He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NAS)
Following the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1963, an eternal flame was built at the request of the then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy for her husband’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery at Washington, D.C. Inspired by the Flame of Remembrance that burns at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier in Paris, this eternal flame was the first time a known individual was given such an honor. Since then, eternal flames have been designated around the world to honor the loss of people of great significance in addition to major tragic and momentous events.
The idea of an eternal flame has been a long-held tradition in many cultures and religions. In Jewish tradition, the practice of keeping a flame burning began when Moses oversaw the construction of the original menorah, a seven branched candelabra, for the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40). According to information from JewFAQ.org, the descendants of Aaron or the kohanim lit the menorah in the sanctuary of the Temple every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups. The menorah is said to symbolize the nation of Israel as “a light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6 NAS). The light, being an illumining source, signifies a mission to reach the world without using force but by setting our lives as examples, not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6, 1-5). In synagogues today, the menorah is represented by a sanctuary lamp called ner tamid, which translated means everlasting light or eternal flame.
Unlike the eternal flame that signifies our mission as lights of the world (Matthew 5:14-16), the Bible mentioned another eternal flame which brings forth death. Jesus said, "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire” (Matthew 18:8 NAS). This is the eternal fire of hell where the flame cannot be quenched (Mark 9:47-48). All who are not of the Lord at the hour of judgment will have to face this everlasting flame and be tormented with fire and brimstone, where the smoke of the torment will go up forever and ever (Matthew 13:41-42; Revelation 14:7, 9-11).
For thus our God the exalted One Who lives forever had said, "I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15 NAS). “Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?” (Isaiah 43:13 NAS). But to those of us who fear Him and keep His covenant, and remember His precepts to do them, the lovingkindness of our LORD is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 103:17-18).
In placing eternal flames to honor the glorious dead, the word of God rightly described what is said of man about eternity being set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We know eternity awaits us upon our death on earth or when Christ returns. We tend to forget, however, where our friends and our loved ones will go to in eternity if they do not receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. While we think about our eternity, let us not forget the eternity of others as well. Let us as lights of the world reveal Christ in our lives and do our part to bring a change in the destiny and eternity of the yet unsaved.
Help us dear Lord to set by example to the world what it means to have You in our lives. Shine through us that as lights of the world we may reveal more of You each day. Remind us constantly that without You, many are dying in their sins and facing eternal death, fire and torment. Holy Spirit, lead and guide us in bringing salvation and the gift of eternal life to the unsaved. Eternal God and Father, we come to You with contrite hearts, lowly in spirit to seek Your revival for our land.