Scripture Studies

The Promise of Eternal Life

eternal life(What is Life Series- 6)

What is eternal life? To many, the thought of eternal life conjures a limitless, never-ending life—ageless, free from pain, sickness and death. While this concept is very appealing to people, yet it remains very illusive.

The prophet Daniel provided us the first glimpse of an everlasting life through a vision,

“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,

Some to everlasting life,

Some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2)

Since then, many sages have been speculating on how and when can such life be attained or discovered. Science weigh in by trying to formulate a medicine that will stop sickness, thwart the degenerative processes of old age, and even death.  While this quest has given rise to some daring but unsuccessful expeditions in the past, still others believe that searching for that elusive “fountain of life” can be attained through utilization of the “inner self”.

While eternal life has varied connotations, what does the Bible really says about it?

While the Old Testament (OT) is scant on this subject, not surprisingly this has been one of the foundational teachings of New Testament (NT). A common Greek word for “everlasting” and “eternal” aiónios, provides its foundational understanding. Aiónios carries with it the idea of quality as well as quantity of time. The Greek word zoe is one of several Greek words that are translated life. According to Vine's Dictionary, zoe means "life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it...”

Therefore, when eternal life is referred to in the Scripture, it is not simply associated with “length of years”, as it is independent of, and beyond time. Eternal life can function outside of and beyond the limit of time, as well as within time.

John 3:16 is perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible, as it reminds us of its ultimate purpose,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

From the above text, it is clear that this “everlasting life” is anchored on our belief in the “begotten Son”, and that it will be given so that no one will see death. This understanding is further anchored on the knowledge and faith from its true Source,

“This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (John 17:3).

Apostle Paul, further amplified that this (eternal) life cannot be “earned”, rather it is given as a “free gift” removing the curse of sin (and death), and through faith by the living Saviour (Messiah).

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

Thus, eternal life is a free gift of life, part of God’s saving grace and love,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As Jesus Himself further underscored, eternal life is maintained only to those who make a total commitment and obedience to God,

“Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17)

From these verses, we can see that there are two senses in which eternal life can be applied. 

First, Christians or believers are assured of its presence in their life as a result of saving faith (Romans 6:4), but this does not mean that they already possess  ‘immortality’, rather as a token or “gift” manifested through the receipt/presence of God’s Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:8; 2 Tim. 2:11, 12; Rom. 5:17, 21; 8:30; Eph. 2:5-6). This also means that this life bears fruit, as it continues to grow in total commitment and obedience to God’s will (Gal. 5:22-23, Matt.19:16-17)

Second, eternal life will reach its final consummation at the resurrection when all believers will be made alive at the second coming of Jesus Christ (Matt. 19:16,29; Matt.24:30-31; 25:46; 1 Cor.15:23). It is the ultimate gift and glory into which the children of God will be born into (Rom. 5:21; Rom. 6:22; Gal. 6:8; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Tim. 6:12,19).

In the last chapter of Revelation, the apostle John described in perfect vision what life eternal will be in the future. In that vision, he saw the “New Jerusalem” as it comes down from heaven (verse 1), John also saw a river flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb,” and “on each side of the river stood the tree of life... And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1–2). This is that grand vision of a restored paradise on earth--and for all eternity!

In the garden of Eden, when mankind rebelled against God, he was banished and prevented access to the “tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). With Jesus Christ as the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29),God graciously restores that access to the “tree of life” unto life Eternal in His kingdom!

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1 John 5:11–12 “God has given 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.”

Romans 2:7 “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 15: 51-53 “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

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