What will it "feel like" to be eternal? What does inherent life (John 4:14; 5:26) really mean? This is the most awesome quality any human being could possibly hope to attain. And God the Father and JESUS Christ want to share it with us.
ISAIAH 57:15 contains one of the most incredible phrases that a human mind can try to understand. These few words describe God as "One that inhabiteth eternity." And we, as heirs of God now and literal sons of God in the near future, will eventually do the same thing. We will inhabit eternity! Considering the overwhelming personal significance of these words, let's investigate what "inhabit" and "eternity" mean. The Hebrew word translated "eternity" is ad. Ad can be translated "eternity, forever, everlasting, always." The English word "inhabit" in Isaiah 57:15 comes from the Hebrew verb shakhan — which can mean "to rest, live in, continue, dwell, settle, inhabit." The word shakhan gives the impression of comfort and confidence. In various contexts the meaning includes the complete possession, occupation and fulfillment of the object inhabited. And so, much like the human family abides in, dwells in, continues in and inhabits the earth, the God family rests in, abides in, dwells in, continues in and inhabits eternity! In the same manner that physical beings can control and comprehend a specific plot of space, spirit beings can control and comprehend an eternity of time. Just as the earth is the arena for all the activities of the human family, eternity — eternity — is the arena for all the unimaginable activities of the God family. Grasp the fundamental difference: Just as physical beings employ the vectors of space, spirit beings employ the vectors of time. (This is why God equally speaks of 1000 years as one day and one day as 1000 years — II Peter 3:8.) Jesus Christ is called the Father of Eternity — which is a way the phrase "the everlasting Father" in Isaiah 9:6 can be translated. And we will be like Christ (John 17:22). Like God! "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (I John 3:2). As a son in God's family, you will possess, envelop, encompass, occupy and fulfill eternity in the same manner as you, as a physical human being today, can possess, envelop, encompass, occupy and fulfill a comfortable home or a soft easy chair. Picture yourself relaxing in your favorite fluffy, pillowy armchair. You are in charge of it. You use it. You enjoy it. You possess it. You envelop it. You encompass it. You occupy it. You fulfill it. You abide in it. You dwell in it. You inhabit it. Get the picture? Get the feel of it? Now transfer that picture and that feel. As a son in God's family, you will likewise "inhabit eternity." Think about it. Think about all the things that you would like to do that you "don't have time for." Think about eternity. Think about inhabiting it.
What Will We Do?
Eternity is a long time. Could it get boring? If it could, it would! There's plenty of time available! If boredom would develop — even a little bit — we'd be in deep trouble. Eternity would become a literal hell! As a matter of fact, that is precisely the fate reserved for Satan and his demons — hell — an eternity of boredom: "Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (Jude 13). If eternity is to be spent gazing blissfully up into God's face, or having our every wish immediately fulfilled — as many religions teach — after a few months (or after a few octillion years, it doesn't really matter), life would get boring. And once life got boring, it would be sickeningly and fiendishly terrifying. Because there would remain nothing but an unending eternity of boredom to come — with death a wonderful but impossible way of escape (see Luke 20:35-38). This would indeed be the ultimate torture. But our Eternal Father has a better idea. He has designed a plan in which eternity will not grow progressively more boring. But, as unbelievable as it seems, eternity will grow progressively more exciting, more scintillating, and more enjoyable as each eon follows eon. In Ephesians 2:7 God reveals "that in the ages to come he [God] might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." Psalm 16:11 multiplies this simple but profound concept: "... In thy presence is fulness of joy; at [in] thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." The words "pleasures" and "for evermore" in Psalm 16:11 are somewhat unusual. Note the numerous meanings of each: "Pleasures" is translated from the Hebrew word naeem meaning: "pleasant, delights, agreeable, lovely, beauty, glory, pleasures." "Forevermore" is translated from natzach, a Hebrew root which can mean: "forever, perpetuity, permanency, truth, faithful, overseer, entire, perfect, complete, surpass, excellency, glory." Now combine them together in your mind's eye in order to begin to
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." Isaiah 57:15
barely approach the really great time that God has in store for us for eternity.
