Growing up, I was always under the impression that "eternal life" didn't start until after I died. I don't recall actually having been taught that specifically, but it was generally implied by the worldview and culture that I lived in.
Of all the shifts that I have experienced over the past few years, understanding what the Bible means by eternal life has been one of the most profound.
Do you realize that there is only one place in the entire Bible that specifically defines eternal life? Yep, just one! It is actually Jesus that defines it for us.
In John 17 Jesus is praying for his disciples as He prepares to embark on what is traditionally called "The Passion." (On a quick side note, this is actually what should be called "the Lord's prayer". The traditional "Lord's prayer" that is recited on Sundays was actually what the disciples were supposed to pray, but I digress.)
Now read John 17 verses 1-3 again. Maybe again for the very first time!
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Did you catch that? Eternal Life, as defined by Jesus, is "knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ whom he sent."
In the Bible the language of "knowing" is often set within the context of sexual union between a husband and wife. It is presented as a deep intimate relationship.
To know God the Father and Jesus Christ is eternal life.
Is it really that simple? Yes.
Unfortunately, that simple answer brings into question many of our deeply held traditions. Here are just a few.
If eternal life is relationship, then what is the "death" that the Bible talks about?
Is it possible that eternal life starts on this side of the grave, here in this world?
Is the message of Jesus actually about how to get into Heaven before you die?
Take some time to ponder how John 17:1-3 will affect the way you answer these questions. And if you're not already, start living the eternal life that you already have!