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Written by Joseph R. Holder   


How can the finite perceive the infinite?  How can mortality comprehend immortality?  How can creatures born in time grasp the reality of a timeless, eternal God?  Without question, this subject presents us with one of the greatest challenges imaginable.  How can we solve the problem?  In Matthew 11:27 Jesus taught that no man possesses the ability to know either the Son or the Father, except by the Son's revelation, so we must appeal to God, not our intellect, for whatever insight we gain of eternity.  We have not been there to know it from personal experience, but the God who inhabits eternity has kindly opened the windows of heaven and told us about it in the Bible. 

                 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18.

 This lesson presents us with two distinct experiences, one present and one future.  Paul described one as a time of suffering, the other as glory.  He was not looking forward to a better time in his earthly life, but to something hereafter.  His description of his future discipleship was quite different.

                 And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.   Acts 20:22, 23.

However, in the verse from Romans he perceived that the glory which awaited him was so magnificent that all of his present sufferings could not compare.  Occasionally when people teach on the hereafter, someone will ask, "Why is that so important?  It has nothing to do with the here and now."  How wrong they are!  Paul could endure the sufferings of the moment, counting them as no great matter, only because he accepted that future glory as a vivid reality.  At times some may have taught on eternity without showing the timely significance of the subject, but the significance is there, nonetheless.  Perhaps our impatience and faltering faith could become stronger if we thought more about that future glory. 

Does the Bible teach that there is life after death?  To ask the question seems foolish.  A belief in Christ that ends at the grave is equivalent to an eight lane freeway one block long or to a magnificent bridge which extends half way across the river.  In the words of Paul, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable," I Corinthians 15:19.  How could we find perspective or meaning for the resurrection of Christ or the promise of our personal resurrection in I Corinthians 15, if there is no resurrection, no eternity for us?  I borrow another verse from this magnificent chapter, "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"  I Corinthians 15:29.  This verse does not remotely suggest that you and I should be baptized by proxy for dead relatives or friends.  Paul built the whole force of I Corinthians 15 on the resurrection of Christ.  He really died, and he really rose from the dead.  If the dead rise not at all, then Christ did not rise.  If Christ did not rise, why submit to baptism, which symbolizes our belief in his death and resurrection?  True baptism is for him, always for him.  It is his death and resurrection for which we are baptized.  Only in that sense did Paul intend us to accept this verse.  If we deny the resurrection, including his, we make baptism an empty farce without meaning.

How can we relate to eternity?  This work, Eternity In Time, Time In Eternity, represents an effort to examine this question and provide reasonable, biblical answers to the question.  It seeks answers from the only book which I consider to be a valid witness on this subject, the Bible.  I begin with a study of the eternity of God.  I then examine God's eternity imputed into the elect, move to the New Testament's discussion of blessings from the foundation of the world, and examine two of the most common words translated eternity or everlasting in scripture.  The final chapters study scriptures which open up the window of eternity and speak of what God has in store for his people in that eternal day to come.  My desire in offering this work is to focus our minds on God, our eternal God, and his kind purpose to share himself, including his eternity, with his people.  The Bible does not offer minute details of what eternity or heaven will be like, but neither does it ignore eternity. 

Eschatology, the study of final things, is often surrounded with controversy.  My purpose in this work is not to engage any in a battle of words, but to challenge us all to a deeper study and sincere review of the essential reality of God's eternity, and ours through him.  No believer in Jesus Christ should apologize for his conviction that an eternity with God awaits him.  Nor should we permit our minds to be artificially forced into the error that the Bible says nothing about that state.  God never left us to conjecture or private imagination in any essential truth.  If it is true and significant to our present state or future hope, rest assured, the Bible contains a clear statement on the subject.

May we face the varied difficulties of life with greater strength and faith by the power of an abiding conviction that an eternity with God awaits us. 

                                                                                                                                                 Joseph R. Holder


                                                                   Chapter 1

                                                         The Eternity of God

                 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.  Psalm 90:2.

How can creatures enslaved in time comprehend a timeless, eternal God?  For that matter, how can we comprehend eternity itself?  In our youth we resent time, longing for adulthood.  In our old age we resent time, fearing the brevity of our years.  Every part of our life experience exhibits our vulnerability to time.  Within our natural sense of reason, we cannot imagine anything which knows no time, which appears exactly the same as it did thousands of years ago.  Yet we cannot read the Bible thoughtfully without realizing that it presents a clear revelation of a God who possesses this timeless, immortal quality.  Time reveals nothing to God which he has not always known.  The passage of centuries since the creation manifests that he is the same now has he has ever been.  This trait appears in every revelation of God.  His most formal name is I AM, the constant, never-changing God whose person stands above time, not subject to it.  His promise of mercy to his people rests on his constant, timeless nature.  "I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed," Malachi 3:6.  His eternal perfection forms the basis for the New Testament gospel message.  "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," Hebrews 13:8. 

