In the early days following my husband’s passing, my mind was fully focused on eternity and Heaven. I wanted to know more about Reggie’s life there now and about what my life would be like when I made it there. As a Christian, I fully embrace everlasting life, but before Reggie died, I saw eternal life as something I’ll receive upon my physical death.
My study of eternity and Heaven revealed that isn’t true. I am alive now. I don’t gain life, even eternal life, upon my death.
John 3:36 tells us everyone whether a believer in Jesus or not will continue to exist after our physical bodies die. The difference is believers have eternal or everlasting life; whereas, unbelievers don’t.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ~ John 3:36
I’m not sure if you noticed, but the verbs “has” and “remains” in John 3:36 above are present tense verbs. The use of present tense verbs here reveals that eternal life is the current state of being for believers. It isn’t a state we will transition into at death—sometime in the future. It’s a state we transitioned into at conversion—a moment of time in the past. At conversion, we transitioned from a state of having the wrath of God on us to everlasting or unending life. People who die without accepting or who reject Christ will remain in the state of having the wrath of God on them throughout eternity.
Living with Eternity in Mind
Many Bible preachers and teachers encourage Christians to live with eternity in mind, but many, like I did, understand eternity as some future destination. In other words, doing things now with eternal life as the goal. Or creating a new life now in the hopes of receiving eternal life later.
The same power that enables us to live after our physical deaths enables us to have eternal life now.
In actuality, since we believers have eternal life now, we are to live with eternity in mind as our current address. Yes, we are to focus on eternity in the present with an eye towards the future, but we’re creating new lives now with the understanding that the same power that enables us to live after our physical deaths enables us to have eternal life now.
During the moment of my life when I felt the most powerless, this reminded me of just how powerful the power of eternity is. As someone in possession of God’s gift of eternal life, I was reminded of just how powerful I am.
As with Adam and Eve following their catastrophic event—the consequences of their being convinced to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:16-19)—, the level of difficulty or the effort required to complete our assignments increased, but our fruitfulness, our ability to complete those same assignments remained.Even though you may have experienced a catastrophic event, your fruitfulness, your ability to bear much fruit also remains. Click To Tweet
Furthermore, Adam and Eve’s ability didn’t increase. Their power remained at the same level. So, Adam and Eve were able to do more than was required all along. They always had the power to bear much fruit. In that sense, their power didn’t change.
The same is true for us. Even though my catastrophic event—Reggie’s passing—increased the level of difficulty I felt in creating my new life, my fruitfulness, my ability to bear much fruit remains. Even though you may have experienced a catastrophic event, your fruitfulness, your ability to bear much fruit also remains.
My power remained, but I felt powerless. Exactly how do I tap into the power of eternity? To do that, you have to fully understand what eternal life is.
What is Eternal Life?
In John 17:3, Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ:
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. ~ John 17:1-3
Knowledge comes in two forms—intellectual knowledge and experiential knowledge. Intellectual knowledge means to grasp something mentally or to understand. It happens in the mind. This kind of knowledge comes from an exchange of ideas. It happens when I share something I know in my mind, and after I share it, it takes up residence in someone else’s mind.
On the other hand, experiential knowledge is knowledge gained through experience. For instance, someone may have shared with you that eating something can ease, even satisfy, your hunger, but we didn’t learn that intellectually. Most of us already knew this from experience because, from infancy to now, we experienced hunger that was eased and often satisfied through eating.
To know something was to have an intimate understanding that you gained through experience.
Now, the Greek word translated “know” in this passage is the latter—to know experientially. Furthermore, in the Hebrew culture of which Jesus was a part and of which He was speaking, to know something was to have an intimate understanding that you gained through experience.
So, when Jesus spoke of giving eternal life to as many as God had given Him, Jesus was speaking of giving people the kind of intimate knowledge that comes from having a deep, personal relationship with someone. He was speaking of us having deep, personal relationships with God and with Him.
The Power of Eternity
To understand more about having a deep, personal relationship with Jesus I went to John 15. At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus shares the key to our power, our fruitfulness is having a deep, personal relationship with Him:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. ~ John 15:1-5
Using a vine metaphor or parable, Jesus describes Himself as the vine, God as the vinedresser and us as the branches (v. 1, 5). Jesus then illustrates that just like branches separated from the vine cannot bear fruit, neither can we bear fruit separated from Him (v. 5). Like a vine with its branches, Jesus is the source of our power, our fruitfulness (v. 4). We access His power when we abide in Him (v. 5).
Abiding in Christ is an invitation to connect and bear fruit that comes with the promise of power.
The Greek word translated “abide” in this passage means “to remain in the same place over a period of time.” The phrase “over a period of time” indicates that this invitation to connect to Jesus’ creative power is an ongoing activity, not an isolated event.
We must first accept the invitation.
This describes a deep, personal relationship. A relationship that, like the vine used to describe it, is alive and growing. A relationship with Christ that is alive and growing “bears much fruit”, meaning both larger and more frequent harvests. A vibrant and thriving relationship with Christ like this provides the opportunity to maximize our fruitfulness. Thus, a close and continuing relationship with Jesus empowers us to create an extraordinarily fruitful life.
But to access the power of eternity, to create our extraordinarily fruitful lives today, we must first connect with God through Jesus. We must first accept the invitation.
So, what say you?
- What are the first five things that come to mind when you think of eternity? And why?
- How has knowing God the Father and His Son Jesus empowered you to create a new life?
 Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 728). New York: United Bible Societies.