Eternal life and heaven are about relationship

Heaven_connectionEternal life is not about going somewhere, it’s about knowing Someone. It’s not about  living in a place; it’s about living in a Person. It’s about intimate connection and unending, deepening relationships with God and with each other…here, now…and ever onward.

Within the triune Godhead, we see a Father and Son’s mutual devotion and unbroken fellowship with the Holy Spirit from before creation (John 1:1; 17:24). This means that God is about relationship in love before anything else. That shouldn’t be too hard for us to understand since we’re wired that way, too.

It was Jesus Himself who clearly defined eternal life for us:

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3 NKJV)

And when we experience this connection with God in this life, we begin to understand heaven. This is good because we have no way to understand it otherwise, as David Kowalick points out…

Every single description in the Bible about the life to come is metaphoric; there’s not a single verse about the afterlife in the Bible that should be taken in a purely literal way. There’s a reason for that. Because you can’t describe things that are indescribable. We have no human grid for understanding this reality, anymore than you can explain colors that you haven’t seen.

This is why so many are bored with the idea of heaven. And if we’re honest, that includes many of the faithful. Sadly, many are more motivated to come to Christ to escape hell than the promise of heaven because they understand fear and punishment more than some kingdom that’s so…“not from here.” After all, how can you be otherwise when you have no mental grid for a place you can’t even imagine in your wildest dreams?

But God does give us glimpses of heaven. We see it in His other-centered love between a husband and wife, or in parents for their children, or in the joy-filled times of connection with life-long friends and family. This is the seedbed of heaven, as Kowalick continues…

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, we only have a shadow of things to come in this life. It’s like the life to come is a tree, and we’re living in the seed now. This life and the next is connected, like the seed is to the tree, but we have no grid for what a tree will look like while we’re still in the seed. What we learn through the experience of existential suffering and loss is that life is not all about accumulating wealth [Luke 12:15]; it about relationship. That’s in the DNA of the seed. The “tree” that’s going to spring out of that seed is more glorious relationship!

When it comes down to it, isn’t it our relationships that make our life meaningful? Sharing our life with those we love?

This is why it hurts so much whenever these relationships are broken. We get a bitter foretaste of what hell is like. For if heaven is about deepening connection and wholeness, then hell is about ever-increasing disconnection and brokenness, as C.S. Lewis described so brilliantly in his book, The Great Divorce.

But have we learned from these experiences that life is trying to teach us?

mega-millionsWe like to say here in the US that lotteries are a state tax on people who don’t understand statistics. But do we also understand that obsessing over the things of this world is a heavy and burdensome “tax” on those who still don’t understand what makes life meaningful and good?

Jesus (and John in 1 John 2:15), were trying to save us a lot of wasted time and heartache by learning this lesson through divine wisdom, instead of the hard way, by pursuing things that rust, get stolen, or cause so much suffering and disappointment.

It’s not that wealth or “things” are bad; it’s thinking they will satisfy our longing hearts. It’s thinking that God’s intentions aren’t for our highest good, so we must look out for ourselves instead.

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.(Matt.6:30-33 MSG).

This futile pursuit is designed by the evil one to keep us distracted from what really matters. This false “construct” is the “world pulled over our eyes” to blind us from the glorious truth (2 Cor.4:4). Satan does this by offering a world system of cheap counterfeits to the real riches that God has meant for us to enjoy.

This is why waiting for literal mansions, pearly gates, and golden streets in the clouds is a bit misguided. Do you actually think that’s what makes heaven so wonderful?

What makes heaven absolutely wonderful is not what’s there, or where is there, but who’s there. For He is our treasure and we are His pearl of great price.

Have we still not understood this about the true heavenly treasure?  Is it not found in receiving God’s love, and in the overflow through us together in ever-deepening relational intimacy? Is this not the glorious trajectory we’re on? (2 Cor.3:18)

This is why Jesus said it’s how the world will know we’re His…by our love for one another (John 13:35)…not by our great faith, miracles, anointed preaching, or any other good works we put greater emphasis on. No, as John said, we prove we know God by our love (1 John 4:7). This is truly heaven manifested on earth. Conversely, we prove that we don’t know God when we don’t show this love (1 John 4:20-21).

So, the lesson is, glory in this life and the next is knowing God. Jesus came so that we could have life abundantly, which means, God’s never-ending zoe life. We’ve literally been given Jesus relationship with the Father. And, in Him, we experience connection and intimacy and fellowship in all our other relationships. Satan, along with his world system, is the thief that tries to steal that life from us (John 10:10).

Relationship and intimacy in love is the currency of heaven, the DNA of God Himself. And His DNA is in you. This is what makes your life have meaning.

14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor.13:14 NIV)

********

I’ve included a short video clip from an Australian ministry called, “Trinity in You.” David Kowalick, Stuart Johnson, and Dr. Bruce Wauchope sum up what our connection with God and each other means.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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12 Responses to Eternal life and heaven are about relationship

  1. Lance says:

    Embracing the truth that we are other centered love in this limited reality manifesting other centered love to and within a humanity that are ineffable inseparable is a divine reality with heavenly benefits that transcend finite mortality perspectives. Ha ha. Love it Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yeah, what he said. 🙂
      Ineffable is definitely the word that, ironically, best describes what we’ve been invited into…and it only gets crazy, over-the-top better, from ineffable glory to ineffable glory! And if this is the “seed” how much more ineffable is the tree!
      Loved your transcendent comment within our finite mortal perspective here, bro.

