When the Bible speaks of eternal life, it refers to a gift of God that comes only “through Jesus the Messiah our Master” (Romans 6:23).
This gift is in contrast to the “death” that is the natural result of sin. I can’t earn eternal life.
There is nothing I can do to make it happen on my own. It is entirely a Jesus thing!
- The gift of eternal life comes to those who believe in Jesus the Messiah, 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. Imagine trillion and trillions of years. Multiply that by a trillion. Still not there. Stunning!
- 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 disciples of Jesus 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 the Messiah.
- 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 the Messiah.
Eternal Life — What can I do to earn it?
It is possible to study the mere letter of Scripture while ignoring coming to its focus, Jesus the Messiah. Can I earn eternal life?
- John 5:39–40 — “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.“
- Galatians 3:11–12 — Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.”
- Romans 3:20 — Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
- Romans 3:28 — For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.