What is eternal life? When we read the words, we may think about our life going on forever. We might think about heaven. While all technically true, it still doesn’t begin to touch what eternal life actually is.
We’re now ready to finish looking at John 3:16. After that, I will summarize the verse, based on what we’ve learned.
Eternal life is God’s life!
John 3:16 ends by telling us that those who trust Jesus would “have eternal life.” I personally don’t think we even begin to understand what that means!
Two very interesting Greek words translated “eternal life” that we should look at a little more closely.
It’s critically important to know here that this doesn’t simply mean when we leave our earthly existence. For our chronological life is subsumed in this aiṓnios that ripples out from age to age. I’m trying to show the trans-dimensionality of this reality with my two-dimensional graphic, but it does a pretty poor job of what is meant here. Our human life is finite, of this age, only going in one direction…but aiṓnios is infinite, going in all directions, throughout all dimensions and all ages.
Time, as we know it…the “big bang,” the universe, and all its quantum multi-dimensionality, is still finite, still contained within Christ (Col.1:16-17). It’s part of His creation, and God Himself both transcends and exists in and through all of this.
Second, the word for “life” here (ζωή – zōḗ) does not mean our biological life. There is a different word for that (ψυχή, or psychē). For instance, when the angel told Joseph and Mary that their Child’s life was no longer in danger from Herod:
20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life [psychē] are dead.” (Matt.2:20)
When we talk about zōḗ life, we’re talking about God’s very own life! It is Christ’s life. John uses this particular word for life a lot (34 times). Here are a few other examples:
26 Life [zōḗ] comes from the Father himself. So the Father has also allowed the Son to give life [zōḗ]. (John 5:36 ERV)
48 I am the bread of life [zōḗ]. (John 6:48)
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life [zōḗ]. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
This was Paul’s revelation of the life that we’ve entered into:
3 For you died, and your life [zōḗ] is hidden with Christ in God. (Col.3:3)
You might say that we’re exchanging our three-dimensional human life for His other-dimensional divine life! When Jesus is talking about “eternal life,” He’s talking about participating in God’s life, a life hidden in Christ, seated in heavenly places in Him (Eph.2:6). A life lived from heaven to earth.
This is how God the Father so loves the entire human race. He loves us exactly the same way He has always loved the Son. And because of this overflowing and unending love, He was “determined to open the circle and share the Trinitarian life”* with us. He did this by giving what was most precious to Him, His own Eternal Son, Jesus Christ. This stunning demonstration of unconditional love, grace, and forgiveness made a way so that whosoever would trust Him and receive His life and love would not be lost, missing their designed purpose and destiny, but that they would find their life by partaking in the divine nature, God’s very own life within the Trinity: a life of “unchained communion and intimacy, fired by passionate, self-giving and other-centered love, and mutual delight,* including and transcending time and space, from ages to ages, that He and His Son have enjoyed together since before the foundation of the world (John 3:16; 15:9; 17:23-24; 2 Pet.1:4).
You are here
Precious sought out one, do you know who you are, whose you are, and where you are? I’ve been trying to explain something so wonderful to you that I can’t even get my mind around myself. This is eternal life! It’s our life in Christ in God…today, tomorrow…forever!
This is but a small glimpse, a crack in the door, if you will, to understanding how God loves us and why Jesus came to save us. This is where we begin to see our real life, the greater reality of us, that we now live in two worlds at the same time, two different realms. For we have come to Mt. Zion, where God’s beloved live their lives from heaven to earth (Heb.12:22-23; Phil.3:20).
Next time, we will finish up this passage, looking at verses 17-21.