Only as God reveals himself to us can we grasp any realistic concept of his person or his attributes.  Consider the verse from Psalms.  "Before the mountains were brought forth, ... thou art God."  This verse reaches behind the creation of the universe, behind Genesis 1:1.  Moses, the man whose inspired words recorded the creation centuries after it occurred, saw behind the physical creation into the Being of the Creator.  He did not say, "You were God."  Rather, he said, "Thou art God."  From God's self-sufficient existence prior to his creation of the first molecule of matter to Moses or to us, God is God.  Such a God knows nothing of yesterdays or tomorrows.  Everything stands before him as one comprehensive now.  Thou art God!

Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.  We cannot perceive the true meaning of everlasting, much less everlasting past or everlasting future.  From everlasting to everlasting, clearer words could not describe this divine attribute.  God, this infinite, timeless God, has lifted the veil of mystery and revealed himself in terms of time.  As only he could do, he has selected illustrations of time which we cannot misinterpret.  The timeless, eternal God reveals himself and his eternity in terms which his children in the prison of time can comprehend.  By design, he selects the setting of comfort and friendship to make himself known in this manner.  "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations," Psalm 90:1.  Such a God makes himself the safe shelter, the constant dwelling place for his people in all generations.  Time extracts its toll on one generation as we grow old and pass away.  God remains just as surely the safe dwelling place for the next generation, and the next, and the next, as he was for us.  Therefore, this mysterious attribute of God appears as our blessing, not threatening in any way.

Everlasting was translated from a Hebrew word whose primary definition is the vanishing point.  What does this mean?  As we look back in time, we can follow the course of history through ages and dispensations until we arrive at Genesis 1:1, the vanishing point.  Then we can look to the future to a mysterious time when the elements will melt with fervent heat and dissolve away, the vanishing point.  From the vanishing point in the past to the vanishing point in the future, from the beginning of time to the end of time, thou art God.  In a figure of speech, from eternity before creation to eternity after creation, thou art God.

The grand beauty of this verse is that God employs language and terms which we time-bound mortals can perceive, but he unmistakably  expresses his eternity in terms of time.  He further expresses that unique attribute in a context of comfort and assurance to his children on earth.  Consider the author of this psalm, Moses.  Born to slave parents in Egypt, set adrift in a reed basked on the Nile,  he was raised by Pharaoh's daughter as a prince of Egypt.  At forty years of age, God told him of his purpose as Israel's deliverer and sent him to the back side of the desert for forty more years.  After that time expired, he returned to Egypt as the deliverer of his people.  For the last forty years of his life, he lead the Israelites through a nomadic existence in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan.  What an unsettling life this man had.  Perhaps as an old man, he wrote these words.  "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations."  Not just through his 120 years of wanderings, but throughout all generations of Israel's existence, God had been their personal dwelling place. 

Looking back beyond Israel's existence as a nation to the vanishing point of time, the very beginning, Moses said, "Thou art God."  Looking forward to the final end, far beyond God's national dealings with one particular nation, to the future vanishing point, he repeated the theme, "Thou art God."

A god with any less relationship to time cannot meet our needs or offer us assurance in a cold threatening world.  Anything less is not God!  This God, the only true God, revealed himself to Moses with full assurances to us that he will be our dwelling place, no less than he was to Moses.  The newspapers frequently print stories about the homeless people of society and all the problems they must face just to survive from one day to the next.  Without God and his promise of eternity, we would all face just such a dilemma for all eternity.  How dreadful such a thought becomes to consider!  How thankful we should be to know that, as we face the unknown of our future beyond time, the vanishing point, God will be our dwelling place no less then than he has been throughout out lives.  We will not face the future, or the vanishing point, alone!  God remains our dwelling place for ever!

With sweet assurance we face the prospect of death and what would otherwise be a black empty abyss, knowing that God's presence, his personal presence and his personal relationship with us as our dwelling place, will not fade away.  This strange mysterious conviction of something better ahead, unseen and unknown, but altogether comforting, appears here as God himself.  In one sense death forces us to vacate the bodily dwelling place we inhabited in time.  Never fear, you will not be homeless.  Your new home appears more clearly than ever, a timeless eternal structure, warm and alive, full of love and personality.  God, your true dwelling place in time, will continue as your dwelling place beyond time.  According to II Corinthians 5:1, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, ready for us to move in and dwell with our God for ever.

                The Christian navigates a sea
                Where various forms of death appear;
                Nor skill, alas!  nor power has he,
                Aright his dangerous course to steer.
                Why does he venture, then, from shore,
                And dare so many deaths to brave?
                Because the land affrights him more
                Than all the perils of the wave.
                 Because he hopes a port to find,
                Where all his toil will be repaid;
                And though unskilful, weak, and blind,
                Yet Jesus bids him nothing dread.
                His destined land he sometimes sees,
                And thinks his toils will soon be o'er;
                Expects some favourable breeze
                Will waft him quickly to the shore.
                But sudden clouds obstruct his view,
                And he enjoys the sight no more;
                Nor does he now believe it true
                That he had ever seen the shore.
                Though fear his heart should overwhelm,
                He'll reach the port for which he's bound;
                For Jesus holds and guides the helm,
                And safety is where he is found.
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