I think a little bit of the disinterest in Heaven is the abstract ways Eternity is defined. I know its hard for humans whose reasoning and defining of reality is very time-centered. The major views I have heard for Eternity are A) Endless time, B) Timelessness, or C) all time present all at once(Like a book or movie). I would say that C is most correct, and would reject A. I guess the question is how can we know something that we cannot even grasp at except in abstract analogies?
I think only the mystics, saints and poets - truly understand eternity. But they will have trouble, expressing it in language we can grasp.
Would it be fair to say eternity cannot be understood with the head but only the heart.
This little phrase really resonates with me:
“The life AFTER the life after death”
I don’t know who to attribute it to, but something about the concept helped me past the overwhelmingness of the word ‘eternity’ - it’s ‘just’ our life, after the life after death.
“life after life after death” is attributable to Tom Wright.
To be specific, what will happen to the ego-consciousness? I understand that many aspects of Eternity cannot be understood in a rational way. Try to understand any descriptions of Heaven with the mind, and you have so many abstractions. I remember the nature of apophatic and cataphatic theology, where Heaven is given analogical and negative terms, lest we give heaven an image of nothingness or excess.
About the Ego consciousness: I would best describe this as the natural mind, which is grounded in intellectual, emotional and sensual information. In the Ego consciousness, the senses naturally can only understand its surroundings in a dualistic spacetime way. For example, two objects cannot occupy the same space at a particular moment. Or a whole event cannot take place all at once. Naturally we prefer it this way, considering that visually its ugly to have two objects overlap in a picture, or a melody being played all at once would sound ugly. Basically space and time give some form and organization(Hence beauty) to our natural ego consciousness. Then the ego naturally interprets its world through use of words and labels. Alongside, with abstract concepts, we use sensual information as metaphors, hence some dualism when it comes to thinking. Plus, the nature of thinking takes place in time(hence a verb).
So the challenge is that the Ego consciousness cannot comprehend Eternity. As Eternity is not divided in anyway. However, it seems like the ego consciousness is necessary, to avoid belief in nothingness, or formless clutter or void. Trying to combine ego consciousness with eternal consciousness seems to only create abstract concepts of Eternity, like endless time or all times cluttered together. The other option seems to seek out understanding of reality in very negative terms of a kind of nihilism.
So I guess the question is whether the Spacetime thought centered Ego that sees 3-D form and experiences sequential time ceases to be, in order to go into Eternity, or if Eternity is something experienced on a higher level that it does not interfere with the world of physical form. I remember spiritual teachings of being present in the now, which I would best understand is thought as being rather than something doing. Sorry for the abstraction.
What I feel is a common mistake is to make eternity synonymous with ethereal. The eternal Kingdom of God will be on Earth. The promise to Abraham of a land inheritence is the same that was promised to the meek, who will inherit the Earth. Isaiah gives us a glimpse, plowshares, docile lions, ect. Paradise Regained.
My thoughts on eternity:
We will have the mind of Christ, and be new creations. We cannot comprehend what that will actually be like. The concept of being the Body of Christ, will take on a spectacular meaning. If we live and move and have our being in Christ here on earth, the thought of how that will play out in heaven is totally revolutionary, to say the least.
I do think we will be able to go back and forth in time, in eternity. I doubt we will want to go back though, tempting as it might sound now. If we do go back and forth, it will be to learn, I believe. The old will have passed away…we will not want to put old wine into our new wineskins.
It will be comfortable and seem familiar…we were created for eternity with God.
We will be engaged in some way…not endless ‘free time’. We can’t even handle that in our own time frame, much less in eternity.
I would guess, the only thing that we would take with us would be love. What else would be important? Hope and faith would have been fulfilled. The treasures Jesus spoke of, that we have stored in Heaven, would all be of loving, especially when we love our enemies; when we forgave; when we sacrificed for another; when we put God first and then our fellow man/woman, and so on. Love might well be the key to unlock eternity.
Young’s Literal Translation: Matthew 25:31 - 46
31‘And whenever the Son of Man may come in his glory, and all the holy messengers with him, then he shall sit upon a throne of his glory; 32and gathered together before him shall be all the nations, and he shall separate them from one another, as the shepherd doth separate the sheep from the goats, 33and he shall set the sheep indeed on his right hand, and the goats on the left.
34‘Then shall the king say to those on his right hand, Come ye, the blessed of my Father, inherit the reign that hath been prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I did hunger, and ye gave me to eat; I did thirst, and ye gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and ye received me; 36naked, and ye put around me; I was infirm, and ye looked after me; in prison I was, and ye came unto me. 37‘Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungering, and we nourished? or thirsting, and we gave to drink? 38and when did we see thee a stranger, and we received? or naked, and we put around? 39and when did we see thee infirm, or in prison, and we came unto thee? 40‘And the king answering, shall say to them, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] to one of these my brethren — the least — to me ye did [it].
41Then shall he say also to those on the left hand, Go ye from me, the cursed, to the fire, the age-during, that hath been prepared for the Devil and his messengers; 42for I did hunger, and ye gave me not to eat; I did thirst, and ye gave me not to drink; 43a stranger I was, and ye did not receive me; naked, and ye put not around me; infirm, and in prison, and ye did not look after me. 44‘Then shall they answer, they also, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungering, or thirsting, or a stranger, or naked, or infirm, or in prison, and we did not minister to thee? 45‘Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say to you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of these, the least, ye did [it] not to me. 46And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.’
1 Corinthians 13Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)
13 If with the tongues of men and of messengers I speak, and have not love, I have become brass sounding, or a cymbal tinkling;
2 and if I have prophecy, and know all the secrets, and all the knowledge, and if I have all the faith, so as to remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing;
3 and if I give away to feed others all my goods, and if I give up my body that I may be burned, and have not love, I am profited nothing.
