Eternal Life Begins When?
Often we think of eternal life as beginning after death. We may think of it as something we must attain. We might conclude that we must remain obedient in order to receive eternal life sometime after death. Yet, what does God reveal to us in His Word? Let’s find out!
Three Aspects of One Salvation
It often seems as if people think of salvation as pertaining to that moment when they become a Christian and then also in respect to going to Heaven. However, what about the time span from that moment of becoming a Christian on until we actually arrive in Heaven? Are we in some kind of limbo land, where things are uncertain? Where we are left to hold onto salvation with the hopes of doing the right things to get to Heaven? Are we to somehow obey our way to Heaven and then receive eternal life at that point in time?
The reality is that, the moment of becoming a Christian, and our Christian life, and Heaven, are three parts of the one salvation we come into the very moment we become Christians! This is a most vital truth to comprehend!
When and How do I Receive Eternal Life?
I don’t want to dwell long on explaining the gospel here. My emphasis is to explain when we receive eternal life and the second aspect of salvation, life as Christians on this Earth.
I do briefly want to point out that we were once all, “Dead in…trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) No question, we all need eternal life! As we know, we could do nothing to gain eternal life. For even “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (~Isaiah 64:6) Neither can we do anything as Christians to keep our salvation. For, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) It is clear, salvation is a gift of God, given us freely! So, then, we cannot obey our way into Heaven as Christians either! It is strictly by God’s grace!
Now, we read, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) We can confidently conclude from this verse that Christians possess eternal life right now! For we read, “You have eternal life”! Now, we’ll explain this further in a little, but first let us move along to specifically when a person receives this eternal life.
We read in God’s Word, this way, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
We can see from the above verses that it is by, not only hearing, but believing the gospel message for oneself. At that very moment, one is sealed and has therefore the guarantee of Heaven, and the glory belongs to God alone! Yes, this is the very moment we receive eternal life!
Do You Have the Son?
I want us now, to make a most crucial connection! So, please listen very attentively! “ And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in the Son. Whoever has the Son has life [eternal]; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life [eternal].” “Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-12, 20) Did you understand what is written?
In plain words, Jesus Christ is equated to eternal life! If Christ lives in us, we have, right now, eternal life. If He does not live us, we are none of His, and do not have eternal life!
The Second Aspect of Salvation
I could write a whole article just on this sub-heading! As mentioned already, often it is thought that Jesus saves us the moment we cry out to Him to do so, and that, then, we simply wait for Heaven to come! Somehow we conclude that we are somewhat left on our own to fight our way through this life. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth! For, not only did Jesus pay our sin-debt in full and count His righteousness to us, and guarantee Heaven for us, but He also set us free from being slaves of sin now! Jesus is our victory right now! As is written, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God…For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:17-18, 20-23)
Again, listen to these words! “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Galatians 2:19-21) Once more, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Keeping these verses in mind, let us read also these verses, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)
What is my point with these verses? My point is that Christ lives in the Christian! He not only lives in the Christian, but He lives His life through the Christian! We look in faith to the Son of God! It is by Him that the fruit is produced in our lives! We don’t produce it, we simply “bear” it! Neither do we produce the fruit of the Spirit. No, it is the Spirit producing the fruit in the Christian’s life! I trust we are beginning to get a glimpse of how the Christian life ought to look!
We see then, that Jesus won a great victory! We are freed from our sin-debt, from sin’s power, and in the future we will be set free from the very presence of sin in glory! What a victory Christ won for us upon that cruel cross!
We also see that the Christian possesses eternal life the moment they place their faith in Christ! It is because the Christian has victory in this life through Christ, and the absolute certainty of Heaven, that the Christian can truly rejoice, even in the face of hardship! What an awesome Saviour we have! Let us be glad and rejoice in Him!
Victor J. Reimer
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Photo credit: “Eternal Moment” by James Marvin Phelps
*Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyrighted © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.