The idea many Christians have about eternal life is to live forever in heaven. Eternal life to them has only to do with after life. So they live with this misunderstanding and miss out what eternal life is really about.
The good news is that eternal life has been defined by Jesus himself, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one you sent, Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). In essence, ETERNAL LIFE IS KNOWING GOD.
One may say, “But I know God; I have eternal life.” That depends on one’s understanding of the word ‘know’. Many Christians who claim to know God, do not KNOW him but KNOW ABOUT him.
There is a specific meaning the bible has about the word ‘know’ in passages like in Genesis 4:1, “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain.” This was not about a man having an intellectual knowledge about his wife. It was about having a personal and intimate experience with her. This knowing is the most intimate way possible a man can get to know a woman.
To know God as John 17:3 expresses is to have a personal and intimate relationship with God. A relationship whose end is to dwell in God. Eternal life therefore has to do with knowing God in the here and now and not just waiting to occupy heaven.
Sometimes when I look at how the early followers of the way lived as Christians and how we presently display our Christianity, I cannot help seeing a huge difference. The early Christians had such knowledge of God, such intimate relationship with him that it was contagious. They did not wait to start a relationship with God in heaven but with their relationship with God on earth, they worked wonders. Consider how much they impacted the world then without internet, phone, radio, television. They did not even have a printing press where tracts could be produced in their thousands. Today we have all these and how much impact are we making in our world presently? Why is that?
The early Christians knew God in such a way that they welcomed martyrdom as an honour. Some praised God when they were being burned at stake. Today at the slightest suffering we ask, “God, where are you?” Rather than read our experience meaningfully and prayerfully discern how God lovingly wants to draw us closer through it, we rebel. Such is the attitude of one without a relationship with God even if the person lives in the church. The success preaching we hear often today does not encourage us to go deep in the practice of our faith.
Four ways to eternal life are:
- Christ: Jesus says, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30) and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Jesus is the complete and final way to know God or in order words to eternal life. He is God in human flesh.
- Church: The Church is the body of Christ and through which people come to know God.
- The members of the Church are bound together by supernatural life communicated to them by Christ through the sacraments (John 15:5). Christ is the center and source of life to Whom all are united, and Who endows each one with gifts fitting him for his position in the body (John 15:7-12). These graces through which each is equipped for his work, form it into an organized whole, whose parts are knit together as though by a system of ligaments and joints.
- Through them, too, the Church has its growth and increase, growing in extension as it spreads through the world, and intensively as the individual Christian develops in himself the likeness of Christ (John 15:13-15).1
- Scripture: This is the Word of God. In it we find God’s message which is eternally relevant.
- Experience: You do not see God’s hand in your life when you look forward; you see it when you look backward. Consider the experiences you have been through and you will find God’s providence in them. All the high and low points in your life have contributed to forming you. If you allow it, your daily experience will keep forming you so that you know God the more and reflect him the more.
I have only mentioned four ways and it would be naïve of me to say they are the only ways. Why don’t you add to the list by making use of the comment section below.
- New Advent, Mystical Body of the Church, newadvent.org/cathen/10663a.htm, Accessed March 19, 2016.