One of the attributes of being human is the knowledge that we will die. We may not like to think about it, but the ability to ponder the end of our existence separates us from most other forms of life. But along with the ability to consider our expiration date comes questions concerning life after death. The core promise of following Christ concerns life, death, and forever.
The core promise of John 3:16 is eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16–17, NASB95)
Jesus’ promise is encapsulated in two words, eternal and life. Eternal is a concept of time – a period of unending duration. It’s different from how we understand God’s existence, which is eternal both into the past and into the future. The eternal in John 3:16 begins at a set-point and continues forever like two parallel lines that will never cross.
The second word of the promise is “life.” The Greeks had two primary words for life, “bio” and “zoe.” In general, “bio” speaks to the physical presence of life while “zoe” includes “bio” and the other qualities of life. One Bible dictionary defines zoe as “the condition of living or the state of being alive; especially healthiness, happiness, exuberance, energy, vitality, and the like.” Zoe recognizes the qualities of life beyond its mere physical attributes.
In my youth, I viewed the promise of eternal life to be like fire insurance. A promise whose fulfillment happened when I die. But now I understand that eternal life, everlasting zoe, is now. In an “already, but not fully yet” way, eternal life in Christ begins the moment we believe. Jesus said of His sheep, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB95) Another translation (NLT) calls it the “rich and satisfying life.”
People define a “good life” in many different ways. Some measure life by length of days or the success and fame someone has, or the legacy someone leaves behind. Others define the good life as being liked by others or having a good reputation. For myself, the “good life” is defined by faith, hope, and love. The faith that sustains me and those moments when I can pass it on to others. The hope of seeing God’s kingdom coming to pass in myself and others. The love that is received and given in hundreds of different ways every day. Living each day in faith, hope, and love is the rich and satisfying life promised by Jesus.
They say one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. It’s all a matter of how we value something. All the gold in the world isn’t even close in value compared to the eternal life we have in Christ. And that’s is today’s point as we look at John 3:16. Eternal life for those who trust Christ is now. Paul goes so far as to say that our old lives are dead, and we walk now in a new life. “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4, NASB95)
The invitation to enter into eternal life is there, whether it is the first time or as we continue to grow in Christ every day. A promise for today and for eternity experienced on good days and bad days through faith, hope, and love in Christ.