When confronting our own mortality or when grieving the death of a loved one, thoughts of the kingdom of heaven can give us some solace. Only our immortal God can promise eternal life. And for me, only the Gospel of John thoroughly describes Our Lord.
In the first chapter, John wrote that God is the Eternal Word and the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” In the second chapter, Jesus stated that his body is the Temple of the Eternal God. He added that if the temple were to be destroyed, he would raise it up in three days. Then in chapter three, Jesus conveyed to Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom of God we must be born again of water and Spirit. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus did not limit the good news to only the Jews. In chapter four, John wrote that Jesus traveled north to Samaria to the ancestral place of Jacob. Jesus conversed with the Samaritan woman at the well and told her, “the water I shall give will become in him (who drinks) a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Returning to Judea, Jesus affirmed, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
In chapter six Jesus instructed, “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.” He also said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” We can trust God and his declaration for our resurrection. But for those who still would rather enjoy their temporal earthly life and not the promises of heaven, Jesus admonished, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life” John 12:23.
So what can we expect this eternal life to look like? How is the kingdom of heaven different from a kingdom on earth? To think about eternal life, we must first get away from thinking of a lifetime in chronological time. Over time, earthly kingdoms rise and fall. But the kingdom of God exists in eternity. The Gospel of John documents a three-year ministry of Jesus. And yet, 2,000 years later we still feel the Presence of Christ fresh and new as if it is now. Eternal moments have a beginning, but no end. They are moments that stay alive in our hearts forever.
It is no coincidence that in the Gospel of John, Jesus begins his ministry at the Wedding at Cana. The kingdom of heaven is often compared to a great wedding banquet where there is no hunger or thirst, and everyone is joyful, loving and happy. A wedding celebration is a moment that leads to living happily ever after with eternal life. And what joy to know that Jesus is the Bridegroom who vows, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2