Christians have many ideas about eternal life. Sometimes, these ideas do not agree with what Scripture says. As President Harrison notes in his letter, Scripture says quite a lot about heaven. For example, we will live eternally as resurrected people (1 Cor. 15). We will see our loved ones, even if our knowledge and life with them will be different than our life now (Matt. 22:29–30). And, most importantly and the entire reason for this issue, our eternal life will center around the Lamb of God slain for our sins and raised for our justification (Rev. 4:1–11; 20:22–27).
Hence the cover for this issue: simple and plain. The focus and center of our eternal life is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. But this Lamb is also the Good Shepherd. Thus, He bears a banner and a shepherd’s crook. A shepherd uses his crook to guide and keep his sheep. The crook also bears a flag, a banner of victory. The victory has been won, and it belongs to the Lamb. Simple and clear. The Lamb is the center of our eternal life.
Your eternal life does not begin when your earthly body fails and is laid into the grave; it begins in the waters of Holy Baptism. There you were tied to the death of Christ; in Christ, you died. And because you were united to His resurrection, you also have been raised to life (Rom. 6:3–5). For those baptized into Christ Jesus, you already live an eternal life, a blessed existence with Christ (Col. 3:1–3). Indeed, you await the final and complete fulfillment of this eternal life; to reach that fulfillment, either Christ will return or you will pass through the vale of death. But your eternal life has already begun, and even here and now, your eternal life centers on Christ and Him crucified for the sins of the world (Gal. 2:20).
This month’s issue revolves around gaining a deeper understanding of what the fulfillment and completion of your eternal life will look like. What does the Bible say? What sort of misconceptions do we have about eternal life that we should correct?
To answer that, Roger A. Peters takes up common eternal misconceptions and points us to Christ. David P. Scaer explains how Christ sits at the center of our life, here and now and into eternity. Near-death experiences are also commonly misunderstood; Carol Geisler points us to find our confidence in Christ. Finally, we are not the first ones to ponder eternal life. Benjamin T.G. Mayes shows us how Johann Gerhard’s recently translated and published volume On Eternal Life, also the title of this issue, can help us understand and reflect on our life with Christ. (I recommend you purchase a copy for your pastor from Concordia Publishing House [cph.org]).
Eternally alive in Christ with you,
Roy S. Askins
Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness