I found as I read John Ortberg’s book Eternity is Now in Session is one of those rare books where I constantly found myself challenged and affirmed in my faith. There will be some who are uncomfortable with this book as Ortberg examines what salvation is and what eternity is. However Ortberg is firmly rooted in salvation by grace, but does speak about what it means to be a disciple in this book. As the title suggest, Ortberg wants us to shift our thinking from being about eternity as a post death reality. Ortberg wants us to realize that if we are saved by grace, we are already living in eternity. He then spells out what that looks like. For Ortberg eternity is more than just an amount of time, it’s about the fullness of reality with God being present. Ortberg writes,
God is not waiting for eternity to begin. God lives in it right now. It is the interactive fellowship and joy that exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Eternity is rolling right along, and we are invited to be part of it—now.
As we read Ortberg the way he speaks about eternity is different than how the church usually does, but it is also clear, the way Ortberg speaks about eternity is more reflective of scripture.
As believers we know eternal life and salvation are intertwined. Yet it is amazing how little time we spend speaking about what those things mean. Another quote from Ortberg’s book says,
I believe this is how many people today think about salvation. When we die, we are either headed for the castle (heaven) or the abyss (hell), and “salvation” is knowing the right answer so that God has to allow us to cross the bridge. The problem is, Jesus doesn’t talk about salvation that way. He doesn’t talk about eternal life that way either. In fact, Jesus—and the entire New Testament, for that matter—defines eternal life only once, with great precision, and in a way that has been largely lost in our day: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, NRSV). Eternal Life = Knowing God.
For Ortberg it becomes clear if eternal life equals knowing God then this is a matter of relationship with God and thus also a matter of discipleship. Yet it is more than a to do list of activities and practices. It is about us being transformed. Ortberg challenges us to reexamine if we see salvation as just meeting the bare threshold of requirements, or is it about drawing closer to Christ and becoming more Christ like. Ortberg shares that,
Biblical salvation is so much more than having satisfied the minimum requirements. It is the grace-powered redemption of our thoughts and desires and will and action into cosmic meaning and divine love that leads us ever onward and upward.
Ortberg’s book is a wonderful tool for believers to reexamine their beliefs on eternity, deepen their understanding of discipleship and even to grow in their own faith and relationship with Christ. I highly recommend it and see this as being a book great for individuals, but also small groups, or even congregational reading programs where the church works through a book together. What Ortberg offers us is a valuable reflection that causes to reexamine our presumptions and assumptions, and to come to a deeper understanding of salvation and eternity.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes by the publisher. All opinions offered are completely my own and freely expressed