We’re familiar with infinity, even if we can’t really comprehend it. We know the Realtor selling point “there’s an infinity pool!” or the Toy Story motto “To Infinity and beyond!” which is pretty funny actually.
In the second grade classroom in which I am stationed as teacher aide, there is a number line above the Smart board. (AKA chalkboard for us old timers). To the left of zero are a host of negative numbers and to the right of zero is a host of increasing whole numbers. The teacher occasionally mentions to the kids that the numbers go on and on, to infinity.
When I was a schoolchild I learned about the number googol. I used to think that a googol was the largest number. It isn’t. But here is a Wikipedia definition of a googol:
A googol is the large number 10 to the 100. In decimal notation, it is written as the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s. The term was coined in 1920 by 9-year-old Milton Sirotta (1911–1981), nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner. A googol has no special significance in mathematics. However, it is useful when comparing with other very large quantities such as the number of subatomic particles in the visible universe or the number of hypothetical possibilities in a chess game. Kasner used it to illustrate the difference between an unimaginably large number and infinity, and in this role it is sometimes used in teaching mathematics.
The ancients had a difficult time expressing just large numbers. For centuries, the standard way to describe any number over 10,000 was “myriad.” A really, REALLY big number would be ‘myriad myriads’. Here in Deuteronomy 32:30 ISV the rhetorical question is asked how could one of the the thinly populated Jews have put ten thousand soldiers to flight, or two of the Jews put “a myriad to flight”. Other translations say ten thousand.
How can one person chase a thousand of them and two put a myriad to flight, unless their Rock delivers them and the LORD gives them up?
Of course a verse that comes immediately to mind is Revelation 5:11-
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,
One day, the famous mathematician Archimedes (287BC-212BC) wanted to sort of count the number of grains of sand, Or rather, he wondered how many grains of sand would be the upper limit of grains of sand that could fit into the universe. Archimedes definitely had big thoughts.Yet he knew that ‘myriad upon myriad’ was not going to suffice as a reckoning for this large number experiment he desired to perform. Wikipedia says,
In order to do this, he had to estimate the size of the universe according to the contemporary model, and invent a way to talk about extremely large numbers. … Archimedes had to invent a system of naming large numbers. The number system in use at that time could express numbers up to a myriad (μυριάς — 10,000), and by utilizing the word “myriad” itself, one can immediately extend this to naming all numbers up to a myriad myriads (10 to the 8th power.)
And Archimedes went from there.
Anyway, the ancients had a hard time naming large numbers, and infinity is just beyond us all. It means endless, and comprehending endless numbers, or endless anything, is impossible.
Here’s another brain buster. The only reason we can even have numbers to infinity is because of God. God is infinite. He is beyond everything that there is.
This photo is of a book called God Does Exist!: Defending the faith using presuppositional apologetics, evidence, and the impossibility of the contrary. A Twitter friend posted this page from the book as he was studying. I read the excerpt he posted below, and became entranced with the idea of an infinite God and infinite numbers. You can click on the photo to enlarge it.
Even though in our own crude, puny human way, we can only express the majestic God as myriad upon myriad big, the fact that we have an infinite relationship with Him is enough. Our time with Him is endless, boundless, impossible to calculate. We will worship Him in infinite glory endlessly.