Outlasting Entropy

OutlastingEntropyIt isn’t going to last, you know.

None of it will. It was never supposed to. Everything you see—everything you can touch, taste, hear, or smell—everything around you will one day come to an end.

Wood rots. Stones erode. Metal corrodes. Even stars burn out—one by one, blinking out of existence. And there’s nothing you can do about it. Not a single thing.

Sometimes we can convince ourselves, gazing up at the night sky, that we are looking into the heart of an eternal, infinite abyss—a sprawling expanse without beginning or end, that has existed and will always exist. But it’s not true.

The universe (and all of reality) had a very definite beginning. Scientists generally consider that moment to be the Big Bang—a singular moment in which all of time and space violently exploded out of complete and total nothingness. Not emptiness, nothingness. There was no space, there was no matter, there was not even time, and then there was.

If that’s true, then the infinite expanse of the night sky isn’t so infinite after all. On the contrary, it means that the universe has a boundary—an ever-expanding boundary, but a boundary all the same. Our universe, all of space-time, is surrounded by an impassable barrier where reality as we know it comes to an end.

So much for infinite. And while we’re at it, so much for eternal. The second law of thermodynamics is taking care of that as we speak. Nature has a tendency to “even out” when left unchecked—a fire heats the space around it, the pressurized air in a tire escapes when punctured, and so on. The energy in a given system is always pushing toward a state of equilibrium, which is a process we measure in terms of entropy. Entropy is involved as a fire burns itself out, as our bodies age and become less efficient, and as stars collapse into white dwarves and black holes.

Entropy is a measure of things ending. We end; planets end; stars end; solar systems end; galaxies end—and if entropy holds true for the universe as a whole (which, to be fair, is impossible to prove), then the universe itself is heading the same direction.

So that’s what we’re left with, then: temporary lives on a temporary planet, floating around a temporary star in what may well be a temporary universe.

How bleak. How hopeless. How absolutely futile.

To be fair, it would take us billions and billions of years to reach any of those events. But it’s difficult to grapple with that cosmic perspective and not wonder, “Then what’s the point? If it’s all going to end, why bother with anything at all?”

You may have already guessed where I’m going with this. It’s the word of God that offers us a ray of hope in the midst of the gloom.

Yes, it’s an unavoidable, scientific fact that the universe and everything in it is aging. Yes, the world you live in—even the universe as you know it—was designed to have an expiration date.

But we’re not of this world, are we? “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). That’s not flowery language. Little by little, the second law of thermodynamics is taking its toll, and the earth is literally passing away. What science neglects to mention—what it can’t mention, because it can’t understand—is the second part of that verse. Abiding forever. What does that look like, scientifically? How can something be unaffected by a fundamental law of the universe?

I suppose it would have to exist outside the universe. Outside of time and space. Outside of reality as we know it. Paul elaborates:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while 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.

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

We’re perishing. The things which are seen are temporary, passing away. These things have an end; they were designed to end.

But you don’t have to.

I wonder if we grasp the full significance of that truth. Here we are, children of dust, living in a universe filled with things designed to end, and God is offering us eternity. Infinity.

Paul has more to say on the subject:

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. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.

(2 Corinthians 5:1-7)

(As an important side note, Paul is quick to shoot down the idea that we’re all just immortal souls wrapped up in human bodies. We don’t want to be unclothed, but further clothed, “that mortality may be swallowed up by life.”)

No, this isn’t going to last. Yes, the universe we know is filled with decay and entropy, but it doesn’t matter because, in the grand scheme of things, this universe doesn’t matter. It’s not going to last forever, but that’s okay, because we were never meant to be here forever.

We talked about one of the ways science suggests the universe could end if left to its own devices, but the Bible reveals that God intends to step in long before entropy has a chance to finish its work. Peter writes,

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

(2 Peter 3:10-13)

A new heaven. A new earth. New bodies (1 Corinthians 15:44). A God who makes “all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

Yes, “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). Both science and the Bible agree that the end is coming. The handwriting is on the wall; the end is inescapable. But what science doesn’t know is this:

The end of all things is destined to be followed by a far more beautiful beginning.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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