Bible Bite – John 10:10 and the Abundant Life

Bible Bites Teeth

If I’m being honest, I’d have to admit that around a quarter of the verses in the entire Bible have been, at one time or another, completely twisted in meaning for the justifying of some completely unbiblical idea.  Mormons quote scripture, JW’s quote scripture, Buddhists quote scripture, etc. and they all quote it horribly. What’s the worst is when Christians quote the scripture in an effort to substantiate some idea that’s utterly bizarre/nonsense/heretical (i.e. how people attempt to cite 1 John 4:8 in an effort to suggest that upstanding Christians can be sexually active and thoroughly promiscuous homosexuals).

Then, there’s a batch of other texts that are commonly misunderstood because they’re simply more difficult texts.  2 Chronicles 7:14 is one text that, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard quoted with a proper application.  Jeremiah 29:11 is another, as are many others.  Today, I got a question from my wife about John 10:10 and the whole idea of “abundant life”.  She was reading an article and ran across the verse being used as a proof text for the idea that “Jesus wants you to have everything you’ve always dreamed of” and sent me a question about it.  Here’s the passage in context:

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:9-10

Now, this passage is often used to back up the idea that Jesus wants you to have “abundant life”, and “abundant life” is often understood as “a life of fulfilled dreams”, “a life of satisfaction”, “a life of adventure”, “a life beyond ‘normal’ life” or some sort of “your best life now” kind of concept.  NO Christian wants to have a regular old life of mundane and routine existence, and this passage is used to suggest that Jesus promises believers a better quality of life that is anything but mundane and routine.

Sadly, this whole idea of the “abundant life” is utter hogwash and is as foreign to scripture as clog dancing.

Okay. Big claims Unger.  Big claims.

Can you back it up?

Well, here’s some facts for you:

1.  The passage (10:9-10) has a simple juxtaposition between the thief and Jesus.  The thief comes for the purpose of thieving, killing and destruction.  In opposition to this purpose, Jesus comes for the purpose of giving his sheep life that is abundant.

Note the contrast; it’s not one of mediocrity and awesomeness, it’s one of death and life.  The thief isn’t coming to give the sheep a mediocre life; he’s coming to take the sheep’s life away by means of murder.  Jesus is coming to give the sheep life, and give it exceedingly generously.

2.  The word “abundant” simply means “more, over and above, exceedingly”.  The word appears in Matt. 5:37, 5;47; Mark 6:51, 14;31; John 10:10; Rom. 3:1; 2 Cor. 9:1; Eph. 3:20; 1 Thess. 3:10, 5:13.  It doesn’t refer to quality but quantity.

3.  The word “life” refers to “eternal life” or “spiritual life” in every preceding occurrence in the gospel of John (John 1:4, 3:15, 3:16, 3:36, 4:14, 4:36, 5:24, 5:26, 5:29, 5:39, 5:40, 6:27, 6:33, 6:35, 6:40, 6:47, 6:48, 6:51, 6:53, 6:54, 6:63, 6:68, 8:12).  Almost all of these occurrences refer specifically to eternal life.  Elsewhere, I’ve written a fairly in-depth treatment on eternal life.

So, when Jesus says he has come to give life abundantly, he’s almost certainly talking about how he has come to bring eternal life to his sheep, in contradistinction to the theft of life that Satan/sin/false religion commits against his sheep.  Jesus isn’t just going to give his sheep another life beyond this one; he’s going to give them life upon life upon life upon life upon life upon life upon life (etc.).

Not quite the promise of having all your dreams fulfilled that many claim it is.  Jesus might not give you a yacht, loads of self-esteem, or even a life exciting enough to blog about…well, at least John 10:10 doesn’t give you reason to expect that.


Until Next Time,

Lyndon “I’ve got that LIFE!” Unger


5 thoughts on “Bible Bite – John 10:10 and the Abundant Life

  1. I’m totally thrown-off by the reference to life after life after life. Are you referring to the idea of reincarnation? I think I’m missing something, it’s difficult for me to even entertain the idea you would have meant reincarnation. Please help me out. Thanks, Marie

    • Marie,

      Thanks for the question. I’m not talking about reincarnation. It’s not life after life. It’s life upon life. I’m talking about eternal life, which is life that goes on forever. It’s having an “abundance OF life”, meaning never-ending life.

  2. I think I can hear a clamor of “yeah, but’s” coming from the crowd that has based its entire life philosophy on just such a misinterpretation.

  3. This is the Benchmark Verse that brought me back to being a committed Christian. I found myself thinking ”could He do that for us”? and then was shocked at my thought. I have been told I am a ”divergent thinker” and when I was in catechism had a lot of tears and disagreements with the teacher. One example was ”all unknown tribes in Africa will go to hell do to not knowing Salvation”. I pitched a fit and said He is a fair God and would not do that and then many years later found a verse where God even covers that matter in a positive way.

    Are you speaking of ”pie-in-sky” thinking? Here is an example of how I view the matter: many times, my life has been saved by Him, yet there was Tribulation. I had a successful career and chronic illness ended it. Still believing in Him. “The sins of the fathers shall be followed upon the Sons” comes into play, in my opinion, as well, as I related earlier the extreme amount of alcolism on one side of the family, yet I was spared and I believe by His Hand with two ulcers. Tribulation. As a child, I would cry for my parents and it’s a sad story in the end. Tribulation. Father died of seven forms of nuclear cancer military drs were furious because although he smoke he whole life none of the cancers were from smoking. I refused the $2500.00 inheritance and gave instruction to the Executor, my youngest sister, instructions to give the funds to Matthew to put into Michel’s account, as Michael has Asperger’s Syndrome. Instead, she threw a party for the family, paid a few debts and told me I was dumb. I just recall saying to her: Should I be able to trust my own sister and were and are you the Executor? She said ”yes” and I stated “then He will judge your work, not me” and hung up.

    There is, again, another surprise ending to this story, all true. First I’ll make certain of it’s veracity to you before I write about it.

    To me, THIS is life in Abundance and after is also in Abundance and I am happy for what I do have yet sad for ill health and someone abusive in care.
    I just tell myself it is a test.

    Lately, I’ve been recalling how critical it is to Praise Him out Loud and always say “Dear God In Your Son’s Name….” because we are so such nothings even the The Bible says to go through Christ first.

    Thank you for the opportunity to dialogue. I won’t mind if it takes a long time to answer. I am still waiting for the punchline the stream of events I have written to you. +++

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