Eternal 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:
3 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?
We 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?
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.