We are told our belief in God and Jesus Christ ensures us eternal life in heaven. This is a wonderful assurance to anticipate! However, you may be surprised to learn that the “eternal life” in Scripture is not what you think. Why are we waiting for a future event?
Certainly, it is a given fact that everyone eventually leaves this life and enters the reality of eternity. Since our Bibles reference eternity and eternal life somewhat interchangeably, how can we understand the difference?
We note in previous writings how the “heavens” of scripture do not really refer to eternity, but speak of elevated life and authority in the earth. God actually invites and wants us to partake of a heavenly quality of life right now—while living on this earth.
Scripture records God’s interaction with us and His instructions for this life. Despite regular perceptions, it does not describe eternity. We will find our Bible improperly uses the word eternity when Scripture is actually speaking of an enduring “quality of life” available to us today.
While living in this earth, our finite minds are not able to grasp the full reality of eternity: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (a).
History records hundreds of thousands of near death experiences where people see houses, trees, and mountains, giving the impression created natural things may be in eternity. Most accounts note a point of no return that once crossed; returning to Earth was not possible. These events verify our physical death is not the end of life but we enter a time of transformation as natural perceptions begin changing from temporal to eternal.
Scripture provides at least three clear examples of such transitions.
• When Israel came out of slavery, they went through a time of transition which involved letting go of former perceptions while they learned to accept the new (b).
• Following the resurrection of Jesus, perceptions of him changed from a man of God to the Spirit of God (c).
• The newness of life God offers us today involves transforming what we think and believe (d).
The “eternal” quality of life God offers in Scripture involves transforming what we think and believe.
Ongoing and Enduring
While our Bible allows us to read about God and see the results of interaction with Him, or lack of, some understanding remains veiled because of translations. The perceptions and beliefs of translators tend to affect their choice of words.
One example is found in the word “eternal.” The Greek aionios means; constant, ongoing. It speaks of ages of time, as ongoing and enduring. The Greek appears 67 times in Scripture and is translated in the KJV 42 times as eternal and 25 times as everlasting. While our ‘spirit of life’ comes from the Ever Living One, all God’s offspring and children have beginnings. So the idea of eternal (before time or without days) is inappropriate.
Another example is the word “life.” Three different Greek words are translated as life; bios, psuche, zoe. However, each of these Greek words identify different kinds of life; body, soul, and spirit. The Greek zoe speaks of spiritual life. Since every one’s spirit continues by returning to God (e) and Scripture is God’s instruction for life in this world, what is aionios zoe, eternal life?
Clues are provided in the adjectives Scripture connects to zoe – spirit: light of zoe, word of zoe, bread of zoe, river of zoe, water of zoe, ways of zoe, inherit zoe, newness of zoe, more abundant zoe, crown of zoe, and everlasting zoe. These adjectives identify an elevated heavenly quality of life!
God’s instruction for life in this world identifies an elevated heavenly quality of life!
Eternal Quality of Life
When we read “eternal life,” we should think “enduring quality of life” which is produced by our “spirit to Spirit” fellowship with God. Some of the qualities of aionios zoe are called the fruits of spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (f).
Jesus is recorded saying; “This ‘is’ eternal life (quality of life)…to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (g). To experientially know God ‘is’ eternal life. John’s Epistle adds; God has given us eternal life (quality of life)…may know that you have eternal life (h). We can interact with God right now and experience the countless benefits of an enduring spiritual quality of life today.
A rich young ruler asked Jesus; “What can I do to obtain (inherit, enter, have, experience) this enduring quality of life?” Jesus is recorded answering the question with a three prong approach; “believe, keep the Commandments, love God and love your neighbor” (i). These attitudes and actions produce enduring qualities as we grow into a greater richness of God’s intentions for us!
To experientially know and interact with God right now ‘is’ eternal life.
Degrees of Fullness In This Life
Any degree of fullness in this life develops daily, here a little and there a little, line upon line, and precept upon precept (j). God graciously leads and guides us through our everyday difficulties (k) because He is patient, compassionate and longsuffering (l). As God’s influence becomes more complete in us today, it can be even more so tomorrow.
God’s light and love is a force that turns and transforms hearts into more Godly expressions. Jesus instructs us to be merciful to the tares growing among the wheat in God’s Kingdom, lest we unknowingly harm wheat (m). We want to realize the Kingdom of Heaven in the earth includes contrary forces ‘and’ people still in transition of becoming wheat. Isn’t this what salvation is all about, transforming contrary tares into wheat and goats into sheep?
Whoever drinks…shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (n).
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (o).
As God’s influence becomes more complete in us today, it can be even more so tomorrow.
Elevated Union with God
The Eternal One personally interacts with us during this life and shares eternal values to elevate and improve our quality of life: “Those who ‘wait’ (Hebrew qavah – are bound by twisting) for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (p). When “bound” to God, we are empowered to arise and thrive!
The quality of our life, though not perfect, improves when we walk in an elevated union with our heavenly Father. By allowing God-in-Christ to give us the bread and water of heaven – spiritual nutrition; we cease to be starving and thirsting people (q). What a difference we find as the eternal, enduring quality of life God offers us, transforms our daily lives.
Our quality of life improves when we walk in an elevated union with God.
a) 1 Corinthians 2:9; b) Exodus 13:17; c) Acts 2:36; 20:26-29; Luke 24:15, 29-31; d) Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; e) Ecclesiasties 12:7; f) Galatians 5:22-25; g) John 17:3; 1John 5:20; h) 1John 5:11, 13; i) Matthew 19:16; Mark 10:17-19; Luke 10:25-27; 18:18-20; j) Isaiah 28:10; k) John 16:33; l) James 3:17; Galatians 5:22; m) Matthew 13:24-30; n) John 4:10-14; o) James 3:17; p) Isaiah 40:31; q) John 6:33-36, 47-48