Ever since childhood I’ve been afraid of the concept of eternity. I know I'm going to spend it in Heaven with Jesus, but I still get a full-blown panic attack when I realize Heaven will last forever and won't end. I know I won't be bored there and I’ll be with God, but I can't begin to feel happy about that because of the fear of infinity. To confront my fears I've read your book In Light of Eternity, but the fear has remained the same. What are your thoughts and what do you think the Bible says about this?
My first suggestion would have been to read one of Randy’s books in order to learn more about Heaven, so I’m glad to hear you’ve read In Light of Eternity. If you’d like a refresher on what Randy has written about the eternity that awaits us, you might like to check out this article, and in this video you can hear Randy share a message on Heaven. (And if you’d like to explore Randy’s other books on Heaven, you can do so here.)
You're right, it's strange for us to think about living forever. I think to some extent it’s normal for the idea of infinity to make us feel strange. We really can't wrap our limited minds around what that will mean and what it will be like to never die and to live forever. So I think it’s helpful to focus on what we do know: we know that being with Jesus will be fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). And as you mentioned, we won't be bored or anxious and wondering what to do with our time (see this article). Rather, we will live in resurrected bodies on a resurrected earth (2 Peter 3:13). We will be busy and active serving Jesus (Revelation 22:3). We’ll walk and talk with our Savior, and we’ll have rich relationships with others. We’ll be able to pursue dreams we could never fulfill on this present earth. There will be new places for us to explore and new things to do, all to God's glory.
Randy writes this in his book Heaven:
God says of the reigning Messiah, “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). What does this mean? If it was simply that the Messiah’s reign will never cease, it would more likely say, “His government shall never end.” That’s true, of course, but it’s not the point of the text. If it means only that his government shall be all-encompassing, it might say, “Of his governmental authority there will be no limit.” That’s also true, but again it’s not the point. The key word in Isaiah 9:7 is increase. Nearly every major English translation of the Bible renders the Hebrew word marbiyth as “increase” or “expansion.” In other words, Christ’s government of the New Earth and the new universe will be ever-expanding.
How could that be? Even if the New Earth were many times the size of the present one, wouldn’t every inch of it immediately or eventually be under his control and under ours as his representatives? If so, it wouldn’t be ever-expanding. So what can it mean? There are two ways in which a government can increase: (1) by expanding into previously ungoverned territories; or (2) by creating new territories (an option not available to us as humans).
It may be that Christ’s government will always increase because he will continually create new worlds to govern (and, perhaps, new creatures to inhabit those new worlds). Or perhaps it will always increase because the new universe, though still finite, may be so vast that what Christ creates in a moment will never be exhaustively known by finite beings. From what we know of our current universe, with billions of galaxies containing millions of billions of stars and untold planets, this is certainly possible. The restoration of the current universe alone will provide unimaginable territories for us to explore and establish dominion over to God’s glory.
I would also encourage you to take your worries and anxiety about this to your heavenly Father. He invites you to come before His throne (Hebrews 4:16) and cast your worries on Him (1 Peter 5:7). “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). Ask Him to show you exactly what your fear of living forever is rooted in. I think once you have a better grasp on that, you’ll be able to combat this fear with the truth from God’s Word. (See also this response to someone being afraid about going to Heaven, which was written by one of our dear EPM staff members who is now with Jesus.)
I believe that as you seek Him and study more about eternity with Jesus, you'll find that your anxiety can give way to peace and even eager excitement about what awaits you in His presence. The more we focus on God’s character and remember how GOOD and wonderful He is, the more we’ll look forward to being with Him forever. (That’s the topic of Randy’s article God’s Presence Is the Essence of Heaven.) Sam Storms says:
We will constantly be more amazed with God, more in love with God, and thus ever more relishing his presence and our relationship with him. Our experience of God will never reach its consummation. …It will deepen and develop, intensify and amplify, unfold and increase, broaden and balloon.
And as C. S. Lewis put it, “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. . . . Our Lord says to you, ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. I will catch you.’”
Stephanie Anderson is the communications and graphics specialist at Eternal Perspective Ministries.