Terry Nightingale

Eternal Life

What do you imagine Heaven to be like? I remember from my childhood images drawn of angels peacefully strumming harps and sitting on white clouds. Nobody ever explained to me how they stayed up there!

I have sometimes tried to visualize meeting loved ones who have passed away before me, even thinking there may be some sort of small delegation waiting to welcome me to my new home. In my mind’s eye, there is a white, warm glow in the undefined environment and happy faces. There is no pain and suffering and everyone gets on.

It’s a nice and comforting image, but no-one really knows, of course, what we will see, feel and hear when we arrive in our new bodies. What will define our existence in the days and years to follow? What will life be like in eternity?

John records Jesus’ magnificent prayer just before his arrest in John 17 where our Lord says something interesting about eternal life. We might think He would try to describe it, after all, He knows it better than we do. But His focus is not on the structure of Heaven or who we might see. This is how He describes it:

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

For Jesus, the most important thing about Heaven, about eternal life is that we will know God the Father; and himself, the second person of the Trinity and our Lord and Saviour.

The thing that strikes me about this is that eternity, therefore, has already started. If we have accepted the free gift of salvation through repentance of sins and faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, then we have started to know God and the best is truly yet to come – knowing Him more and more.

I struggle to imagine what knowing God more looks like, but if His creation is anything to go by, then our God is infinitely complex, beautiful, surprising, and inspiring. So many paintings have been painted and songs have been written about Him or stirred by something in God’s world; how much more will we want to celebrate the wonder of who He is and what He can do with more music and art, dance, poetry and story.

Perhaps Heaven (or the new Earth as described in Rev 21: 1) will be like an enormous cultural centre of learning, celebration and creativity, centred around the Source of all Life as we continue to dig into the depths of who He is, what He knows, what He thinks and so much more.

I don’t think we are heading toward a boring place. In fact, the more we get to know Him here and now, the more we look forward to the life to come.

God bless – Terry

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