Eternal Life by Philip John

My father-in-law gave the following message during the “Explore” service at Ashraya Church in South India. It is a thoughtful, humorous, yet deeply spiritual look at one of the deepest mysteries we will ever confront. I love the way he respectfully but firmly contrasts Christianity with the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs of his audience. Though he isn’t an ordained pastor, he clearly has a pastoral heart, and it shows.

Eternal Life
A rich but miserly man dies and arrives at the gates of Heaven. Saint Peter asks him “What have you done to merit entrance into Heaven?” The miser thought a moment, then said, “A week ago, I gave 25 cents to a homeless person on the street.” Saint Peter asks Gabriel to check this out in the record and after a moment Gabriel affirms that this was true.
*Saint Peter says, “Well, that’s fine, but it’s not really quite enough to get you into Heaven.” The rich man said, “Wait! Wait! There’s more! Three years ago I also gave a beggar 25 cents.” Saint Peter nodded to Gabriel, who after a moment nods back, affirming this too has been verified. *?Saint Peter then whispers to Gabriel, “Well, what do you suggest we do with this fellow?” *Gabriel gives the rich miser a sidelong glance then says to Saint Peter, *”Let’s give him back his 50 cents and tell him to go to Hell.”
Heaven & Hell
We frequently hear jokes about Heaven and Hell. However, most people are hazy about where these are. There are debates about whether it is a physical place or a state of mind? But almost everyone believes that you need to earn your place in heaven by your good works and pious living.
There is a saying that the road to Hell is broad and easy but the road to heaven is narrow and hard — but is it?
Before we look at that we really need to decide whether there is life after death. Because if there isn’t then eternal life is meaningless! If we just disappear from Earth and become dust then what’s all the fuss about?
Is there life after death? (Pam Reynolds story)
Let me read a couple of paragraphs from a true story that appeared in the Readers Digest, October 2003.
In the summer of 1991, Pam Reynolds learnt that she had a life-threatening bulge in an artery in her brain. Neurosurgeon Robert Spetzler told the mother of 3 that in order to operate he would have to stop her heart. During that time her brain function would cease. By all clinical measures she would be dead for up to an hour. While Reynolds was under anaesthesia, leads from a machine that emitted a clicking sound were plugged into her ears to gauge her brainstem functions. Additional instruments tracked heart beat, breathing, temperature and other vital signs. Her limbs were restrained; her eyes were lubricated and then taped shut.
As Spetzler powered the surgical saw to open the patient’s skull, something occurred that never registered in any of the sophisticated monitoring devices. Reynolds felt herself ‘pop’ out of her body. From a vantage point just above Spetzler’s shoulders, she looked down on the operation. She saw Spetzler holding something that resembled an electric toothbrush. A female voice complained that the patient’s blood vessels were too small. It appeared to Reynolds that they were about to operate on her groin.
That couldn’t be right she thought. This is a brain surgery. Reynolds then assumed that whatever they were doing inside her skull had triggered a hallucination. But even though her eyes were sealed shut, what she perceived was actually happening. The surgical saw did resemble an electric toothbrush. Surgeons were indeed working on her groin: catheters had to be threaded up to her heart to connect to a heart lung machine.
Spetzler gave the order to bring Reynolds to a “standstill” — draining all blood from her body. And she found herself travelling down a tunnel towards a light. At this end she saw her long- dead grandmother, relatives and friends. Time seemed to stop and then an uncle led her back to her body and instructed her to return. It felt like plunging into a pool of ice water. After she came to Reynolds told Spetzler all that she had seen and experienced.
There have been many such documented experiences that those who say life ends when we die are going to be in for a big surprise! The majority of people believe there is life after death and man’s “soul” does not die. However, I don’t think man is in a hurry to rush towards Eternity — even though he knows it is inevitable. My father is 90 years old. On occasions he says he is ready to “go home.” But he still has a zest for life and this is one of my greatest joys.
* Like these three buddies who died in a car crash. They go to heaven for an orientation. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning, what would you like to hear them say about you? The first guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.”
The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.”
The angels then turn to the last guy. He thinks for a minute and blurts,
“I would like to hear them say, “Hey Look! He’s moving!”
In reality 90 years is but a twinkling of an eye when we try to visualise eternity! All religions agree that life is eternal and without end. However, they come up with different ways of attaining heaven.
Hindu/Buddhist belief
The Hindu, Buddhist and a few other religions believe in Karma. Incidentally so does the New Age religion, which is a packaged version of Hindu beliefs.
