Perhaps the most famous Bible verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Jesus said this during a conversation with a higher-up Jewish leader, Nicodemus. He believed Jesus was a teacher especially empowered by God to perform miracles (John 3:2).
Jesus informed Nic he needed to believe a lot more than that if he wanted to “enter the kingdom of God” and have “eternal life” (John 3:5, 15). Namely, Nicodemus must be “born again” and “believe in [Jesus]” (John 3:3, 15).
Nicodemus didn’t understand the born again reference isn’t a physical rebirth but a spiritual birth the Holy Spirit enables (John 3:4-6). When we are born again by the Spirit, we are enabled to believe Jesus is more than a teacher and a miracle worker; we are enabled to understand Jesus is God’s Son, given on our behalves to save us from the eternal condemnation our sins have earned us (John 3:16-18).
Given the context, then, it is right to interpret “eternal life” in John 3:16 as most of us typically do: heaven, a never-ending, blessed existence in the presence of God with all the other believers who have finished their earthly lives.
It is right, but it is incomplete.
Unfortunately, a lot of Christians who believe Jesus is God’s Son and has saved us from our sins understand that to mean the only real difference between us and non-believers is we have the hope of heaven one day.
A lot of Christians’ day-to-day lives remain largely unaffected by the fact that we are saved. Salvation is more of a future thing for us; when we die and are judged, we won’t have to pay for our sins because Jesus already did that.
Don’t get me wrong, that is a huge deal for which we are thankful, but, for most of us, that doesn’t particularly influence our here and now.
Because we don’t understand “eternal life” is much more than a blessed future in heaven.
Jesus didn’t just use the phrase in John 3:16; He expanded on the concept in 17:3, which reads, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Jesus didn’t say, “Now this is eternal life: that they may go to heaven one day.” No, eternal life is more than that for Jesus. Eternal life includes going to heaven one day, but it doesn’t start then.
Jesus also didn’t say eternal life is that they will know God and Jesus or that they may know God and Jesus one day. No, eternal life proper is knowing God and Jesus now AND forever in heaven.
Eternal life, then, starts the moment we are born again and believe Jesus is God’s Son who saves us from our sins.
Every day we can know God and Jesus more and more. And because they are infinite, we can live eternally in heaven with them, continuously learning more about them, and never exhaust the subjects!
That’s an exciting prospect–forever learning more and more about God and Jesus–but the whole point of this post is WE CAN START NOW!
You guessed it: by reading the Bible.
Jesus goes on to say in the same chapter that God’s Word is truth (17:17). When we read about God and Jesus in the scriptures, we can trust we are learning the truth about them. And by doing so, we know them more and more.
Forget about living your best life now. Open your Bible and live your eternal life now. (Which just so happens to be your best life, FYI).