June 6th 2010

Eternal Life

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
John 5:24 (NIV) 

We often think of eternal life as something God will give us in the future. But Jesus said that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood have already entered into eternal life. Eating and drinking Jesus’ flesh and blood is a reference to believing Christians, those who in faith partake of the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. And Jesus says they already have eternal life.

We can read Jesus’ statement in John 6:54, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Being raised up at the last day is something promised to those who already possess eternal life! Maybe we tend to limit our concept of eternal life to the future because the words ‘eternal life’ sound like something we don’t yet have. After all, we’re still mortal, and we know we’re going to die before we receive immortality. But eternal life and immortality are not the same thing.

Immortality refers to our physical bodies. At the resurrection, our mortal bodies will be changed to immortal. But eternal life—or the life of the age to come—is something we entered the moment we became believers. The Greek words John uses in quoting Jesus, aionios zoe, are translated literally: ‘the life of the age to come’. When we became believers, we passed from death to life. We entered into the new life, the life of the age to come.

That life, which is a life of joy and self-sacrificial love in the power of God, will fill the universe when Jesus returns. And it has already begun in his believers. The kingdom of heaven is already present in the world in the lives of those who have entered it. Not perfectly, of course. But the truth is we are already his, and as Paul says: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

It doesn’t matter how far from God we have been. It doesn’t matter how vile our sins have been. When we believe the word of God, the good news is that God redeems sinners through his Son, that we enter into the fresh, new life of his eternal kingdom.

Jesus died for you and me. And on the third day, when he rose, he destroyed the power of sin and death. In him, together with all the saints, we possess the greatest hope imaginable. Because he lives, we live too!

Holy Father, thank you for eternal life. For now, it is a matter of belief for Christians, because we don’t see it—can’t see it. But, when we look at ourselves through your eyes, we know that we have eternal life, because you have told us so. And we believe you—that is faith!

Study by Joseph Tkach

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