The Ultimate in Fine Living
For eternity to be truly pleasurable, delightful and existing forever and ever, it must be finely balanced. Balance is the key — for God's life, just as for human life. Proper goals and hard work must be combined with artistic appreciation, recreation and fellowship. It, of course, becomes extremely difficult to attempt to describe the life of God — and our future life in God's family. But Romans 1:20 gives us a key: we can learn about the spiritual things of God by studying the physical things which God created. We can learn about God's life by examining the perfect human life as exemplified in God's Word. Life in God's family will include all the qualities of life which make human life enjoyable. Only, as God, everything experienced will be infinitely more enjoyable. As we look to the time of God's Kingdom, nothing inspires us more than the ultimate in family life. We will all be part of God's family. We will also be part of specific subgroupings based on the personal families, friendships and associations developed and acquired in our physical lives. Close friends today could well continue a similar friendship forever. We will surely not all be "carbon or xeroxed copies" of one another — all similar droplets of water vapor in a great, amorphous, heavenly cloud, as some religions might suggest. Neither will we fulfill the communistic ideal of every individual being completely replaceable by every other individual. We will each be utterly unique — each maintaining our own individual appearance, interests, friends and special relationships with our own former physical families. We will recognize each other in God's family. (The only things that will be lost will be the physical and mental restrictions of the human flesh.) Revelation 21:24 speaks of "the nations of them which are saved." Here we see national groupings extant in God's family — each with its own leaders ("kings of the earth") and organizational structure. The Bible certainly indicates that these national groupings will reflect the national — or, more precisely, the racial, tribal and family — associations of the physical life. The continuance of the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 7 and 12) is further proof of this. Next, it seems wholly logical for physical families of this life, once born into God's family, to live and work together. Is it unreasonable to ask if converted husbands and wives, having formed a successful and established team, will continue to be together for all eternity? What could be more inspiring? Would a loving God have it otherwise? Then add the children and grandchildren, and their children and grandchildren — all living and working together — and we just barely begin to appreciate the full range of contentedness and deep happiness that has been prepared for us in God's family. How often in this life have old age and death disrupted and seemingly obliterated forever the supreme joys of deep family satisfaction and quiet family happiness? One hundred percent of the time! Every family that has ever existed has eventually been destroyed by death. The death of husband, wife, parents, children, brothers, sisters — whether at premature or elderly ages — is always the most piercing and the most permanent of human tragedies. Well, the time is coming — soon — when such misery will never again darken the door of any home. And even more fantastically stirring, most members of almost every family in all human history, having been ripped apart by death, will become reunited! And this time they will be forever inseparable. God's Word has the answer to death: "... Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (I Cor. 15:54, 55.) Never again will the corruption of disintegrating change alter the serenity of family life. Never again will separation, disease, old age and death bring that grinding despair known to every human being. This is why verse four of the twenty-first chapter of the book of Revelation is so emotionally stunning: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." All the epochs of human obituary — in childhood, in youth, in the prime of life, in middle age; all the ways of human death by war, by accident, by disease — will all be eradicated. Full families — your family — will for the first time be really together — grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren. All will be in the prime of their spiritual lives, working, living and enjoying life as a close-knit family, as part of the overall family of God. Forever. And ever. But this is just the beginning. Life in God's family will be "the ultimate" in every respect. The ultimate environment (Rev. 21-22). Splendor and glamour. The ultimate in food. (God eats for pleasure, not nourishment — see Genesis 18:8; Luke 24:36-43.) The finest delicacies, the most luscious fruit (Rev. 22:2). The most efficient means of transportation — self-transport. (Other means are also available. See Ezekiel 1 and 10.) Effortless (nonpolluting) speeds up to and including instantaneous transference between any two points in the universe. The ultimate in music (Rev. 4; 14:3, etc.). Enormous choruses and orchestras. Creativity unlimited. Virtuosity supreme. The ultimate in art. The ultimate in education. The ultimate in learning. The ultimate in inventiveness. The ultimate in creativity. The ultimate in personal friendships. The ultimate in conversation. The ultimate in recreational "games." (Are there "spiritual games" which would be analogous to chess, bridge, billiards, table tennis, etc.?) The ultimate in friendly "athletics." (Whatever form it may take, we can only imagine. But for balance some form of "athletics" seems to be needed in God's Kingdom. Remember the physical was patterned after the spiritual.) The ultimate in vacations. The whole universe will be at our service. The ultimate in personal pleasure (Psalm 16:11). The ultimate in enthusiasm for life. The ultimate in drive and accomplishment. The ultimate in purpose. Eternity will be fantastic. And ever more so — forever and ever.
Putting It All Together
You have been created to become God. You have been destined to rule the universe. This is not just some ethereal speculation. Hebrews 2:8 states that God has put all things — and, as we have said, "all things" really means all things — under man's feet. "He put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him." When will we see all things put in subjection under us? When each of us is changed into a literal member of God's family ourselves (Rev. 20-22). Then we will "inherit all things" (Rev. 21:7). Then every member of God's family will inherently generate the same family characteristics: intrinsic life, inhabiting eternity; perfect character, free moral agency (not an automaton), individually distinct personality (not an assembly-line robot); ability to design, capacity to create; knowledge and understanding, purpose and drive; appreciation of the arts and sciences; friendship and family life; continuous growth, excitement and stimulation, opportunity and responsibility, accomplishment and fulfillment, and on and on. The family of God will be forever expanding — throughout the universe, and beyond; throughout time, and beyond; not limited by space or time; independent of the physical; in all ages to come — epoch after epoch, eon after eon, forever and ever; worlds without end!
THE GOD FAMILY IN BOTH TESTAMENTS
God is a family Old Testament: Genesis 1:26 New Testament: Ephesians 3:14-15, John 17:11, John 3:1
Man now in God's image Old Testament: Genesis 1:26 New Testament: Romans 1:20
Man to become perfect Old Testament: Genesis 17:1 New Testament: Matthew 5:48, Colossians 1:28, Philippians 3:15, James 1:4
Man to be changed Old Testament: Job 14:14 New Testament: I Corinthians 15:49-54
Man to have God's likeness Old Testament: Psalm 17:15 New Testament: Philippians 3:21, I John 3:2
Man presently is a little lower than spirit beings — but eventually will rule over all things. Old Testament: Psalm 8:4-6 New Testament: Hebrews 2:6-8
Man can be God's own Son Old Testament: Malachi 3: 17 New Testament: Romans 8:14-16, I John 3:1
"Ye are gods" Old Testament: Psalm 82:6 New Testament: John 10:34-35