What do you think about when you consider eternal life?
As Christians, so much hope and longing is attached to the idea of eternity and eternal life. Not to mention some odd thoughts on what heaven will be like and how we will occupy ourselves for all the time that eternity will afford us—if “time” is even a relevant consideration when discussing eternity. Increasingly I’m convinced that we sell eternity miserably short with our temptation to shrink it down to a more manageable and comfortable pocket-sized understanding of temporal utopia. What is eternal life really? What are we hoping for?
Consider what Jesus has to say about eternal life in John 17:3.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3
Eternal life. It’s not described by what we will be doing or how we will be living, or where or any other trivial, temporary values. It’s not measured in pleasures we will gain, or eases will enjoy, or the whiteness of our surroundings (where did we get the idea of an all white existence anyway?!) For Jesus, as he prays to the Father, eternal life is described by the person we will be knowing.
Do we sense in these words the immensity of God? To know him is eternal life in the making. To know this God is not something that is a part of life, but is itself life. God, in all his grandeur, is not to be known so that we may live differently; but knowing him is living in all its fullness. Knowing God is described in terms of eternity because he is a God of such immensity and fullness that knowing him is not a part-time endeavor or a momentary enjoyment. It is eternal. It is living.
This is eternal life: knowing the only true God and knowing his Son whom he sent to save us. Eternal life is found in a relationship with the Almighty. It’s found in knowing him.
This isn’t the only place we find this idea presented by Jesus. Look at what he says earlier in John’s gospel:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:39-40
Finding eternal life, that’s the subject of Jesus’ words here. And he’s putting the Scriptures in their proper place. The Bible itself doesn’t give eternal life. It points to eternal life because it points to Jesus. Eternal life isn’t about getting to heaven, as if heaven was our ultimate goal. Eternal life isn’t about escaping hell. Eternal life isn’t just about knowing the Bible. Eternal life is about knowing God. A God who will fill all eternity with himself. A God so immense and so full, a God so satisfying, that knowing him is itself eternal life.
This is something worthy of our time and consideration.
What do we think of when we think of eternal life? What are we hoping for? If eternal life is knowing God and knowing his Son, isn’t it true that eternal life is a part of now, not just something we wait for then?
These thoughts reflect a deeper conversation that was had on John 17 in my living room last night. The people who gather there each week are dear to me and I am so grateful for the way we are learning to be a gospel-centered community for one another; for the ways we explore the Scriptures, push each other towards Jesus, and challenge one another as we grow.