Saturday 17 November 2018

What does Jesus mean (in the Fourth Gospel) by the promise of life eternal/ everlasting?

The promise of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel is that those who believe in him will have the reward of life eternal/ life everlasting.

As Jesus explains to Nicodemus; this is to be attained only after mortal life: via biological death and being born again.

Life eternal/ everlasting is the state of resurrection; and its consequence explained in terms of the various events of the gospel when Jesus contrasts the satisfactions of this mortal life - wine, water, bread, meat, sight - with the great, qualitative enhancement that these mortal experiences will have in the life to come.

How can we understand this?

The answer is that the resurrected body is what transforms worldly experience into Paradise. The resurrected body is eternal, everlasting, indestructible - and has divine powers of both perceiving and thinking.

(Because the incarnate body and the soul are indivisible, therefore transformation of the body is itself a transformation of the Man.)

The resurrected Man has, in effect, 'extra senses' unknown to mortal Men, and creative powers of imaginative and intuitive thinking.

(These we may experience briefly, in the context of our constantly-changing mortal state - but mortality is primarily for learning, rather than doing.)

Thus the promise of resurrection is itself the cause of the astonishing enhancements in the quality of living that Jesus promises. It is because Jesus brought resurrection that he also brought the possibility of Heaven.

Note: This was clarified for me by the discussion of William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell on pp 194-5 of Fearful Symmetry by Northrop Frye.


Chiu ChunLing said...

What of those who do not believe in Christ?

Are they not to be resurrected, or will they only be reincarnated, or will they have a lesser resurrection?

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Jesus seems to be telling us in the Gospels that *all* will be *resurrected* - but we would need to test our understanding of this by direct intuition; also Jesus may have been speaking generally - and there may be exceptions.

My own understanding of this is not solid; my current assumption is that all are resurrected except a few who have a particular job to do (for God) as a reincarnate; our choice comes-in with what happens after resurrection.

*Perhaps* relevant is John 5:29's reference to the resurrection of life (presumably eternal life) for those that have done good versus that of damnation for those that have done evil... Although I must admit that that verse does look rather 'inserted later' to my eye, since it is unsupported-by and not consistent with the rest of the Fourth Gospel, which is Not about 'doing good' as being the way to life eternal. I would go further, this verse seems to contradict the core Christian principle of salvation by faith in the name of Jesus - and should therefore probably be disregarded as probably corrupt.

My hunch (derived from Arkle) is that the resurrected Man can choose Heaven or damnation - *or* a third 'neutral' outcome equivalent to non-conscious Nirvana, almost like a coma or suspended animation.

I think this, because Heaven is a complex and opt-in life, and I cannot see our loving God making the *only* alternative to joining the active, loving work of creation as being consigned to solitary misery dwelling in chaos. (Those who want such damnation, who actively choose it; would be those that are sustained in theirmiserable solitude by their pride - such mortal persons are known to me, and I suppose that is the case post-mortally.)

So I am quite confident there is provision for those who don't positively want Heaven but wish simply to be (subjectively) reabsorbed into the primal unconscious bliss. Those who regret having incarnated, regret consciousness, and do not wish to progress towards fuller divinity. I don't see why this kind of outcome would be impossible or evil - so I am sure something of the sort is provided for.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Why shouldn't "doing good" be a significant part of preparing for an eternal life that was harmonious with God and the rest of the saved? Alternatively, why shouldn't "doing good" be the primary demonstration of faith in Jesus Christ? Would there be any contradiction in both being the case, that "doing good" as a result of faith in Jesus Christ was necessary in eternity to avoid practically turning Heaven into Hell?

Would it be possible to opt in to eternal life by degrees of faith/commitment/good works, and thus for there to be a hierarchy of fullness of participation in salvation in Heaven, with damnation being a matter of the distance away from complete participation, with absolute and utter damnation being the complete non-participation of refusing to even be conscious?

Though this complete non-participation may well be termed neutral, doesn't Jesus say such moral neutrality is bad?

Would God have brought anyone into Creation in the first place if they were really more content outside of it than they ever could be within it?

While all these questions are non-rhetorical, the last is especially so. Not that I am asking for authoritative guidance, only for a considered opinion. Not that I'm opposed to authoritative guidance on any of them, just that I accept that it is ultimately my own responsibility to recognize and accept such guidance rather than demand it be 'obvious' without any further effort on my part.