A SHORT ARTICLE ON A LONG SUBJECT
by Wayne S. Walker
"I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good" (Psalm 52:9). "Forever" is a long time. We basically use the term as a synonym of "eternity." Our English word "eternity" is defined as "continuance without end; infinite time; time without beginning or end." The adjective form "eternal" is defined as "without beginning or end; everlasting; timeless; forever the same; unchangeable." According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, the Greek word translated "eternal" basically means "without beginning or end, that which always has been and always will be" and can refer to something either "without beginning" or "without end, never to cease, everlasting." In many passages, this same word is translated "everlasting," so the two terms are considered synonymous.
These words describe the nature of God. "The eternal God is your refuge…" (Deuteronomy 33:27). Because God is who He is, He is absolutely eternal, without beginning or end. "…Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God" (Psalm 90:2). Jesus Christ partakes of the same divine nature as the Father, so He is described prophetically as "…The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). Also, the Holy Spirit is a part of this Godhead and is referred to as "the eternal Spirit" (Hebrews 9:14). Because we are finite beings, it is difficult for us to grasp this aspect of God’s nature, but it is taught in the Scriptures. This same word is used to identify the duration of both the punishment that the wicked will be given and the life that the righteous will receive. "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46).
Unlike the nature of God, this punishment and this life will have a beginning point, but they are eternal or everlasting in that they will continue without end and remain forever the same. Our earthly existence has an end. However, someday you and I will go to a place where we shall continue without end–either in a state of eternal life (fellowship with God) or everlasting punishment (separation from God). The decisions that we make in this life will determine what that state in eternity will be. Therefore, we need to be choosing wisely. "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’" (Isaiah 57:15). Will you praise God forever? As Elisha A. Hoffman asked, "Where will you spend eternity?"