:4).  Such thoughts caused Moses to change the perspective of his life, so much so that he was willing to suffer rather than “to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25).

Shouldn’’t the inescapable fact of eternity cause us to relate to our spouse, our children, our fellow-believers, our neighbors, and every other person with a deep realization of their mortality and of our need to do all we can to express love, kindness, patience, gentleness, and active good will toward them while we still have life!  Surely the fact that each of us will pass from this life very soon, face God in judgment, and enter the realm of eternity should influence every waking hour!  We will either go into “eternal punishment” or into “eternal life” (Matt. 25:46)—both of these destinations are eternal!  They are destinations without end, without cessation, everlasting!

The reality of eternity should cause us to live for Jesus today—while we may.  It should cause us to cast away the passing pleasures of sin—while we can.  It should motivate us to “spend and be spent” for the cause of the Lord and the salvation of our loved ones as well as all people everywhere.  It should cause us to eliminate the unessential and time-wasting trivia of life in view of the priceless but momentary time that we now have.  Paul tells us, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

The apostle also commands us: “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).  Our life perspective must be radically changed in light of our relationship with Christ, the brevity of time, and the eternal life that extends before us!

May God help us to think of time and eternity, making the necessary changes in our lives that will reflect both the transitory lives we now live and the eternal life that lies before us.

Richard Hollerman


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