What is your concept of eternity?

Immortality of the soul

Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, Kan.: Judaism developed two concepts of eternal life that over centuries fused into one. The first is called “the world to come” (Olam ha-ba).

The Talmud says, “The righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come.” The Gentile righteous are those who keep the seven Noahide commandments: no murder, incest, idolatry, cursing God, theft or eating the flesh of a living animal; and society must establish courts of justice. At death all people receive punishment for their sins for up to one year. Then our immortal souls ascend to heaven where God rewards us until the coming of the messiah.

When God sends the messiah (Yamot hamashiach), the souls of the dead will be resurrected and rejoined to their bodies in the land of Israel, and the messiah will rule the world from there. It will be a time of peace when “Every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.” After 1,000 years there will be an ultimate judgment during which the wicked shall be eternally condemned and the righteous receive their reward of eternal life.

As a Reform Jew, I believe in only the immortality of the soul. Some Jews also believe in transmigration of souls, in which souls are resurrected to live on earth again and perform God’s commandments.

One word: God

The Rev. Fran T. Cary, pastor of Trinity A.M.E. Church, Kansas City, Kan.: When I think of eternity, I think of one word: God. I consider the limitations that come with being an inhabitant of this earth. There are constraints as to how long the sun will shine, boundaries on how long summer will last and even limits to the number of days of our temporal lives.

For us to embrace the part of ourselves that is truly connected to God, we must look into the eternal realm. The Bible says that the things we see are temporary; what we don’t see is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). We tend to get overwhelmed with what we see and fail to focus on what we don’t. We cause ourselves needless grief, focusing only on the trials of this time.

I realize people think only about eternity in the case of death; however, the eternality of God offers us reprieves from our present circumstances. God is a resource that focuses our attention on the big picture. Prayer and meditation are instruments that allow us glimpses into the eternal while we still remain on earth. The more that we connect with God, the more we connect with the eternal. He is known as the Everlasting Father ( Isaiah 9), the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7), and the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 1).

— McClatchy Tribune