The reality of eternity ought to be a constant encouragement and exhortation to believers. The Greek adjective, translated both as “eternal” and as “everlasting” is most frequently linked with life, as in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But it is used to describe other qualities and conditions as well.
The eternality of God. The New Testament makes a number of references to the eternality of God. Paul speaks of both “his eternal power and Godhead” as being revealed in creation and, therefore leaving unbelieving men “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). Interestingly, Paul speaks of “the everlasting God” a second time in Romans (16:25, 26), again in conjunction with revelation, this time “the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,” that is, the mystery concerning the church. The doxology in First Timothy lauds “the King eternal’ (1:17). And the writer of Hebrews affirms that the Holy Spirit is eternal when he explains that Christ “through the eternal Spirit offered himself to God” (9:14).
The eternality of the blessed. As mentioned in the introductory paragraph, the adjective eternal or everlasting is used more frequently in conjunction with the term life than with any other concept. But when describing the state of the believer, Scripture does not limit itself to those terms. Our salvation is said to be eternal (Heb. 5:9), as is our redemption (Heb. 9:12). Believers will receive an “eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15) that Peter further explains to be “incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Pet. 1:4, 5). Paul explains that throughout our eternal life we will dwell in an eternal body fashioned by God, “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (II Cor. 5:1). Paul also speaks of the “eternal glory” that accompanies “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus” that awaits all believers (II Tim. 2:10). And he describes it elsewhere as an “eternal weight of glory,” (II Cor. 4:17), in other words, such an abundance of glory that we could not bear it in our temporal human form. An eternal body is required to manifest it. He also references “the things which are not seen” as being eternal and awaiting the redemption of our bodies in order to be revealed (II Cor. 4:18). The eternality of the damned. God is equally clear about the state of the lost. Along with the fallen angels, who are said to be “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6), unbelievers are variously described as being “in danger of eternal damnation” (Mk. 3:29), of facing “eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:2) and of “go[ing] away into everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). It is said of those who worship the beast that “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever” (Rev. 14:11). And in one of the most horrific descriptions found in the Word, Paul describes the Second Coming of Christ “in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall punish with everlasting destruction [“ruin”] from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (II Thes. 1:8, 9). Though living forever, the damned are never described as possessing “eternal life.”
Will you spend eternity in bliss and glory with Christ or in suffering and torment with those who have rejected Him? The Word of truth declares that it will be one or the other.
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