How Can We Be Sure We Live Forever?
John 3.16 may well be the most quoted piece of scripture on the planet. It goes like this:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
No wonder these words stir us so much. They go to the root of what it is to be human, a mix of divine and mortal.
The thought of the grave haunts us throughout our mortal existence, so much so that it hampers our ability to enjoy fully the fruits of life. Mostly we try not to think about it, but when we get bad news about someone we know, love dearly, don’t want to lose, and the brutal prospect looms of losing them forever, denial is fruitless. At times like this, our minds become focused on our ultimate earthly fate, that there will come a time when we must stop breathing, cease living, and leave behind everything and everyone we love.
So, wouldn’t it be good to have some kind of guarantee that, even though we are bound to be separated from our loved ones sooner or later, separation is only temporary; that there is an existence after we die which is not only better than the life we know but the best we can possibly experience?
Well, the good news is we do.
The first step in reaching this satisfying conclusion is to know what it is that makes us unique in creation. As incredibly well-designed specimens of existence, we are neither machine nor beast. What we have in common with machines is our ability to process information but what sets us apart is self-awareness. What we have in common with beasts is the exercise of our appetites. What sets us apart is that in the exercising of those appetites we are conscious of extremes; want and desire can become greed and lust. This creates a tension not found in any other animal to the same degree, the result of conscience.
So here are at least two unique human qualities: Self-Awareness and Conscience. Combined these act on us and our environment to create our personality, ie all the skills and talents and original thought we associate with being human.
These are possibilities which understandably baffle scientists and philosophers. For how can we rationalize concepts which do not seem to belong to the material world? No amount of digging around in the brain, in the nervous system or in our hearts has produced evidence of the source of these mysterious processes. If they have their root in something other than our physical bodies, then they can never be “found” without some outside help.
Let’s follow the logic and use John as our guide.
While there is abundant evidence that all material things decay, a process called entropy, that even the earth we inhabit will one day cease to exist, an idea cannot die. A new-born baby is self-aware from the minute it is born. Within weeks it displays signs of an original personality, too soon for it to have been learnt. If our ideas and our personalities have not been manufactured by us in our bodies. then they must have come from somewhere else. And if they cannot be manufactured, they can never be extinguished. If they exist forever, they must come from a source that is outside of materiality. This ties up nicely with scripture, for John goes on to say at 17.3
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Somehow, our immortality is connected to knowing God. Knowledge (in Greek gnosis) is the key. If we know that our destiny is to be with God, that is enough to make it happen. Conscience and self-awareness come from the mind of God. But why is knowing Christ so important. Because Christ is the evidence we need to prove that God is true. Jesus was the perfect manifestation of God’s mind on earth. He had perfect comprehension. His life, his teachings, his example are without fault and beyond criticism, so inspiring that they changed the world. No wonder John’s words stir the soul for they sum up in a few lines what it means to be a Christian:
1) Our relationship to God
2) God’s relationship to His son
3) Our relationship to Christ
4) The prospect of eternal life through Christ
So, by identifying with Jesus and following his example, we align ourselves to the mind and spirit of God. Our bodies are perishable vessels filled with permanent concepts that are not born and never die, but exist forever in eternity.