Eternal Life – It’s not what you might think.

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Who would like to live forever?  But what if you had to live forever in this same shell of a body?  Then probably not so much, right?  But, most Christians don’t really worry about this because they’re convinced that once they finish up this life they’re GOING to have an “Eternal Life.”

For God so loved the world…

Most all of us have heard this scripture, 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  What verse is that?  John 3:16 right!

This is a beautiful message. Jesus repeated that to all that had ears to hear.   It’s a message we can easily tune into.  I see that verse plastered all over the place.  Tim Tebow had it under his eyes when he played a national championship football game.  Do you know that during that game 94 million people Googled John 3:16?   That message really resonates with people.

Now, here is how most people interpret that verse.  Something like this – “I believe Christ died for my sins, therefore I will live forever.  And on my day of deliverance I will be with the lord in Heaven forever for an “eternal life”  That sound about right?

Most believe that is what John 3:16 is telling us.  16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  I’ve looked real hard and I don’t see in this verse where it says we’re going to live forever?  Maybe people got confused by the verse just before that one. 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

But, I don’t see anything there about living for eternity.  Let’s go all the way down to the bottom of John 3 and see if it’s there. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

Nope, not there either.  Wait, I know what you’re thinking.  David, you darn fool.  It says right there “eternal life.”   Really?  Is that what it says, or is that what you have heard?

The mistake people make when reading this scripture is that somehow, they conclude that “eternal life” means that you live forever?  The reality is, everyone has lives forever.  You either go up, or you go down – for eternity.  Adolf Hitler is living an eternal existence.  It’s just that his zip code starts with 666.

This is where we make the mistake – the phrase about “Eternal life” is not about the duration of our life, it’s about quality of life.  In the original biblical text eternal is referring to the time needed to accomplish the purposes of God.  However long that may be.

The Greek translation for “Eternal Life” is “aeōnios zoé ” (ai-ō-ne-ōs + zoé).  The word for “eternal” here is aeōnios and translates to something like “age lasting.” You have probably heard the root word “Eon’s.”  When we think of Eons, we don’t think of it as forever, it’s more like “that dogs been gone for eons.” A duration of time.

And the word for life is “zoé.”  In this context it does not mean life in the biological – coming into existence context.  It’s more like, “the way we should go through life” “our demeanor,” the way of life.  Zoé is the vigor or vitality of life in truth.

Eternal life means quality of life, not a duration.  Does that make sense for you? The larger point here is, Jesus’ is telling us to live through him in abundance.  In fact, in most places where you find the phrase “Eternal Life” you can substitute “abundant life.”

In John 17:3 we find a definition provided by Christ.  This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 

This would read: “This is an abundant life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

As Christians, when we are reborn in New Birth through our faith in Christ alone, Sola Fide.  WE don’t have to do anything for it – it is a gift given by Christ on the Cross – and we are to have a life of abundance.

In John 10:10 Jesus says,  The thief  [that would be the devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  This gift of “abundance” is not something to save for the future.  It’s for now!  To have “Eternal Life” is to know Christ in your life and to live today as the Holy Spirit guides you.  To live with an abundance of life here in Gods Kingdom here on Earth.

Let me ask you this one simple question.  What is the difference between a Christian and a Non-Christian?   The one physical – and I will call it physical – difference?  Here’s a hint.  Remember that Jesus, the man from Galilee did not have the Holy Spirit until he was baptized by John and the dove descended.  When Jesus received the Holy Spirit – THAT is when he began his mission to return all of us in flesh back to God the Father.

A Christian literally has something non-Christians do not.  The Holy Spirit!  We have the escape from death card!  And all we need to do to get one is to believe that Christ is our savior!  You see. That my friends, is the secret to knowing your living in the Kingdom of God right now. God expects us to be living our lives on Earth – just as they do in Heaven.   Isn’t that how Jesus taught us to pray!  “On Earth as it is in Heaven!”  God expects us to be learning right now the appropriate behavior for life in Heaven.  We are supposed to be using this “eternal life” stuff to prepare us for Heaven.

