Or a car drive out of sight?
Or a bird fly off?
At first, you can make out all the details — the swollen sail, the vanity license plate, the flapping wings.
But in a few moments, it becomes difficult to make out the shape and maybe even the color.
Then after a while, it becomes just a dot … then a speck … then nothing.
You know in your mind that the boat or the car or the bird didn’t really disappear. You know it still exists. But at some point, it goes beyond a place where you can make it out any longer.
In Ecclesiastes 3:11, the King James Version of the Bible says God has “set the world in their hearts.”
Most everywhere in the Old Testament where you see the word “world,” the original Hebrew word that’s being translated is “tebel,” which usually means globe or land or earth.
Interestingly though, the word that’s used in Ecclesiastes 3:11 is not “tebel” but “owlam,” which means eternity. So what the verse is saying is that God has set eternity in our hearts.
The literal translation of “owlam” is “the vanishing point of time.”
We can imagine 20 years into the future, or 100 years, or maybe even a thousand years. But at some point, our imagination ceases to be able to comprehend time forward. We know that time hasn’t disappeared, but it goes beyond the point where our mind’s eye can discern it.
It’s difficult to imagine, and even harder to articulate.
The writer of “Amazing Grace” said it this way:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun.
Eternity is that thing that, as you reach for it, is forever just out of reach.
So what am I saying? Consider this:
If we’re blessed, most of us will live to be 70 or 80 years old. A few of us will reach 90 or 100. And a small contingent will live to be more than 100, with almost no one living to be more than 120 or so.
The question is: Why is it that creatures as finite as you and me would even consider eternity? On its face, we have no reason to entertain the concept of an infinite existence.
And yet, we all do. We all wonder about what happens after death, about what’s on the other side of that door. There’s nothing we see in this world that suggests we can live forever, but somehow we sense it from within.
It’s because God has placed eternity in our hearts. He wants each of us to know we were designed for an existence that goes beyond our physical vanishing point.
Maybe you’ve heard Christians say something like, “There’s an empty hole in your heart that only God can fill.”
Well, only something eternal can fill eternity.
Anthony Cook is managing editor at The Star and pastor at Christian Fellowship Bible Church. Reach him at 256-235-3558.