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 worshiping 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."
We learn also that "eternal life" was with the Father. Father and Son being correlative terms, it is impossible to exclude the thought that He who was the eternal life was also the eternal Son. He was "that eternal life, which was with the Father." 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, (and we beheld His glory....") 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 1:1,21That 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; 2(For 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 1:1‑2). 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 Savior 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. Like the vessels of the sanctuary which the Kohathites knew were to be borne by them, but were so concealed from their view that they dare not touch, much less uncover them, under penalty of death, they were to bear them as Jehovah had commanded, but not to "touch" them "lest they die." (Num. 4:1515And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation. (Numbers 4:15)).
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. 3:1616And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (1 Timothy 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! When the believer thus calls to mind His lowly and lonesome path through this scene, 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 the gospel by John 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, His death 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. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:9,109In 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. 10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9‑10). Thus we learn that by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ two marvelous blessings have been secured for us -(1) the removal of our sins judicially and forever by the one offering of Himself, and (2) that we might live through Him. Here again our souls are touched with the infinite and unfathomable love of God toward us, and are filled with thanksgiving and praise. Divine grace so wrought that we might thus "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." How impossible to contemplate such grace through righteousness without the heart exclaiming—
"Everlasting praises be
To the Lamb that died for me."
And further. 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 for evermore. 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. The Son is its source. Nothing in us has helped to bring it about or to produce it. 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! Are we not ready to cry out, while looking up to Him who said, "I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God"-
"Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?"
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 5:11-1311And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13These 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, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:11‑13). Thus the believer on the Son of God has received the wondrous gift of eternal life, the source and seat of which is, not in Adam, but in the Son. 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 which the Spirit surely leads; in short, to walk as He walked, for all these ways were perfect in Him who is our life. 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 the 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; then such 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 Savior! Can we wonder at anyone saying, "Oh, how precious is the truth that the life, such as it was with the Father, such as it is in the Son, is given to me?"
Having received the life which is in the Son, we are to manifest it in our mortal body. Holding as we should 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. 4:1010Always 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 Corinthians 4:10). While in a world so contrary to God, with the flesh in us, and Satan blinding and deceiving sinners and tempting saints, we are to reckon ourselves to have died with Christ and, as created in Christ Jesus, alive unto God, we are to manifest the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh. This is practical Christianity. For such to live is Christ.
We also find that Timothy was enjoined to "lay hold on eternal life." Had he not received the gift of eternal life? Most assuredly he had. But for such 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, as made known to us in the Word of God, and to be consummated when we are with Christ and like Christ, may be enjoyed now. This glorious prospect being before us, and the Spirit revealing Him to us, we shall be led on, Christ reproduced in our life and walk, and we detached from what is unsuited to 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." 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." Thus, when the mortal body is changed, and fashioned like unto His body of glory, we shall be conformed to the image of the Son, to the everlasting praise of the glory of His grace. Being already alive spiritually we look for the Savior to change our body of humiliation, and fashion it like unto His body of glory. We have eternal life already; but when the Savior comes the "hope of eternal life" will be realized in the corruptible putting on incorruptibility, and the mortal putting on immortality. This we know will take place 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." Precious fruit of divine grace!
While Christianity in truth begins, as we have seen, with the possession of eternal life, and this life is in the Son, "the end" is also eternal life, but all "the gift of God." We have eternal life while we are going on "in the hope of eternal life." We find redemption also presented to us in Scripture in the same way. We have redemption now, and are waiting for redemption. 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. We receive the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:99Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)), and yet "shall be saved from wrath through Him." The same inspired writer that says "who hath saved us," also says, "We look for the Savior... 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.