I once had an employee ask me what my most important teaching was. I didn’t know how to answer. I think they’re all important. Everything the Lord has shown me works together with other truths to make a whole. I said I couldn’t single out just one.
This man had been miraculously saved from a cocaine addiction, and he was listening to my teachings day and night. He wanted to get to the bottom of everything, or to the core of Christianity. So, he finally asked, “If you only had one opportunity to minister to a person, what would you teach?”
I still had to think for a moment, but quickly came up with an answer. I would share the meaning of true eternal life. That may not sound very profound or even foundational, but that’s because most people don’t know what the Bible means when it talks about eternal life.
Someone might say, “Eternal life is living forever.” But that’s not it. No one ceases to exist when they die. Everyone lives forever in either heaven or hell. “Well then, eternal life must be living forever in heaven instead of hell.” That’s not it either.
John 3:36 says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
Everlasting life is a present-tense possession. It’s not something that begins when we get to heaven. There are a number of scriptures that speak of everlasting life as something we possess in this life (John 4:14; 5:24; 6:27; 6:40, 47).
So, the question remains, “What is everlasting life?” This is very important. John 3:16 says this is the reason that Jesus came.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Many people have mistakenly thought that the goal of salvation is the forgiveness of sin to avoid hell. That’s not what John 3:16 is saying. Sure, not perishing in hell is an important part of what Jesus came to do. He accomplished that by paying the debt for all our sins, past, present, and even the ones we haven’t committed yet.
If that’s all there is to salvation, that’s more than any of us deserve, and it would still be worth preaching. But salvation is much, much more than getting our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven instead of hell.
Let me say it this way. If all you did was ask Jesus to forgive your sins so you wouldn’t perish in hell, then you are missing out on eternal life.
Sin was a barrier that stood between us and a holy God. It had to be removed. That’s exactly what Jesus did, and He did it well. Sin is no longer standing between God and man (2 Cor. 5:17). But to what does that entitle us?
Sure, it entitles us to live forever with God in heaven. That’s wonderful. But there are tremendous benefits right here, right now, on earth. Eternal life is one of those benefits.
Jesus defined eternal life for us in John 17:3. That verse says,
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Eternal life is knowing God. You may be disappointed with that definition. You think you know God and you still aren’t satisfied. You want there to be something more. The key lies in understanding what the Bible means by this word “know.”
This was speaking of much more than just intellectual knowledge. It can be seen in hundreds of Bible scriptures, like, “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain” (Gen. 4:1). Adam didn’t just know Eve intellectually. That won’t produce children. He had an intimate, personal experience with her. This was speaking of a knowing between a man and a woman in the most intimate way possible.
Likewise, when Jesus said eternal life was knowing God, He was speaking of having an intimate, close, personal relationship with God. That’s awesome!
Many people believe Jesus died to forgive their sins, but they still don’t have a close, personal, intimate relationship with their Father God. They think that is reserved for heaven. They are content to muddle through life singing songs about how, when we all get to heaven, what a day that will be.
That is not to take anything away from heaven, but we are supposed to have eternal life (close, intimate, personal relationship with God our Father and Jesus Christ His Son) right now. It’s not “pie in the sky by and by” but rather “steak on your plate while you wait. Continue Reading