Most people wrongly think that eternal life is simply a never-ending life. Actually, eternal life is a supernatural and superior type, kind, and quality of life. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit came from eternity past. Before the Cosmos was created, the Trinity inhabited eternity (Ps. 90:2, 93:2). They enjoy a Divine fellowship and eternal bliss with each other, and they want to share their eternal life with us (1 John 1:1-4).
Jesus Christ is the archetype and demonstration of eternal life. Jesus has a nonstop fellowship with His Father and the Holy Spirit, and while on earth, He manifested eternal life to mankind (1 John 1:2). Through the New Covenant Spiritual Life, every believer can walk as Christ walked (Col. 2:6). We can walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, trusting in God, while having no confidence in our inherent capacity to live this supernatural way of being (Rom. 8:4-6; Ps. 119:105; Phil. 3:3). Supernaturally, we seek to live in a way pleasing to God. We seek to live in His timing. We subordinate our words and the meditations of our hearts to God (Ps. 19:14). We perceive that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light (Matt. 11:29-30). We understand that His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). There is a new type of living in the Kingdom of God, under God’s authority. By this life, we can experience righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Eternal life is defined as knowing, experiencing, and understanding the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), which can happen only by the Spirit of God.
The Tree of Life found in the Garden is an excellent example of Biblical imagery and is a potent symbol of eternal life (Gen. 2:9). However, it imparted more than just living forever (Gen. 3:22). At Proverbs 3:18, wisdom is called a tree of life that brings happiness. True living is more than just length of days; it includes living with a wisdom that brings a true happiness and fullness. The righteous believer produces a fruit that is a tree of life (Prov. 11:30) for others. The tongue that heals is a tree of life (Prov. 15:4). In the Book of Revelation, we see that the victorious believer receives the privilege of eating from the Tree of Life (Rev. 2:7). Such a believer receives more and more wisdom and is a blessing to others. Eternal Life is far more than just a never-ending life. God’s life is supremely full and abundant.
At the moment we first believed, we began to experience eternal life. Without the Holy Spirit, however, it is impossible to live this life. It is by means of the spiritual life that we lay hold of eternal life. Paul specifically instructed believers to lay hold or take hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12). When we manifest God’s life, we manifest His love. All of God’s laws can be summed up in loving God and our neighbor (Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27). Eternal life is a life in, by, and with Christ. Eternal life is a supernatural way of believing, living, and loving. When asked how humans might take possession of eternal life, Jesus explained the we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Luke 10:27). Then Jesus said, “DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE” (Luke 10:28). Fellowship with God is loving with God’s power, insight, and guidance. John explained that when a believer hates his brother believer, such a believer is not manifesting eternal life (1 John 3:15).
There is a certain form or shape to eternal life. Authentic love for God requires obedience to God (Deut. 11:22). If we want to experience eternal life (or fellowship with God), we must keep God’s commands. Being obedient does not negate the great significance of believing or trusting in God. Eternal life is a life of believing and trusting God. However, if we want to remain in fellowship with Him, we must be obedient, and if we do fall short, miss the mark, and sin, we need to get back in fellowship as quickly as possible (1 John 1:9). We must simply acknowledge our sins.
God’s commands define the shape and form of eternal life. For example, honoring our parents is a part of how God designed us to be and live. God could have designed us to live a solitary life like a tiger, but He did not. Most commonly, He chooses to organize us as couples, families, and nations. He also organized us as children, adults, and the elderly. He commanded children to be obedient to their parents, and He instructed us to honor our parents (Exod. 20:12). The Kingdom of God is designed by God to be a responsible and respectful community. This is how God designed life to be. Just to be clear, it is my opinion that much of the shape and form of the life designed by God will persist into the eternal ages to come.
God’s wisdom heals the nations (Rev. 22:2). If we reject God’s words, however, we will lose out on many fantastic blessings and privileges (Rev. 22: 19). The ultimate fulfillment of eternal life will be realized in the fulfillment of God’s desire and original intent for men and women as God’s imagers and co-rulers over God’s creation (Gen. 1:26: Deut. 15:6). He is selecting certain sheep (who are attentive to His voice) to rule with Him. In accordance with the Old Testament promise, such believers will be the head and not the tail (Deut. 28:13). Faithful believers will have special and unique privileges and responsibilities. They will enjoy a unique type, kind, and quality of life in this life and the next, which is eternal life. Those that are not willing to receive this life in the here and now will not experience the fullness of eternal life in the ages to come. Yes, we are actually participating in our own creation as we willingly receive the movement of God and draw near to God. Yes, the believer who drifts away from the spiritual life in the here and now will be excluded from many wonderful blessings and the full experience of eternal life in the ages to come.
Eternal life is contrasted with eternal fire (Matt. 25:31-46). “Eternal fire” should be understood figuratively, not literally. “Eternal fire” is symbolic of God’s righteous, punitive judgment. Like the “Lake of Fire”, it is a word picture that describes the wrath of God. Judgment comes from God, who inhabits eternity. Upon judgment, some (the faithful) will be awarded with uniquely knowing and experiencing God in the ages to come; others (the unbelievers and the unfaithful) will be denied many fantastic spiritual and material blessings. Humanity will be divided as a shepherd divides the sheep (on the right) and goats (on the left), between those that listen to God (the righteous) and those who are hard of heart (the wicked) (Matt. 25:31-46). The consequences of His judgment will be experienced for the ages to come. The decisions we make in this life will have incredible eternal ramifications. There will be a distinction between those who inherit the Kingdom of God and those who are merely subjects in the Kingdom of God. There is an affinity between those who enter into the Kingdom of God in the here and now and those who inherit (take possession and ownership) of the Kingdom of God for the ages to come. The righteous will experience a unique type of existence called eternal life, and the wicked (hard of heart) will experience an eternal punishment (whether believer or unbeliever). There will be eternal ramifications, which will be experienced as a dramatic and very tangible loss of blessings. Those who inherit the Kingdom of God will experience a very unique fellowship with God and unique eternal blessings. They will be God’s agents in ruling His creation (Rev. 2:26-27). They will experience the full meaning of what it means to be sons of God and a part of a heavenly family (household and dynasty). As Jesus explained, at the renewal and rejuvenation of all things, “[Y]ou who have followed me… shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [People of God]” (Matt. 19:28), meaning the followers of Christ will rule with Christ and experience the fullness of eternal life (fellowship with God). Only a minority will be a part of the ruling dynasty and household. The subjects of the Kingdom of God will experience the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:18-21) because they will be ruled by the experiential and authentic sons of God. No longer will humanity be ruled by the tyrants and arrogant bureaucrats of this life. Yes, there will be a glorious freedom for the subjects ruled by the children of God and our glorious Lord.