“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3 |(|NIV)
I well recall as a child 8-9 years old an incident where I tried to imagine what eternity was like. I was flat on my back in the school yard, looking up at a blue sky and puffy cumulus clouds and trying to go back in time before my father was alive and before his father was alive and so on.
I scared the wits out of myself in the exercise of what forever meant. How could God always be? Was there a time when God did not exist? How could someone always be alive? What would they do? Would it not be boring?
Most of the ideas we have of eternal or eternity involves the passage of time endlessly. We have the concept of always existing somewhere. However, in the Bible, and especially in our passage, we see that Jesus redefines eternal to mean something other than endless existence.
Jesus defines eternal life not as the idea of quantity of life but rather quality of life. Eternal life is a certain kind of life.
We know from other passages in the Bible that everyone will exist forever but not everyone will have the same quality of life. When Jesus speaks of eternal life He defines it as a life where the person “knows” God. Now we have to think like a Jew of Jesus’ day to understand what the term “to know” means.
When we normally think of knowing something or someone we mean we can recite the alphabet because we know it or we know a person and that means we recognize them when we see them, etc. However, when Jesus uses this term here, He means to have a relationship with God. In Matthew 7:23
Jesus speaks of not knowing certain people when they stand before Him in the day of judgment. By this Jesus means that He did not have a living vital relationship with those people. He does not mean that He had no knowledge of their existence.
So when the Bible speaks of us having eternal life it means we have a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. We know God as we meet Him in Scripture. We know God as we are given grace by Him to deal with the difficult issues of life.
We know God as we pray and He answers our prayers. We know God when we attend the preaching of the Bible in church and God speaks to us in the Word preached. We know God as we sing His praise and worship Him and He comes to us and reassures us we are His people.
So eternal life begins in this life as God comes to the people He chose in Jesus before the world began (Ephesians 1:4) and opens their eyes and hearts to the truth of the Gospel (Acts 16:14). Do you “know God” as Jesus defines the term? Do you have a vital, active, and living relationship with Him? Do you have this great gift of eternal life?
If you really know God you have the greatest possible treasure that can be obtained in this life. You will never lose this precious gift regardless of whatever else you lose, health, wealth, reputation, whatever.
Be content with this truth that you know God, you have eternal life. If you are not certain you “know God” pray and seek Him until you settle the matter. Nothing else in life is as important as this.