Eternal Life (Part Seven of our Exploration of John 3:16)2
What precisely is “eternal life”? Does this simply mean that if we believe in Jesus we will live forever? Is he referring here only to the unending duration of our existence? No, it means far more than that, because everyone, even unbelievers, will live forever. Some will live forever in the presence of God in the new heavens and new earth while others will live forever in hell.
So “eternal life” must mean something more than simply always remaining alive. Surely there is a qualitative emphasis to these words. He’s not talking so much about how long we will live but about the kind or quality of the life that we will experience forever. John’s point here is that God’s love has made provision through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to give those who believe an eternity of unbroken, unimaginably intimate, unfathomably satisfying fellowship with and enjoyment of God himself.
Later, in his prayer to the Father as recorded in John17, Jesus says something truly profound:
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Perhaps when you hear that Jesus is about to define or describe the essence of eternal life, you thought of walking on the streets of gold or never dying or never sinning or ruling over celestial kingdoms or judging angels or receiving a glorified body or flying to distant galaxies or . . . whatever. But Jesus says it consists primarily in knowing, loving, and enjoying God!
Don’t ever forget that this eternal life is not something you have to wait until you die to inherit. It is yours now, from the first moment you entrust yourself to Jesus in faith. In John 5:24 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Notice the present possession of eternal life: not “will have” but now “has”! Yes, we who believe in Jesus must still die physically, but physical death in no way severs us from Christ or interrupts our eternal life in him. Jesus spoke these words to Martha as she mourned the death of her brother Lazarus:
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die [physically], yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die [spiritually]” (John 11:25-26).
I assume that most of you who have taken the time to read these seven short articles on John 3:16 have already put your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and are even now enjoying the irrevocable blessings of eternal life. But if you have not yet trusted Christ and embraced by faith the forgiveness of sins that he freely offers, will you do so now? If not, why not?