What is eternal life?
When the Bible speaks of eternal life, it refers to a gift of God that comes only “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift is in contrast to the “death” that is the natural result of sin.
The gift of eternal life comes to those who believe in Jesus Christ, who is Himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The fact that this life is “eternal” indicates that it is perpetual life—it goes on and on and on, with no end.
It is a mistake, however, to view eternal life as simply an unending progression of years. A common New Testament word for “eternal” is aiónios, which carries the idea of quality as well as quantity. In fact, eternal life is not really associated with “years” at all, as it is independent of time. Eternal life can function outside of and beyond time, as well as within time.
For this reason, eternal life can be thought of as something that Christians experience now. Believers don’t have to “wait” for eternal life, because it’s not something that starts when they die. Rather, eternal life begins the moment a person exercises faith in Christ. It is our current possession. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” Note that the believer “has” (present tense) this life (the verb is present tense in the Greek, too). We find similar present-tense constructions in John 5:24 and John 6:47. The focus of eternal life is not on our future, but on our current standing in Christ.
The Bible inextricably links eternal life with the Person of Jesus Christ. John 17:3 is an important passage in this regard, as Jesus prays, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Here, Jesus equates “eternal life” with a knowledge of God and of the Son. There is no knowledge of God without the Son, for it is through the Son that the Father reveals Himself to the elect (John 17:6; 14:9).
This life-giving knowledge of the Father and the Son is a true, personal knowledge, not just an academic awareness. There will be some on Judgment Day who had claimed to be followers of Christ but never really had a relationship with Him. To those false professors, Jesus will say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23). The apostle Paul made it his goal to know the Lord, and he linked that knowledge to resurrection from the dead: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10–11).
In the New Jerusalem, the apostle John sees a river flowing from “the throne of God and of the Lamb,” and “on each side of the river stood the tree of life. . . . And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1–2). In Eden, we rebelled against God and were banished from the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). In the end, God graciously restores our access to the tree of life. This access is provided through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Right now, every sinner is invited to know Christ and to receive eternal life: “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
How can you know that you have eternal life? First of all, confess your sin before our holy God. Then accept God’s provision of a Savior on your behalf. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for your sins, and He rose again the third day. Believe this good news; trust the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9 –10).
John puts it so simply: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12).
What does eternal life mean?
What God says about eternal life?
What is there in heaven?
Bible Verses and Scriptures About Eternal Life
– Read Bible scriptures relating to eternal life through the salvation of Jesus Christ. Find biblical answers to common questions about heaven and eternity, such as “how to gain eternal life”, “can you earn eternal life” and more.
1 John 5:13-14
A personal relationship with God unrestricted by time. There is no continuous or coherent belief in the OT in eternal life in the sense of a divinely given quality of life which is uninterrupted by death or initiated at death. A shadowy, feeble kind of post‐mortem existence is assumed by the story of the ‘witch’ of Endor bringing up Samuel to be consulted by Saul (1 Sam. 28). It is existence without any relationship to God (Ps. 6: 5). But in the 2nd cent. BCE a belief in survival after death, expressed in terms of resurrection, appears in the book of Daniel, giving comfort to Jews persecuted by Antiochus Epiphanes. The belief is echoed in 2 Macc. 7: 14. This and other views about a life after death and post‐mortem rewards and punishments were current among Jews by the time of Jesus. The late Wisdom text (Wisd. 2: 1 to 5: 23) offers the hope of the immortality of the soul, influenced perhaps by Platonic thinkers in Alexandria. According to Josephus, the Essenes held a similar doctrine but this may have been an elitist rather than a widely accepted belief. Both Josephus and the NT (Mark 12: 18; Acts 23: 6–8) record that doctrines both of immortality and of resurrection of the body, espoused by the Pharisees, were rejected by the Sadducees.
Generally in the OT the motive for right conduct is attributed to the covenant between God and Israel which governs the network of human relationships.
The earliest evidence for specifically Christian views of life after death are in the letters of Paul, though a neatly constructed scheme cannot be drawn. He brought to his Christian faith the views on resurrection of his Pharisaic upbringing, to which he added his own experience on the Damascus road and what he encountered among Christian communities. From the early picture in 1 Thess. 4: 13–18 of resurrected bodies meeting the Lord in the air, Paul moved to the more sophisticated interpretation of resurrection in 1 Cor. 5 with its insistence on the transformation of both living and departed from a perishable to an imperishable nature, though death itself will already enable the apostle to be ‘at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor. 5: 1). It would seem therefore that Paul does not provide any description of life after death; rather that there is salvation from death.
In the synoptic gospels a belief in the resurrection of the faithful is presupposed, and when Sadducees attempt to demonstrate its absurdity, they are firmly put down (Mark 12: 18–27). Admission to the future life will depend on one’s actions in this present life (Mark 10: 24–5; 12: 40).
In the gospel of John, while Jesus is said to be God’s agent for the eschatological acts of resurrection at the end (5: 19–47) the emphasis is more on the present experience of eternal life (10: 10) which cannot be severed by personal death. It is a promise depending on the character of God not on some property inherent in humankind. We are invited to trust in God’s mercy, but not to suppose that his love is without judgement.
The NT nowhere offers believers the prospect of eternal life in the future without passing through death (2 Tim. 2: 11–13). While eternal life may be experienced to a degree in Christian existence here and now, its full realization lies in the future on the other side of death. Baptism is the first moment or stage in the process (John 3: 5); death is a further stage; the resurrection at the last day (John 6: 40; 11: 25) is the ultimate goal.