A Few Plain Words on Eternal Life: What It Is and Who Has It: No. 1

2 Corinthians 4:18  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
 
Eternal life: what do these words mean, as used in the holy scriptures? For the real meaning of the word “eternal” we will turn to 2 Cor. 4:1818While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18), “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal [that is, for a time]; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” We do not need to criticize the word “eternal,” for this is certain, it is in direct contrast with that which is for a time. It is duration without a limit. When we then read those words of Jesus, “These shall go away into everlasting [or eternal] punishment; but the righteous into life eternal,” He clearly taught that the punishment would not be for a time, but forever and ever. And in like manner the felicity of the righteous would not be for a time, but for an endless duration. Such is the plain teaching of the Son of God.
Thousands would fully admit this, that eternal does not mean for a time or temporal; but, as we have said, unlimited duration. What a question for the reader; yea, for everyone, Shall I spend an unending eternity in unending woe, or in the enjoyment of unending eternal life? Eternal life is thus used in scripture as endless duration in the future; but let us now inquire what is eternal life now, and what has it been from all eternity?
We shall find in scripture that eternal life is not a principle, or an abstraction, but eternal life is a Person. Eternal life is the Person of the Son of God. This fact is fully brought out both in the gospel and in the first epistle of John. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life.” (1 John 1:11That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (1 John 1:1).) These words could not be spoken of a principle, or an idea; try them. A Person had been with them from the beginning. They had seen Him, heard Him, looked upon Him, handled Him: and more, “For the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” (Ver. 2.)
The eternal life which was with the Father—yes, eternally, was with the Father: was not this the Son of God? Ever “was,” but manifested unto us. “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true: and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:2020And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20).) Thus we learn with “absolute certainty that eternal life is the Person of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
How strange also that we should have overlooked the remarkable witness to this fact in verses 6-13 of this chapter. Is it not the Person of the Son of God, the eternal life? “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ not by water only, but by water and blood.” Yes, He the Eternal One must die. There could be no cleansing but by death. It was water from the dead side; and there could be no atonement for sins but by His blood. Cleansed by the washing of water by the word; that word that tells of His death for us, and boldness to enter by His blood.
And who bears witness: “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” The Holy Ghost come down from heaven here on this earth is the witness. “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” But what is the thing witnessed? “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified [or witnessed] of his Son.” Yes, it is a something that God has witnessed of His Son. See how strongly this is pressed upon us, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the witness that God gave of his Son.” Perhaps nothing in scripture is so solemnly pressed as this. Now we get the thing witnessed by God: and not to believe it is to make Him a liar.
“And this is the record [witness], that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” In giving His Son, God hath given to us eternal life. He is the Eternal Life. This is what God bears witness to. “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” And mark, it was the desire of John; yea, the desire of the Holy Ghost, that all, babes, young men, and fathers, might know that they had this eternal life. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” God our Father would not have us entertain such a thought, that the life He gives is only for a time. It is His own Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
Let us now turn to the gospel of John, and consider Him, the Eternal Life. Here we look back to the far past eternity, “In the beginning,” before He created the heavens and the earth. He created the heavens and the earth in a beginning truly, but in that beginning He, the Son, was not created, but “was.” We could not say of any created being, angel, archangel, principality, or power, “he was.” No, all creatures had a beginning; but, “In the beginning was the Word.” Yes, the Son of God, the Eternal Life, “was;” “and the Word was with God.” This blessed One, the Eternal Life, was a distinct Person, was with God. Distinct in Person, yet truly God; “And the Word was God.” And this blessed Person ever subsisted, the true God and Eternal Life; and ever the distinct Word. “The same was in the beginning with God.” Think of that eternity before anything was made or existed. “All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made.” Yes, He was in eternity, the Eternal Life, before anything was made.
“IN HIM WAS LIFE.”
Oh, what grace it is; that poor, dying, guilty sinners should be made partakers of such life; and should become one with Him who is the true God and the Eternal Life. What a fountain of eternal life, the Son of God! “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” Thus the Eternal Life became Man, was seen, heard, and handled—the Eternal Life. Yet this poor world knew Him not. Do you know Him, the true God and Eternal Life? Do you thus behold Him in all His lowly walk here below?
In John 3 we learn from His very lips, that God had no thought less than that we might have this eternal life. But in order that this might be an accomplished fact, this glorious Eternal One must be lifted up, as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness. He must be nailed to a cross, made sin for us. Sin must be judged; sins must be borne. He must die that we might live. He must bear the wrath and condemnation, that we might be justified from all things, become the righteousness of God in Him, and have eternal life, brought into favor in Him the beloved.
Yes, God sent His Son, “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Thus we have the heart of God revealed to us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He did not so love us that we might have life for a time, and lose it, and it cease to be. No, God did not give His Son for that. The source of the glad tidings is this infinite love of God. He gave His Son. Do you receive His gift? “ He that hath the Son hath life.” Yes, He is the true God and Eternal Life. Look back beyond this parenthesis, we call time—time in its utmost bound—and beyond it all “In him was life:” self-existent, the Eternal Life, “with God, and he was God.”
When He, the Eternal Word, was made flesh, then they, whose eyes were open, could see, could look upon, could handle Him, the Eternal Life. He was ever the Eternal Life, but now revealed to us. The Eternal Life incarnate could say, “I am the bread of life.” “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” Yes, He, in His own eternal Person, is the Eternal Life. He is not for a time. Look forward beyond the utmost bound of time’s parenthesis, and in the boundless eternity beyond, He is the true God and Eternal Life; the eternal “I AM.”
Now since He, in His own eternal Person, cannot be for a time, it follows that that which He is, Eternal Life, and that which He communicates cannot be for a time, or temporal. No, He says to the Father the opposite of this. He does not say the life He gives is for a time; He says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3).) If we suppose that God has only given us life for a time, we do not know God, or Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
If we keep, nay, if the Holy Spirit keeps this vast truth before our souls, that eternal life is the eternal Person of the Son of God, it will then become more clear who they are who have it, and how unspeakable the privilege of those who possess eternal life. Before we go further, may we ask each reader, Are you sure you have eternal life in the Son of God?