When we enter into the discussion of eternity, the natural question is, “When did it begin, and when does it end?” In reality, discussion of eternity takes us deeply into the mysterious. We have only a vague concept of what eternity is as when we occasionally say of an event or circumstance, “It seems as though it was an eternity,” as in “a long time.” That expression is used to define an event or circumstance that had a beginning. Reality is that eternity is timeless; it has no beginning and no end. That is what we mean when we confess that the Triune God is from eternity. Of all living beings in heaven and on earth, only He is from all eternity or is eternal. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Our God is from everlasting to everlasting, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). God’s self-portrait painted in Scripture is an irrefutable indictment against all the “gods” constructed by men and nations. The contrast is stark and unmistakable. Scripture tells us that the eternal God is the maker of man. Heathenism tells us that man is the maker of his god. This fact gives lie to the idea that all people worship the same God regardless of the God they worship. They who worship another god than the eternal, everlasting God Who has revealed Himself as the Triune God are worshiping an idol.
The word eternal is also used in Scripture to define the condition into which one enters at death. Upon death, which is the end of life here on earth, we enter into eternity or an “eternalness.” We enter into a condition that has no end. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ enters into a condition that is described in Scripture as “everlasting life.” It is the kind of life that God intended for mankind when He created him and placed him in the garden. Yet sin ruined the bliss of such a life, for had sinful man lived forever he would have been in a continual condition of dying and all that that implies — sorrow, pain, unhappiness, misery — without ever being able to be rid of it. What a miserable condition! Therefore, the Lord God put man out of the garden and placed an angel at the gate (Genesis 3:22) lest man should eat of the tree of life and live in a state of dying forever. The everlasting Father conceived another way. Jesus would come into the world, bear man’s guilt and shame, suffer the consequence, die, and rise again. While man would still suffer the consequence of sin, which is death, in Christ he would be blessed with the life that God intended: a life of bliss, peace, rest, joy (Revelation 7:13-17). It would be a deathless life, an everlasting life in heaven (Revelation 21:4). It is the life promised by the Lord to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus we are already possessors of eternal life. However, the “hands-on” possession of our eternal inheritance begins when we are called from time into eternity.
There is another side of eternity. It is perpetuation of the continual dying that was introduced by man with the entrance of sin. It is called everlasting death. As compared to the peace and tranquility in the presence of the Lord God which the believers enjoy in heaven, it is described in Scripture as a condition of forsakenness where “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9).
For the Christian the toils of this life make it seem like an eternity before we, according to promise, are able to be with the Lord where He is. Nevertheless, the day is surely drawing nigh when the seemingly eternal wait shall be turned into the reality of the eternal now! Just as surely is the day coming when those who have wasted their life on earth shall enter into an eternity they wish would end, but won’t.
Today then is the day to contemplate eternity before it comes. When it comes the Shepherd of the sheep shall take the sheep into the everlasting “pasture of peace” and send the goats to the everlasting “wilderness of doom.”