Eternal Life

Eternal life is said to be in the Son rather than in us, just as we should speak of the water being in the reservoir rather than in the pipes or cisterns which it supplies, and through which the water is conveyed to the houses where it is enjoyed. So we speak of life being in the plant or the tree, not in the branch or leaf, though they are alive by virtue of their connection with the tree. But life is spoken of as being in us (2 Cor. 4:10-12). Eternal life is looked at as the Word, the Son Himself. “In Him was life,” “that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” It has qualities and characteristics of its own: It was the light of men shining in the darkness and was not understood by them because they were darkness. It was seen, heard, gazed upon and handled, because manifested in flesh. All this is objective, for we are too prone to look at life subjectively as communicated to us and to examine it in its details in us, instead of fixing our eyes on it in its source or origin and display in the Son of God.
Two opposite dangers are before us: that of making eternal life, which all Christians possess, a matter of attainment on the one hand, and, on the other, ascribing to Old Testament saints, or to souls just quickened and under the conviction of sin or under the law, this eternal life, which is the proper portion of the Christian as such, the full revelation of the Father and the Son being known and believed.
Quickening
A merely convicted soul, wrought on by the Spirit of God where there is a true sense of sin and desire after Christ, is really quickened, for pain is evidence of life, and these feelings are according to God and produced by the effect of the Word of God in the soul. This we see in Acts 2, where the reception of the Word preached made those who received it cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They believed the truth spoken about Christ and about themselves, but they did not know the value of His death for themselves or as applicable to the guilt which they felt. And this is what the Apostle Peter next presents to them. We see the same work of the Spirit in the Apostle himself, when he falls at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” There was attraction to Christ on the one hand, and the consciousness of his own unfitness and unworthiness on the other. So in many cases in the present day (and still more before the forgiveness of sins was as fully preached as it now is) we meet with souls who feel what sin is and look to Christ as a Mediator between God and themselves, but have no knowledge of His work as clearing them before God. They own Him as Son of Man, and even as a divine Saviour, but not as the Son revealing the Father, and they have still a dread of God, whom they regard at a distance and do not know as Father. They are as the Israelites in Egypt, before they had crossed the Red Sea and had seen all their enemies dead upon the seashore, being brought through as on dry land by the hand of God Himself. Souls may, like them, know something of the value of the blood and still look on God as a Judge, and death and Satan’s power are still feared. The effect of the resurrection of Christ is not known, nor is God known as Father, nor consequently eternal life, though there exists in the soul faith, repentance and life, according to the measure in which the truth has been apprehended.
Sonship
But eternal life is placed in Scripture in the knowledge of the Father through the Son and of the work of Christ in its full, perfect character. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God [the Father] 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)). Christ is lifted up on the cross as Son of Man in order “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)), and he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood has everlasting life, both passages showing that the proper knowledge or appreciation of the atoning efficacy of the work of Christ gives eternal life, and thus teaching that the possession of it is the normal state of every believer. So the babes in Christ are said to know the Father, and this can only be through the Son who reveals the Father, and “this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:4040And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)). Again, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me [the Father], hath everlasting life” (John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)). In none of these verses can we make it a matter of attainment. It belongs to the babes, to all who have seen the Son or known the Father or have believed in the work of Christ, according to its proper value or efficacy before God. The little children also have an unction from the Holy One and know all things, and holding fast what they have heard from the beginning, they then continue in the Son and in the Father.
So in 1 John 4 the testimony is that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world, and “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” This involves the possession of eternal life, though in the power of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit shows at the same time that all Christian privilege, according to the present dispensation, is included. When the eternal life is manifested and declared, it is also that fellowship with the Father and the Son may be known, which is enjoyed by the same life communicated to the soul by the Word, for this fellowship has all the blessed elements of this life both known and participated in and the full revelation of the Father and the Son. “We beheld His glory,” says the Apostle, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” and he adds, “Out of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” This was only the common property of all in the blessing of this dispensation.
Life in Resurrection, in Power,
in New Creation
By Christ, as the risen Corn of Wheat, this life is communicated after His resurrection when He breathed on His disciples. It could not be given before, and this shows markedly the difference between life incipient or in its first stage or as possessed by saints when our Lord was on earth, even though quickened by Him and the life more abundantly bestowed in resurrection power and in the new creation and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of this He says, “Because I live ye shall live also.” “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.” In the Gospel of John, save in these anticipative passages and in John 17, which also looks forward, we never have saints spoken of as “in Him,” whereas in the epistle of John it is constant. “We are in Him that is true, even in 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)). Which thing is true in Him and in you.” “In the Son, and in the Father.” This life was given us in Christ Jesus and was promised before the world began (2 Tim. 1:1,8-10; Titus 1:22In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (Titus 1:2)), but this shows its proper sphere and range to be heavenly, both as being before time and as brought to light in Him who abolished death, whereas those who enjoy divine life on earth have their names written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; 17:88And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
8The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Revelation 17:8)
). Their kingdom also was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In the Old Testament this is spoken of as life forevermore (Psa. 133). We do not read of the revelation of the Father by the Son in the Old Testament, nor in the Book of Revelation, nor are millennial saints ever spoken of as “in Christ,” nor as wearing a crown of life, though we have generally the idea of sons and daughters of the living God as in Old Testament times with Israel (Deut. 32:1919And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. (Deuteronomy 32:19)).
A. C. Ord