“What is Eternal Life?”
Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35; Acts 1: 6-14; John 17: 1-11
Pearl: Eternal life is a relationship with God.
Function: To promote the reality that eternal life is fundamentally and profoundly about the relationship with God (not so much a destination as a relationship).
As Jesus left this earth behind and ascended into heaven his disciples watched him disappear and they kept on watching.
1. Who knows how long they stared into space? They must have hung out for a while and kept watching and looking up because finally two angels appeared to them.
a. It is written in Acts, “…two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10, 11).
2. The disciple’s “looking up and staring into space” is a metaphor for how many of us think about eternal life. We tend to fixate on heaven. We think of eternal life mostly as beginning and going forward when we die and our spirits enter into the next destination after this life: heaven.
a. People imagine where heaven is. They wonder where it might be located in the cosmos or beyond the galaxies. Do you?
b. And what is heaven like. The Bible contains clues. The most detailed clue is something like an ongoing worship experience with the best music ever heard. Now that is very exciting for choir members and music lovers but for others that may not be so compelling.
i. I have heard suggestions that heaven will be for us whatever gives us most life, so it has been described as a playground or a baseball field or constantly repeating perfect waves for surfers, etc., etc.
c. People think mostly on the location and the content of heaven.
3. Do you think about when it is that you will go there? It could be in about an hour or it might be 10 years or 50 years from now. You often don’t know when the moment of your death will be at hand.
a. Scripture says that you are not supposed to know the time of your death. You cannot live with such knowledge. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know.” God knows what is best and you are not given this knowledge. Sometimes you are given an estimate by medical professionals but most of them will tell you that they don’t know with certainty. No one knows but God alone. Do you think about when it will be?
The real focus of eternal life should be on a relationship, not so much a place!
You likely agree with this but you and I still tend to think of eternal life as a state of existence and mostly about the life that is after this life.
1. It is likely due in part to the basically self-centered nature of who we are as human beings.
a. People tend to think of things in terms of themselves. When you think of eternal life you begin to think about what it will be like “for you or your close family or friends.” You think about your state of existence in that dimension?
b. It is not easy to “get out of yourselves.” It has a lot to do with maturity. The more you mature the more you can “get beyond yourselves.”
2. A more mature understanding of eternal life is called for. It is not so much about you and what it will be like for you, and so on. Eternal life is fundamentally and profoundly about someone else. That someone else being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
3. Jesus prayed these words to the Father: “…this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Eternal life is mostly about being in relationship with God!
It is not really so much about a destination, or a place, or about a time of arrival. Those are incidental realities. The essence of eternal life is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
1. Eternal life that is life that is full and that is whole and found in God and in Jesus Christ.
2. You basically know this but more on the subconscious level.
a. You have a taste of eternal life now in your most important human relationships.
i. That is, of course, if they are healthy and not abusive.
b. What makes you most truly happy and most truly fulfilled? The question is not “what” but “who.” The people of your lives are who make you most truly happy and whole and fulfilled. It always comes down to your closest relationships.
3. These most important relationships in your lives are a preview of eternal life. They are not so much a “preview” as a “reflection or image” of eternal life.
a. If your closest human relationships are what give you the most happiness and the most life it stands to reason that “eternal life” is about relating with the one who created you in the first place—the Lord God himself who is eternal.
4. You have a taste of eternal life now in your most important human relationships. All of these relationships are training for the relationship with God.
Friendship with God is eternal life!
This past week we commended two dear saints of Highland Presbyterian to God’s “eternal keeping.” That is what I pray when I commend you to the life that is after this life. We don’t know very much at all about the landscape of heaven. We are about to go into the cemetery to end our worship today and we will be among the graves of many of your dear ones. We will dedicate the Memorial Prayer Garden and Columbarium today. All of these stone monuments are stones of remembrance of those you commended to God’s eternal keeping.
This is the best expression for where people are who have died. They are with God. But you who are alive are also with God. You are in God’s eternal keeping now as well.
Eternal life is about relating with God and with all others who are related to God through faith. This is the major theme of Jesus’ “High-Priestly” prayer in John 17. He prayed that his followers will always be one with God and with each other in fundamental unity.
This Memorial Day weekend we remember those who died in service.
1. That reminds me of a story. A young child was standing in the foyer outside the sanctuary in a church. She noticed a plaque hanging on a wall with several names on it. Mr. Peters was also looking at it. The child asked Mr. Peters why all of those names were on that plaque. Mr. Peters said, “Those are the names of all of the people who died in the service.”
2. The child’s eyes became huge, she gulped, and she asked, “The 8:30 or the 11:00 Service?”
You are much aware of some dear brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and so on who are now departed from this life but who are in God’s eternal keeping.
They are not the only ones who are in God’s eternal keeping. So are you who are in Christ Jesus! And wonderfully, through God you remain very close to them!
This is eternal life…that you might know the only true God…and Jesus Christ sent from God!