"WHERE WILL YOU SPEND ETERNITY?"
"All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth…unto the resurrection of life and…of ****ation" (John 5:28-29)
INTRO.: A song which asks whether we shall spend eternity in life or in ****ation is "Where Will You Spend Eternity?" (#323 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #634 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Elisha Albright Hoffman (1839-1929). A prolific hymnwriter, his best-known song is probably "I Must Tell Jesus," but his other credits include "Are You Washed In The Blood Of The Lamb?" and "Is Thy Heart Right With God?" Also he provided words for "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" with music by Anthony Showalter. The tune for "Where Will You Spend Eternity?" was composed by John Harrison Tenney (1840-1918). Some of his other melodies that appear in our books are with "Come To Jesus" and "I Will Pray." The song "Where Will You Spend Eternity" first appeared in 1887, but it is not known where it was first published.
Among hymnbooks published by brethren and commonly used by churches of Christ in the twentieth century, this song appeared as a male quartet in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (#307) edited by E. L. Jorgenson. However, it has not been used in any of the books published by the Gospel Advocate, the Firm Foundation, Will Slater, Tillit Teddlie, Marion Davis, at least in my collection. Nor is it found in books published by Alton Howard or V. E. Howard. And it is not in Praise for the Lord. Therefore, its popularity among us seems to be due to its inclusion in Sacred Selections and now in Hymns for Worship.
The song asks each one to consider what his eternal fate will be.
I. Stanza 1 poses the question.
"Where will you spend eternity? This question comes to you and me!
Tell me, what shall your answer be? Where will you spend eternity?"
A. Eternity is something that faces us all: Eccl. 3:11 (note newer versions)
B. Like the question, "What shall I do with Jesus?", the question of eternity comes to us: Matt. 27:22
C. And it is a question that each of us shall answer in one way or another: 1 Pet. 3.15, 21
II. Stanza 2 offers one alternative
"Many are choosing Christ today, Turning from all their sins away;
Heaven shall their happy portion be; Where will you spend eternity?"
A. Some choose Christ because He is the way, the truth, and the life only by which we can come to the Father: Jn. 14.6
B. Those who so choose Christ must turn from all their sins away in repentance: Acts 2:38
C. The blessing promised to those who do this is heaven: 1 Pet. 1.3-5
III. Stanza 3 mentions the only other alternative.
"Leaving the strait and narrow way, Going the downward road today,
Sad will their final ending be, Lost through a long eternity!"
A. Some choose to reject Christ and refuse the strait and narrow way that leads to life: Matt. 7.13-14
B. Rather, they take the downward road that leads to everlasting destruction: 2 Thess. 1.7-9
C. Their sad, final end will be to hear the words, "Depart from me": Matt. 7.23, 25.41
IV. Stanza 4 then tells us what we must do to make the right choice
"Turn and believe this very hour, Trust in the Savior’s grace and power;
[Ellis Crum in Sacred Selections had to change the first three words to "Repent, obey."]
Then will your joyous answer be, Saved through a long eternity."
A. To choose to be with Christ in eternity, one must turn and believe with a faith that will lead him to repent and obey the gospel terms of pardon: Jn. 3.16, Heb. 5.8-9
B. This is how we trust in the Savior’s grace and power: Eph. 1.12-13
C. Only in this way will we have the hope of being saved for all eternity: 1 Pet. 1.9, 2 Pet. 1.11
CONCL.: The short chorus repeats the last line of each stanza. Some people strenuously object [I would say get all bent out of shape, but I want to be charitable] to phrases like "spend eternity" because they claim that the concept of "spending" eternity is an oxymoron, saying that when we spend money eventually it is all gone but we cannot spend eternity because it will never be gone. Of course, we recognize the everlasting nature of "eternity." However, our finite language often does not have adequate words to express concepts that are perfectly infinite, so we have to do the best that we can and sometimes are forced to accommodative usages. That is the case here, and we sometimes use the word "spend" in this way. Our federal government "spends" money, and never seems to run out because it is always printing more. While the primary definition of "spend" in the dictionary is "to use up, exhaust," there is a secondary definition of "to pay out (money)" or "to pass (time)." Certainly, we shall pass (time) continually and forever in our eternal state. Therefore, because it is final and everlasting, everyone of us must carefully consider the question, "Where Will You Spend Eternity?"