Everlasting Life

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

Christians are very familiar with the term everlasting or eternal life. Many only think of it as an unending life that will be theirs after they die because they believe in Jesus Christ. They will go to heaven, enjoy their mansion in the sky, and have idyllic circumstances for all eternity! Is this God's plan for humanity, or does He have a greater plan?

In John 3:15-17 we read, " So that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him ." Here we have the amazing promise that whoever believes in Christ Jesus will receive eternal or never-ending life!

Let's look at this verse closely in order to understand how wonderful this promise is. It says that whoever believes in the Son of God will not perish; it does not say will go to heaven after he dies. This may be true, but this verse does not say that. Surprisingly, hell is not mentioned. It does not say that he will not go to hell; it says he will not perish. Here is a precious truth. Eternal life will keep us from perishing!

What is eternal life? Does unending life describe it? We may be surprised at the answer given us in John 17:3. " This is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." This gives us a new perspective about eternal life! Knowing God and Jesus Christ is eternal life! The scriptural meaning of "know" is to know someone in the intimacy of a marriage relationship that produces a new life. Adam knew Eve, and this produced a son - a new life. When we know God intimately, it produces a new life within us, and this life is not like our old life in which there is deadness - the deadness of living in our sins and transgressions. It is entirely new and does not contain anything in it that can be corrupted! There is no death in it!

Eternal life cannot have or receive anything that is perishable, for the perishable would keep it from being eternal. If it had only one flaw, it could be corrupted. So we know that unending life can only consist of eternal realities, for anything corruptible would pollute it. Eternal life is the life of God, the eternal One! This is awesome! God's purpose for humanity is that it may have His life. His life cannot be interspersed with periods of darkness for then it would not be continuous light. Nor can it be corrupted by sin and death! If death could find a way to enter God's perfect life, His life would not be everlasting!

We may also be surprised to learn that those who are born of God are no longer in the sinner category, for those who are born of God cannot sin. " No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God." (1 John 3:9) Our new birth does not take place by the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13) Just like a baby cannot take any credit for being born physically, so we cannot take any credit for our new birth. It is a spiritual birth, and it makes us a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17)

Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again of water and the Spirit. Why water? This is the water judgment on the old Adamic nature. In Noah's time the judgment by water did away with the humanity that was against God. Our carnal fleshly thinking is always against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17) for it is ruled by the serpent, and therefore has to be judged. It needs to be cast down and overcome by the life in the mind of Christ. This brings us into the overcoming category together with all the promised blessings and rewards mentioned in Revelation chapters two and three!

When do we receive this life? After we die or when we believe? Here are some verses that clearly state that this life is ours when we believe. John 5:24 - " Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." John 3:36 - " He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him ." John 6: 47,54 - "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life…. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." Jesus Christ is the resurrection, and He raises us up on the last day of our old life.

Why is it so important to receive eternal life at the present time? God's goal for us is to be changed into the image of Christ! This would be impossible without receiving the life that is in Christ! It is the power of His life in us that has the ability to change us into people who love even as Christ loves! We have been born of an incorruptible seed (1 Peter 1:23), and this new creation needs to receive spiritual food and be exercised by various challenges so it can grow to maturity - into the image of Christ! It takes time to mature. Parents, who truly love their children, use disciplinary measures in training them. God also disciplines His children, and all His disciplines are redemptive!

This helps us to understand why the substitution of going to heaven after we die, is such a serious mistake. Our natural carnal mind does not want change. It wants idyllic circumstances and an easy life without having to change its ideas. It always opposes the Spirit. The doctrine of "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will go to heaven after you die," presents the opportunity to have eternal idyllic circumstance after death with an easy prayer of acceptance. It says nothing about the need to live a life of faith at the present time. If you believe in Jesus Christ just so you won't go to hell, you are missing out on the blessings that are ours in the overcoming power of the everlasting life in Christ at the present time when we so desperately need it.

The life of Christ (eternal life) brings us into a union with Christ! Without this life we remain in death, and the dead cannot get to know God. Our intimacy with God comes in Christ - the exact representation of the invisible God! (Heb. 1:3) In 1 John 5:11,13 we read, " And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life ." (1 John 5:20) God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Receiving the life of Christ brings us into a union with Christ. This life is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit who has been poured into our hearts.

Eternal life is given to us! Humanity's works can never buy eternal life for they are all rooted in the tree of disobedience - in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said, "If you eat of that tree you will die." " For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) What a fantastic gift is ours when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! He gives us His life, and His life contains everything He is!

With His life comes the promise that no one can snatch us away from Him! " And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:28) God wants us to feel secure in His love and in His ability to keep us! God has given Christ authority over all flesh! In Christ we can overcome all our fleshly lusts and desires, for they do not exist in Christ. "Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. (John 17:2 ) Eternal life enables us to overcome selfishness and to walk in love.

How can we know that we have eternal life? We are all familiar with the saying, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating". The taste of the pudding tells us whether it is good or not. The apostle John tells us how eternal life in us can be verified. The proof lies in our love for the brethren. In 1 John 3:14-15 we read, " We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him ." Our love for the brethren proves that we have passed from death to life and have eternal life abiding in us.

