How does the issue of Israel relate to how Jesus labeled eternal life, namely, "the knowledge of God"? That topic is the subject of my latest book, co-authored with Michael Onifer, called "God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God." Here is a brief clip of that book on this very question:
Jesus defines eternal life as the knowledge of God! Notice it's not a place or mode of existence after death. Eternal life is not just a hopeful expectation for the afterlife; it's here and now, present tense and available in abundant measure. It's the reason Jesus came: that we might have "eternal life" (John 3:16). The Greek word used in John 3:16 for eternal life is aiōnios, the same word used in John 17:3. According to Jesus, the knowledge of God is why He came, and the knowledge of God is eternal life.
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The knowledge of God, His ways and His kingdom, are often paradoxical. You die to live, you lose to gain, and you humble yourself to be exalted. In similar fashion the knowledge of God can be apprehended; it can be cultivated. Yet it's simultaneously inexhaustible, quickly exceeding the boundaries of our finite minds. Furthermore, the knowledge of God can be comprehended by children and sages. When Jesus spoke of the kingdom, He did so with the common people and the intellectual elite. God is not exclusive in His outreach to humanity, and the Bible is just as straightforward as it is mysterious. The truths therein can be understood even if it's only in part as we "see in a mirror dimly" (1 Corinthians 13:12). We can move forward in confidence without having everything figured out.
This book is about apprehending the knowledge of God in a place where this generation is finding it increasingly difficult to do so: Israel. It's not a defense of Israel for Israel's sake (Ezekiel 36:22–23) or an attempt to whitewash Israel. It's also not a treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The current conflict is only one of many elements provided in this book so as to give you a wider and more extensive view of the significance of Israel.
This book is about finding hope, not only for us, but also for others. It's about recognizing the story where we find a faithful God who is intimately involved with the affairs of mankind; a God who jumps in and gets His hands dirty. From the creation of man out the dust of the earth, to the Incarnation, to the promise of Jesus' return, and with all the wars, famines and miracles along the way, He's been telling a story.
It's no surprise that movies about comic book superheroes are blockbuster hits. There's good reason for people to flock to visually stunning portrayals of fantasylands hosting grand battles of good and evil. We love epic sagas of good and evil because we're in one. Every nation, tribe and tongue has a part in God's glorious and scandalous story of redemption.
If there's no room in your heart and mind for a Bible that is both straightforward and mysterious, accessible and infinite, supernatural and practical, or a God who is both holy and wholly involved in the muck and mire of a fallen world, this book probably isn't for you. However, if you can embrace the tension of a paradoxical God and a paradoxical kingdom, then this book could mean the difference between joining God in His story, or expecting Him to get on board with yours. Only one leads to true eternal life.
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Joshua Charles' latest book takes a fresh, biblically based look at how God has and continues to use both Israelis and Arabs to further his purposes: "God, Israel, and You: The Scandalous Story of a Faithful God"
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