There is another description of salvation which in some sense rises to the top, or encompasses the pictures or metaphors, like conversion, reconciliation, new birth, etc. Each of those emphasizes an important aspect of salvation.
This larger description comes from the warm/wonderful words of Jesus: “this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” [John 17:3]
Eternal life is the vibrant result of salvation. It is a new inflow from God that is more than lasting forever; it refers to a quality of being that cannot rot, rust, or be destroyed. It begins in the now, not simply in the next world.
This life is something one possesses or can possess in the present. In the writings of John this kind of language, emphasizing present possession, is used. For example: “He who has the Son has life.” [I John 5:12] Our Lord said, “he who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life.” [John 5:24]
This life, in simple but profound terms, is somehow equated with, or results from, knowing God. One needs to ponder more deeply the meaning of knowing, or to know. In a time when knowledge is increasing at explosive speeds one gets the feeling that one knows less and less. Who can keep up? Someone has said that we know less and less about a lot more. This may apply in relationships with others in our fast-paced lifestyle. It is clear that there are different levels of knowing others.
The term to know is a term of intimacy, and is used that way in the Bible. Sometimes the word is used for sexual intimacy; or knowing comes as a result of such intimacy. But knowing someone implies much more than that.
Every one of us has a secret chamber where we keep the most precious parts of what it means to be “me”. In our relationships with others we reveal more or less of that according to the amount of trust we develop. In a genuine friendship this works in both directions. The other reveals the self to us as trust grows. Thus it is that only true and trusted friends, and probably only those we have known for a good length of time, truly know us. To know someone is precious, and in a way, even sacred.
We are persons, and we learn about our relationship with God, from relationships with others. John writes for example, that if we do not love a brother whom we have seen, we cannot love God whom we have not seen. [I John 4:20] And earlier in the same chapter: “he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.”
Another way of understanding this powerful language is to remember that God is the source of Life. We have to get to the Source of Life to realize Life. The Source is not some abstract entity, but a living reality brought to a sharp focus in Jesus Christ.
Eternal life is a quality of life, which is a present possession. It is lived, or realized, in love for others. It is nurtured by fellowship/communion with our God.
To know is more than knowledge; to know God is more than life.