On Death and Eternity

Why does the body decay onto death, yet we desire so much to stay “forever” young? To live forever? How did we think of “forever” when no one lived that long in this present life?

No one living knows what happens after death. There are millions of hypotheses, but no actual answers.

No one on this side of life can prove or disprove eternity.

Then, how is it that we came up with the concept of eternity?

I think about death every now and then, and I am terrified at the thought of eternity as much as the thought of no eternity.

If there is eternity, where, how, and with whom would I be? Even when I thought of heaven as a lovely, majestic place, it didn’t help my terror because I have been to some lovely, majestic places, but I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in them. If heaven was about singing and singing and singing eternally, that seemed boring to me. Would I be singing the same words again and again, living in clouds with white robes along with the additional superpower of moving around without the constraints of time and space? And would I be able to “learn” in heaven? Would there be mistakes? What things would I remember from my earthly life? These and more questions come to mind.

If there is no eternity, then how come I think of that concept in and of itself? If it’s a figment of my imagination, why did my imagination imagine that? If I am a species that simply wants to procreate my kind (as evolutionary animals should desire to do for the survival of my species), then why think of eternity or the lack of it instead of going out there and having as many children as I can? That’s what the rest of the animal kingdom does. If no eternity will be like a dreamless sleep of nothingness, why are there so many people trying to prove or disprove it in this world?

Both believing in eternity or no eternity require faith. And because of my faith in a Maker who is eternal, my thoughts lean more towards thinking there is such a thing as eternity. I still think it’s a terrifying thing: death and eternity. Especially growing up, I would lie in bed and think of them both. And my heart would almost physically hurt at the thought that I wasn’t ready to face death. I wasn’t sure I was a good enough person, and whenever pastors asked, “If you die right now, are you sure you will go to heaven?” I remember never being quite sure. It was a black or white deal. So I would push back the thought of death when it became too oppressive.

But then, throughout my years in Korea, I met God relationally. And this has been helping me a great deal to think and rethink everything that has to do with death and eternity. Before, when heaven was simply a place far away, it seemed majestic yet cold. But once I met my Maker, who cared for me more deeply than I know how to express, who would rather have me rejoice in Him rather than be an outwardly obedient child, heaven became relational. Heaven is where God resides. Heaven is the fullness of His Kingdom. His kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. This means that the golden, the majestic will look to be so not because of the materialistic value it will have, but because God is there, and His presence makes everything come alive the way it was meant to be. So I imagine that if God made me and you as diverse as could be, then our modes of worship and creativity will be even more what they should be once we reach eternity in His presence. Consider a Maker who not just physically made everything, but made all things intimately: feelings, spirit, psychology included. And if He promises an eternity of untainted communion with Him, is in not worth trusting Him at his Word?

So that’s what it comes to. I need to trust that eternity won’t be a drag. I need to trust God when he tells me that eternity does exist and that He wants all His children to be with him. This is why He wants us to share the gospel, to love, to forgive, to serve. Every time I draw closer to God, every time I obey His command, I understand eternity a bit better. Death is still an unknown, but drawing closer to my Maker takes away its sting little by little.

As Francis Chan says in his book Crazy Love:

Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” It is sobering to realize that this is the same God who is holy and eternal, the Maker of the billions of galaxies and thousands of tree species in the rainforest. This is the God who takes the time to know all the little details about each of us. He does not have to know us so well, but He chooses to.

Finally, the best book that helps me think of eternity is C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, where the world of Narnia comes to its “end”, but in reality marks the beginning of the real story:

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

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