Eternal Life

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Eternal life is said to be in the Son rather than in us; just as we should speak of the water being in the reservoir rather than in the pipes or cisterns which it supplies, and through which the water is conveyed to the houses where it is enjoyed. So we speak of life being in the plant or the tree not in the branch or leaf, though they are alive also by virtue of their connection with the tree. But life is spoken of as being in us (2 Cor. 4:10-1210Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. 12So then death worketh in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:10‑12)). Eternal life is looked at as the Word, the Son Himself. “In Him was life,” {John 1:44In him was life; and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)} “that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” {1 John 1:22(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 1:2)}. It has qualities and characteristics of its own: it was the Light of men shining in the darkness, and was not understood by them because they were darkness. It was seen, heard, gazed upon, and handled, because manifested in flesh. All this is objective; for we are too prone to look at life subjectively as communicated to us, and to examine it in its details in us, instead of fixing our eyes on it in its source or origin and display in the Son of God.
Two opposite dangers are before us; that of making eternal life, which all Christians possess, a matter of attainment on the one hand, and on the other ascribing to Old Testament saints, or to souls just quickened and under the conviction of sin, or under the law {cp. Rom. 7}, this eternal life, which is the proper portion of the Christian as such, the full revelation of the Father and the Son being known and believed.
A merely convicted soul, wrought on by the Spirit of God where there is a true sense of sin and desire after Christ is really quickened {Rom. 7:2222For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: (Romans 7:22)}; for pain is evidence of life and these feelings are according to God, and produced by the effect of the Word of God in the soul. This we see in Acts 2 where the reception of the Word preached made those who received it cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
They believed the truth spoken about Christ and about themselves, but did not know the value of His death for themselves, or as applicable to the guilt which they felt, and this is what the apostle Peter next presents to them. We see the same work of the Spirit in the apostle himself, when he falls at Jesus knees, saying, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord” {Luke 5:88When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. (Luke 5:8)}. Attraction to Christ on the one hand, and the consciousness of his own unfitness and unworthiness on the other. So in many souls in the present day (and still more before the forgiveness of sins was as fully preached as is now) we meet with souls who feel what sin is and look to Christ as a Mediator between God and themselves, but have no knowledge of His work as clearing them before God. They own Him as Son of man, and even as a divine Savior, but not as the Son revealing the Father and have still a dread of God, whom they regard at a distance, and do not know as Father. They are as the Israelites in Egypt, before they crossed the Red Sea {Ex. 14}, and had seen all their enemies dead upon the seashore being brought through as on dry land by the hand of God Himself. Souls may, like them, know something of the value of the blood, and still look on God as a Judge, and death and Satan’s power are still feared. The effect of the resurrection of Christ is not known, nor is God known as Father, nor consequently eternal life; though there exists in the soul faith, repentance, and life, according to the measure in which the truth has been apprehended {cp. Rom. 7}.
But eternal life is placed in Scripture in the knowledge of the Father through the Son and of the work of Christ in its full, perfect character. “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God [the Father] and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” {John 17:33And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)}. Christ is lifted up on the cross as Son of man in order “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” {John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)}; and he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood hath everlasting life {John 6:5353Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (John 6:53)}; both passages showing that the proper knowledge or appreciation of the atoning efficacy of the work of Christ gives eternal life, and thus teaching that the possession of it is the normal state of every believer. So the babes are said to know the Father {1 John 2:1313I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. (1 John 2:13)}, and this can only be through the Son who reveals the Father; and “this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” {John 6:4040And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)}.
Again, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me [the Father], hath everlasting life.” In none of these verses can we make it a matter of attainment. It belongs to the babes, to all who have seen the Son, or known the Father, or have believed in the work of Christ, according to its proper value or efficacy before God. The little children also have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things {1 John 2:2020But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. (1 John 2:20)}; and holding fast what they have heard from the beginning, they then continue in the Son and in the Father.
So in 1 John 4 the testimony is, that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world, and “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God.” This involves the possession of eternal life though in the power of the Holy Ghost. The indwelling of the Holy Ghost shows at the same time that all Christian privilege according to the present dispensation is included.
When also the eternal life is manifested and declared, it is that fellowship with the Father and the Son may be known which is enjoyed by the same life communicated to the soul by the Word; for this fellowship has all the blessed elements of this life both known and participated in, and the full revelation of the Father and the Son. “We beheld His glory,” says the apostle, “the glory as of an only begotten with a Father, full of grace and truth” {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)}; and he adds, “Out of His fullness have all received, and grace for grace.” This last was not apostolic, but the common property of all in the proper blessing of this dispensation.
By Christ, as the risen Corn of Wheat {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)}, this life is communicated after His resurrection when He breathed on His disciples {John 20:2222And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:22)}. It could not be given before and this shows markedly the difference between life incipient or in its first stage—or as possessed by saints when our Lord was on earth, even though quickened by Him—and the life more abundantly {John 10:1010The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)} bestowed in resurrection power {John 20:2222And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: (John 20:22)}, and in the new creation, and in the power of the Holy Ghost. Speaking of this He says “Because I live ye shall live also.” “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.”
In the gospel of John, save in these anticipative passages, and in John 17, which also looks forward, we never have saints spoken of as “in Him”: whereas in the epistle of John it is constant. “We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life” {1 John 5:2020And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)}.
“Which thing is true in Him and in you.” “In the Son, and in the Father,” etc. This life was given us in Christ Jesus, and promised before the world began (2 Tim. 1:1, 8, 9, 101Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, (2 Timothy 1:1)
8Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:8‑10)
; Titus 1:22In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (Titus 1:2)); but this shows its proper sphere and range to be heavenly, both as being before time, and as brought to light in Him who abolished death whereas those who enjoy divine life on earth have their names written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8; 17:88And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
8The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Revelation 17:8)
). Their kingdom also was prepared for them from the foundation of the world. In the Old Testament this is spoken of as life for evermore (Psa. 133).
We do not read of the revelation of the Father by the Son in the Old Testament, nor in the book of Revelation; nor are millennial saints ever spoken of as “in Christ,” nor as wearing a crown of life, though we have generally the idea of sons and daughters of the living God as in Old Testament times with Israel (Deut. 32:1919And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. (Deuteronomy 32:19)).
From The Christian Friend 1888.