When I wrote ‘Eternity Has No End’ I hadn’t realised how many people have deep anxieties about this subject. And that many people who are troubled this way also think it’s a medical health issue that may be helped like more common phobias such as claustrophobia or social phobia. In this article, I will try to show that anxiety about eternity is a whole lot more than a general medical health issue. I look at some of its roots and offer secure hope. Here is a brief, and I hope straightforward look at what is without doubt a deep subject.
– BAFFLING – Here we are in a baffling and vast cosmos, having at times an awareness of a strangely mysterious significance, at other times doubting we have any meaning at all! Is there a ‘big picture’? Where do we fit into it, or is it all without meaning? We need someone with ‘insider’ knowledge, who knows the final scheme, who is willing and able to tell us what it means, otherwise we are left guessing hopelessly. The big picture I am commending to you fits the picture at every point. And there is no attempt to skew the evidence to suit the solution! A popular contemporary solution attempts to interpret our human condition by a model which sees solutions in terms of medical or psychotherapeutic practice. This is clearly unsatisfactory, as among other things, it cannot explain or deal with real evil – the sheer callous evil we see today needs more than medical, therapeutic-based solutions.
– BIG PICTURE – Fear, a sense of utter meaninglessness, grips many people as they wonder whether they will one day face God, when time is no more. The thought of eternity is intolerable and awesome – something they would love to erase from their minds. But the more they try to suppress or forget it; it reappears as an unwanted visitor. How do we explain this? Ultimately, one claimant able to give us meaning is the source of final meaning. The one unifying truth that pulls together the whole of reality is not an elusive equation, but a Person – the Lord Jesus Christ. The New Testament is clear that Christ, (with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit), is Creator and Lord of the entire cosmos. He created our humanity – uniquely to communicate freely with the personal, living God, to love and obey him for ever – a supreme honour. But a terrible rift took place, and sin entered, and with it, confusion, hatred, disease and death. While God’s revealed truth was universally rejected, we still retain some knowledge of eternity. How is that? – ‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…’ (Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 3:11). At least, now we know some of the causes of anxiety about eternity.
– ETERNITY AND JESUS – Jesus entered time, and willingly subjected himself to some its constraints. He also never ceased being the Logos (the ‘Word’), through whom all things were made (John 1:1-3). He also confirmed, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ (Rev. 1:8). He is the first and the last – Lord of all, before whom earth and sky will flee away! He is the one who came to deal with that awful rift and he did so by taking our humanity and in his humble, sinless deity paying the supreme price by dying for our sins. On the third day he rose triumphant and soon after ascended to glory. And when time is no more, in eternity we shall all be called to give an account to him as the Sovereign Judge. Very many people are deeply anxious about this and with good reason.
– PEACE – OVERCOMING ANXIETY – Much of the obsessive fears about eternity are rooted in the awesome thought of facing God but being completely unprepared. People feel devastated by the thought of meeting God because they lack the secure peace and assurance of God’s loving forgiveness. Sometimes this lack of peace drives people to sustained religious devotion and church attendance – but alas such good works, while sincere, are driven by fear and do not get to the heart of the problem. Neither does looking for relief through stress-reducing methods offer real peace, they only mask the deeper issues. The way to peace with God accepts, without reservation, his wholly undeserved way of reconciliation. Own up, directly to God, that we are fearful, guilty of disobeying him, that we are in awe of his holy majesty and that we have strayed from him like lost sheep, and we are appealing to his love, which we do not deserve. We confess our sins in light of their offensiveness to God and also the wonderful truth that Jesus, the eternal Son of God, received in his death what others justly deserved. We grasp that now this free acquittal is all of God’s undeserved favour. We embrace this trustworthy truth that ‘Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). He suffered the loss and grief of being cut off from God. He shed his precious blood as a perfect sacrifice to God. And he did this in boundless love and mercy for others as their Substitute.
– TODAY – Come to him today. Come his way and leave your anxious fears about eternity with him as you receive peace with God through faith in the finished sacrifice of Christ. Deep-seated fears may take time to subside as you discover your new identity and know for sure that in Christ you become a much-loved child in the family of God. Then live for him. One final, vital point: never think this way is merely a ‘fix’ for your fears! They are troublesome symptoms, but the big issue is to be reconciled to God himself. Come today.
Michael J. S. Austin, Ph.D.