The Nearness of Eternity

December 12th 2023



The Nearness of Eternity

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December before it’s June. My goodness, how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? – Theodor Seuss (Dr. Seuss) Geisel

Measuring Eternity

Have you, like Dr. Seuss, ever wondered, though perhaps not in his exact words, how it got to be so late so soon?

If so, there’s a reason. It’s because God, in whose image you and I are created (Gen 1:27, 5:1), possess an innate awareness of time and eternity. We know this from such texts as Ecclesiastes 3:11a, which declares that God has “put eternity in man’s heart.” The word eternity appears more than 400 times in Scripture—all in the Old Testament. Ironically, although the word eternity is a chronological term, it denotes a chronology that is not measured with regard to time as we know it.

Eternity cannot be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years. It cannot be touched, seen, or otherwise captured with our senses, and yet we know inherently that eternity exists. Eternity is infinite. It is without limits or boundaries. Perhaps that is why many people today view eternity as something that is “out there somewhere,” or “in a land far, far away.” But Scripture teaches us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Considering Eternity

The Puritan theologian Thomas Watson (1620–1686) is often credited with saying , “A man's greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore, eternity should be his scope.” Watson’s words should serve as a reminder to us that eternity is not merely a distant, remote, abstract construct of time, but a very tangible and perceptible reality; one that every person, believer and unbeliever alike, will experience, either with God or apart from him (1 Thess 4:17b, 1:9–10).

There are those today who view eternity only as something to be concerned about when they are about to die. But as the apostle Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 4:2, you and I are to “live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions, but for the will of God.” It was the beloved Welsh preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981), who, in light of Peter’s words, said that believers should view time, not in terms of past, present, and future, but of past, present, and “the rest of the time.”[1]

The “rest of the time” is now—today. And yet, how often or, perhaps more accurately, how seldom, do thoughts of eternity cross our mind as we go about the busyness of our daily lives? Is it not the case that most of us, if we were honest, awake each morning under the assumption that all will go well with us, and that God will grant us time to accomplish the tasks and goals we’ve set for the day? Would we not have to admit that, more often than not, we live our lives in a kind of fog about the fact that our lives are but a vapor (Jas 4:13–14)?

Anticipating Eternity

My father died of a heart attack at age 64. The circumstances of his departure from this world are not the stuff of which books are written or movies made. He simply went into the bathroom at home one day and didn’t come out. My mother came home from work to find the lifeless body of the man, to whom she’d been married for 44 years, slumped over the bathtub. For my father, eternity was as near to him as walking into the bathroom—something you and I do routinely each day.

There are many reasons why eternity should matter to you and me, not the least of which is the consequent effects of sin on our physical bodies (Gen 3:1–15; Rom 5:12). As the Puritan minister Richard Steele (1629–1692) writes in his treatise, A Discourse Concerning Old-Age, “If you inquire . . . into the ruins of human nature, the answer will be that sin is the moth which, being bred therein, has fretted the garment, withers the man, and lays his honor in the dust! Every decay therefore of our strength should remind us of our apostasy from God by the fall and should renew our grief for the same.”[2]

Please do not miss the point Steele is making. Sin is the point, not age. Because of sin, eternity is not a concern merely for those who are old but also for the young. Sin makes eternity a universally relevant proposition for every human being regardless of their age (Job 14:1–2; Ps 90:3–5, 103:15–16).

Dr. Seuss was right. It is getting late soon. In fact, eternity is nearer to you now than when you began reading this blog post.

May God, by his grace, enable us to, as Thomas Watson said, keep eternity in our scope; to be ever-mindful that life is fleeting (Ps 39:4, 89:47; Eccl 11:9–10, 12:6–7). And though it is getting late soon, for believers in Christ, eternity is not something to be anxious about. To the contrary, it is to be eagerly anticipated. For as Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) once said, “The best moment of a Christian’s life is his last one, because it is the one that is nearest heaven.”[3]

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Two Views of Life”, https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons/other-sermons/two-views-of-life/. [2] Richard Steele, A Discourse Concerning Old-Age, Monergism Books (mobile app download), Chapter 2: The Causes of Old-Age, and Preservatives, Section 1. The Original Cause: Man’s Sin, paragraph 7. [3] Charles Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Center, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/blog-entries/10-spurgeon-quotes-on-dying-well/

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Author: Darrell Harrison