Jesus offers us an eternal life that is very different from the one we usually imagine.
An Eternal Relationship
Often, people think of eternal life as a state we enter after we die. But Jesus tells us that eternal life is an eternal union with God that begins the instant the Spirit of God comes to dwell in our hearts. He calls it being born of the Spirit. That miraculous event occurs when we:
- recognize our state of rebellion against God and choose to return wholeheartedly to him to live in his Kingdom (the Bible calls this repentance);
- recognize we are separated from him because of our sin;
- receive the perfect cleansing for all our sin won for us by Jesus, thanking him for this incredible gift;
- and trust that he will come dwell in us by his Spirit, who will guide us and empower us to obey God.
Stated simply, we decide to accept his invitation to be reconciled with God and be united to him through his Spirit.
A Retroactive Union
As soon as Jesus comes to live in us by his Spirit, we become God’s child forever. Our Father sees us as having died for our sins when Jesus died for our sins, as having risen from the dead when Jesus rose from the dead, and as being seated in God’s throne room with Jesus when he ascended to heaven. He sees us as blameless, pure, and holy — not because we have lived that way, but because that is what Jesus is like, and we are now identified with him. All condemnation, guilt, and shame are washed away.
And because we are eternally united with Jesus through his Spirit, his moral perfection becomes our ultimate destiny.
A New Perspective on Life and Death
The moment we are united to the resurrected Jesus, our inner self passes from death to eternal life to become a “new self”. But the part of us affected by sin, our “old self”, still holds us back until we die and leave this sinful world. During the rest of our time on earth, we are learning to say “no” to what that “old us” wants us to do and to say “yes” to what our “new us” wants.
In other words, we are learning to trust God and do what he wants in his strength. And that takes time, and basically, a total rethink of who we are, of who God is, and of why we are here on this planet (in case you were wondering why Christians on earth are imperfect). Every time we trust God enough to obey him in his strength, we discover that it is true: his way is far better than Satan's!
- He does give us the power to forgive all who harm us, to love our enemy and do good to those who wish us ill.
- He does make it possible for us to honor and serve one another with joy and to live in peace with one another.
- He does fill our heart with his love, joy, peace, and hope!
The more we obey him in his strength, the more we trust him; the more we trust him, the more we obey him in his strength and reflect his character.
But to fully become who we are in Jesus, we need to be freed from our sin-affected, mortal body and receive a new, eternal, perfect, spiritual body at our resurrection. That resurrection has already occurred for Jesus, but it is a future event for his followers.
This means that death no longer needs to be a terrifying event. Christians know that they do not cease to exist when they die because Jesus did not.
They know they do not have to go through endless life cycles on earth to rid themselves or their evil desires because Jesus fully delivers them from evil by joining his perfect life to theirs. They know this is true because they are already seeing the Spirit of Christ transforming them day by day.
They also now understand that death is not a transition from one imperfect world filled with imperfect people to another world filled with imperfect beings. It is a full deliverance from God’s enemy and all the evil in us and around us, as well as an entry into perfection in God’s presence.
An Eternal Perfection
The day is coming when God will rid this world of all evil. Satan — and every being who has chosen to remain allied with him instead of becoming allied with Jesus — will suffer what God calls the second death. They will never again be able to tempt God’s children or harm them in any way whatsoever. All rebellion against God will cease.
A multitude of humans from every tribe, nation, and language who have become allied with Jesus will remain eternally united to him through his Spirit. They will all be perfectly restored to Jesus' image, delivered from all evil and suffering. And they will reign forever with Jesus in a new heaven and earth where God’s will is perfectly accomplished.
And to think that this wondrous Creator offers all this to us as a gift!
Biblical passages that explore these ideas
I know this sounds too good to be true. It is hard to even imagine that God is so good, wise, and perfect, isn't it? And yet, doesn't his plan answer the deepest yearnings and hopes of our wounded hearts? Isn't it the only one that makes sense of death and eradicates our fear of it?
My Mom’s Transition
Before her death, my mother became convinced that the Spirit of Christ was in her, that she belonged to him, and that she would live forever with him. The very thought of what awaited her filled her with great joy.
I was there when she died — praying for her, singing Bible verses to her, and holding her hand as she let out one last soft breath. The palliative care nurse who was with me turned to me and said: “I have never seen anyone go so peacefully from this life to the next.”
In the hours leading up to that moment, my mother, in a coma, would often lift her arms up to heaven, a peaceful smile on her face. Was she seeing Jesus welcoming her into his presence forever?
When Our Day Comes
One day, it will be our turn. Our friends will meet one another and say, “Have you heard about (our name)?” My earnest prayer for you is that when someone blurts out, “No, what happened?”, the answer will be, “(Your name) went to be with Jesus forever.”
Would you like to put your trust in Jesus and begin to experience an eternal relationship with him right now? Why not tell him so? That's what prayer is: simply telling God what is on your heart and listening to his answer.
Do you have questions about anything that I have shared? If so, please feel free to use the form below to ask them, and one of our mentors will respond as soon as possible.
You can also follow one or several of the suggestions below to get to know God more:
- Watch a film about Jesus online
- Read the Bible passages referred to in this series of articles
- Discover the Bible book by book through Bible Project videos
- Ask God to guide you to a Christian community that loves Jesus and seeks to follow him.
- Share this series of articles with people you love and ask them what they think of it. Doing so could lead to some of the deepest conversations you have ever had.