The Essential Perspective of Eternity


“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.  [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”[1]

Having an eternal perspective is of primary importance.

We, being finite beings, don’t and can’t have the actual perspective of eternity because of our present condition, which is finite. From dust to dust as it were. Only God, the Alpha and Omega[2], the First and the Last, has a true eternal perspective. We are limited in our ability to understand such a God, as Job discovered when he encountered God:

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?’”[3]

And our response needs to be like Job’s response:

“Then Job answered the Lord and said:

‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
…. I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.’”[4]

We can’t know the mind of God of our own accord. We can only know the mind to the extent that God might reveal it to us. In the Bible, we have what Jews and Christians believe is such divine revelation. We don’t have the mind of God, and we don’t have His eternal perspective other than what is preserved for us in Scripture.

According to that Scripture, God has put a sense of eternity in our hearts! Indeed, poets, philosophers, kings and peasants have all experienced a longing in their hearts through the millennia that points in the direction of eternity. We don’t know what eternity feels or looks like, but we have a sense of it, and the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has given us that sense.

Only we, of all the animals, have such a sense of self-awareness, of eternity and beauty and morality, among other things. Yet we are finite in these present bodies. We are painfully aware of our finitude – from dust we came and to the dust we will return.

And still, that sense of eternity informs us that this universe, this life that we know, is not all that is. Like thirst which suggests the water that quenches it and hunger that suggests food that satisfies it, we have this longing, if not fleeting, sense that there must be more.

God has given us this sense of eternity, but God has hidden from us what He has done from the beginning. Scientists can trace the beginning of the universe, space and time back to a point that is 1024 of a second after the Big Bang, but they can go no further. Everything before that point is hidden, closed off to human inquiry.

We are also unable to see into the future. We can’t know, other than God might reveal it to us, what will come. But, God, who stands outside time and space, can survey the beginning, the end and everything in between. He was in the beginning[5]; He was before the beginning; and He will be in the end. And God can see at once all that is, all that ever was and all that will ever be in this universe because God is not bound by time or space.

No better description of God has ever been given than this: He is the “Great I Am”. He is, and was and is to come.[6] He was “before all time, and now and forever”.[7]

How critical is it also that we should consider the world and our existence in light of eternity?! Though we can’t view the world from the vantage point of eternity, being finite and currently bound in time and space, we can imagine it. God has given us the ability to imagine it.

How else could such finite beings even grasp the idea?

We can only understand our place in God’s divine scheme of things in light of eternity. When we have difficulties that we find momentous and even debilitating we understand that they are only light and momentary; they are as nothing compared to the “weight of glory beyond all comparison” that is awaiting us in eternity. Only with a sense of eternity can we understand that the transient afflictions we wrestle with in these mortal lives are preparing us for that weight of glory![8]

The physical suffering and death that we experience in our present experience are preparing us for the place God has prepared for us, for each one of us Jesus said.[9] “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”.[10] But, we can sense that He has done these things!

Just as Abraham, believing God who promised him a land he would later receive as an inheritance, obeyed and went, not knowing where he was going[11], we  hear the call of God and respond in obedience and hope.

Abraham made it to the promised land, he didn’t put roots down. Instead, he lived there as a stranger, a foreigner, dwelling in tents.[12] Abraham didn’t build a permanent dwelling after arriving in the promise land not because he didn’t believe God, but because he saw and understood that God was promising him something far greater than a portion of land on this finite planet earth.

“For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”[13]

This is a poetic way of saying that Abraham understood the true, eternal nature of God’s promise. And we should see our lives the same way.

That sense of eternity that God put in Abraham’s heart has also been put in our hearts. We must always keep it first and foremost in our minds as we approach Scripture, encounter difficulties, receive blessings, make plans and live our lives that this life is not all there is. Abraham is the example of faith that God highlights above other examples of faith that we are to follow.[14] He lived his life with eternity always in “view”.

We can’t actually view eternity, of course, and neither could Abraham. That’s why it’s called faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”[15] It isn’t “blind faith” as some suppose, but a willingness to commit to the promise of God, to the eternity that God has put in our hearts, by our actions and our very lives though we can’t “see” it and can’t (yet) experience it fully.

Without faith, which is rooted in that sense of eternity that God has put in our hearts, we may be overwhelmed by the trials and temptations that come our way. By faith (a willingness to commit our lives to God), we commit ourselves to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, and He causes us to be born again.[16] And further, He freely gives us His Holy Spirit to help us by dwelling in us.[17] And, so we have the hope, the perspective, to rise above what we are going through.

Just as Abraham lived in the land God promised, knowing that there was a greater, eternal promise, we live with the Spirit God in this life, knowing that there is a greater, eternal promise awaiting us. The Spirit is the evidence of the promise. We enter into that promise by faith, and God responds by giving us a foretaste of that eternal promise, which is His Spirit.

We lose our way when we lose “sight” of (forget) to view things in light of eternity. When we lose sight of eternity, our decisions and our attitudes will reflect the influences of the “flesh” – the transient and temporary things of this world. We must keep eternity in view to have the attitude God desires us to have – to walk in faith, guided and influenced by the Spirit of God, to be overcomers.

I believe this is what Paul is talking about when he says:

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”[18]

When our minds, hearts and lives are focused and preoccupied on this world, we are anxious because we have lost our focus on eternal things. If we don’t keep our eyes fixed on eternal things, we apt to lose our way. We must keep eternity in view to live a life of faith that is pleasing to God. We need to keep eternity in view to rise above the difficulties and temptations that we encounter. Without an eternal perspective, which can only come from God, we are lost to wander the desserts of our own finite futility.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Ecclesiastes 3:9-11

[2] Revelation 1:18 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

[3] Job 38:1-2

[4] Job 42:1-3

[5] John 1:1-4 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life….”

[6] Rev. 1:8

[7] Jude 1:25

[8] 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

[9] John 14:1-3 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

[10] 1 Corinthians 2:9

[11] Hebrews 11:8

[12] Hebrews 11:9

[13] Hebrews 11:10

[14] Romans 4:16-17 “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may rest on grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the presence of God, in whom he believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not yet exist.”

[15] Hebrews 11:1

[16] John 3:1-21

[17] John 14:15-17 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

[18] Philippians 4:5-7

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