In this article, we shall explore what the meaning of eternity is. To begin, let us look at the picture of the galaxy Andromeda which is just above this article to get an idea of what eternity means. Andromeda is our nearest galactic neighbor and is 2 million light-years from our Milky Way galaxy. One light-year is the distance that light travels at 2.9979 x 10^8 meters per second in one year. For instance, the distance light travels in one day would be 25,901,856,000,000 miles. That is 25 trillion, 901 billion, 856 million miles. Then multiply that number times 365, and you get roughly 9,490 trillion miles in a year. That is a long way in one year's time. You bet it is. Now consider how far light would travel in 2 million years, and that is how far it is to Andromeda, our nearest galactic neighbor. It boggles the mind. Now, look at the tiniest spec of light that you can see in the picture above. That, too, is a distant galaxy that could be as large as Andromeda or perhaps bigger. That tiny speck of light is probably 100 billion lights years away. Do you see how big this universe is, and we still have not found its end? We are limited by what our most advanced telescopes can bring to our vision. It boggles the mind, and we do not know if our universe ends at that tiny spec. Perhaps it goes on to too many more distant galaxies that could be another 100 billion years distant from the faintest tiny spec we can see in this gorgeous picture of the Andromeda galaxy. The photograph you are looking at is only a tiny rectangular piece of the known universe.
Let us say we had a broad picture of our universe in front of us, laid out so we could see 360 degrees of the sky. The picture above would take up only a tiny rectangle on that picture. You could conceivably take that one rectangle we see here and multiply it by a million. Then you would have a complete picture of the universe where you could see billions of more galaxies, like the one we see in this picture of Andromeda. How unimaginable it would be to see so many galaxies just by looking in every possible direction and seeing all of the galaxies there before us. And, every galaxy you see in this picture is made up of 100s of billions of stars.
Multiply 100 billion stars by 10 billion galaxies, and the number of stars in the known universe is far beyond anything we could conceivably imagine. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is calculated to have almost 300 billion stars within it; however, let us use a more conservative number, such as 100 billion instead. Now, I will multiply these two numbers so you can see how big that number is. 10,000,000,000 times 100,000,000,000, which is 10 billion times 100 billion, and the result is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 sextillions stars. You could pronounce that extraordinary number in another way. You could say we have 1 billion trillion stars in our known universe. Is that number not mind-boggling? And there are more planets in our universe than there are stars. Also, how do we know if the most distant galaxy that we can see in this beautiful picture might not be the end of our universe? Perhaps there are other universes beyond our own that also might contain 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 sextillion stars. Then one day, a new and far more advanced telescope reveals that there are billions of universes beyond our own that cover the heavens like stars do in our Milky Way galaxy. That is what infinity truly means; that there is no end to our Lord God's infinite creation. Does that not make your mind ache a bit trying to absorb such an enormity of size and sheer grandeur? It certainly does mine.
As we discovered from the enormity of our universe in the previous paragraphs. We cannot conceive of the entire size of our Lord God's creation since that would be impossible for our minds to grasp. However, all of these imaginings are still only a teensy bit of the overall size of our Lord God's creation. Now, considering all that, can you imagine our Lord God torturing someone forever and ever?
Imagine a Lord God that would hate someone so much that He would allow them to burn for all time, such as a billion trillion years. That would be one cruel Lord God, would it not? Do you think our Lord God is that unjust? I do not think so. Our Lord God is just and fair, and He loves us very much. And he would never subject someone to that harsh a penalty. In fact, from what I know of our Lord God's creation, Satan is the one who sends people to hell. Only someone with an enormous hatred for humanity would send someone to burn for an infinite amount of time. You do not have to be an evil person to go to hell. All you have to do is not be a follower of our Lord Christ Jesus and then love the things of this world. If we belong to Satan, he may hate us enough that he would send us to hell for a very long time. However, Satan will not be around much longer, so he could not possibly keep you in hell when he and his demons are no longer in existence.
