by Dr. Anne Davis
What is your choice?
We commonly think that “life,” as opposed to “death,” means exclusively eternal life that is future. In this life now we see ourselves “dead in sins,” although we know that our faith in Yeshua will make us alive some time when He returns.
I do not dispute this common understanding of “future eternal life.” However, I suggest that most Christians are missing the very important element of “life NOW” in this world. We may be “dead in sins” but we don’t have to stay that way.
Turning to the Hebrew Scriptures, and the way the authors wrote these Holy Writings, we can better understand the two-fold nature of” life.” One is in the olam haba (the world to come) and the other is in the olam hazeh (the world that is now). We rest with shalom in the knowledge of the future olam haba. But now we are called to walk in the fullness of life as followers of Yeshua in the olam hazeh. Yet, what is the “fullness of life now,” and how do walk in it?
When I was still stuck in my traditional understanding, I remember agonizing over Deut 30:15-20. There God sets before Israel a choice in their way of living, “life and tov [that which is good], death and ra [that which is, evil].”
God’s requirement and the following consequences of how we live our lives today are clear. You are to “love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply.” Alternatively, if we allow death and evil to enter our lives, the consequence will be that “you shall not prolong days in the land.” I have concluded from Scripture that this means your days will be filled with trials and tribulation.
If Christians focus on future eternal life rather than the fullness of life now, they should be drawn to God’s exhortation in this passage, and the contrasting consequences. God want us to “choose life so you may live, you and your descendants” rather than the daily ongoing daily walk of death caused by sin.
I suggest this is where Christianity lost its focus on the olam hazeh, the world today. The children of Israel knew they belonged to God, who called Israel His firstborn son (Ex 4:22) and referred to Himself as their Father (Deut 32:6). But what about Christians? Yes, those with faith in Yeshua will be saved with olam haba (Rom 10:9-10). But what is “true” faith? Does it mean that one must demonstrate that faith? (That sounds alot like works which is not required for the olam haba). But can someone who lives in egregious sin really have true faith in Yeshua with a life that is olam hazeh?
The solution to this uncertainty lies, in part, in the distinction between the promise of “future” eternal life (all those who belong to God have this future promise) versus how we choose to live as children of God today (those who answer God’s call to be His servants). The first Christians, who were Jews, understood this principle of living a life in God quite clearly. Listen to Paul, who was speaking to the Greeks in Athens. “In Him [Yeshua] we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). And again, in his letter to the Romans. “If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:13). Paul does not mean that we must be righteous in order to earn eternal life. He is talking about the fullness of life now.
So, how do we live in the fullness of life now? Paul makes it quite clear. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). Walking by the Spirit is a fullness of life now.
If you want to know more about these matters, there are several video teachings that might interest you. You will find them on the BibleInteract website www.BibleInteract.com by using the search feature.
- Walking by the Spirit as Servants of God
- No Longer Under the Law
- The Remnant and Israel’s Inheritance
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Dr. Anne Davis is a professor of Biblical Studies who enjoys working with graduate students to enhance their exegetical skills for exploring the depth of Scripture.