Most people think of eternal life as something we only experience after death. But what if we could also begin to experience eternal life today?
What if we had a seat in Heaven right now (Eph. 2:6)? What if we already had access to heavenly gifts, such as belonging to God’s family, complete forgiveness, and more love than we can measure (Eph. 1:3-7, 3:17-21)? What if God’s presence, the Holy Spirit, lived within us and could change our lives with his love and peace today (Eph. 1:13-14, Col. 3:15)? The truth is, God has given us all these realities.
But since we can’t physically see our heavenly seats or touch peace with our hands, we might wonder how these eternal truths make a tangible difference when sitting in a hospital waiting room or holding an eviction notice. Fear and shame constantly threaten to unravel our perception of God and ourselves.
So to begin to experience eternal life today, we need God’s Spirit of wisdom to give us a fresh perspective—a type of sight that protects us from fear and shame and doesn’t rely on our physical eyes. We need the kind of sight that makes Heaven’s culture a visible reality on Earth.
How We First Lost Sight of Eternal Life
To regain our view of eternal life on Earth, let’s retrace our steps back to when we first lost sight of it. Back to the beginning, when God sets humans in a sacred garden, granting them access to the tree at the garden's center—the tree of life. He sees what he created and calls it good. God blesses humans to enjoy and expand his goodness together. He also warns them of another tree, the tree of knowing good and bad. He says eating from this tree will cause death, not because the fruit has poison, but because the decision to deny God also denies his life (Gen. 2:7-17). So how do humans respond?
At first, the humans echo God’s words. But when an evil perspective distorts God’s intentions, they think God is against them. They suspect God is holding them back from being wise like him. God created them in his likeness and blessed them to partner with his wisdom, but they lose sight of this and look instead to what they think will open their eyes and make them wise. They eat from the tree of knowing good and bad, and it’s as though they turn out the lights, pulling creation back into dark chaos. Their eyes are open, but their perspectives are dim. They aren’t wise, only afraid and ashamed. Scrambling to protect themselves, they hide and blame one another. They exit the garden, the tree of life now far away, and enter the dark age of death (see Gen. 3).
When we deny God’s goodness toward us, we rely on our limited perspectives instead. And when we trust in our viewpoints, things get dark. Scarcity, self-protection, and mistrust can become a darkened way of seeing, a way of life that leads to death.
Who will turn the light back on? Who will correct our vision?
How We See New Light
When Jesus arrives on the scene, we learn he is God who becomes human, the creator of all life, the light for all people (John 1:4-5, John 1:14, Luke 2:32, Isa. 9:2). He invites us to come and see what eternal life looks like on Earth. A life where the poor have what they need, where misfits belong, and where enemies reconcile to share the same dinner table in peace. Some people recognize Jesus’ life as good news, and others only see him as a threat and choose to kill him. But the darkness cannot turn out his light forever (John 1:5). Jesus rises again, and before he ascends into Heaven, he promises the Holy Spirit to his followers, so they are empowered to spread his hope to all people (Acts 1:8). And when the Holy Spirit comes, the disciples begin to understand and experience what they learned from Jesus, even though they can no longer see him with their physical eyes. Instead of hiding in fear, they boldly speak of Jesus' resurrected life, share their possessions, and care for the poor. The Spirit empowers them to see life in a whole new way, and everything in and around them begins to change.
While we have never seen Jesus with our eyes like the early disciples, we have the same Spirit of God to give us wisdom and shape our perspectives in light of who Jesus is and who we are in his family (e.g., Eph. 1:17-23). God is generous. He gives wisdom! When we genuinely believe that, we go to him, ask for his counsel, and trust him to provide what we need (Eph. 1:16-18, Jas. 1:5). But when we do not believe that God gives wisdom, we’ll trust our perspective and try to figure out what’s wise on our own.
We’ve seen what happens when humans do this. Life begins to spiral into fear and shame when we look beyond God’s perspective and define what is wise from our limited viewpoint (Gen. 3:1-13). So instead, we pray for God’s wisdom to help us remember three things: the hope he has given us, the wealth of belonging in his family, and the overwhelming power that he has made available to us—not against us (Eph. 1:17-19a). What can these three things practically mean?
Learning to See Hope, Belonging, and God’s Power
Let’s say a family member sends us an aggressive and accusatory text. We feel the fear of rejection and the shame of being unwanted, and now we have a choice. We can rely on our dim view of the situation and try to make it right on our own by lashing out or hiding. Or we can pray for God’s wisdom to turn the lights on—to remind us of our hope and belonging, and his power toward us.
Hope can imagine the future God has promised and then imitate what it looks like in the present. How will God himself defend us when he makes everything new, and Heaven fully overlaps with the Earth? How will we communicate with each other then? How does this image begin to change our responses to an aggressive text now?
The wealth of belonging in God’s family can protect our hearts from the enduring damage of fear and shame. It is excruciating when others don’t recognize or echo the truth of our belonging with their actions. Jesus knows what that’s like. Even now, the risen Jesus regularly experiences accusation and rejection. We belong to him—the one who understands and loves us perfectly. How can his words of love and assurance undermine an accusatory text and hasten our healing?
God's power toward us is more significant than we can measure. We can look to our own power to fix things, but what happens when we look to God and ask him for help? His wisdom usually appears upside-down at first because it requires sacrifice (e.g., indeed, deleting a defensive text is sacrificial). But the more we join his way of self-giving love, the more we can experience how, even in the most challenging circumstances, he really is for us, not against us (Rom. 8:31-37).
Learning to cooperate with God’s Spirit of wisdom to see the hope, belonging, and power he offers is more than a coping strategy. As God’s Spirit reshapes our perspectives, not only do we begin to experience eternal life now, we become instruments of life to help others experience Heaven on Earth, too (Jas. 1:23-27).
When we adopt the eternal perspective of Jesus in how we view the person who irks us most, we might smile the next time we see them. How could that unforced smile begin to untangle the wounds in that relationship? And when we gently hug our toddler as she tantrums, whispering words of belonging in her ear, how does the peace of God remodel that moment? And when we sit in the waiting room with an eviction notice in our pocket and invite God’s Spirit to sit and weep with us, how does his presence transform that vinyl seat into a heavenly throne close to him?
Eternal Life Available Now
Eternal life is here. While it’s true that one day God will make his eternal life fully visible for all of creation to see, we don’t have to wait until then to begin to experience eternal life now. Everything starts to change when God’s Spirit gives us eyes to see the hope, belonging, and power of God! This way of seeing coordinates with the life of Jesus, the one who could not be defeated by death—the one who lives in the heavenly places and within us through the Holy Spirit right now (Eph. 1:13-23)! In other words, this way of seeing allows us to begin to experience the eternal life of Jesus while we still live on Earth. But remember, all of these eternal gifts remain unexperienced if we reject God’s wisdom and rely on our own perspectives instead.
So let’s spend time in prayer this week. Let’s ask for God’s Spirit of wisdom to reshape our vision with true hope, secure belonging, and his generous power. May God give us a fresh perspective—the kind of sight that can perceive and experience the eternal life God has given us today.