I don’t know: As far as eternity, hell, judgment and all of that, I’m beginning to think we are looking at it, or have been taught to view it, from the wrong end, or the wrong way around and therefore we fail to see it aright. Believers are concerned with one’s eternal fate, and rightly so, but perhaps eternity, hell, judgment are not as supposed.
If time is a creation; and it is, and in the spiritual realm, in eternity, time doesn’t exist, I would hate to be the soul that winds up in eternity with time no longer available, to spend, to invest, to ‘set my ducks in order’ so to speak. Time is what we have here; time for change, growth, repentance, learning in a structured setting. If we don’t make the best use of our time here, if we don’t spend it well, ultimately it will be gone, forever swallowed up in eternity and we will dwell in eternity in the state that we settled into or developed into, or failed to develop into, in time.
Or to put it another way, by giving an illustration: You are writing one of these final exams in order to pass as a student for the year. You have a set time (say 2 hours) to take the test, after which you know that you will be asked to hand in your papers, you’ll be graded, the results will be posted and you will receive the grade you qualified for. And from that grading, that qualification, will be determined your future course and prospects. In all of this, you determine the final results; no one else does it for you. You pass or fail on your own efforts. You in essence, create your own future. You can’t say any of it wasn’t fair. You are well aware of the consequences throughout each stage of the process.
In the same way, God has basically said that all of life is a test, we are in school. We aren’t graded in eternity, or on the eternity side of things, we are graded in time, on the time side of the timeline. Eternal fate is the logical outcome of our time results. On the eternal side of the timeline, we are receiving our posted results. And so the future we have to look forward to, or perhaps on the other hand to dread, is the future of our own making. We now have time on our side, as a gift, as a structured, somewhat limited milieu. Now, in time, we can go back and do things over, make amends, relearn, etc. but that gift of time ceases the minute we enter the eternal realm.
Exactly what the spiritual existence constitutes I don’t know. We get glimpses of it and revelations of its basis of operation through God’s word. But one thing we know, and that is that there will no longer be such a thing as ‘time’. Past, present and future, as we know and experience them, are all one ‘eternal now’ in the spiritual realm.
I’m sure there will be growth, opportunity and learning in the spiritual life, probably much more than we would ever imagine, but there’s just something about the ‘now-ness’ * of time, of this existence, that somehow sets the stage for the next. If it’s a stage in a series of stages, it’s somehow an important stage, an importance that sets it in its own category.
I guess, to put it another way, or to hit it from another angle, the subject could be compared to an artist casting a mold. It takes time to prepare and make the mold, there’s a lot of plying of clay or whatever pliable material the artist is using to create. But once his creation has been given existence, has been cast in mold, the final form is ultimately determined. In a similar manner, are we not casting a mold, a mold of character, that is pretty much going to be set by life’s end? There’s not much going back on the cast character mold. I’d hate to be set into some flawed mold of my own making, and have to live with as such in a ‘forever’ setting.
Perhaps these are the things that we need to be concerned about and to fear; not that God has some prearranged horror chamber of retribution waiting, some giant mold of his own to impose upon and against the wills of the unwilling.
Perhaps somehow it’s not going to be so easy for us to recast the mold, to correct the errors, to make amends when we no longer have the luxury of time in which to do so, in which to order our lives. As in the exam example above, once the test paper has been handed in, you no longer have the luxury and time to go back and rewrite your answers as much as you’d like to do so.
We’ve been given time to do so here. I’m not sure about how it works on the other side.
*nowness-I know this isn’t really a word but somehow it lends expression to the topic