In a letter written by grandma several years ago, she explained that she had accepted Christ as her Savior. She also wrote about the 1957 evangelistic crusade during which she reaffirmed that decision to take Christ as her Savior. For this we are very thankful. Her relationship with Jesus Christ was the key to eternal life. And now she is experiencing what none of us has experienced before—eternity.
But what is she experiencing right now? What is it like? What happens after this life? And what can I do to be prepared for it? The answers to those questions have been given to us in God’s Holy Word, the Bible. I am happy to have this opportunity to share with you the facts about eternal life according to the Bible.
What is eternal life?
When most people think about heaven they envision white robed people playing harps on clouds somewhere far away in the sky. Others think about the golden streets and pearly gates. While the Bible talks about some of those things, is that really that inviting? Would you live your life by the Bible just to live in a golden mansion where you play a harp all day? Quite honestly, those activities do not describe what eternal life is all about. Consider what Jesus said about the subject.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. —John 17:3
Jesus tells us that eternal life is something much better than golden streets, shiny halos, or the sound of harps being played. Eternal life is all about a right relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. It’s a relationship so wonderful that the rest of the world can’t understand until they have it.
You may have met a co-worker whose life was incredibly changed when he became a Christian. He no longer acts the same. He quit the bar scene and stopped using foul language. He’s honest even when it hurts. And in every conversation he has to mention something about God. What happened? Why the change? Someone like that has already begun to enjoy a life-changing relationship with God. That relationship will change your life.
Who has eternal life?
That is an important question on a day like today. The Lord Jesus answered that question one evening during a discussion with an inquisitive Jewish ruler named Nicodemus. Apparently, the man had heard the Lord teaching on one occasion and had some questions. Toward the end of the conversation, Jesus gave a definitive statement that most of us could probably quote from memory.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. —John 3:16
In those words we find the answer to our question. Those who believe have eternal life. But what do they believe? Is this the kind of intellectual faith that says, Yeah, I believe Jesus existed and died on a cross. No, the Bible records the fact that many people saw him crucified and buried. But not all of them would be considered believers. True believers are those who have personally recognized their need for him. A believer recognizes why Jesus died. You see, Jesus didn’t come to earth for us just to celebrate Christmas and Easter, he came to the earth because we needed him.
There is none righteous, no not one. —Romans 3:10
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. —Romans 3:23
The wages of sin is death. —Romans 6:23
We are sinful people who cannot do good in God’s eyes. No matter how hard we try, we eventually must come to grips with the fact that we are imperfect, sinful people. And because of that we are deserving of the eternal punishment of Hell. That’s why we needed Jesus. Sinful people need a Savior. And so God sent his only perfect Son to die for us on the cross. And after paying the price for our sins with his blood, he was buried and rose again after three days. Jesus did that for us.
Where will it take place?
What happens after a believer dies? Is that when he turns into an angel and starts harp lessons? No, it’s even better than that. Listen to what the apostle John wrote in the book of Revelation. After announcing many future events, John ends the book by describing the wonderful reality of eternal life with God.
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” —Revelation 21:1-8
This Scripture passage carries with it great joy and great sorrow. For those who have eternal life, there is much joy. God makes eternal life very special for every believer. He personally promises to wipe away our tears and to do away with death, sorrow, and crying. We would like those things to be removed right now. At that time, we will realize that God is all that we really need. For eternity, we will enjoy a continuing personal relationship with him for eternity. Those of you who have this relationship know how wonderful that will be.
But John also speaks to those who have not believed and those who continue in their sin. There will be no joy for them, only eternal torment. What a horrible thing to think about. But it is something that each of us must consider today.
How can someone have eternal life?
As we consider our own future, this is a question that needs to be addressed. You have seen some who have this relationship with God. But how can you have it? The Lord Jesus is very clear in answering this question as well.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. —John 14:1-6
How can a sinner ever come to the place where he is worthy to have a personal relationship with the holy God of the Bible? Jesus said that he is the only way to the Father. The only way you can have this eternal life we have been discussing is through Jesus. Notice that he does not call for you to try to look good enough or try hard enough. He simply offers himself exclusively as the way to God. In other words, there is no other way. Good works? No. Church membership? No. Baptism? No. All of those things are good, but none of them can take away your sin and make you right with God. Only Jesus can do that.
Do you have eternal life? Do you have this sweet relationship with God about which Jesus spoke? The Bible tells us how you may have it. It is the gift of God, but you must receive Jesus for your own. If you have yet to receive this gift of eternal life, will you receive him today? Turn from your sinful lifestyle, believe that Jesus died for you and rose again, and call upon the Lord to save you. Then God will make you into a new person and you will begin an eternal relationship with God.