The second last word in the Lord’s prayer is “forever.” In English, the word forever means without end. The kingdom of God and the power of God and the glory of God are forever because God is eternal. In the Psalms we read: “Your years will have no end” (Psalm 102:28), and again “even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).
A Long Time
When the Bible uses the word forever, it may mean unending, but it certainly does not always mean unending. It may refer to a long time, as in Daniel 6:21, where “Daniel said to the king, ‘O king, live forever!’” Also in Ecclesiastes we read: “One generation passes away, and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). It is true that the earth remains unlike human generations that are constantly passing away and being replaced by others. Nevertheless, it is not imperative that this earth that is always remaining will not one day also cease to be.
We know that the earth is not everlasting, however the Word of God is, because Jesus says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
The eternal gospel
Jesus came to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. This gospel is still proclaimed today and is everlasting. We read: “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). It is the covenant that Jesus provided for us through His sacrificial death and resurrection that is everlasting. This is confirmed in Hebrews 13:20-21, which states: “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant make you complete.”
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that the glory of the Lord is forever. This glory was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Christ is the Word that was with God and was God (John1:1). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He gives us eternal life.
Perhaps the best known verse in the New Testament is: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We are invited to share God’s everlasting glory. Referring to Himself as the Bread of Life, Jesus said to His listeners: “This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). If we confess our sins and turn from unrighteousness, Christ will grant us eternal life (1 John 1:9), but rejecting Christ also has eternal consequences. Speaking of the Last Judgment, Jesus said of the unjust: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
God is eternal
Since God is eternal, so are His attributes. His mercy, righteousness, and truth are eternal. The Bible says: “the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children” (Psalm 103:17). In 2 Chronicles 7:3, we read that the people worshiped the Lord saying “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever.” And Psalm 117:2 declares: “For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD endures forever.”
It is almost impossible for our finite minds to comprehend endlessness. To illustrate this, someone used the following picture: Suppose there is a huge mountain, and suppose once every 1000 years a bird comes and flies up to the mountain and takes away a grain of earth from that mountain. How long would it take for that mountain to disappear? And when it finally disappears, only the first second of eternity will have passed!
We have seen that eternal can refer to a very long period of time. It can also be in reference to something that never ends and lasts forever. The word eternity expresses timelessness. Often it is used in reference to heaven. In fact when Christians speak of eternity, they often speak of heaven.
Heaven is called our eternal home. The things of this world will pass away, but we have an everlasting hope, an abode prepared for us with the Eternal Father. Paul says: “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 4:15 – 5:1). If we believe that our life on earth is preparatory for eternity then it is absurd to spend so much time worrying about the things of this life and not paying more attention to the things that are eternal.
Since heaven and earth will pass away, but the words of Jesus will not pass away (Matthew 24:35), Peter wisely says: “therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). Let our striving be for holy conduct and godliness so that we too will be able to share in the glory of the Lord, which lasts forever.