Your right, it is a difficult concept. It’s a place that our minds cannot fathom or understand because we are, by nature, being constrained by time and are aware of time. The Bible puts it this way (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
“He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
God, in His goodness, whets our appetite about eternity. The Bible talks about:
- Eternal life - used 42 times in the New Testament (e.g Mat 19:29, John 3:15,16)
- Eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11)
- Eternal encouragement (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
- Eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9)
- Eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12)
- Eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15)
- Eternal covenant (Hebrews 13:20)
The above set describes what eternal life will be like. It is about salvation, meaning, purpose, inheritance - ultimately it is about relationship with God.
But the bible uses eternity in a negative sense as well. It speaks of:
- Eternal Fire - used 3 times (Mat 18:18, Mat 25:41, Jud 1:7).
- Eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2)
- Eternal sin (Mark 3:29)
These deal with punishment that is eternal - eternal death as opposed to eternal life. Such a concept is not anihilation but separation from the love of God - there is no hope, no close relationship with God and all the good things He provides for us. Ultimate judgement is eternal.
The Apostle John writes in 1 John 5:11-13:
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
This judgement is a sorting out by God of those who accepted Christ and those who didn’t. It is eternal, not because eternity is part of the gift or punishment but because God himself is eternal - outside time and space - and that this judgement is final. Eternal life, in the end, is eternal because God is eternal and his declaration on that day will not be revoked.
What that will be like I do not know - I will have to wait until that time to find out. But I do know that I will be perfectly content and happy with it.
In His Mercy