What does it mean to have eternal life? There are two important dimensions in eternal life. There is life after death and there is life before death. There are a great many people who never give any thought to an after-life. The question, "Is there life after death?" rarely crosses their mind. they are content to live from day to day, taking each day as it comes. These people are, however, interested in another question: Is there life before death? When they hear of Jesus Christ, they ask, "Can He change my life here and now? Can He make a difference in my life right now? The Gospel answer to that question is an emphatic "Yes". Jesus Christ does not only give us heaven. He give us new life here and now. The two sides of the life which Christ gives to us must be emphasized. There is life before death. Jesus calls this: "abundant life" (John 10:10). There is life after death. Here, Jesus speaks of "everlasting life" (John 3:16, Authorized Version).
Eternal life has a beginning, but it has no end. It begins when we come in faith to Jesus Christ to receive from Him the new life which He alone can give, the abundant life which is far better than life without Christ. Without Christ, life is empty. In Christ, there is abundant life. Apart from Christ, we have mere existence, just going on from day to day with no real sense of meaning, purpose and direction. With Christ, everything is different. This great change is well described in the words of the hymn: "What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart!" Jesus makes a difference here and now. He also gives us a life which has no end. This is also emphasized in this hymn: "I'm possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure, since Jesus came into my heart!"
Eternal life is life with a new quality. It is life with an everlasting duration. When we think of the abundant quality of eternal life, we can testify with the hymnwriter: "All that thrills my soul is Jesus; He is more than life to me." When we think of the everlasting duration of eternal life, we rejoice in these words from the hymn, "Amazing grace": "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we first begun." When we read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 10:28 - "I give them eternal life", our hearts are filled with joy - the joy of the Lord. When we read the rest of the verse, our hearts are filled with even greater joy: "they shall never perish." These are great words! The truth of Jesus' promise is presented very effectively in a Gospel song: "He didn't bring us this far to leave us. He didn't teach us to swim to let us drown. He didn't build His home in us to move away. He didn't lift us up to let us down." When we read the words, "they shall never perish", we may be painfully aware of the many temptations which we face. we are aware of the Lord's presence, but we are also aware of the activity of Satan. He is always seeking to snatch us out of the Lord's hands. What does Jesus say to us about Satan? - "No one (not even Satan himself) shall snatch you out of My hand."
Years ago, on a mission in Brodick, on the island of Arran, I heard an interesting song, the words of which have remained in my mind: "Why do Christians never turn back? They could, if they desired. Or, could it be that Christians are permanently fired with a love for a life they've found to be so real? They've found the perfect living in a God who is ideal for today." Jesus has given us abundant life. When we are tempted to turn back from following Jesus, we find, in our hearts, an echo of the words of Peter: "Lord, to whom shall we go?You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we look forward to life after death. Our sense of expectation is greatly increased by the marvellous fact that we have received life before death: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!" Abundant life, here on earth, is a foretatse of life, in heavenly glory, with the Lord. We are not in heaven yet, but we have been heaven in our hearts, because we have Jesus in our hearts: "Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul, when, at the cross, the Saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away, and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down, and glory filled my soul." It is a wonderful thing to know that eternal life has begun. It is an even more wonderful thing to know that it shall never end.
Many Christians have come to faith in Christ through a little booklet entitled, "Journey into Life." This is a good description of what it means to become a Christian. Becoming a Christian means beginning a journey into life. this journey is a never-ending journey. The life, which Christ gives, is not only abundant life. It is also everlasting life. Have you begun the journey into life? If not, you can begin, today, your own personal journey into life. Let Jesus Christ lead you into this journey into life.