Updated: Jan 27, 2021
To give you an idea of what eternity is, have a look at this picture of the Galaxy Andromeda. It is our nearest Galactic neighbor, and it is still 2 million light-years from us. One light-year is the
distance that light travels at 2.9979 x 10^8 meters per second. That is a long way in one year's time, is it not? 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, does it not? 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 our own galaxy, the Milky Way. That tiny speck of light is probably a 100 billion lights years away. Do you see how big this universe is? It just boggles the mind, and we do not know if our universe ends at that tiny spec. Perhaps it goes on too many more distant galaxies that could be another 100 billion years distant from the faintest tiny spec that we can see in this gorgeous picture of our universe. This photograph you are looking at is only a pico portion of the view of our known universe. Let us say we had a broad picture of our universe in front of us, laid out so that you could see all 360 degrees of the sky. The picture above would take up only a tiny square on that picture. You could conceivably take that one square that we see here and multiply it by a million, and then you would have a complete picture of the universe where you could then 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 conceivable 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, let us say, 10 billion galaxies and the number of stars in the known universe is far beyond anything we could conceivably imagine. Let us multiply that out. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is calculated to have almost 300 billion stars in it, so let us use a more conservative number, such as 100 billion instead. Now, I will multiply it out so you can see just 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 also say it this way, we have 1 billion trillion stars in our known universe. Is that number not mind-boggling? And, it is a conservative number at that. Also, how do we not know that the most distant galaxy that we can see in this beautiful picture might be the end of our universe? And beyond that faintest of galaxies, we someday discover with the newest technology in space telescopes that there are billions of more universes like our own, scattered in the heavens like so many stars in our Milky Way galaxy. You see, 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.
Speaking of eternity, the Holy Scriptures tell us that those who are not followers of our Lord Christ Jesus are sent to hell to burn for all "eternity". That is a very long time! Saying it is a "very long" time tells us that we cannot conceive how long it is. As we discovered the enormity of our universe in the previous paragraph, we experienced the immensity of creation, just a teensy bit. We could not imagine the entire size of the universe since that would be impossible. However, all of these imaginings are still only a teensy bit of the overall size of our Lord God's creation. Now, considering all of that, can you imagine our Lord God torturing someone for all eternity, now that you are getting a teensy idea of how eternal our Lord God's creation is?
Imagine a Lord God that would hate someone so much that He would allow them to burn for all eternity. 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 would never subject someone to that harsh a penalty. You do not have to be an evil person to go to hell. All you have to do is simply anger Satan enough that he will send you there for as long as he wants you there. There are certain circumstances where we can be freed from Satan's punishment; however, that requires that someone pray us out of hell. And most people do not even know that you can do that.
Still, we must think of our Lord God as fair and just, since that is what our Lord Christ Jesus said to his disciples and others as well. Our Lord God loves us very much. Even more, than you can love your own child, and He wants no harm to come to even one of his children. Our Lord God loves us so very 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 think that our Lord God would torture us for all eternity 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 so. However, should not common sense win out over the ridiculous notion that when we go to hell, we stay there for all eternity? I certainly think it should, although, many priests believe it is so, yet they still have some doubts.
Eternity has been misused 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. Dr. Lee Salisbury, in his paper "Eternity Explained," writes of the word "Aeonios."
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.)
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.)
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 for some 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 certainly does not mean that should we go to hell, we will not be there for all eternity. What kind of a Lord God would do that to His children? Even if our Lord God did that, could all of us in heaven truly be happy knowing that some of our family, and perhaps a loved friend, was burning in hell for all eternity, while we were having a blissful time in heaven? Could we be that callous? How would you feel concerning a Lord God that would do such a thing to His children? Would that make us doubtful concerning the love that our Lord God says he has for us all? Let us keep in mind what our Lord Christ Jesus said to us concerning his Father in heaven. Our Lord Christ Jesus said that His Father was "Love." Christ Jesus showed in his life how much our Lord God loves us in everything he did for all of the people in came in contact with. He treated them as if each one was his own child, and Christ Jesus called them his children. And, then one day our Lord Christ Jesus allowed himself to be nailed to a cross to die for our sins, in one last loving gesture before leaving this world and returning to his Father in heaven.
That is all I have. I do hope you enjoy 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.