Yes, I know yesterday was Monday.
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.
I like this understanding of eternal life, of αἰώνιος ζωὴ — to know God, and know Christ. It’s a simple description of eternal life, one a believer can get lost in.
Christians have added things to the biblical description of heaven/eternal life and hades/gahenna/tartarus that aren’t really there. In fact, I think a lot of the Christian notions as to what paradise and hellfire look like are derived from Islam. The Qur’an contains some remarkable descriptions of paradise as a place of comfort and ease, of bliss and eternal reward, while hellfire is a place of torture, pain, and despair. There’s a purpose to this afterlife, since where you go depend entirely on who you choose to follow — Satan and his minions, or God and his Prophet — and the deeds you do as a follower.
There’s some of this in scripture, but Israel’s relationship with God isn’t about afterlife. Resurrection becomes an issue, the the New Testament ends with a description of a renewed and resurrected creation.
But heaven … not so much.
What we do have is eternal life, and Jesus tells us that this eternal life is knowing God and knowing the Anointed One he sent.
That’s all it is. And it’s already done. Jesus still breathes here, and the work … is already done. The world is already overcome. We have been gathered and redeemed. And Jesus still breathes.
This is why I love John’s gospel. For all the talking Jesus does, for all the words he uses, there is a breathless wonder to what he says. I could ponder these words all my days and find no end to them. No bottom or finish to what they say or mean.
And we have eternal life. Eternal life. Because we know God. And we belong to Christ.