"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth 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." Isaiah 57:15
Eternity! What is eternity? Who among the citizens of time may possibly comprehend eternity? The very thought of eternity makes us feel our insignificance and smallness. We feel a total loss of strength when we even attempt to seriously contemplate so deep a mystery.
The word eternity is used in scripture only in the above text, where it describes the dwelling place of our God. Thus, in that sense, eternity is the abode of the Most High. God is also said to dwell on high, Psalm 113:5; in the heavens, Psalm 123:1; and in several texts is said to dwell between the cherubims. Other times He is said to dwell in Zion, or Mount Zion. God, who has condescended to dwell among us, John 1:14, is yet so infinite and limitless as to fill the expanse what the Bible calls eternity. If then, we could somehow by searching find God, we could discover at the same time eternity.
God is so all-encompassing that He fills eternity, and yet wretched man, that pitiful worm of the dust, has never seen, heard, or felt Him except by the grace of revelation. Even so, as many of the old ministers of the gospel used to say, "He is everywhere present, and nowhere absent." If God then is so vast in being that it requires an eternity to accommodate Him, then eternity must be equally vast to accommodate Him. Clearly, eternity must be in some way be everywhere, as well, for the high and lofty God to reside there.
Look about in the stable sky with its vast canopy of heavenly bodies; diligently search its farthest reaches with your keenest gaze, and eternity will but barely be comprehended, if at all. Far beyond the remotest galaxies; eons removed from the most distant nebula, eternity stretches on and on without possibility of any end or conclusion. There is nothing whatever that may be detected of eternity by simple observation, for eternity has no final boundaries, either in ages past, or in the fleeting present, or in the unending future. Eternity cannot be measured! We would not, however attempt to confuse eternity that habitation of the infinite God, with the gigantic universe. Enormous and seemingly limitless as the created universe is, it is but a temporary occupant, or by product of eternity. Eternity is without time; void of measurement; absent of chronology; the universe is simply a colossal creation for time, for it has a beginning and will certainly have an end.
Eternity may be said to be the very essence of the present, or what we describe as "now", for it knows no past, and cannot allow the concept of a future. Despite the wide range of scientific instruments employed in the human pursuit of learning none, can calculate the least portion of eternity. It cannot be measured with yesterdays or tomorrow's, for there are no days or years in that amplitude we call eternity. We are creatures of variation and change, but eternity is ever constant; it always is what it always was and ever shall be. What we may be blessed to know of eternity now will be the same when time shall be no more. Eternity is sure, steadfast, and stable; all else is transient.
While admitting our understanding of eternity is at best shallow, let us turn to things eternal and everlasting, for they surely are the fruits of eternity.
"For our light affliction, which is for but a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (II Corinthians 4:17)." Momentary, or timely afflictions, cross as they seem at the time, serve to usher us into eternal glory which is weighty by comparison. Afflictions come, and then they go, but they glory they produce in the elect is as limitless as eternity itself.
"While 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 (II Corinthians 4:18)." Surely this serves to clear up some of our ambiguities regarding eternity. If we could see any portion of eternity it could not be such; it too would be transitory if it could be seen.
God has called us into His eternal glory by Christ Jesus (I Peter 5:10); Christ obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9:12); through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God (Hebrews 9:14); having been called we receive the promise of eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15); "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey him (Hebrews 5:9)." The church of God knows these things, "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11)." "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48)."
Blessed as eternal things are to God's children, the very opposite will they be to the reprobate. For them there is eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2); eternal damnation (Mark 3:29); eternal fire (Jude 7). There is as well everlasting destruction (Ii Thessalonians 1:9); everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46); and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).
In the brief catalog of eternal benefits we listed, one vital thing was missing. Hope. "Hope springs eternal" only in the opinion of the world. For the elect hope is for but time. Christ is in His children now as the hope of glory, (Colossians 1:27) but we have this treasure in earthen vessels. At the resurrection of the body this mortal, the earthen vessel, will put on immortality and then death will be swallowed up in victory, or life eternal. "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:28)." We posses that eternal life now in hope. When the hope of eternal life is realized we shall then be in eternity with God.
Double expressions in the Bible hold solemn truths, and this is certainly the case in use of the expression "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)." "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord (Psalm 106:48)." It seems this Psalm gives us a hint of the eternal union of Christ and the elect by instructing them to bless and praise their God "from everlasting to everlasting." This could only be done as they were in Him before the worlds were brought forth. And thus we conclude we were with Him in eternity, the habitation of God as described in the text at the beginning of this article. "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children (Psalm 103:17)." If indeed we are numbered with those that fear the Lord we have found mercy in Him, even from everlasting to everlasting. That, we believe, will surely reach our needy case. Mercy then, before time in eternity, mercy now in time, and mercy to come. May we thus join the Apostle in saying, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen (I Timothy 1:17)."
Elder James F. Poole
The Remnant, March-April 1993
Volume 7, No. 2