Bible Reading: John 17:1-5
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3)
At the old age of 97, philosopher Herbert Fingarette realised death was not what he thought it was. Having written a book about death, he thought that he could rationally face death. He thought there was no rational need for fear. Yet, facing his own death, he confessed that he was afraid. After his successful career as a philosopher who pondered about the meaning of life for a living, he found himself puzzled by that exact question. If death is not rational, what is the meaning of life? Why was it that he did not want to die?
The sad conclusion he arrived at was, life was meaningless, and even if there were meaning, there would be no way of finding it out. To be fair, we must respect the aged, for their insights regarding life are coated with experience. Unfortunately, as youth, we are often too big-headed to listen to our elders. In reality, we have little experience, and without God’s grace, we are sure to wander from Him.
And so, the question stands. If we die, what is the meaning of life?
The Bible gives an answer. But, the Bible’s response is not for those who will take the answer like a rational defence for their own fear alone. It is not for those who will say, ‘eureka! I have solved the problem of life’ and go on living their own self-centred lives. The Bible’s answer can only be known by the humble and meek who come to the Lord’s feet mourning for their sin. Only if God’s Spirit unveils the truth will anyone ever discover God’s real answer to such questions.
With that said, what did Jesus really say?
Jesus said He could give people eternal life. What does that mean? Does Jesus offer us potions of immortality? The truth is far from our misconceptions. Jesus says eternal life is to know the only true God and Christ Himself.
To question, “what is life?” we must first ask, “what is death?”. If we look at Adam and Eve’s story, God cursed them to death when they ate the forbidden fruit. Yes, that meant that their physical bodies eventually perished. However, immediately, they were cast out of the garden, the place of God’s dwelling on earth. Death is a separation from God, who is the spring of all life. And the cause of death is sin. When we sin, we rebel against God and reject Him as the true fountain of life. God created humans to enjoy the life that He gave, to walk with Him and obey Him. We did not desire God as our ultimate good; therefore, we died. We became separated from the Holy God who can withstand no evil.
So, what does Jesus giving eternal life really mean?
When Jesus died on the cross, He died for our sins. That means, despite being the Author and Giver of life, Jesus was separated from life for our sake. This in itself is something we can never fully comprehend. Yet, the words of John Owen coins what happens next succinctly; the death of death in the death of Christ. On the cross, Christ overcame the power of death, making Him the Lord over all things. Because Christ defeated death, His people can be reconciled again with God. They can have true life once more, that is, to know and enjoy God.
If you believe in Jesus, repent of your sins, and give your whole heart to Him, He promises you eternal life. And, eternal life does not just begin in heaven. The moment we are born again, we are freed from the clasp of sin and death into life everlasting. You can experience the true life day. God is waiting for you to get to know Him.
If we have true life, then what about physical death?
When we get to heaven, we will be wholly sanctified, we will see God face to face, and we will continue growing in knowing Him forever. Eternal life begins now, and it continues forever because that is what we were created for. Thus, physical death will mark the day where we gain the full inheritance God promised us when He said He would love us out of no reason but His benevolence.
In the meantime, God calls us to know Him here and now. He has a calling and purpose for us to serve Him here on earth. Through that process, He wants us to get to know Him as He prepares us for a new life of worshipping Him in eternity. How glorious is the life that God has given to those who believe in Him.
May all Christians herald with joy what Paul exclaims in the face of death, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).