Today Pastor Choi talks about four aspects of eternal life: 1. Eternal life is the life everlasting lived in the presence of God. 2. Eternal life is obtained through Jesus Christ alone, because it is hidden in Him. 3. Eternal life is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ. 4. Eternal life begins here and now and culminates in Heaven after physical death.
The following is a summary of his sermon:
Do You Have Eternal Life? 1 John 5:13, John 17:3, 5:24
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13, NASB).
And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent (John 17:3, NASB).
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him, who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life (John 5:24, NASB).
The concept of eternity—“If you have a steel ball, solid steel, the size of this earth, 25,000 miles in circumference, and every one million years a little sparrow would be released to land on that ball to sharpen his beak and fly away only to come back another million years later and begin again, by the time he would have worn that ball down to the size of a BB, eternity would have just begun” (Chuck Swindoll, Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes)
(Begin the sermon with group discussion for three minutes:
What is eternal life? Does everyone have it? Do I have it? If not, how do I have it?)
So, what is eternal life? Let me begin with a secular definition. Oxford Dictionary defines: Life without an end. Life that exists and continues forever. Simply put: It is the life that lasts for eternity. Many believers follow this concept. However, that’s a secular definition. The biblical definition is different.
The Bible expresses and explains eternal life in several different ways, but they all boil down to four aspects: eternal life is the life that is lived in the presence of God. Eternal life is God’s free gift through Christ. Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ the Messiah. Eternal life begins here and now and it culminates in Heaven after physical death. Let me unpack one by one.
A. Eternal life is the life everlasting that is lived in the presence of God.
Now, do you remember the question: Does everyone have eternal life? I mean, every human being who was born and died in human history, do they all have eternal life with no exception? Well, the answer depends on how you define and understand what eternal life is. If you mean that every human soul never perishes and goes on forever beyond physical death, and that’s eternal life, then, the answer is yes. However, in the biblical sense, the answer is no, because the Bible plainly says that not everyone will have eternal life. E.g. Those people whose names are not in the Book of Life (Revelation 21:27), no sorcerers, no fornicators, no murderers, no idol-worshipers, and no liars will be in the presence of God in Heaven (Revelation 21:8, 22:15).
Please, listen very carefully. The eternal life defined in the Bible is far different from the way some people may understand or use what eternal life is. Eternal life in the Bible not only covers the life that goes forever and ever, but it also means the life in the presence of God. In other words, if the life is not lived in God’s presence, even though it lasts forever, it is not eternal life. That’s why in the Bible ‘eternal life’ is also interchangeably used with ‘the kingdom of God’ and ‘Heaven’ which is God’s dwelling place. Apart from God, there is no eternal life, because God is life. No God, no eternal life [e.g. Atheists do not/will not have eternal life]. Let me repeat: even though everyone’s soul goes on and on forever beyond physical death, if their eternity is not lived in the presence of God who is holy, it is not eternal life. In fact, the Bible calls such a life ‘eternal judgment’, ‘eternal punishment’ or ‘eternal fire’ (commonly known as hell) where torment continues day and night and forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).
The next aspect of eternal life is this:
B. Eternal life is obtained through Jesus Christ alone because Christ Himself is the eternal life (1 John 1:2).
Everyone asks the question: how do I have eternal life? Only through Jesus Christ, the Bible declares, because Jesus Christ Himself alone is the eternal life. The eternal life is hidden in Him. Listen to the Word of God: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12). No Christ, no eternal life. There’s no other way.
The Bible says that our spirit is dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1) until we meet Jesus and accept Him as Savior and Lord. When we invite Him into our hearts, Christ comes in and His Spirit begins to abide in us. As our spirit becomes united with Christ as one, spiritual fusion takes place in us. Christ the Eternal Life turns our spirit alive again (Ephesians 2:5) and eternal life begins in us. Although eternal life is given to us by God as a free gift (Romans 6:23), it’s not like a Christmas package that is totally separate from our being. The gift of eternal life is hidden in Christ. So, when Christ comes into us, so does eternal life come into us, and it becomes part of us and part of our life. Eternal life is also an unmerited gift—no one can or has to earn it through good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So, to answer the question, “How do we obtain eternal life?” By believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and walking in Him (1 John 5:13).
The third aspect of eternal life is this:
C. Eternal life is to know God and to know Jesus the Messiah.
Here’s a profound truth: Jesus says in His prayer that eternal life is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom God has sent (John 17:3). The key phrase here is to know Jesus Christ. To know means more than intellectual understanding/ knowledge. E.g. the meaning of Hebrew verb ‘to know’—Mary (Luke 1:34)—means physically and spiritually become one. The real knowledge of God and of Jesus is deep and personal. Those who know Jesus on a personal level walk with Him daily and have the foretaste of eternal life here and now.
Let me say it again: those who know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom God has sent have eternal life here and now. That’s why Jesus says that anyone who believes in Him already has eternal life (έχει ζωὴν αίώνιον) (John 5:24). E.g. I served on the Board of Ordained Ministry examining all the candidates for ministry. One afternoon I interviewed a candidate for pastoral ministry. During Q & A session, I asked her: Do you have eternal life? For the next few minutes, she only talked about the futuristic sense of eternal life and was quite puzzled with my answer when I said that we already have eternal life since we know Christ as Lord and Savior.
Eternal life I am talking about is the life that is hidden in Christ and reserved for those who believe in the name of Jesus God’s Son. You don’t have to die to have eternal life. For those who have accepted Him as Christ, eternal life starts in this life. Here and now. You already have it. It is in your possession during your life on earth.
The last aspect of eternal life is this:
D. The highest and ultimate form of eternal life is yet to come. It culminates in Heaven after physical death.
Many people, Christians and non-Christians alike, associate life eternal with Heaven, so they say that their eternal life will begin 5 minutes after death. E.g. A pastor was preaching on going to heaven. He said, “How many of you would like to go to heaven tonight?” And everybody raised their hands but a little boy in the balcony. He tried again, “How many of you would like to go to heaven?” Everybody but that one little fellow in the balcony. So he said to him, “Son, don’t you want to go to heaven?” The little boy said, “Yeah, someday, but I thought you were getting’ up a load right now” (James Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited).
There is a legitimate reason why people think this way. For instance, the Scripture talks about inheriting eternal life after we die. It is appointed for all to die once, and after that everyone will stand before God and be judged according to what s/he has done (Hebrews 9:27, Romans 2:6). At that time, those who have obeyed the Lord with all their hearts and minds (including those who have made sacrifices for the sake of Jesus in their lives and possessions) will be rewarded (Matthew 19:29, John 12:25) and inherit eternal life. And, they will be in the presence of God forever and ever! That’s the eternal life we all look forward to having in the end.
Let me repeat four aspects: eternal life is the life that is lived in the presence of God. Eternal life is God’s free gift through Christ. Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ the Messiah. Eternal life begins here and now and it culminates in Heaven after physical death. Do you have eternal life?
Let us pray.