…the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us… – 1 John 1:2 ESV
For many, eternal life is some kind of a reward that lies somewhere out there in the distant future. It’s life-after-death kind of stuff. It has to do with heaven and, if we were honest, seems to have little to do with life on this earth. But the apostle John provides us different viewpoint on the subject of eternal life. In fact, he seems to equate eternal life with Jesus Himself. He says, “we…proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us” (1 John 1:2 ESV). In John’s way of thinking, Jesus didn’t just provide eternal life, He IS eternal life. Without Him, eternal life would not exist. It would not be possible. But John didn’t just make this up. He had heard this truth from the lips of Jesus Himself when He claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). John had recorded this very same thought in the opening verses of his gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4 ESV). Jesus was the logos, the word. He was the source of all life, having played a major role in the creation of the world. But He was also the life – the very source of all life. Jesus is the essence of life, just as His Father is the essence of light. There is no life without Jesus. Men would not exist without His role in the creation. And men will not experience eternal life apart from His saving work in their re-creation. Life without Jesus is impossible. And yet, how many try to live their lives as if He doesn’t exist? How many Christians attempt to live their lives without His help. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b ESV). Just as He created life “in the beginning,“ so He creates new life when men, dead in their trespasses and sins, turn to Him.
For many of us, eternal life was the carrot that was held out to us as an incentive to accept Christ. It was the preferred alternative to an eternity spent in hell. But when we make the reward the focus, we miss the point. Just as temporal life was not the point of creation, eternal life is not the point of our new creation. The point is God. The focus is fellowship with Him. Man was created to have fellowship with God. Adam and Eve enjoyed uninterrupted, intimate fellowship with the One who had created them, and this would have included Jesus, as part of the Trinity and a participant in the creation process. But sin broke that fellowship. Sin damaged what God had intended. Rather than the abundant life they had been created to enjoy, Adam and Eve experienced diminished life, a life marred by sin and marked by a worship of self, rather than God.
But John wrote his letter to remind his readers that all that changed when Jesus took on human flesh. God became man. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). John went out of his way to let his readers know that his knowledge of this truth was not academic, but personal and intimate. He had personally seen, heard and touched Jesus, the word of life. He had eaten with Him, watched Him perform miracles, walked with Him, talked with Him and listened to Him as He taught them truths they had never heard before. And John says that what he saw, heard and touched, he proclaimed. What had been manifested to him, he made known to others. Why? “So that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3 ESV). Restored fellowship. Intimacy with God and with His Son. And this restored fellowship, made possible through the Word of Life, should result in joy. But not just any kind of joy – full joy, complete joy, perfect joy. Fellowship is the core of the gospel message. What makes eternal life so attractive is the reality of uninterrupted, intimate, personal fellowship with God and His Son. But eternal life begins the day we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. His death on the cross in our place provided us with a means by which we can enjoy restored fellowship with God the Father. Jesus Christ, the very Word of life, eternal life itself, has made all this possible. And that reality should result in profound joy. John had personally heard Jesus say, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 ESV). What had Jesus spoken to him? About His abiding presence, providing the capacity to live fruitful, full and meaningful lives in this lifetime, not just in eternity. He had heard Jesus speak of His abiding love and providing presence. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV).
That which was from the beginning, the Word of life, the eternal life, abides in us. Jesus has taken up residence in the lives of all those who have placed their faith in Him as their Savior and Lord. He has restored our fellowship with the Father and made us part of His body, the Church, in which we can enjoy fellowship with one another as children of God and heirs of the Kingdom yet to come. But our joy is not to be based on some future event or circumstance, but on the present reality of the abiding presence of the Word of life in our lives here and now.