Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son. And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. (1 John 5:9-13, NLT)
It was a thought that really never crossed my mind. But as it was laid before me, I saw it for what it is. The simple, passionate message brought by one of my pastors (Dan) cut through all the "theory" about eternal life and made it real - perhaps for the first time. I realized this isn't some vague, theological concept that we will experience at some future point. No, John is telling people that they have eternal life now. Peterson even amplifies this further by rendering part of the passage this way: "[That you] will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion." What a concept!
This set my mind thinking about the exchange between Jesus and Martha in John 11 (perhaps John was thinking about it as well when he wrote the passage above). In the middle of what seems to be death and certainly is human despair, we see Life speaking life into Death and Death melts away so far that Lazarus walks out of the grave. Martha thought "eternal life" was something that comes later. Jesus told her, and then demonstrated, that was far from true. Life, the real and eternal life that endures, was right there all the time.
So it is with me as I travel my Crooked Path. Eternal life isn't some future concept. It isn't an illusion at all. It is very, very real and present right now. Certainly this mortal shell will pass away. I was reminded of that this week when the mother of a friend lost her temporal battle with cancer. But she didn't gain eternal life when she died. She just moved on to the next stage of experiencing it. And that happens because we have eternal life right here and now. I know it's true because Jesus said it - which was kind of John's point in the first place.