What is “Eternal Life”?

Well, now that I have little time for blogging, my blog is turning into some sort of “gleanings from my sermon prep” blog and I’m turning into a lousy online version of Arthur Pink!  I’m sure my wife will be glad that something about me is “pink”.  As I’ve been preparing for preaching Titus 1:2-3 this week, I’ve been studying the idea of “eternal life”.  I’ve done some exhaustive biblical study, and I’ll share my research with whoever is interested.

So what is “eternal life”?

–          Psalm 133:3 – The phrase “eternal life” first occurs here in the OT, but it’s a simple passing reference made by David with no real explanation.

  • Dan 12.1-2 – Only undisputed reference to the resurrection in the OT – “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
  • The resurrection in Daniel is one of two references to “eternal life” in the OT, so when Jesus mentions “eternal life” in the NT, the only place he could be referring to is the teaching of the resurrection in Daniel 12.  So what did Jesus say about this “eternal life” that Daniel mentioned?

–          Jesus’ teaching on eternal life:

  • Belief in Christ = You have eternal life:
    • John 3:14-15 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
    • John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
    • John 5: 24 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
    • John 6:47
  • Christ alone gives eternal life:
    • John 5:39-40 – “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life”.
    • John 10:28-29 – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand”.
  • Eternal life = a work of both the Father and the Son
    • John 6:39-40 – “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
    • John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”.
    • John 10:28-29 – “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand”.
    • John 17:1-3 – “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, sinceyou have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”.
  • Eternal life = being raised up on the last day:
    • John 6:39-40 – “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
    • John 6:54 – “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
    • John 11:24-26 – “Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 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?

So Jesus established fairly clearly that “eternal life” is synonymous with the resurrection “on the last day”.  It’s a work of both God the Father and God the Son that is received exclusively through believing that Christ is who he says he is (i.e. the promised messiah).  Knowing (experiential and intimate knowledge) God = knowing (experiential and intimate knowledge) Christ = believing God’s testimony about Christ and Christ’s testimony about himself = current possession of eternal life.

So do the apostles expand on Christ’s teaching?  If so, how?

–          Further NT teaching on eternal life:

  • Those who are elected unto life = those who believe the Gospel.
    • Acts 13:48 – “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
  • Eternal life is a coming reality:
    • Romans 5:20-21 – “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
    • Romans 6:22 – “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life”.
    • Gal 6:8-9 – “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up”.
    • 1 Timothy 6:12 – “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”.
      • Clarification as to the present/future confusion of the “take hold” language in 6:12:
        • 6:17-19 – “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they maytake hold of that which is truly life”.
      • Jude 20-21 – “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,  keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”.
  • Christians believe in Christ for eternal life:
    • 1 Timothy 1:16 – “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life”.
  • Eternal life is the hope of the believer:
    • Titus 3:7 – “so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”.
  • Eternal life is the promise of the believer:
    • 1 John 2:25 – “And this is the promise that he made to us— eternal life”.
  • Christ is the manifestation of eternal life:
    • 1 John 1:1-2 – “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us”.
  • Righteous action is evidence of possessing “eternal life”:
    • 1 John 3:15 – “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him”.
  • Christ is synonymous with “eternal life”
    • 1 John 5:20 – “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life”.
  • The testimony of God to his Son is that we have been given eternal life through belief in Christ:
    • 1 John 5:10-13 – “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life”.

So, Christ is synonymous with “eternal life”.  God’s miraculous testimony to his Son verifies the truth of his claims to give spiritual life (i.e. John 4:14).  Believers are synonymous with those who are elected unto “eternal life”, and “eternal life” is both a present (i.e. certain) possession of believers, evidenced by their actions, and is also a future expectation (hope).

In other words, if you’re “standing on the promises”, you’re living in expectation of the coming resurrection unto life that Christ has guaranteed to those who believe his testimony about himself, and it’s apparent by your actions…

I know there’s innumerable issues that relate to this issue (i.e. the relation between salvation and righteous deeds), but this isn’t a systematic theology; it’s a blog.

Either way, hopefully you’ve at least learned something along with me about “eternal life”.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “longing for eternal life” Unger

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4 thoughts on “What is “Eternal Life”?

  1. Love this, but it’s 1 John 2:25 and 1 John 1:1-2 silly, but still, talking about eternal life in the words of Homestar: amazing thing, amazing thing, amazing thing! (view web link)

  2. Pingback: Bible Bite – John 10:10 and the Abundant Life | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely...

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