idea of eternal life seems unbelievable and absurd. After all day to day life
in this world can be frustrating, difficult,
lonely and sometimes unbearable – what if this went on forever?
But what is ‘eternal life’ and does it imply eternal rest?
Strangely I think we need to start by considering what the
word ‘life’ means.
Now in everyday conversation ‘life’ is what happens all
around us as we go about our day to day tasks. People sometimes use the
expression “get a life” when they feel the person they are talking to doesn’t
seem to do much with their lives. John Lennon said: “Life is what happens
to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
Life certainly involves all the practical things of daily
living but is this really what life is all about?
Surely, what makes life most rewarding and complete is the
experience of loving others and being loved. And what makes it most
unrewarding and empty is the feeling of being unloved and of being unable to
love. Real life is about love and you can see that most easily and clearly in
the loving care of a mother for her new baby. Deep down life is all about love
– indeed all you need is love, because life is love.
Or to paraphrase the words of Emanuel
Swedenborg - "You are what you love".
Now come back to our everyday idea of life and we can see
that one of its characteristics is the need or desire to grow in some way. We
might experience the need to develop or grow in our career or to improve the
house we live in or to have a larger family or to learn something new. Even
the government has a desire for the country to grow economically. So it is not
surprising that the deeper, more real life that is all about love also needs
to develop and grow. Our ability to express our love for others and our
ability to receive openly the love that others give to us both need to develop
and grow and move away from the self-centred state we start with.
But now let’s look at the concept of ‘eternal’.
What dominates our practical day to day living is time. So
much of what we do is determined by the time of the day or the length of time
we have available for a particular task. We measure the time very carefully
with clocks and watches and we complain if buses or trains do not follow their
timetables. When asked to do something we might say: “I haven’t got time for
that”. With all this emphasis on time it is not surprising that we have great
difficulty in coming to terms with concepts such as ‘eternal’ or ‘eternity’.
Our first reaction is to think that ‘eternal’ refers to never ending
When we think this way ‘eternal life’ conjures up a picture of a
death of unbearable monotony that goes on unchanged for ever and ever! But to
get away from this time dependent concept of ‘eternal’ we need to get in touch
with our own experiences of ‘timelessness’ in this life.
Reflect on the occasions when you have been bored with
nothing to do or undertaking a task in which you have no real interest or just
watching the clock waiting for the time to go – doesn’t time drag! Or think
about the week before a special holiday. The days seem to go slowly by as you
wait for your holiday to start but once you begin your holiday the days seem
to rush by! Or think about those occasions when you are engrossed in doing
something you love or are simply being with someone you love. Our sense then
is that time doesn’t matter. You see, our sense of time depends on how we feel
or the state we are in. Be in a happy and contented state and without you
realising it, time has rushed by. But be in a sad and disgruntled state and
time drags by very slowly.
We can begin to see from this that our deeper inner
spiritual life, the life that continues after death, does not experience time
but rather, experiences changes in state or being. ‘Eternal’ can then be seen
as not meaning an infinite development of time but rather an infinite
development of state or being.
Putting these thoughts on ‘eternal’ and ‘life’ together a
picture emerges of what is meant by ‘eternal life’ – it is an inner spiritual
state when our love for others and our ability to receive love from others
develops and grows in wonderful ways. And this development, started whilst we
are in this world, continues on and on in the spiritual world. The beauty of
this vision of heavenly eternal life is that it involves our continual
spiritual growth as we put our love for others into action to meet their
needs. This eternal life is God given because it reflects the way
We are not victims of ageing, sickness and death. These are part of
scenery, not the seer, who is immune to any form of change. This seer is the
spirit, the expression of eternal being. Deepak Chopra
From infancy to the end of life, and afterwards to eternity, a
person's state of life is continually changing. Emanuel Swedenborg