Eternal life

Today, let’s take a look at Jesus’ references to “eternal life” through the gospel of John. (John 3:15-16 & 36; 4:36; 5:24; 6:47 & 54; 10:28; 11:25.) Notice Jesus’ consistent perspective throughout these verses:

Eternal life is a present reality.

Before turning our attention to why Jesus refers to eternal life as a present reality, let’s clarify a couple things before we go any further.

  1. The present reality of eternal life does not diminish its “eternal” nature. Eternal life simply begins much sooner than we sometimes imagine.
  2. The present reality of eternal life doesn’t imply that the way things are today will be the way that they’ll be forever. As 1 Corinthians 15, there is a forthcoming transformation. Life will be MUCH different when the kingdom is fully manifest. Death will be swallowed up by life. Mortality will give way to immortality.

In light of God’s story, the present reality of eternal life should make sense to us. And so it should be no surprise that this same perspective is consistent throughout Jesus’ teaching –- particularly in his parables.

Remember Jesus’ parable in Luke 19: The citizens and servants defined themselves in the kingdom BEFORE the King returned. Jesus taught his disciples that the trajectory of their lives based on their priorities and allegiance would naturally extend into his kingdom. In other words, their everyday lives were already eternally significant. The same is true for us today:

  • Eternal life is a natural extension of the lives we are now living. So Jesus refers to it as a present reality for those who have come to know him.
  • One day, the veil will be taken away, and we’ll see things more clearly, but we’ll still be us, and the reality in which we find ourselves will be the same that it’s always been.
  • Though his reign is not yet fully manifest, we are already living when Jesus is King. We’re already defining ourselves within his reign.
  • The more we come to know & serve Jesus and to live in fellowship with him, the more we’re living an eternal kind of life (John 17:3).

So again, what now?

Let’s live well. Let’s be faithful to Jesus in our relationships. In our finances. In our time management. In our allegiance. Let’s embrace Jesus as our Lord and King here & now. And then when the day comes and he returns to finalize his victory, we’ll find ourselves quite at home as we transition into his eternal kingdom.

(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)

Resurrection Life

Resurrection was central in Paul’s vision of new life. Nowhere is this more obvious than in two of Paul’s most famous passages: Romans 6-8 and 1 Corinthians 15. These passages contain some of the most foundational and often quoted verses in the Christian faith.

Romans 6-8
Romans 6:1-23. Chapter 6 begins with some thoughts on baptism. Two major ideas emerge. First, at baptism, the believer identifies with the death of Jesus Christ in order to “rise” and walk in newness of life here & now (6:4). This newness of life becomes a present and defining reality. Second, this newness of life is defined by anticipation – not of being dead in heaven – but of a coming resurrection just like Jesus (6:5). This present reality – newness of life in anticipation of resurrection – constitutes Paul’s vision of life in Romans 6-8.

Now let’s take a moment to point out the obvious: Our bodies (in their current states) are in desperate need of a divine overhaul. But nevertheless, we – BODIES AND ALL – are destined for resurrection life in the New Creation. Although there will be transition and transformation…

the new life we have begun in Jesus Christ will never come to an end. And when we step fully into eternity, it will be a natural extension of the lives we’re now living.

So when Paul says we enter “newness of life” at baptism, he wasn’t kidding. And what has begun will never end!

Now is our time to live accordingly. Now is the time to set our bodies (including our daily habits and rhythms of living) apart unto God in worship (6:12-19). Now is the time to establish a trajectory in our lives before Jesus that we want to carry us into eternity.

As Paul continues in 6:15-23, you can almost hear him exhorting his friends, “Don’t be naive. You’re doing SOMETHING with your body. You’re serving SOMETHING. You’re obedient to SOMEONE’s desires.” The only question is what? Whose?

As Christians, this is why we have “new” life. Things are not the same as they used to be. We are learning to live wisely in light of what lies ahead. We are serving God here & now with everything we’ve got. We’re living as a people whose lives before their King will never come to an end.

Romans 8:11-30. After working through some realities of resurrection life through chapter 7, Paul reiterates and expounds on resurrection as the centerpiece of his vision for new life in chapter 8:

  • You’re not going to stay dead. Your BODY is not going to stay dead. You will experience the same resurrection as Jesus (Romans 8:11).
  • Christians do not rightfully yearn for death and heaven. We only endure death as we (along with all of creation) await and anticipate “the redemption of our bodies” – resurrection and renewal (Romans 8:23).
  • Resurrection is the hope in which we are saved in and through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:24).

1 Corinthians 15
After looking at Romans 6-8, perhaps you’re thinking…

Wow. If this resurrection stuff is for real, that’s some pretty good news. People should probably know about this.

Well, you’d be in good company. This is precisely what Paul thought. So let’s turn to and read the most explicit “gospel” passage in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 15:1-57. Here is Paul’s brief summary of the Good News:

  • Christ died for our sins in accordance with God’s story (1 Corinthians 15:3).
  • Jesus was buried (body and all)(v.4).
  • Jesus was resurrected (body and all) in accordance with God’s story (v.4).
  • Jesus spent time with more than 500 people after his resurrection before ascending into heaven (v.5-8).
  • Jesus was the first fruit of resurrection life that will one day be shared with all his people (v.20-23).

Paul understood the entirety of God’s story. He recognized what had taken place in and through Jesus. He knew Jesus wasn’t an aberration. He wasn’t a means for people to escape from this fallen world. He was God’s ultimate victory. Jesus brought redemption. He guaranteed restoration and renewal for all creation. He defeated death in his resurrection. And some day soon, his victory will be shared by all of God’s people! This is the news Paul was announcing. This is Paul’s vision of new life.

