What Is “Eternal Life”?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

We know from this passage and numerous others that God gives life to those who put their trust in Jesus and again and again it is called eternal. I think a fair question to ask and try to find an answer to is, What is eternal life? What is the life offered? And, what are the implications of the use of eternal to describe it?

Eternal life is God’s life, the life of Christ.

Eternal life is not something Christ gives that is apart from himself. He said it clearly in John 11 when speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25,26)

Paul’s convincing statement is that Christ is your (our) life!

“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)

And in 1st John 5 one of the clearest statements saying eternal life is in his Son (Christ).

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” (1 John 5:11)

Eternal life comes from only one source and can be received only one way. When you have Christ you possess eternal life. There is no eternal life apart from Him. He is the Author of life.

Because it is eternal, the life Jesus gives has no beginning and no end.

The most simple definition of the word “eternal” is that it is timeless. It is not confined to the limits of time. Just as God is eternal, has no beginning and no ending, so is the life given to those who come to him through Christ.

In our experience, from our limited perspective as mere humans, there is a point in time when we appropriated for ourselves this life that is unlimited by time, or space. We are told that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in our mortal bodies in the person of the Holy Spirit who resides in us. (Romans 8:11)

God promises those who have eternal life are safe forever.

Over and over in scripture promises are given to those who have the Life that they are completely safe. One of the most beautiful is in Jesus high priestly prayer in John 17.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:20-24)

This tender request is that you and I and other believes will experience the oneness the Father shares with the Son, and the Son the Father, and that we will experience it in the place where he is. I am continually amazed as God keeps assuring, convincing, and encouraging his children. Did you catch this phrase? “”I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me!

Can you imagine who much God loved his only Son? How great is that love for His own, from the unmatched lover of all lovers? If you can somehow start to fathom how much God the Father loves Jesus, that is just how much He loves you. Yes, with all your warts and bumps, with all of your failures, bad habits, and shortcomings, God loves you perfectly for Christ’s sake.

Eternal life comes with a guarantee from God.

Jesus often said of those who were his that they should “never die”, have “everlasting life”, and that he “would raise them up at the last day”. God continues these promises through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” ( 2 Corinthians 1:20-22)

“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:5)

“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-15)

Can you think of any reason we should not believe that God’s word on a thing is sure and certain? If God promises He will do it. He cannot lie. What a blessed hope, what a well-spring of joy, to know that the only true God has promised that we who are his will possess the inheritance promised!

Eternal life is a present possession and at the same time a thing hoped for.

Those who are Christ’s “have” eternal life now, present tense. The verses above attest to that fact. But now, in our mere human flesh we can only apprehend and appreciate eternal life in a limited way. We are still constrained by time and space and the limitations of any person who still battles with sinful passions as we live the Life.

The Bible describes the situation in this way. It is the picture of a 1st century person looking into a dark, clouded, imperfect mirror. You see an image but it isn’t perfectly clear. But one day, when the return of Christ is announced, well will see him face to face and behold his glory and share in it. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

The full measure of eternal life includes the salvation of the human body. Death will finally be done. Mortality will be instantly changed to immortality. The living will in a split second be changed and the dead in Christ raised to live forever and ever in bodies perfectly suited for outer space and earth’s atmosphere. God’s word promises that our bodies will be like Jesus’ glorified body! It is then that the gift of eternal life will be fully realized and for eternity we will share in praise and joy and peace and walk in the light of Jesus Christ.

To be continued…



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