  2. John Cummuta says:

    Amen! We spend too much time as Martha and not nearly enough as Mary. Eternal life in Him, as he continues expressing himself through us, IS the payoff.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, I agree. Martha’s real problem wasn’t that she was serving, but that she was worried about “stuff” getting done instead of enjoying what she had right in front of her. She couldn’t seize the moment, if you will. She had the proverbial cart before the horse.
      What we have in Christ, expressing Himself through us, is definitely the BIG payoff. As God told Abraham, HE Himself is our great reward. And this “reward” spills beautifully over into our all our human relationships, in this life and the next. It REALLY doesn’t get any better than that!

  3. One observation: you are correct in saying that we believers are “the pearl of great price.” That parable (Mat. 13:45-46) has been misunderstood by many commentators. Some claim that the “pearl” is God or the kingdom, but that is not consistent with the rest of scriptural truth regarding our salvation. We don’t have to “sell everything we have,” a metaphor for works-gained redemption, to get the kingdom. It is given to those who enter by faith (Luke 12:32). It is the eternal Son Who gave up all — “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2.6-7) — in order to rescue us, whom He considers as a valuable jewel. Quite an appraisal, eh?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, indeed, it is quite an appraisal! Jesus tells us that the “Merchant” is the Kingdom of Heaven, so we must be the “precious pearl” that Heaven’s been seeking out. We are so valuable to God that HE gave everything He valued…His beloved and only begotten Son…for us (John 3:16). And it’s this love that compels us to live for Him (2 Cor.3:14-15), not any “works” requirement. Blessings.

  4. Little Monk says:

    Hi Mel and Michael!

    “Butting in again”… 🙂

    I have a “yes… AND” comment, rather than a “yes… but”. That is, I see truth in all that you say and read of “Pearl of Great Price” and that Truth is lovely, indeed.

    At the SAME time, however, I’ve often seen that teaching in the more “traditional” way… that the Pearl is Kingdom… (more specifically, in my own life, that Pearl is the “seeking God’s face”, or the search for “eternal life, to know thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent”. (I have no idea why I still “hear” that in King James, at this age. I guess that sentence branded itself into my brain as so small a child, I only had KJV at the time. I ALWAYS hear those words in KJ, lol))
    So… please hear that I’m not saying… “My way is right, so your way is wrong.” Not at all.

    I’m saying, “Your way is lovely, true, and draws you towards God. How neat! Here is ANOTHER way that can also reflect truth, and has ALSO drawn me towards God. Isn’t He neat, how He can do that?”

    But for me, “seek and ye shall find” has always been this marvelous Easter Egg/Treasure Hunt of seeking out knowledge, intimate knowledge and relationship, with this magnificent Infinite God. I’ll never “get” (understand, comprehend) all of that… (That whole Finite Me, Infinite Him, thing). But it’s the journey, the process, the adventure of exploring all these lovely nooks and crannies of His nature and being… wondrous journey of discovery.

    And as to “sell all you have”… Did He not say the same to the Rich Young Ruler? I’ve just always seen that as instruction that nothing I can acquire in my own life, “stuff”, “reputation”, “education”, “community standing” is worth “preserving at the expense of the journey to know, and relate more closely, more intimately, with God”.

    Am I “right” and you “wrong”? No! Absolutely not.

    But, is this perspective “godly and true”, AND your perspective “godly and true”? Well, if it leads to greater love, exalting Him and humbling me, and glorifying Him in all His names… well… then yeah, this is true, too.

    Just throwing my own two cents in. Feel free to pick them up, ponder them where they lie, or walk by without concern!

    Grace to ye! — The Little Monk

    • Mel Wild says:

      I love it when you butt in, Little Monk. 🙂

      Interesting sub-plot we have going here! I agree, it’s not about right and wrong. I like your perspective, too.

      I shared this in my book, and in the posts linked above, that I see the “seek and you shall find” aspect of these parables in the “treasure in the field” (Matt.13:44). It’s clear that we are the ones seeking the hidden treasure of the Kingdom here. The two parables are really one, revealing the reciprocating love we have with God. We love Him (treasure) because He first loved us (pearl).

      I guess what I like about the “pearl” being us, even though it’s not the traditional view, is that it speaks volumes about God’s estimation of us. As I said in the previous post, “About this Pearl”…”Why did Jesus use pearls in this story? Why not use diamonds or some other more precious stone? Because, unlike stones that we may value more in this world, pearls are from living things. And, of all living things, you are most precious to Him.”

      People actually used to hunt for pearls where I live (it’s illegal now). One thing about pearls is that they go through much suffering and pressure from their environment, which is very much like this life! But, in spite of the pain and brokenness we may experience, Jesus seeks us out because He doesn’t see brokenness, He sees a precious pearl that He would give everything for!

      But your take is certainly valid, too. Regardless of how we understand the story, what’s MOST IMPORTANT is that it leads us into a life of abandon and joy in this crazy over-the-top relationship with the Lover of our soul.
      Blessings.

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  7. Megan urlaub says:

    Thanks for your helpful insights ! 😊. Great teaching.

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