In Luke 10, we read of an occasion when an expert in the Jewish law asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. This was not the only time Jesus was asked this question. (cf. Matt. 19:16-22; 22:35-40). However, the lawyer was not really interested in the answer, He wanted to test Jesus as happened on many occasions. (cf. Matt. 22:35; Mk. 19:2; Lk. 11:16; Jn. 8:6) Regardless of his motive, the question is indicative of a basic human intuition.
Eccl. 3:11 states God has “set eternity in the human heart.”
“The word translated “eternity,” is much debated regarding its translation in this passage. It can be translated as “darkness,” “It could be that Solomon is contrasting human ignorance with God’s perfect wisdom1.
It can also be used of the world. God has allowed men to “set the world in their heart” so they will see that the world does not satisfy. In light of the context, however, the word is best interpreted with reference to the future and translated “eternity.” In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is “something more” than this transient world. We possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in the here and now. God has put something within us that longs for more”.
God has given man a desire for perpetuity that cannot be satisfied with what is merely temporal. With this awareness comes a hope that we can one day find a fulfillment not afforded by the “vanity” in this world.
This longing has been built into each of us and is intended to draw us to the only One who can give meaning and purpose to our lives – the One who put that longing within us in the first place”.2
Taking this understanding to be the correct one, Ecclesiastes 3:11 affirms that humans operate in a different way than other forms of life. Yet, contrasting this concept with what follows “ . . . no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
The same Hebrew word refers to God’s activity. In verse 14 the wise-man used the word “forever” to describe the durability of what God does. He has prepared something for us beyond the short years of our mortal lives. Humans need a God’s-eye view of the world in order to discern his order in the creation, but we lack this perspective because we are limited. Our quest is for the eternal, but it is frustrated by our finite limitations. It is in the New Testament that God has been revealed what lies ahead. (Jn. 14:1-3; 1 Cor. 15:50-58; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:1-8).
While God has revealed much of what will take place in the end, there remains a mystery. As believers, our hope is in Christ – we have something definite to look forward to.
Ice Lake, Manitoulin Island
Photo used by permission from Camp Manitou Facebook page