Eternal Life - Different Aspects

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Eternal life is mentioned many times in the Word of God, with the overwhelming number of these being found in the New Testament. Depending on the context and the truth being conveyed by the Holy Spirit in the particular passage, I would suggest that there are at least four different ways in which the subject of eternal life is presented in Scripture. It is important for us to understand this, for we are apt to be confused if we do not see clearly what God is saying to us.
The Son in His Incarnation
First of all, we have Jesus Christ, Son of God, in His incarnation presented to us as eternal life come down to earth. John’s Gospel presents this most clearly, and thus we read, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:44In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)). In a general way we can say that John’s Gospel is eternal life come down to earth in the person of the Son, while John’s epistles (especially his first epistle) take up, rather, the communication of that life to believers and the blessed consequences of it. Thus John can say of the Lord Jesus, concerning His pathway here on earth, “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:22The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:2)).
Prior to our Lord’s coming into this world, God was not fully revealed, but now, as we read in Hebrews 1:1212And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. (Hebrews 1:12), “God  .  .  .  hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” God has been revealed as a Saviour God, but more than this, He has shown us eternal life which was in the Son and the Father from a past eternity, but now has been manifested in this world in man — His Son Jesus Christ. When men beheld the Lord Jesus here on earth, they saw eternal life.
Life Communicated to Believers
Second, as we have mentioned in connection with John’s first epistle, God delights to communicate this life to believers. This is something that was not known in the Old Testament. It is true that right from the beginning of man’s sinful history, new life was communicated by the Spirit of God’s using the Word of God (whether oral or written). “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:55Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)). This is a truth which applies universally, across all dispensations. But eternal life is life in Christ Jesus, and it was only with the coming of the Son into this world that eternal life was promised. Thus, the believer is promised, not merely that he will be “born again,” but rather “eternal life.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting [or eternal] life” (John 3:3636He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)). “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” (1 John 5:1313And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. (John 5:13)). “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:1010The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)). Eternal life is the present possession of the believer, for by faith he now has the same life as Christ Jesus has, although, of course, a derived and thus dependent, not an independent, life. It is not merely new life, but a life that now associates him intimately with the Source of it and brings him into relationship with God as his Father. It is a life to be enjoyed and lived out in the energy of the Spirit of God and with all the nearness of such a position.
Living the Life Now
Third, God expects that this life will not merely be quiescent and hidden, but rather that it will be enjoyed in the soul and lived out in this world as His children for His glory and the benefit of others. If Jesus Christ was eternal life come down to earth, “the life was the light of men” (John 1:44In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)). The light shone in a world of darkness, even if man did not want it — “the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:55And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. (John 1:5)). Now that light is gone, for our Lord is now in heaven, but God calls for His children, as partakers of the divine nature, to exhibit that light.
More than this, there are enemies in this world, and there is conflict in the Christian pathway. So Paul could tell Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). We have that life as a present possession, but there is the practical laying hold of it and seeking, with the Lord’s help, to live in the present enjoyment of that life in which we shall be perfectly like Him when we see Him as He now is in glory. Paul tells the Galatians that “he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6:88For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)), showing us that even on earth, the enjoyment of that life is dependent on obedience.
Also, if eternal life has been communicated to us, our affections will go out to Christ, “that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:2020For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (John 5:20)). In laying hold on eternal life, we will come to know the Source of that life more and more and realize the place of blessing God has brought us into.
Life at the End of the Journey
Finally, we have eternal life presented as that which we get at the end of the journey, when the full display of it will be realized. This view of eternal life is most prominent in Paul’s ministry. In Romans 6:2222But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Romans 6:22), Paul says, “Now .   .   . ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting [eternal] life.” Likewise in Titus 1:22In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (Titus 1:2), Paul speaks of the “hope of eternal life.” While it is true that the believer has eternal life as a present possession in this world and that he is to live it out in fellowship with the Lord, yet how poorly we do it, with all that is against us! The flesh — the old, sinful self — continually asserts itself. The world, under Satan, its god and prince, is contrary to the believer in every way, for it cast out the One who was eternal life and asked for a murderer instead. In addition to this, we are part of a groaning creation, and our bodies are subject to disease and death. All these things combine to make the exhibition of eternal life dim and faint.
But in a coming day, we will be perfectly like Christ. Our bodies will be changed to bodies of glory, “fashioned like unto His glorious body.” No longer will we have the sinful nature, wanting to sin. We will be taken out of this world, with all its adverse influences, and transported to a sphere where sin can never come. It is there that eternal life will blossom as it never could down here, for then it will be in the place where it was intended to display itself.
All these considerations should at the same time encourage us and exercise us, first of all to realize and enjoy that life that has been given to us, but then to seek to live it out in a world that has rejected our Saviour.
W. J. Prost