The witness that a Christian bears is that, through the work of the crucified Christ and the twofold testimony of the Spirit, he or she now possesses eternal life. This life is both a gift from God and is located in Jesus himself. But how can we describe it?
Some focus on the word ‘eternal’ and limit its meaning to the idea of endlessness. Of course, it will never end, and that is wonderful to know. But the meaning of the adjective ‘eternal’ includes much more. We can think of it in this way. If the words were ‘human life’, how would we describe the life intended? We would produce a list of all the features that compose authentic human life. Or if the words were ‘Scottish life’, we would have a list detailing the many qualities that compose our national existence. We would not say that Scottish life is only found in a certain geographical area of the world. In a far higher sense, eternal life is far more than endless existence. It also includes an infinite range of spiritual blessings. So what is eternal life like?
To begin with, we can make some observations about how this life comes to us. First, it is the type of life that God experiences – God gives out of himself when he gives life to us. This means that it is spiritual life. Second, the place where God has located this life is in his Son. In this regard Jesus is like a secure bank where spiritual riches are stored safely. Third, Jesus conveys all features of this God-given life to his people. This is true today and will be the case in the new heavens and earth as well. By the Spirit, Jesus gives life continually to his people.
What makes our daily existence into life? Many answers could be given, but here are five suggestions: security from danger, social interaction or living in a community marked by mutual love, freedom to develop, a sense of peace and satisfaction, and joy from future prospects as well as from current experiences. Do Christians have these features of life day by day? Do they enjoy Life?
Security from danger. Is there an enemy that can prevent them having eternal life? Their enemies are sin, the world and the devil. There will be spiritual battles, even wounds, but no one or nothing can take them out of God’s grip. They have security, even although they are not yet in heaven.
Social interaction or living in a community marked by mutual love. The community of which they are members is the family of God. In this world, there are occasional fall-outs within the family, yet in the main it is marked by brotherly love expressed in shared prayer and care. Further, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit also live within this community and spread God’s love throughout it.
Freedom to develop: there are some countries in which citizens are not free to go where they wish or improve their own knowledge. In the spiritual country in which God’s people live, they can go where they wish within God’s inheritance and extend their understanding of God’s divine provisions and intentions, with Jesus himself as their guide.
Sense of peace and satisfaction: This awareness of security, experience of love and opportunities for spiritual development bring about within their souls peace and contentment. They are experiencing what they are made for as the peace of God is given to them by Jesus.
Joy from future prospects as well as from current experiences. In addition they receive from God, through his Word, great assurances about the future. As they scan the distant horizon, using the telescopes of God’s promises, they see a future bright with the glory of God. This expectation, combined with their present enjoyment, leads to joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Those five features are known in a measure in this world, and will be experienced in their fullness in the eternal state. This life is given to believers in Jesus. But note the awful straightforwardness of John’s words in verse 12: ‘Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.’ It’s as simple as that, and one day, when Jesus returns, the division will be even clearer than it is today.