Eternity is a concept understood and used differently within Mennonite and Amish circles. The literal interpretation of the Amish is quite different from the more sophisticated description by Mennonites with graduate school training. The conservative and orthodox Mennonites, as well as the Amish, are inclined to perceive of eternity as timelessness, acknowledging their inability to explain, but at the same time believing that God has given enough information to make life profitable on earth, with the assurance that the missing elements will be understood in the hereafter. The person with considerable formal education is more inclined to critical reflection, or poetic indulgence, such as "Dancing across the meadows of eternity," heard at Mennonite Church (MC) general assembly in 1987.
Eternity is generally understood in three main senses: (a) as an unending extent of time, (b) as that which is entirely timeless, and (c) as that which includes time, but somehow also transcends it. The majority of Mennonite and Amish who base their understanding on Revelation 10:6 in the Luther German translation, or the King James Version, or both ("that there should be time no longer"), tend to conceive of eternity as entirely timeless, and from everlasting to everlasting, without end, but do not attempt a detailed explanation.
A study of word usage and origin, such as Gerald Studer in After death, what? (Scottdale, 1976) brings to the surface issues which lead to a less precise view (pp. 122-28). Measures of Fundamentalist orthodoxy in Kauffman and Harder, Anabaptism Four Centuries Later (pp. 112-13), show about 77 percent of respondents believing in the doctrine of eternal punishment. By the time of a later 1989 study this had dropped to 63 percent (Kauffman and Driedger, The Mennonite Mosaic, 69-70). It is probably safe to assume that the percentage believing in heaven or the infinite continuation of a timeless timelessness, or both would undoubtedly be higher.
For some Mennonites, relationships take priority over considerations of time or timelessness. Embodied in that view, eternity is a continuation of a union, a relationship, begun on earth (John 15; the vine and branch). It is a transformation and completion of that relationship, in which time and space become irrelevant.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 273. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Yoder, Elmer S. "Eternity." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 26 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E815ME.html.
APA style: Yoder, Elmer S. (1989). Eternity. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E815ME.html.