Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
The Benefits of Being a Disciple—Rewards You Can Reap Today—Part Five
Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.” John 10: 27-28
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
One last reflection before we spend a couple of weeks talking about rewards you can reap today from being a Disciple of Christ, and this reflection is about the ultimate reward, eternal life. We have discussed the concept of eternal life many times in the past. But allow me to review a couple of things. First of all, the human soul, the God-given part of us, will live forever. For every soul is made in the image and likeness of God. In that sense, every soul is immortal. What differs for each soul is where that soul will reside for eternity. Those whom God deems worthy will go to eternal life. Those whom God does not deem worthy will go to eternal punishment. Indeed, the souls of all will go to an eternal destination.
Our life on this earth, then, is preparation for eternity. If we live a God-centered life, a life of faith and service to others, then God promises to reward us with eternal life. If we live a life that is not God-centered, but rather self-centered, or centered on something else, then God promises us eternal punishment. “Death”, then is the absence of God, and is the worst possible consequence when life on earth is over. “Life” is to be in the presence of God, and “Eternal LIFE” is the best possible reward once life on earth is over.
When I think of heaven, I think of the Garden of Eden, a place of Paradise where we can come face to face with God as friend, where we can walk with Him in the cool of the garden the way Adam and Eve did, naked and unashamed. People who have had near death experiences have described their close encounter with heaven as a place of light and a place of peace. Needless to say, however, the experience of heaven will be for those who go there, it will be a place of joy, greater joy than we can ever comprehend.
The problem with the concept of “eternal life” is that it seems so far away. In many ways, our life on earth seems long. We have a hard time conceiving that life on earth will end one day—that’s hard to understand if you are 20 or 30 or 40. The other challenge with eternal life is that we associate with the destination, not with the journey. We think of “eternal life” as what we will have with Jesus hopefully one day once life here is over.
However, in the Scriptures, if you read carefully, you’ll hear “eternal life” spoken of in present tense, not just in future tense. In John 3:36, we read “He who believes in the Son HAS eternal life.” In John 5:24, we read Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes him who sent Me, HAS eternal life.” In John 6:47, we read “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes HAS eternal life.” And in John 6:54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood HAS eternal life.” In each of these instances, eternal life is spoken of in the present. Jesus does not say “Will have eternal life” but “Has eternal life.”
Once we are born, we live on a continuum from our birth date to eternity. In that sense “eternal life” has already begun for each of us. We live our first “few years” (in the span of eternity) on earth, and then live the remainder of eternity either with God (heaven) or away from God (hell). The purpose of life is to prepare for life with God. Some will pass that test and some will fail.
Let’s assume that each person reading this message is preparing for eternal life with God (heaven). God tells us that the rewards of eternal life are not only to be enjoyed when life on earth is over, but to be enjoyed in this life as well.
A practical example. Let’s say that a college student is studying nursing. They day they graduate and pass their exams, they will be certified as a nurse. However, their first day as a nurse will not be the first day they take someone’s temperature or blood pressure. They will be acting in a “nursing capacity” of some sort long before, and throughout their period of study.
It’s the same thing with the Christian. The day we are allowed into heaven won’t be the first time we will feel the peace of God, or a sense of hope, or intimacy with God. We can experience all of these things in this life. However, just like the nursing student doesn’t have as his or her goal to be a student, but a full-fledged nurse, the Christian should not have as his or her goal to be a good student of Christianity (or occasional student) but to be a resident in the Kingdom of Heaven, the fullest expression of Christianity. When we “graduate” this life, we will taste the fullness of everlasting life. However, we can experience a foretaste of this joy throughout our lives on earth. For “eternal life” is not just something that awaits us when life on earth is over. We can live in “eternal life” in this life, enjoying rewards of Christianity today, tomorrow and ultimately forever.
The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, He is girded with strength. Yea, the world is established; it shall never be moved; Thy throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice, the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! Thy decrees are very sure; holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, forevermore. Psalm 93
Come back tomorrow as we discuss specific rewards of being a Christian that you can experience today!
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Photo Credit: Prima
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