What the Scriptures Say About Eternal Life

We know nothing about eternal life but what God has graciously revealed to us by His Spirit in the written Word. May we turn to it with reverence and godly fear and receive its teaching with worshipping hearts, while remembering that the Spirit searches “the deep things of God” and makes us “know the things that are freely given to us of God.”
Scripture teaches us that “eternal life” was promised before the world began. We read also of “the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,” and that “the gift of God is eternal life through [rather, in] Jesus Christ our Lord” (Titus 1:1212One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. (Titus 1:12); 2 Tim. 1:1; Rom. 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)). We learn also that “eternal life” was “with the Father” (1 John 1:22The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:2)). As with the Father, eternal life was in the Person of the eternal Son before He became flesh. But eternal life has been “manifested.” Precious truth! “The Word of life” has been seen and heard, looked upon and handled. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1414And 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. (John 1:14)). “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)). In His whole life, ways, words and being, eternal life was so manifested that it was seen, heard and declared. The life was manifested in the perfection of His Person, in perfect love, obedience and righteousness, in unbroken communion with the Father and care for others; yea, the very “words” of our incarnate Saviour were “spirit” and “life.” He was “the life” and “the truth” seen and heard. A great mystery indeed, which cannot be explained by human language. The deep sin of the human mind is attempting to unfold and explain that of which the Spirit says, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” and again, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father” (1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 11:2727All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)). Unfathomable mystery indeed!
Life and Love Manifested
When the believer calls to mind His lowly and lonesome path through this sinful world and discerns in “the man of sorrows” “the true God, and eternal life,” his heart becomes filled with joy and gladness. He adoringly worships and finds real delight in confessing and serving Him. In John’s Gospel we see eternal life manifested in the Son; the first epistle of John treats of the character of eternal life as communicated to believers. But though eternal life was promised, was with the Father, and in due time was manifested unto us, how could it lay hold on us who were such sinners? The answer is, Love was also manifested and reached its immeasurable climax in the death of Christ, God’s Son, upon the cross, for in this way God’s gift of eternal life could be communicated to us. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:99Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. (John 4:9)).
Thus we learn that by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ two marvelous blessings have been secured for us: first, the removal of our sins judicially and forever by the one offering of Himself, and, second, that we might live through Him. Here again our souls are touched with the love of God toward us, and we are filled with thanksgiving and praise. Divine grace worked so that we might “live through Him,” for our Lord said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)). Yes, men must be judicially cleared from their sins by the sacrifice of Christ in order to stand in true relationship to God. What unutterable love “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”
Resurrection Life
In resurrection — the resurrection of the Son from the dead, by which He was marked out Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness—we behold Him alive again, and that forevermore. By divine power and in divine righteousness, God has intervened and raised Him from among the dead and glorified Him as man at His own right hand. Now we read that “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” — not only “through” Him who bore the judgment for us, but “in” Him glorified. It is the gift of God, and in the Son. He said, “I am  .  .  .  the life.” It is then for us a new and eternal life, both through and in the Son, and the gift of God. What divine wisdom, love and power are thus brought into view! The gift of God, then, is eternal life — nothing less than eternal life. We, therefore, read of an inspired apostle writing to believers and saying, “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not 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” (1 John 5:11,1311He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. (John 5:11)
13And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. (John 5:13)
). An entirely new life has been communicated to us, and we are to know that we have it. We are said to “have passed from death unto life.” The effects of having this life are love to the brethren, obedience, righteousness, communion and prayer, into all of which the Spirit surely leads; in short, to walk as He walked, for all these ways were perfect in Him who is our life.
Present Possession
Nothing can be more clearly set forth in Scripture than the present possession of eternal life. “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Though communicated to us, it is in the Son as its source and fountain, and enjoyed by us through feeding upon Him. We were dead, dead in sins, until by grace we heard the voice of the Son of God and lived: “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:2525Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25)). Till we had faith in the atoning work of the Son of Man, we had no life in us; now we have eternal life, and Jesus added, “I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:5454Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:54)). What divine certainty these words give us of being in glory with the Saviour!
The Holy Spirit
But besides having eternal life, the Holy Spirit has been given to us as the seal, the earnest of our inheritance, and the anointing. Thus we have the power for communion with the Father and the Son and joyfully to serve and honor our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:66And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Galatians 4:6); Rom. 8:15; 15:1315For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15)
13Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)
; Eph. 1:13-1413In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13‑14)). Having received life in the Son, we are to manifest it in our mortal body. Holding the flesh for dead, we are to be “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10). While in the world, with the flesh still in us, we are to reckon ourselves to have died with Christ, and as alive unto God, we are to manifest the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh. This is practical Christianity.
Eternal Results
We also find that Timothy was told to “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). Had he not received the gift of eternal life? Most assuredly he had. But to “lay hold on eternal life” is to grasp it by faith in all its glorious and eternal results when we shall “reign in life” (Rom. 5:1717For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) (Romans 5:17)). We thus lay hold on all that eternal life involves, and so make it our own by faith and hope, that its blessedness may be enjoyed now. This glorious prospect being before us and the Spirit revealing Him to us, we shall be led on. Christ will be reproduced in our life and walk, and we will be detached from what is unsuited to Him.
Manifested With Him
But Christ is to be manifested again. When the incarnate One was on earth, as we have seen, eternal life was manifested. Then He was alone. But when He is manifested in glory, “the sons of God” will be manifested with Him. “When He shall appear [or be manifested], we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:22The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (John 3:2)). And we also read that “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear [or be manifested], then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:44When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)). Being already alive spiritually, we look for the Saviour to change our body of humiliation and fashion it “like unto His glorious body.” We have eternal life already, but when the Saviour comes, the “hope of eternal life” will be realized “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
Possession and Hope
of Eternal Life
While Christianity begins with the possession of eternal life, “the end” is also eternal life, but all “the gift of God.” We have eternal life while we are living in the “hope of eternal life.” We find redemption also presented to us in Scripture in the same way. Of the believer it is said, “In whom [Christ] we have redemption through His blood,” and yet we are waiting for “the redemption of our body” (Eph. 1:77In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:7); Rom. 8:2323And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)). The same may be noticed as to salvation—we are saved, and yet we look forward to salvation. The same inspired writer that says, “Who hath saved us,” also says, “We look for the Saviour  .  .  .   who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” This change and translation we are elsewhere told will take place when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. Then, having eternal life in all its glorious issues, we share with Christ the Father’s presence in the Father’s house, in all the unutterable blessedness of eternal glory.
A. H. Rule