Tag Archives: Heaven

Not Just Living Forever

The first thing we need to understand and remember is that the gift of God is not the ability to live forever.  In fact, by almost any definition of living most people would give, even those who go to hell will live forever.  So the Christian message becomes, “Come to Jesus so you can live forever in happiness or you will go to hell and live forever in torment.”  (Of course, this is just what some are teaching.)  Notice that the good news is about the quality, rather than the extent, of living.

And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  Matthew 25:46


Now, before anyone writes, I know that the Scripture often puts eternal life in connection with the future, particularly the afterlife.  So I want to be sure to acknowledge that sense of the term, but there is so much more.  When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, she was puzzled that He spoke to her.  He had asked her for water.  But Jesus used her question to make a point.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10


The gift of God must be something more than living forever, right?  In fact, it seems to be directly related to the person of Jesus.  This isn’t the only verse, in fact it gets better.

…the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.   1 John 1:2-3


The eternal life “which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”  What was that?  How could the disciples see living forever?  They didn’t—they saw Jesus!  Jesus is the eternal life that was with the Father and came to us.  Eternal life is a person.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 1 John 5:20


“This is the true God and eternal life.”  Eternal life is a person!  Jesus is our eternal life.

Chew on that for a while…

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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