Some of you have studied before a course called “Death and the Life Hereafter.” Our present studies cross the path of that course with a study of Eternal Life. Eternal Life is the great promise of the Christian Faith to the individual who answers its call. Eternal Life is the hope toward which the individual looks who gives his life to Christ. God’s work finally comes into full meaning in Eternal Life.
The subject of Eternal Life is a part of the Theological doctrine of the last things. This question of Eschatology is a natural one, for whenever men have seriously reflected on human life, they have not merely asked, whence did it spring, and how did it come to be what it is, but whether is it bound? Men of all ages have asked the question, does man perish at death or does he enter upon another state of existence. Will the generations of men come and go in endless succession and finally sink into oblivion, or is the human race moving on to some divine goal designed for it by God? And if the race is moving toward some final ideal goal, what about the countless number who have lived and died before this goal was reached? Are they like the soldier who has died in battle who has helped his country retain its freedom, but does not live to share in its glory?
The question of Eschatology has been raised not only in regard to religion, but also in philosophy. Plato taught the immortality of the soul, that is, its continued existence after death. This idea has been a part of philosophy from that time until this.
However, it is in connection with religion that we meet with the more advanced conceptions of Eschatology. The Christians have their Heave, the Buddhists have his Nirvana, the Mohammedans have their paradise, and the Indians have their Happy Hunting Ground. J.T. Addison says, “The belief that the soul of man survives his death is so nearly universal that we have no reliable record of a tribe or nation or religion in which it does not prevail.”
For those of you who may still be unsatisfied with this topic of Eternal Life after it is over, let me say in advance that the doctrine of last things, is the least developed doctrine of the church. Perhaps this is because a dogma of the church tends toward the absolute. That is, when the Church enunciates a dogma, it states what it believes is an absolute truth. Because of the unknown quantities in the doctrine of last things perhaps, the theologians have tended to either give it light treatment or to treat it as part of other studies.