Karma, implies reincarnation or rebirth since thoughts and deeds in past lives affect one’s current situation. Thus, all are responsible for the tragedies and good “fortunes” which they experience. Karma is the physical and spiritual ‘physics’ of being. As gravity governs the motions of heavenly bodies and objects on the surface of the earth, karma governs the motions and happenings of life in the cosmic realm.
What people call “destiny” or “fate” is actually the simple and neutral working out of this law. Karma is a moral banking system, a credit and debit of good and bad. This means that any sort of action, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’, binds us in a recurring cause and effect. The only way to escape the cycle of life, death, and rebirth we must have enough of a “moral bank balance” to merge into God himself.
Buddhists call it “moksha” or deliverance from earthly bondage.
The Eternalness of the Hereafter (as taught by Mohammed)
The pleasures of this world are transient whilst the joys of the hereafter are lasting and eternal. As for the delights of Paradise, a person will never feel bored with anything, but rather its pleasure will increase each time they indulge in it.
Here you don’t get a second chance to make it to Paradise. You just get one shot. But there are tough conditions and hard work to become eligible to partake of all these good things. Unfortunately I don’t have time to go into all of that.
Christ did for us what we can’t do for ourselves
Jesus? approach was just the opposite! His was a message of love and mercy.
The Bible does not minimize the role sin has in our eternity.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6: 23
To put it in simple language it means that without a pardon from God we have a lost cause and a horrible destiny awaiting us.
I believe it is vital not only to understand what Eternal Life is with your mind but also to experience it with your heart! You see, the Bible equates personal intimacy with God to Eternal Life.
In John 17:3 Jesus is quoted as saying, *And this is eternal life that they might know you (intimately) the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
*Know? is as in an intimate relationship that a husband and wife share. The foundation of this relationship is based on trust. Without trust, ‘relationship’ is shallow and superficial. How do we build trust with someone we cannot see? Well, God has revealed Himself in His word, given many promises and directions to live life — so that all may go well with you. My part in this relationship is to BELIEVE and ACT according to what He has revealed in the Bible. Many “Christians” are selective in what they want to believe — excusing anything that doesn’t suit them to changes in culture or social boundaries over the years. It is like saying we now don’t need to make a commitment in marriage because living together is now socially acceptable!
The ultimate goal of Jesus dying was to give us eternal life or intimacy with God but there are no short-cuts! It is impossible to have a relationship with God without having our sins forgiven. But there is more to this experience than just getting our sins forgiven. Jesus did die for the forgiveness of our sins but the real benefit of having our sins forgiven is to render us eligible for intimacy with God.
Eternal Life isn’t living forever. Everyone lives forever; even lost people live forever. No one ceases to exist. We all will continue to exist, even after our physical lives end.
The point of my message is twofold:
1. Those that do not know Jesus or have not availed of the most amazing and wonderful provision that God made for us on the Cross would do so today.
2. Those who have had their sins forgiven — thereby buying themselves a safe passage to Heaven will understand that God’s primary goal was to have an intimate relationship with you — here and now — which of course will continue unhindered for all eternity.
This has been the key to my life. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour in 1983. I experienced God’s love and from then on everything this world had to offer paled in comparison. It is my relationship with the Lord that led me to seek a life that pleases Him not some doctrine or philosophy. It is the assurance of His love that has made all the hardships life has thrown at me (and there were some scary ones!) manageable. My faith isn’t in a doctrine or philosophy but my faith is in a living person – Jesus. Even though I haven’t figured out all the answers, I intimately know the One who has all the answers, and I am assured that He is guiding me in practical terms.
This is what separates true followers of Christ from the religions of this world, including what the world calls Christianity. Rituals and doctrines are motivated by fear, not love. Love is the result of a relationship.
So this is what eternal life is — something that is not hard to find and is available to everyone who accepts the forgiveness that Jesus provided on the Cross 2000 years ago.
Eternal life is yours for the asking. The good news is you don’t have to earn it. The bad news is that you can’t earn it even if you tried to! Man cannot do it on his own – not in a thousand life times – but you can receive it now. Eternal Life is like a cheque that is offered. You can cash it and start using the benefits or you can tear it up — and say I don’t need it. What do you want to do? The choice is yours!
Let me close by quoting Jesus once more. This is not just a quotation — it is an assurance from the Lord himself!
I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
John 5:24
This is a matter of Life and Death.
Choose Life!
Philip John
Chennai 24.09.2006