Did you know that eternal life has two dimensions? We often find it referred to in terms of duration or quantity of life. This is certainly one dimension. Eternal life is conscious, perpetual, unending, forever existence with God in eternity. It is life in Christ beyond death. We Christians believe after we die we enter an intermediate state where we are conscious of Christ’s presence (2 Cor 5:8), to await the second coming of Christ, when the dead will be bodily raised to life (John 11:25-26). For those who are still alive when Jesus comes again, their bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:51,52; 1 Thess 4:17). Christians would be spared the judgment for Christ took our judgment on himself on the cross, but we will enter into our eternal reward, and dwell with God in the new heaven and new earth. This is our Christian hope, the eternal hope.
The Second Dimension
However, there is a second dimension to eternal life – the here and now dimension! The apostle John speaks of eternal life as a present possession of all who believe in Christ: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). This eternal life has to do with quality of life not quantity of life, with abundance of life not duration of life. According to John’s gospel, it is a life of acquaintance and friendship with God: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John17:3). This knowledge is an experiential knowledge of personal relationship, friendship and living interaction with the true and living God, not mere theories about who God is.
It is the kingdom life of the age to come brought forward when Jesus came preaching and inaugurated the kingdom. He brought the life of the age to come, for people to taste it in the here and now, as administered by the Holy Spirit. Another way to describe it is “God’s kind of life”. As the seed, so the fruit. God’s life is a seed that brings forth his kind of god-like life and character.
By Faith in Christ’s Finished Work
This precious possession can only be gained by faith alone. It is a gift of God that we cannot deserve or earn (Rom 6:23). We receive it by placing our faith completely in Christ to save us and give us eternal life (John 10:27,28).
The first Adam was placed in the garden and put to the test. He was to obey God and access would then be given to the tree of life. He did not. Instead, he disobeyed God so he was blocked from access to the “eternal life”. Christ is the second Adam and was sent to do what the first failed to do: perfect obedience. By obeying the Father, even unto death on the Cross, Christ won back access to the “eternal life” and now gives it to all who believes him (Phil 2:8; Rom 5:18,19). Thus it is the finished work of Christ that restored to man the access to the life that Adam forfeited, and the cross of Calvary is indeed a “Tree of Life”, for all who believe in Christ’s finished work receives eternal life in the here and now, and which continues beyond physical death (John 11:25,26).
The implication for us is that we need to learn to draw deep from the wells of eternal life. The more we deepen our friendship and experiential knowledge of God, we more we will taste and see that eternal life is precious in the here and now, a foretaste of the life to come.
Lord, thank you for your obedience to the cross that brought us eternal life. We want to draw near to you and know you more. We want to know what you feel, what you think about different situations, and what you want of your church and of our lives. Help us to live day by day, with an awareness that you want love our company and want to be a part of our everyday mundane life. Amen.