When I was a kid, going to the zoo meant looking at lions in a cage with concrete house and a big cat toy hanging from the top bars. A zookeeper would come by periodically to use a hose to clean the concrete cage.
Lions are not meant to live that way. We know it. We don’t like to look at lions in cages. They don’t look much like kings of the jungle. They look sad.
On my recent trip to Africa, we turned the tables a bit. I got in a cage of sorts and went to look at the lions who were not in cages. They were very different.
These lions ruled the land. They went where they wanted. They would climb up on a big ant hill and enjoy their world. At one point we saw a lioness jump to attention and then take off across the savannah–she was in hot pursuit of a warthog. Her mate circled around to help her hunt. Then, after what we think was an unsuccessful hunt, they climbed back up on an ant hill and took a nap.
The lions in the zoo were healthy. They had heart beats and breath, but they were not alive. Not really. They were shells of who they were created to be.
The lions on the ant hill were alive–really alive. They were living as they were created to live. The difference was unmistakable.
That is what eternal life is.
Sometimes we think of eternal life as a ticket to heaven. We think it is a ticket out of this place and to a place where our humanity is merely a faded, disturbing dream. That is not biblical eternal life.
The Jewish idea of eternal life was living life in sync with the God who made us. It is living the life the way we were intended to live it. Eternal life is life in connection with God.
It is life out of a cage.
Eternal life is becoming fully human again. Eternal life is living like we were created. We feel the heart beat in our chest and the blood pump. We know what we were made for and we are doing it.
Does it mean heaven? Yes. It means that we will live like we were intended to live–in relationship with our creator. Today, tomorrow and forever.
Eternal life is not, primarily about heaven. It is about living.
It is sitting on ant hills and chasing warthogs. It is living.