You have likely heard John 3:16 before – perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible today. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” When I heard that verse as a kid, I saw it as personal fire insurance. If I believed in Him (Jesus), I would not perish and have eternal life. I learned that perishing meant to go to Hell. So believing in Jesus protected me from going to Hell and instead having eternal life.
I lived for many years as if eternal life was just like a home fire insurance policy. No one spends a lot of time reading and reflecting on a fire insurance policy. We don’t pull it out and read it to the family. We don’t say goodbye to our loved ones in the morning by saying, “Remember we have a fire insurance policy. So have a good day!” We pay for such a policy to protect against a devastating loss that may one day come upon us. But apart from practicing normal fire prevention measures, we mostly forget about the policy.
The same can be true with the eternal life promised by Jesus in John 3:16. I treated the John 3:16 verse like a transaction with Jesus. I believe in you. You protect me from perishing when I die and provide me with eternal life. When I thought of eternal life, I primarily pictured a paradise like an unending vacation in the Caribbean. So I equated eternal life with my picture of heaven.
But as life went on, I read other parts of the Bible that said something very different about eternal life. Here are some examples.
John 4:14 - But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 5:24 - Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
John 10:28 - I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
John 17:3 - And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
1 Timothy 6:12 – Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 John 5:11 - And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
These verses talk about eternal life as a present reality. It is something we can experience and taste today while we look forward to experiencing it fully in the future. John 17:3 is key. Eternal life involves knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ. The more we know the only true God and the Son, the more we experience eternal life now.
This paints a completely different picture of heaven and eternal life. We imagine our best vacation or happiest times on earth. Yet knowing God intimately and seeing Jesus face to face will be infinitely sweeter than anything we can imagine. It is possible to experience this in some form today. 1 Timothy 6:12 – “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” We can start living now in that eternal life by going deeper and drawing closer to God – even when its -30 in the midst of a pandemic.
Let us taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). Let us take a firmer hold on the eternal life to which God has called us.