Eternal Life Defined

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

This verse from the Gospel of John has always intrigued me. Spoken not long before his crucifixion, Christ here gave us his definition of ‘eternal life’. Notice that he didn’t define it as living forever or going to heaven, the things we usually associate with eternal life. Instead Jesus defines eternal life in relational terms, ‘that they may KNOW you’. What a different perspective! Eternal life is not something I get as a reward after I die but rather something that I can enter into now, today. But as I look at this further it raises a new question. What does he mean ‘to know’ God? I know lots of people on many different levels. I know co-workers and I know family members. I know my banker and I know my husband. All these are relationships of knowing but all are on different levels of intimacy. I would hope that my level of intimacy with by banker and that with my husband would be on totally different plains.

So what level and kind of ‘knowing’ is Jesus referring to here? I suggest we look to the original language of the Gospel to help us with that answer.The Greek word used here is ginosko. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, in the NT ginōskō frequently indicates a relation between the person “knowing” and the object known; in this respect, what is “known” is of value or importance to the one who knows, and hence the establishment of the relationship. So this knowing, is not a matter of mere head knowledge, ‘I know who you are’, but a relational knowledge and relational by definition requires interaction between the parties. That takes us to the next question. What is the depth of that interaction? Is it surface communication or something deeper? Again Vine’s helps us with the answer where it says, The verb is also used to convey the thought of connection or union, as between man and woman (as seen in the following verses), Matt. 1:25; Luke 1:34. What? The same as a union between a man and a woman? That’s a pretty deep level of intimacy. But it is that same word ginosko that is used in Matthew 1:25 and translated union in the NIV and know in the KJV, ‘But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.’ (Referring to Joseph and Mary). And it is the same word used of Mary in Luke when she tells the angel that she is a virgin, she has not ‘known’ a man. Now don’t misunderstand, the sexuality is not the point here, it is the intimacy of the union, and the oneness, that is being communicated through this word. In Genesis the scripture tells us that the man shall united with his wife and they shall become one. So when we go back to our original scripture in John 17:3 what does it say to us? Definition of eternal life by Jesus: To know ( in a very intimate relationship of unity and oneness) the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. Is this the relationship you have with Jesus, with your God? Are you one with him? Is it the most intimate relationship you have in your life? If it is, then by this definition, you are now, currently participating in eternal life.

Yes, I can already hear the objections being voiced by those well versed in scripture. What about repentance of sin? I know. And yes, that factors into the equation. But I’m not going to get into that here. I’ve found that if you truly desire this level of intimacy with Jesus, he knows how to address the sin issue, and he will. And he will do it on a very personal level and time table, and it will probably be something he addresses on an ongoing basis within that relationship you have with him.

But what if you read this and you say, ‘I don’t have this kind of intimate relationship with Christ’, what then? The answer to that is, you can have. In Matthew 7:7 Jesus said, ‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find… Ask him, seek him. You will find him.

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