What is your perception of eternity?

The other day, I mused to a friend, “I took an eternity to do this, but I’m finally done!” I’m sure most of us have said something similar, or used “eternity” as a hyperbolic expression to mean a long time.

On a congested road, it takes an “eternity” for the Grab or Uber driver to arrive. It feels like “eternities” have passed if I’m waiting for an important package to be delivered. When I was younger, I might even have claimed it took “eternity” to finish school!

Although we tend to use “eternity” as hyperbole to mean a really long period of time, eternity is more than hyperbolic expression – not only does it exist, it is a reality that has farther reaching consequences than we are aware of.

You see, God has put eternity into our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). That’s why we even contemplate it and feel its weight to begin with.

The Bible tells us that eternity consists of two polar opposite realities – one of everlasting contempt, another of everlasting life.

On one hand, eternity involves judgment. Anyone who falls short of God’s standard of holiness will be sentenced to eternal separation from Him. This judgment refers to the tragedy of the lost who will face God’s wrath – a hell of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43–48), sin that will never be forgiven (Mark 3:29), and eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41).

But on the contrary, an eternity spent in God’s love is the reward for the righteous — those who have believed that Jesus is the only Way, Truth and Life, who are not saved by their own righteousness but His, and will thus inherit eternal life (Matthew 25:46). This is the Good News: Everyone qualifies to claim this grace, because everyone has fallen short (Romans 3:23)!

What, however, does the scope of eternity look like? How does one quantify an “everlasting” thing? This is something I’ve wondered since childhood and I’m not sure I know the answers, even now.

My earliest memory of being led to consider the vastness of eternity was when I heard these lyrics of Amazing Grace: “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the Sun.”

As a child at 8 or 9 years old, I couldn’t fathom the magnitude of ten thousand years. I tried to imagine being dead and gone from earth but now alive in heaven – to no avail.

It feels like a stretch to strive to attain something whose magnitude is so mind-blowing that I cannot put into concrete logic, owing to my own finite understanding.

The concept of eternity was too profound to grasp. Based on my limited understanding then, I wondered if being in Heaven meant singing songs to God there forever. While I knew being in Heaven for eternity was the desirable outcome that the Bible promised, what happened if I didn’t quite like singing songs in the first place? Wouldn’t I be kinda bored?

Likewise, I also tried to contemplate an eternity in hell – I had my elderly grandparents in mind when envisioning this, as they were not Christian then. I envisioned people in hell shrieking from the heat of burning fire, but could not understand how it could go on forever.

It feels like a stretch to strive to attain something whose magnitude is so mind-blowing that I cannot put into concrete logic, owing to my own finite understanding.
Hence, sometimes, I feel guilty and wonder to myself why I am not living with eternity in mind, as I know I should. At other times, I question how I can even live for something I cannot begin to fathom.

The Bible tells us that our destiny for eternity is dependent on how we spend the here and now. Hence, we are to make a discerned choice as to how we live on this side of eternity.

In Joshua 24:15, Joshua urged his people to serve the Lord alone, to put away the false gods that they had worshipped. This is still true for us today.

Therefore, even if I cannot be sure of how eternity exactly looks like for my life from where I stand, I can be sure that the intended way to live would be a step-by-step choice to choose God’s way above my own, laying down my natural inclinations in exchange for His — this is my daily spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).

The tension of living with eternity in mind continues today, but with God’s help, I will persevere in living in light of His coming as He directs my footsteps.