Friday, June 29, 2012

The Life of the Age to Come

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (John 6:47)
Jesus says that those who believe in Him have everlasting, or eternal, life. Eternal life is not just about quantity of life, it’s about the quality of that life. That is, eternal life is not just life that lasts a really, really long time (eternity, in fact). It is the life of the age to come. That is it’s quality — it is not the life that comes from the present age (which is passing away) but the life of the coming one.

The Greek has it as zoen aionion. Zoe speaks of life. Aionion comes from aion, which speaks of an age (like eon). Eternal life is the life that is of the age. Which age? The age to come, which is the age of God’s kingdom, the Messianic age, the age of the resurrection.

In the Gospels, the life of the age to come is associated with the kingdom of God. For example, in Mark 9, Jesus speaks of entering life (verses 43 and 45). In the same section and under the same paradigm, He speaks of entering the kingdom of God (verse 47). In context, it is clear that both phrases refer to the same thing.

In Mark 10, we have the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (v. 17). Jesus dealt with the young man, telling him, “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (v. 21). The young man went away in sorrow, because he had many possessions and was unwilling to give them up. Jesus then said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 23). He said the same basic thing again in verse 24 and once more in verse 25. All three times, He spoke of it as the “kingdom of God. The rich young man asked about eternal life; Jesus answered his question, but in terms of the kingdom of God.

The disciples were stunned by this, and Peter started in, “See, we have left all and followed You” (v. 28). Jesus cut him short and said,
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.
Eternal life — just what the rich young man came seeking. It is the life of the age to come, the life of the kingdom of God.

In John 3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). And again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). Being born again speaks of a new life, indeed, of a new quality of life. It has to do with the kingdom of God, and with the Spirit of God. When we come down to verse 15, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Son of Man” (a Messianic reference) and of how He must be “lifted up” (a reference to the cross), “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Then in verse 16, we have that famous passage: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (“Eternal life” and “everlasting life” are the same words in the Greek.) Again we see that eternal life is the life of the kingdom of God.

Though it is the life of the age to come, it is the present possession of all who belong to King Jesus the Messiah. Notice that in John 6:47, Jesus says that whoever believes in Him has (present tense) eternal life. It has already begun because the kingdom of God has come into the world. Jesus announced it at the beginning of His ministry: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus is Himself the king — that is the significance of the His, Messiah (literally, “Anointed One”). It means that Jesus is the one God has anointed to be king over His kingdom.

The kingdom of God has come into the world and has been growing ever since. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12, NIV). The apostle John wrote, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

We live between the times — the time of God’s kingdom coming into the world (through Jesus the Messiah) and the time it will be revealed in all its fullness (when King Jesus comes again). We enter into that kingdom by the new birth, being “born again” by the Spirit of God, through faith in King Jesus. This is eternal life, the life of God’s kingdom age, the age to come which has already begun for us in King Jesus.