Still, we must think of our Lord God as fair and just since that is what our Lord Christ Jesus stated to his disciples and others as well. Our Lord God loves us very much. Even more, than you can possibly love your own child, and He wants no harm to come to even one of his children. Our Lord God loves us so much that we cannot possibly love each other as much as he loves us. We cannot love our most precious children more than our Lord God loves them. So, why would we believe that our Lord God would torture us for all time instead of giving us more and more chances to turn to Him and our Lord Christ Jesus? Perhaps it is due to the fact that the Holy Scriptures tell us otherwise. However, should not common sense win out over the ridiculous notion that when we go to hell, we stay there for all time? I certainly think it should, although many priests believe it is so, although they still have some doubts.
Now, let us think about the word eternity. The word eternity has been misinterpreted in the Old and New Testaments. It seems that the word eternity does not mean 'for all time' or 'forever,' as we have come to believe. In his paper "Eternity Explained," Dr. Lee Salisbury writes of the word "Aeonios." Below is what he writes.
[ To understand this better, we must know about the word "aeonios." The Greek adjective "aeonios," for which so many translations mistakenly use the word "eternal," is derived from the noun "aeon." "Aeon" means "age" or "ages," as in "the mystery which has been hid from ages and generations" (Col.1:26), or in "the ages to come" Eph. 2:7. These ages or time periods have a beginning and an end. In the study of grammar, it is an indisputable law that an adjective can have no different or greater meaning than the noun from which it is derived. For example, the adjective "monthly" could only be derived from the noun "month," not "hour," "day," or "week." Aeonios life can only mean a life pertaining to an age or ages of time (Heb. 1:3 Ampl.) because "aeonios" is derived from "aeon." Hence the misapplication of the word "eternal," implying timelessness, when periods or portions of time are meant, obscures rather than proclaims God's magnificent plans for man."(Salisbury, Eternity Explained, www.tentmaker.org/articles/EternityExplained.html).]
[The Greek word "aeonios" actually means "age lasting." Usually, Bible scholars use the word "eternal" everywhere in the Holy Scripture, where the word "aeonios" is found. This leads to confusion over its true meaning and leaves us all to think that "eternity," whenever we come across it in the Holy Scripture, means "forever and ever." (Salisbury, Eternity Explained, www.tentmaker.org/articles/EternityExplained.html).]
Does this not explain in a straightforward way that all during this time, we have thought that eternity meant "forever and ever?" When in actuality, it only meant a period of time. Mr. Salisbury's explanation of the meaning of "aeonios" addresses some concerns many people have with the Christian religion and other religions of that area in the Middle East. Namely, it means that should we go to hell, we will not be there forever and ever. What kind of a Lord God would allow that to happen to His children? Even if our Lord God did allow that to happen to us, could we truly be happy in heaven knowing that some of our family and perhaps a loved friend was burning in hell forever and ever while we were having a blissful time in heaven? Could we be that callous? How would you feel about a Lord God that would do such a thing to His children? Would that not make us doubt the love our Lord God says He has for us all? Let us remember what our Lord Christ Jesus stated in the Holy Scriptures, and that was how much our Father in heaven loves us. Our Lord Christ Jesus stated that His Father was "Love." Christ Jesus showed in his life how much our Lord God loves us in everything he did for all the people he came in contact with. Our Lord Christ Jesus said in John 13:49-50 the following. "I don't speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say." Does this bit of Holy Scripture not tell us that our Lord Christ Jesus was speaking the words given to him by our Lord God, who was asking us to love one another as He loves us? The words of our Lord Christ Jesus were the words of our Father in heaven trying to get us to love and care for one another in a very personal way. Our Father in heaven was here on Earth personally pleading for us to turn away from this world and love one another as He loves us.
That is all I have. I hope you enjoyed reading this essay and that it will awaken your mind anew as you read the Holy Scripture and come across the word "eternal." Adios, for now, my friends.
Inspired by The Holy Spirit.