Q&R: Eternal Life – now or later? Brad Jersak
The more I experience this beautiful gospel, the more I feel that it’s all about NOW, the present. And trying to know the Father (eternal life) more and more and experience His love for me more and more as well as living out this Love so that others around me could get to know Him and His love for them. What are your thoughts on this?
This is ESPECIALLY true in the Gospel of John where both ‘perishing’ and ‘eternal life’ are NOT treated as afterlife concerns (heaven and hell). In John’s Gospel, Jesus comes to a world that is already perishing now. Christ comes because his children are in a downward spiral of self-destructive and death-dealing ways. I mean, watch the news, right? And he says, this IS the judgment: that people love the darkness (moral darkness, spiritual darkness, corruption, etc.) rather than the Light (and life of God’s love). So he comes into the human condition, undergoes it with us, and offers us eternal life defined as knowing him. Now. The eternal quality of life, the life that doesn’t corrode, the life that is abundant with meaning … it is knowing God and his Son here and now. Our existence here matters.
The heaven-or-hell-when-you-die message I’ve heard so often was that the only thing that matters is that you make the right decision about Jesus in this life, then you die, then eternity. Say the right prayer now, then do your best to make it through to the end so you can pass through the pearly gates. No. Your existence matters now. Today, will you orient your life towards light, life, and love … or will you continue to love the darkness and the downward spiral of perishing that results (not just someday, but this day).
I am not very interested in the “end times” as such, and neither do I find the book Revelations in the Bible very appealing. I do have friends that feel that we need to at least be prepared spiritually and that Revelations would assist us with this… I have some question marks on this, and to be honest even though I know nothing about Revelations, I would lean to the side that I think this was something that has already happened and not necessarily something that is still to come…?
I think your instincts on this are largely correct. The Book of Revelation was written to seven churches about events that would be happening in their world and in their time. For them, the fulfillment of Revelation was “at hand” and “must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1-3). It was not so much a revelation of “the end of time” but more like “the end of the world as they knew it.” A lot of chaos around the Roman empire and the city of Jerusalem, etc. It is not a guidebook for the great zombie apocalypse or imaginary rapture.
But Revelation is of great service to us and to every generation in at least two ways:1. It is a call to worship Christ as Lord against all competing worldly claims to lordship.2. It is a call to faithfulness in the face of either persecution by the empire or seduction by the world system. In that sense, Christ-followers continually face those social pressures to part from the Jesus Way and conform to ‘the beast.’Revelation is written in cosmic imagery so that we remember to view life in this world from heaven’s point of view, with Christ’s victory as our North Star. Revelation calls us to eternal life know under the banner of “Jesus is Lord” and to turn from what Jesus reveals is hostile to the light or perishable in the end, and to follow the Lamb wherever he goes (Revelation 14:4)