by Bryan Marvel
Read John 17
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (v3)
If you were to ask most people in America, “What is eternal life?” you would most likely hear responses like "life after death" and "getting to heaven when you die."
And if you further asked, “What will that life be like?” you’d probably hear things like, "We’ll all be angels. We’ll probably have wings, halos, and harps. We’ll float around on white puffy clouds. We’ll all have our own personal mansion in the sky."
And finally, if you asked, “Who’s given eternal life?” The most common answer would be, "People who are good."
These examples, among other common views of eternal life, might be an indicator that we get more of our theology about eternal life from Far Side cartoons than the Bible.
In John 17 Jesus concludes His final evening with His disciples with a beautiful prayer that covers quite a bit of ground. He prays for Himself, His immediate disciples, and all believers everywhere. But at the beginning of His prayer, He makes very clear mention of what eternal life is, and He doesn’t say anything about heaven, halos, or turning into angels. Instead, He defines it in terms of knowing God. Eternal life is about a relationship with God and how that relationship impacts your life.
Earlier in his gospel, John described eternal life as abundant life (John 10:10). Which means eternal life is more about a quality of life, rather than a quantity of life. Dallas Willard says that eternal life is a certain type of life. And the amazing thing about it is that we don’t have to wait till we die to receive it.
The foundational reality of Jesus’ ministry is that this “eternal kind of life” is available to us now in Him. Early on in His ministry, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God has come near” (Mark 1:15). That was Jesus’ way of saying, “You can have access to eternal life now. It’s found in a relationship with Me.”
But, if eternal life is a certain type of life, it raises the question, what type of life is it? I would submit it might look something like the following:
It’s a life empowered by grace, not dis-empowered by shame.
It’s a life not driven by condemnation and guilt.
It’s a life where forgiveness and mercy flow freely from God to us and
therefore can be given freely to others.
It’s a life that seeks to support all that is good, true and beautiful.
It’s a life of integrity that seeks to do what is right and just.
It’s a life not motivated by fear or worry.
It’s a life that reflects the belief that God is good regardless
of our current circumstances.
It’s a life not characterized by explosions of anger and deep-seated rage.
It’s a life of overwhelming joy and peace even when things seem
out of control.
It’s a life where all of our deepest longings and desires are satisfied in God.
It’s a life of being secure in who God has made us to be.
It’s a life marked by love.
That, and so much more, is this eternal kind of life.
Essentially, eternal life isn’t about getting into heaven after you die. It’s about getting into heaven before you die. We have access to God the Father and His Son, through His Spirit today, right here, right now!
1. How does this change your view of eternal life?
2. Where in your life are you experiencing this “eternal kind of life?”
3. In what areas of your life would you like to experience it more?