What is the purpose of salvation? John 3:16(NLT) says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” We often use this scripture to proclaim, “God came and forgave your sins so you could be saved and not go to hell!” However, a closer look reveals that “not perishing” isn't the ultimate purpose of salvation - Eternal life is!
Unfortunately, religion has reduced into the mind of most people that eternal life solely means “to live forever in heaven.” When in all actuality eternal life begins the moment you are born again. John 3:36 (NLT) is written in present tense – not future tense. It reads, “And anyone who believes in God's Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn't obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God's angry judgment.” God gave the gift of eternal life and intimacy in a present experience with God. Those who reject the Son will not see life. The world in its darkness stands under God's angry judgment. (Romans 1-3). So, in essence, if you are a believer, eternal life is now!
Jesus, the author of eternal life, said in John 17:3(NLT), “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” Eternal life is knowing God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ! Knowing in the original language speaks of personal, intimate, experiential knowledge. “Knowing” in this verse is used the same as “knew” in Genesis 4:1, when it said that Adam knew Eve, who then conceived, and bore a child. The most intimate of all relationships! Therefore, Jesus Christ died to produce knowing Him and the Father intimately now in this life, not just in heaven sometime in the future.
Jesus gave His life so we can know Him in a close, personal way. If all you've received is forgiveness of your sins, then you've missed the main purpose of salvation. Complete salvation is being so intimate with God that He's closer than your best friend and more real than your family. You're missing out on what eternal life is all about if you're not experiencing this kind of relationship with God.
Sin was the barrier that stood between mankind and God. So, Jesus took our sin upon the cross and forever removed that barrier to restore us to a close, personal, intimate relationship with God. This is eternal life and living in the now.