4 The love is long-suffering, it is kind, the love doth not envy, the love doth not vaunt itself, is not puffed up,
5 doth not act unseemly, doth not seek its own things, is not provoked, doth not impute evil,
6 rejoiceth not over the unrighteousness, and rejoiceth with the truth;
7 all things it beareth, all it believeth, all it hopeth, all it endureth.
**8 The love doth never fail; and whether [there be] prophecies, they shall become useless; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge, it shall become useless;
9 for in part we know, and in part we prophecy;
10 and when that which is perfect may come, then that which [is] in part shall become useless.
11 When I was a babe, as a babe I was speaking, as a babe I was thinking, as a babe I was reasoning, and when I have become a man, I have made useless the things of the babe;
12 for we see now through a mirror obscurely, and then face to face; now I know in part, and then I shall fully know, as also I was known;
13 and now there doth remain faith, hope, love – these three; and the greatest of these [is] love.
Here is my personal translation of 1 Corinthians 13:
- If I speak in the languages of mankind and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,
- and if I have prophecy and know all secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to transfer mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
- And if I feed away all my possessions and deliver my body to be burned and do not have love, it is of no advantage to me.
- Love is patient; it is kind; it is not envious. Love does not boast or is not arrogant.
- It does not behave unbecomingly; it is not self-seeking; it does not get irritated; it does not take stock of wrongs suffered.
- It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in reality.
- It covers everyone; it trusts everyone; it expects [the best of] everyone; it endures everyone.
- Love never falls [from a position that one cannot keep]. As for prophecies, they will become inoperative. As for tongues, they will cease. As for knowledge, it will be rendered inoperative.
- For we know partially and we prophesy partially.
- But when the complete comes, the incomplete will become inoperative.
- When I was a child, I spoke as a child; I thought as a child; I reasoned as a child. When I became a man, I put an end to childish ways.
- For now we see through a mirror, obscurely but then face to face. Now I know partially, but then will know thoroughly even as I am thoroughly known.
- So now, faith, hope, and love remain—these three. But the greatest of these is love.
Note: Mirrors were different in those days. They were metalic, and often gave a dim or distorted image.
Here is JB Phillip’s translation:
1 Corinthians 13
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Christian love—the highest and best gift
13 1-3 If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal. If I have the gift of foretelling the future and hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but the very secrets of God, and if I also have that absolute faith which can move mountains, but have no love, I amount to nothing at all. If I dispose of all that I possess, yes, even if I give my own body to be burned, but have no love, I achieve precisely nothing.
4 This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
5-6 Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.
7-8a Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.
All gifts except love will be superseded one day
8b-10 For if there are prophecies they will be fulfilled and done with, if there are “tongues” the need for them will disappear, if there is knowledge it will be swallowed up in truth. For our knowledge is always incomplete and our prophecy is always incomplete, and when the complete comes, that is the end of the incomplete.
11 When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me.
12 At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!
13 In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.
I’ll quote myself… Phillips is really good!
In my translation, I tried to be as literal as possible, while using modern English. Phillip’s seems to be more of a paraphrase than a translation.
I am not saying that’s a bad thing. Many people have been greatly helped by Phillip’s paraphrase of the New Testament. It’s just that, for me, I want to know what the writers actually wrote, rather than read a paraphrase of what they wrote. Not everyone has that need.
You are correct. And my post was not to take away from your fine translation in any way!
The story is that he was teaching a group of youth during WW2, and they were saying ‘we just can’t understand the way the writers say things in the bible’ thus he set out to put it in a more accessible form.
It could be that I am a youth at heart
I believe C.S. Lewis believed that Time exists in Heaven, but not a kind of endless time. In fact, I believe he said that Time has another dimension not so linear as normally thought of. Yet I wonder if this can truly be understood with the intellect, or ever will.
Can you expand on this? In what book does Lewis write this?
If we traveled at the speed of light, could we be time travelers & go back to any point in time.
“It turns out time slows down when you travel faster and faster, nearing the speed of light.”
Scripture speaks of “before times aionion” (Titus 1:2; 2 Tim.1:9) & “before the eons” (1 Cor.2:7). Should this be translated “before times eternal” & if so what was before “times eternal”, timelessness or no time? Why not just say “before time” without adding aionion? Or should it be translated “before times eonian” referring by “times eonian” to, for example, a period of time during which sin or death exist, or God accomplishes His “purpose of the eons” (Eph.3:11) to head up all “in Christ” (Eph.1:10)? Translators don’t seem to know what to do with translating those Titus 1:2:
New International Version
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,
New Living Translation
This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God–who does not lie–promised them before the world began.
English Standard Version
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
Berean Study Bible
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.
Berean Literal Bible
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before time eternal
New American Standard Bible
in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,
Some universalists have said that the eons have a beginning & an end, so eonian punishment cannot be endless, & when they end is when God becomes “all in all”, though they don’t say what happens after that in terms of time, eternity or timelessness. Maybe there are other universes to explore & experience?
I have come to see that the Mind can only have a very limited grasp of Eternity from a very abstract POV. The most common analogy of Eternity as film frames being seen all at once, However, as we know, this goes against the trinitarian idea of eternal dynamism. I think that most people equate activity to time, and therefore see dynamism as something happening over and over again.
Though the idea of living forever scares me no matter how I conceive the afterlife, I find it especially scary if thought of as some ethereal, contemplative existence very different from life here on earth. IMO the least painful way to think about it is as A Guy and DaveB said.
I think part of the problem is the idea of being stuck in the mind and therefore conceive of Eternity as Endless time.
That eternity is endless time is the only concept that to me is coherent.
The idea of being “outside of time” or of God seeing the events of all ages simultaneously is to my mind meaningless.