Right here you might be saying, “OK, I get the abundance part, but how can we know how they live in Heaven?” That’s easy.  Jesus told us when he created the 11th Commandment.  Who knows the 11th Commandment?  Turn to John 13:34-35 – it is right there in red letters.

John 13:34 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

The eleventh commandment!  “you must love one another.”  Jesus is telling us that the language of Heaven is Love.  Christ came down and took human form to show us what love looks like. Why?  Because that is the language we need to learn to speak.  That is the language that reflect God’s image back upon him.  That is the language of our true character.  That is the language of how we are to treat one another and all creation.  We must learn the language of Heaven before we arrive.

Back in the late 1990’s I moved to Brussels Belgium to work.  I rented an apartment and had to go to the government office and get my electricity turned on.  Here’s the problem, I didn’t speak French very well.  Me no parlez-vous that francais.

When I got to the office, I was waiting in line nervously and watched as a young lady was processing applications.  Next to her was a big burly Germanic looking dude.  He was obviously training the new girl.  When it was finally my turn the first thing I did was to apologize for my bad French. I said “Je ne parlez pas Francais tres bien.”  I don’t speak French very well.

The big dude looked up and shouted at me – “Why?”  It was obvious he was trying to impress the young girl.  He started pointing at me, “In our country you can choose three languages, French, German or Flemish.  We give you three choices and you can’t speak none?”

Well, I was in a pickle.  This guy was between me and having lights on my apartment.  In typical David fashion I responded.  “Can I tell you a joke?”  He said “Ya!”  I said, “If you can speak three languages that’s called trilingual!” He said, “Ya.”  I then said, “If you can speak two language you’re bilingual.”  He said “Ya!”  Is said what is it called when you can only speak on language?”  He wrinkled his face and shook his head.  I said, “American!”  He busted our laughing, Ya, Ya, Ya!   And I managed to get my electricity turned on.

Here’s the moral of that story.  Who was I to go to another country and expect to live there and not know the language.  If we plan on taking up residence in Heaven someday it would behoove us all to learn the language we need to speak before arrival.   The eleventh commandment “Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another.”  You may not have any other chance but now to learn the language.  St. Peter may not like dumb American jokes.

I know most of us are very loving and we try to obey all the commandments.  But here we are, living in the Kingdom of God, with this abundance of life given to us, and we might not speak the language very well.  God was nice enough to turn on our electricity, but he expects us to become fluent in the “language of love,” ASAP!

What is the best way to learn a language.  By immersion.  Right – jump right in.  We need to learn the language of love, so we are fluent before we get to Heaven.  Perhaps we can find an immersion program right here in our community.  The trick is finding the right teachers.

Each year Tim Tebow promotes the Night to Shine event?  This is an event for “people of special needs.”  It is literally a Prom and every person was named King or Queen of the Prom.  My wife was a volunteer last year and told me that every person at the event was permanently affected by the love that was present.  It was a big ol’ barn overflowing with love and compassion for those in need.

But here is the immersion part I was talking about – the love was returned to the volunteers by more than ten-times what they each gave.  How ironic is it that, those who we call “of special needs” were the teachers?  When it came to Love – the volunteers were not nearly as fluent!

Those at that event had an immersion course in the language of love.  Jesus told Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen” (John 3:11).  Everyone at that event is still testifying to what they saw and felt.  Those that attended have harnessed those emotions, and the love for God that was inside that barn, and have taken it outside the barn door into the community.

That was just one event.  How many other persons of need could we find that will teach you the next lesson of love?   John 5:24: “Very Truly I tell you anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”  Jesus does not say “will have,” but uses the present tense. “has eternal life.”  The quality of our lives will change forever!

Who wants to live forever?  Who cares?  I want Eternal Life?  You can choose to go one of two ways.  But the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). 

And here is the kicker – you don’t get eternal life when you die – you get it right now. If you do not have a relationship with Christ – or maybe it is not where it should be.  This morning – this exact moment – is a good time to let Christ be fully present in your heart, soul and mind. The only way to the Father is through the Son.  Let him in!