I must confess that when I am invited to write about heaven or hell I feel an extreme reluctance. Does this reluctance spring from the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or from the promptings of the Devil? How much of it is due to a proper fear that it is presumptuous to try to inquire in detail into mysteries that God has left veiled? And how much of it is due to an unworthy determination to focus the mind on things of this world and not on things above? I suspect that the latter motive is strong in all of us. The young do not want to think about the afterlife because it is too far off, and the old do not want to think about it because it is too near.

How long is forever?

Biblical teaching will not allow us to shrug off all thought of life hereafter. It promises "everlasting" life, life that is timeless. Clearly, therefore, any reflection on the character of life hereafter has to reckon with the immense differences that must exist between life that is subject to time and life that is freed from time. Although all human beings are locked for 60 or 70 years in a time sequence of hours and days, weeks and months, we Christians are accustomed to adjust our familiar temporal perspectives when we ponder the truths of Christian revelation. For these truths transcend the limitations of time. Jesus Christ is alive, we say, yesterday and today and forever. His entry into human life and his resurrection are not just historical events of the first century A.D., but realities of our daily experience now. The eternal impinges on the temporal whenever the Holy Spirit touches an individual, whenever a prayer is said or a hymn sung.

It is not only in prayer and worship that what is outside time impinges on what is inside time. Poets through the ...

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