DISCUSSIONS ON DISPUTED TEXTS
8. “BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE”
We come to the final part of verse 16, and by now I pray that God’s children have seen the blessed truth of God’s work and will for His people and them alone. That we shall have everlasting life is clear from the Scriptures, and is the logical outcome of all that we have examined from the Scriptures. The latter part of verse 15 says, “eternal life” rather than “everlasting life.” We wish to now speak of eternal life, that life which was given to the elect in eternity in Christ.
While everlasting life given to us can be comprehended, eternal life is not as easily comprehended. To have everlasting life means to be given a life that, from that point forward, will never end. To be given eternal life means to be given life that has no beginning, nor end. We receive it in time, so we wonder how it can be eternal, since it obviously has a beginning. Christ’s sheep are given eternal life (John 10:28), and those that eat his flesh and drink his blood have eternal life (John 6:54). Christ gives eternal life to all those whom the Father gave Him (John 17:2). As one can see, we are given eternal life, but from whence did it originate?
What we fail to realize is that this life is eternal, existed in eternity, had its being in eternity, but the elect personally received it in time. The Bible says we are “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). God didn’t make a vague promise, but a promise to us of eternal life. “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25). In eternity, we were blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, we were chosen in Christ and God’s grace was given us, all in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 4; 2 Timothy 1:9). Eternal life is not the only exception. John says, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11). Eternal life was in Christ, hence eternal, as were all the other spiritual blessings. When the elect were chosen in Christ, they were also promised the very same eternal life and ordained to it. “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
The Gospel of John opens up in eternity speaking of Christ’s deity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Christ was with God the Father in eternity. Comparing this with 1:1 of John’s first epistle, he says, “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” This eternal life means what it signifies, that it is eternal. In eternity, it was with the Father. John Himself goes further and states that this very eternal life is Jesus Christ, who is God. “And we known 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).
It is only the elect that receive this eternal life. The rest go into everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46). It is not because of anything in us, nor of anything we have done. It was “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Like Timothy, all the elect are called into this eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12).
Our life is “hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The life that we have is Christ Himself (Colossians 3:4), which is eternal life (1 John 5:20). Christ Himself affirms that He is the life in John 14:6. Christ is “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). It is this life that Christ gives to the world (John 6:33), that being the world of the elect. The elect presently have this life, and can be assured of it. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).