It is important to address the theology tied to the phrase “eternal life” (1Jn 2:25; cf. 3:15; 5:11–13,20). In Scripture, eternal life has the connotation of future reward, to be sure, but it also has a present sense of the type of life that comes when we remain in Christ here and now. This Biblical concept should not be understood in exclusively physical or spiritual terms. Easton’s Bible Dictionary gives us this definition of eternal life:
[The expression “eternal life”] occurs frequently in the New Testament. It comprises the whole future of the redeemed (Lk 16:9), and is opposed to “eternal punishment” (Mt 25:46). It is the final reward and glory into which the children of God enter (1Ti 6:12); their Sabbath of rest (Heb 4:9). The newness of life which the believer derives from Christ (Ro 6:4) is the very essence of salvation, and hence the life of glory or the eternal life must also be theirs (Ro 6:8). It is the “gift of God … in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 6:23). The life the faithful have here on earth (Jn 3:36; 5:24) is inseparably connected with the eternal life beyond, the endless life of the future, the happy future of the saints in heaven (Mt 19:16,29).
Eternal life and Christian stewardship are intimately connected in the administration of the new life in Christ we currently participate in. Evangelical theologian R. Scott Rodin explores the idea that eternal life is not only a future reality but a present reality of a life lived in Christ.
We live in a kingdom that is both “now” and “not yet.” This provisional nature provides us with the opportunity to live as children in God’s kingdom and thereby to announce the grace of God to all of the world. If we hear the “not yet” nature of the kingdom in Hebrews 2:8, “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them,” we must also hear the very certain “now” reality of the kingdom in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” It is this kingdom into which we are called to be stewards.
Rodin describes the life of a steward who lives in the awareness of the fullness of eternal life.
Imagine what life would be like if every day was seen as an incredible gift in a life that was guaranteed to last forever. Imagine what it would be like to be so certain about tomorrow that you could be free to invest every hour of today doing whatever was most pleasing to God. Imagine being so certain about who you were in the eyes of God that you could give yourself away in service to others with real joy. This is not only possible; it is our calling as stewards in the kingdom of the triune God who has freed us for just this kind of rich and abundant life.
Spend some time imagining the scenarios described by Rodin. How does this exercise affect your perspectives on stewardship and eternity?