Everything we need to know in order to be saved and to live faithfully on the earth is plainly stated in the scriptures. Of these things there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind because God has clearly revealed them for us. On the other hand, there are some subjects in the scriptures that are difficult to grasp, even for the most knowledgeable and experienced among us. One of these subjects is eternity.
Our difficulty in understanding eternity begins with the fact that we have no frame of reference with which to compare it. Our existence is marked by, and limited by, the passing of time. Even our best attempts to try to illustrate eternity must be expressed in terms of time. One example of this is to imagine that the earth is a solid steel ball. A bee flies along the earth’s equator, where the greatest circumference is found, with its wing tip just brushing the surface of the ball. Imagine how long it would take for this bee to wear down the surface of the ball by 1/4″. As long as that might take, eternity would have only just begun. As impressive as this illustration may be, it doesn’t begin to explain eternity, because eternity, by its very nature, is existence outside the bounds of time.
This boggles our minds, since we have trouble trying to deal with the passing of time in our own lifetimes. How many of us who were born in the mid-20th century remember hearing people talking about the year 2000? That was a time that was so far distant that we just could not imagine living that long, even though it was well within our life-expectancy. Now, nearly a decade and a half beyond the year 2000, most of us marvel at just how quickly the time went by.
One of the ways in which the scriptures express eternity is with the phrase, “forever and ever.” The Greek word in this phrase is the root from which the English word “eternal” comes, and although it can be used with reference to a period of time, whether specific or indefinite, in this construction it refers to an endless period of time. This phrase occurs some twenty times in the New Testament and is in an emphatic form which could literally be translated, “the forever of the forever.”
This phrase is most often used with reference to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to our God and Father in heaven. Their reign is forever and ever. Glory, honor, praise, and devotion are to be rendered to them forever and ever. At the same time, this phrase also describes life after death, whether in heaven or in hell.
In Rev. 20:10 John said, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” The lake of fire is called the second death in Rev. 20:14, and all those whose names are not in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). This is a permanent, forever and ever condition. Those who enter the lake of fire will never return from it, and their torment will never end. In a similar manner, those whose names are in the book of life will enter heaven after judgment, and this condition is also forever and ever.
Although this is a difficult concept to grasp, the sad irony is that everyone will live forever and ever. The only difference will be in the quality of that life. The righteous will live in heaven, in the presence of Almighty God, but the unrighteous will live in the lake of fire, with the devil and his angels. Even though we can’t quite grasp it, we must prepare for it, so we may live in heaven forever and ever. Amen.