Brothers and sisters often give us more trouble than those who are outside the fold because we are in closer contact with them. They differ in maturity as well as in their views and beliefs and ideas. They may even obstruct our plans, etc. Love is so vital in sustaining unity in the Spirit, and in furthering the work of the Lord. If we desire to be known by our spiritual superiority or by intellectual pursuits instead of by our love, divisions will occur, and the love of Christ will be missing. The proof that we have passed from death into life will be gone!

God's love has made it possible for us to receive eternal life, and His love is unchanging! His eternal life in us is also unchanging! His love in us has the same qualities that are in Christ, but often we are either ignorant of this fact or slow to realize it! If we keep identifying with human love and human feelings, and seek to attain the divine by self-effort instead of through faith, we will fail miserably. God has given us His unchanging, divine and eternal love in the Holy Spirit!

God's eternal life of love is perfect and redemptive for both believers and unbelievers. Since His love is eternal He can never stop His perfect love from flowing out to everyone. If there were just one exception, He would not remain unchanging! His love is perfect for everyone! We thank God for His unconditional love that is not dependent on our response!

This concept is often translated into an excuse to continue doing the deeds that have their source in the lusting of the flesh. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for God is not satisfied to leave us in our wrong ideas! We need to understand that God's love cannot be separated from His righteousness, grace and truth. It is true that God's grace is unending, but it is equally true that His grace is sufficient to overcome every sin, obstacle and difficulty that we are called upon to overcome. We cannot separate God into various unrelated compartments for He always works in unity with Himself!

It is very hard for unbelievers to understand God's great love when the horrors of an unending hell are expounded by well-intentioned preachers - and we used to do the same. We clearly remember how difficult it was for us to leave that teaching, even after we were convinced that it was not true. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit and our dedication to the truth that Christ is, we abandoned our former teaching, and the joy of the Lord filled our hearts!

Let's look at the never-ending hell theory through an example used by our daughter. Let's look at parents who loved all of their children with a great love, yet one child had gone astray. Would this errant child believe that his parents loved him truly if the siblings would come to him and say that unless he came back home and obeyed his parents, the parents would give him an injection so that he could never die, and then put him in a burning building where he would burn forever? Absolutely not! Yet so many Christians have this picture of God - and so did we at one time!

An eternal hell pictures God as a monarch who either delights in revenge and torture, or is forced to punish in this way because man has made a wrong choice. He gave man a free will, provided salvation for them, but they disregarded it, and now He can do nothing more. This theory diminishes God's saving ability, for if He cannot do what He has promised to do, it takes away His omnipotence. It also teaches that evil can endure forever. By claiming that God has given humanity a free will - and a free will cannot be influenced - even He has to respect it. This means that He cannot influence unrepentant humanity to repentance. We know this is a lie because Eve was influenced by the serpent, and Adam was influenced by Eve, and we are influenced by circumstances, advertising, feelings, etc. Yet these lies are being proclaimed by the organized church as well as by well-meaning Christians! This teaching is a demonstration of the pride and selfhood that humanity worships.

God's unconditional eternal love works hand in hand with His righteousness. His dealings with humanity are always redemptive, and there is no redemption in unending torture. The goal of His love is to get us out of the death that is in the carnal mind, and into the life that is in Christ's perfect mind. His love will not allow us to remain in our sinful ways. He deals differently with those who are repentant than with those who are unrepentant - not because He does not love them, but because He does love them. His love will not allow them to remain unrepentant, so He allows them to reap the error of their ways, and harvest what they have sown, that they may recognize their need of a Savior!

Since God's love is eternal, His love for the sinner continues even after the sinner's physical death. His love remains unabated in its intensity and in His desire for the sinner's redemption. God's love does not change! Therefore, an eternal torture in a burning hell cannot be possible, for there is no redemption in that concept, and it is against the very essence of God's being!

Then what about the lake of fire? It says that death and Hades (the realm of the dead, a place of darkness, but often wrongly translated as hell) will be thrown into the lake of fire. If we understand this physically instead of spiritually, this sounds pretty gruesome! We need to understand that the lake of fire is a place where people are cleansed of their carnality. God is a consuming fire, and this lake of fire consumes all carnality! This is the fire of God; it is not pleasant, but it is redemptive. It will burn until all carnality is consumed. (For a more comprehensive explanation please see our notes in our Revelation series, chapter 21:8)

God's consuming fire works hand in hand with His grace, truth, righteousness and His redemptive and unconditional love! It is there for everyone who needs it: for unrepentant or untaught believers, as well as for the unbelievers and the ignorant. Those who will not repent of their wrong desires because they take refuge and comfort in God's unconditional love, will learn that His love works hand in hand with His righteousness. He will never do things at the expense of His righteousness. He always does what is right!

God's life is love, and He desires relationship and intimacy! We all know that we cannot have relationship and intimacy with an enemy. The enmity first has to be dissolved before this is possible. When God's life of love shines into our hearts, the darkness flees and our enmity is gone! This is the amazing ability of His eternal life in us! It does away with all the self-love inherent in our carnal thinking, and changes us into the image of Christ!

Love never fails! (1 Cor. 13:8) The very essence of God's eternal life is love. If His love failed to change just one person into His image of love, it would fail to reach its intended purpose, and thus be a failure! But His love never fails! We have this assurance in His everlasting eternal love!

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