What does it mean to have eternal life?

If you ask ten people on the street what eternal life is, they would probably all answer something along the lines of living forever.  If you ask ten people at church, they might add that this is what you get when you pray to accept Jesus.  But when the Bible talks about eternal life it means something far more than just living forever.

There is a different perspective.  For many people life just isn’t good enough to consider extending it for eternity.  The only hope for them is to have a substantially different life.  They don’t look forward so much to living forever, but to living in privilege.  Streets of gold, mansions, the wonders and beauties of Heaven are promises toward which many people look.  In fact, if you were to ask church people to describe Heaven, many of them would tell about something much like this life, only a lot better.  Heaven is where you get all the ice cream you want.  Heaven is where bad things are not allowed.  Heaven is only for good people.  If eternal life doesn’t offer something better than this life, some wouldn’t want it.

But we may be misunderstanding the whole idea of eternal life.  I think we would all agree that things would have to get a lot better in order for us to choose to live this life forever.  But let’s say that it does get better.  Let’s say that in Heaven you and I will get everything we want.  Would that really be Heaven?  Is there life in getting everything I want?  Or does real life require some striving?  Is success real and valued when it comes all the time?  And could any of us be trusted if we got everything we want?  Wouldn’t that kind of life be a narcissistic dream?

No, eternal life is something more.  I think we cheat ourselves and misrepresent the Lord and His gift when we think of eternal life only in a future and glorious sense.  The Heaven we were taught about may be true in many regards, but it is not the whole story.

Over the next week, I will be sharing some thoughts about eternal life.  You may find them challenging, but if you understand, I think you will find them to be very encouraging—even “life” changing!

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Filed under Relationship, Theology and mystery

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