Eternity in God’s Presence
Open Your Bible
John 10:1-30, John 14:1-3, Luke 23:32-43, Romans 6:23, Romans 14:8, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
BY Patti Sauls
In Christ, our place in God’s presence is secure. We cannot be separated from His love.
“Hey, Patti! So glad you’re here.”
I’ll never forget how Sue, my high school ministry leader, greeted me the first time we met. Even though I had heard a lot about her from my friends, I still felt shy as we walked up her driveway and swung open the back door without even knocking. My friends made themselves right at home, searching Sue’s refrigerator for soda that she always kept well stocked, and plopping down on her kitchen stools. In walked Sue, laughing at our unannounced arrival and welcoming us all. Before I could awkwardly introduce myself, she greeted me by name.
Hearing Sue call me by name spoke to my longing to be known and stirred my hope for belonging. It meant the world to my insecure, 15-year-old self, and it means the world to me now. Little did I know that we would spend hours together, that she would share her life stories with me, and that she would explain the meaning of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection to me. Little did I know that Sue and I would become friends for life.
Hearing Jesus describe Himself as the “good shepherd” also stirs my hope for belonging. His shepherd metaphor stops me in my hustling tracks and tugs at my solitary heart. “I am the good shepherd,” Jesus says. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This shepherd doesn’t merely offer the bare minimum; He offers His life. He is ready and willing to die in order to protect His sheep from attack. Jesus also says that the good shepherd “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (v.3). He doesn’t casually regard the flock as a random collection of animals. He leads them out to pasture where He satisfies their hunger and thirst. Not only that, but He knows each one intimately, and He calls them by name.
Do we hear Jesus’s voice? Do we hear His promises? Jesus promises the ultimate belonging: to be fully known and fully loved by Him forever. He says to every one of His followers, “I see you. I know you intimately. I know your deepest hunger and thirst. I love you. I will provide for you and protect you, even if it means laying down my life.” And, it did—it cost Him everything—Jesus died to divinely and decisively deal with the sin that separates us from God. He died once and for all so that we can be united with Him forever.
Even though it is hard for us to imagine life without end, this is His promise: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Jesus protects His flock and seals the deal for those who hear Him and follow. “Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8). He calls each by name to be with Him and to become friends for life—both now and for eternity.