Let’s continue on through chapter 15 for a few more takeaways:

  • We’re not going to slowly evolve into resurrection life. This will be no human accomplishment. Our hope does not lie in science or medicine, despite their best attempts to prolong the inevitable breakdown of our present, mortal bodies. After all, mortal “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (v.50). Our hope lies elsewhere…
  • There will come a change. Our perishable bodies will put on the imperishable. Our mortal bodies will take on immortality! (v.51-53)
  • Death (not just sin) will be overcome by Jesus’ victory. (v.54-57)
  • Resurrection life is a present, life-shaping reality for Jesus’ people. Because resurrection lies ahead, we press ahead in service of our King Jesus in the confidence that our labor is never in vain (v.58).

So what now?

Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)

Son of Man

Most Christians know that the incarnation of Jesus is a big deal…for some reason. Most know that he came to show us how to love others. Most know that he came to die for our sins. But our understanding of the significance of Jesus’ life and ministry tends to fade out quickly beyond his compassion & crucifixion and our corresponding forgiveness.

But biblically speaking, Jesus didn’t step out of heaven just to get himself crucified so we could all go back to heaven. During his earthly ministry, Jesus proclaimed and manifested good news that went far beyond “Be forgiven. Be good. Be with me when you’re dead.”

As you might guess based on the amount of Scripture before and after the gospels, Jesus became human to enter into a story that began long before his incarnation. Much had already transpired. Much needed to be done. Much was in store for humanity and all of creation. So when the time was just right…

the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.
John 1:14 (MSG)

To understand the significance of the incarnation, let’s go back a few years…

The Beginning. Beyond the evolution debate and Sunday school lessons for the kiddos, there is a tendency in church life to move past Genesis 1-2 without much thought. But what if we slowed down and actually paid attention to what was happening in Creation? What was God setting in motion? What were God’s original intentions for humanity? And most pointedly:

If Jesus is the REDEEMER, what scenario is he redeeming?

God’s Purposes for Humanity. According to Genesis 1-2, God’s creative intentions for human life included three intertwined elements:

  • The blessing of God. On the heels of their creation, God’s first act was to bless humanity (Gen. 1:28). He intended humanity to live as a blessed people before him. This blessing defined God’s original context for humanity.
  • The knowledge of God. Humanity was also created to live in the knowledge of God. The fullness of this divine intention does not emerge in the creation narrative until near its end. Genesis 3:8-10 reveals that people knew God in a manner hard for us to imagine: Adam and Eve recognized the sound of God walking in the garden with them and (it seems) audibly heard God calling to them. God’s intention was never to be separated from his people. His plan was to dwell with humanity amidst a whole creation without the veil that now lies between the heavenly and earthly realms of creation.
  • The reign of God. God chose to reign over his creation through his governors – men & women. As his image-bearers, they would reflect his character and beauty throughout creation as they governed it on his behalf (Genesis 1:26-27). Through this divine-human cooperative effort, all creation was to continue to grow and develop in a state of God’s blessing (Genesis 1:28-30).

The Fall. When humanity rebelled against God’s order and purposes for creation, the fallout was catastrophic. We colluded in the dominion of evil. All creation became subject to the consequences of our selfishness & rebellion. God’s blessed creation was marred by the curse of sin and evil. The knowledge of God faded. A veil came to separate the heavenly and earthly realms of creation. And people forgot what it was like to walk with God.

The Son of Man. It was into this dark scene that Jesus came. Into God’s story. Into the midst of fallen humanity. Into the midst of a broken creation. The Redeemer came. The Son of Man moved into the neighborhood.

For God’s story to get back on track, humanity needed redemption. We rebelled. We failed. But Jesus didn’t. In him, we (humanity) were faithful to God’s creative intentions. As the Son of Man, Jesus stepped into God’s story to REPRESENT and REDEEM humanity:

  • The blessing of God. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, all creation has been blessed and presses forward on a trajectory toward complete restoration and renewal.
  • The knowledge of God. In Jesus, God was revealed and made known (John 14:9 & Colossians 1:19).
  • The reign of God. Jesus submitted himself to the purposes and reign of the Father – and became the King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus’ humanity was not lost on the New Testament authors. They were highly aware of God’s story and Jesus’ place within it. For example, notice how the following passages renew the human story in and through Jesus:

  • Temptation (Matthew 4 & Luke 4). The ministry of Jesus is inaugurated in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) by Jesus’ baptism and subsequent temptation. But unlike Adam and Eve, who succumbed to temptation, Jesus remained faithfully submitted to God. The human story was renewed.
  • The Garden (John 18-20). Near the end of his gospel, John carefully echoes the Creation narrative just as God’s story turned from disaster to the dawning of the New Creation. The ultimate culmination of sin and evil at the cross began as Jesus and his disciples entered THE GARDEN (John 18:1). Then, as the New Creation dawned in Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus was mistaken to be the GARDENER (John 20:15). So, John subtly reminds us – Creation fell at the hands of humanity in the garden. And in another garden, it was redeemed.
  • like God” (Philippians 2:5-11). Where Adam rebelled and grasped at the possibility to be like God, Jesus faithfully submitted himself and laid down his life.
  • Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). In two of the most direct Jesus/Adam comparisons, Paul explicitly names Jesus as a “new” Adam. Whereas Adam set humanity on a trajectory of sin and death, through Jesus came righteousness, resurrection, and renewal.

Humanity was created with a central role in Creation. After the fall, we needed redeemed if God’s story was to get back on track. So the Redeemer came as the Son of Man. As a man, Jesus faithfully represented humanity. Through him, God’s people look forward to the fullness of our own redemption when Jesus returns and we take our places under him: sharing God’s blessing and likeness everywhere, living in the unabated knowledge of God, and reigning over the New Creation.

(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)