The Scriptures know it as “age, ages, the beginning of ages, entering into ages, world without end.” “Aion” and its Old Testament Hebrew equivalent “olam”, often translated forever, are used rather broadly in the Bible. Paul admonishes Philemon to receive back his slave for just such a period of time and Jonah equated three days in the fishes belly to forever, which I suspect seemed about right to him. But Eternal or eternity is best understood as the Age of God, fitting to His worlds, His realm, and His kingdom. It belongs to Him alone and issues forth from Him only.
I fancy that eternal life may begin in the temporal. “The kingdom of God is within you,” [Luke.] Eternal life is graced factually, beyond corruption, at the hand of Christ through faith in His atonement. Eternal life is – “knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hast sent,” John 17:3. “Call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21. Sinless right now? Hardly, nor will a coffin make it so. Rather, sin calls forth the coffin. But within voluntary, anxious, and desiring souls in repentant submission, He wills it so, in the fullness of time to purge out sin for all ages, world without end. In an Aion to come, the redeemed shall appear sinless, newly resurrected with carnality cast aside, trampled, and burned to ash. Then we may dare go further in and higher up and the chapters really get good.
Hear this story: A woman named Martha invited Jesus to her and her sister Mary’s house. She began to clean and cook, and complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping. Jesus admonished Martha that while there were many things to trouble her, occupy her, or be anxious about, only one thing was necessary and that was what Mary had chosen. She had, “sat at Jesus feet and heard His word,” and, “it would not be taken from her.” Mary had chosen not just to listen but to hear. Through His word comes faith to repent, faith to love, faith to obey, faith to surrender all, and faith for power unto holiness. The Christian life, the abundant life, Eternal life, is no less than this.
Eternal life is not merely continuing, but entering in, at first light, growing in likeness to our Lord while we have the light and in the Aion to come, sharing in His inheritance. Would there be anything more horrible than existing forever because of God’s life but not IN God’s life?
Eternal life (the life in Christ that is the light of men) is abundant life, Zoe, which involves motion and activity. Saying heaven will be a time of the eternal present is a fancy way of saying nothing at all. The everlasting present is a timeless moment and has no meaning that I can understand. Creaturely existence apart from time cancels movement, perspective, and music. The only inhabitant of timelessness can be God because He alone stands outside time. All His creation is gathered up in it and cannot step out of it without losing existence. No past, no future for a finite being (not meaning an immortal one), would mean annihilation. Only one Person inhabits such a state and that Person is Almighty God who chose for His pleasure to create and populate time. Time past, and time present is nonsense without time future. Finite can be immortal but never infinite, only a witness to it. If sequence ends, matter ceases to be, or be created.
The greatest number cannot be envisioned, but one can grasp the concept of a continual approaching to it. Similarly, one might imagine an everlasting unfolding of God’s Person and his unfathomable glory. This progression of experiencing God is hindered not by finiteness but by impurity. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” The Christian hope of abiding in Christ will stand forever, along with faith and love while the child of God, creature of time, will joyously run, enjoying with his fellows the orbits of his new universe.