Life Eternal: It's Infinite Fulness
Leslie M. Grant
- “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25.
- “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” 1John 5:1.
- “Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life.” John 6:54
- “Quickened-----together with Christ.” Eph. 5:2.
- “I give unto them eternal life.” John 10:28.
- “Partakers of the Divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4
- “So that, if any one be in Christ, it is new creation.” 2 Cor. 5:17 (Num. bible)
- “The washing of regeneration.” Titus 3:5
All of the above expressions have reference to the marvellous and immediate impartation of eternal life to every soul who is born of God; yet each expression having its own special emphasis and significance. Without all of these (and many more such in the New Testament), how could we possibly have a proper view of the wonder and preciousness of what eternal life is? Indeed, though the honoured saints of the Old Testament, being born of God, were possessors of eternal life, yet they could not have even discerned this clearly, let alone enter into the blessed revelation of it as we have it today in the holy Person of the son of god, and in the written word. May we greatly value and take to heart these many truths concerning it, that serve to deepen in our souls a pure appreciation of the Lord Jesus, and of the glory of the Father revealed in Him.
- Our first three scriptures deal with the soul’s reception of this great blessing, not simply from the viewpoint of Divine sovereignty, but from that of the soul’s response to the Gospel, the word of God. First, the dead hear the voice of the Son of God, They are not said to have life before they hear; but “they that hear shall live.” The responsibility of hearing and the sovereign work of the Son of God in quickening power are put together here. Wonderful it is that God has decreed that by the word of God soul s are born again (1 peter 1:23) AND POSSENSS OVERLASTIN LIFE (John 5:24). This verse then emphasizes hearing the voice of the Son of God, and living thereby the life that is eternal.
- 1 John 5:1 has told us that “whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” New birth, birth from God, certainly imparts new life, the life which is of God, eternal life. But new birth is in contrast to our natural birth as children of Adam; and it stresses the precious fact of a vital, real relationship with the eternal God as Father. “As many as received Him (the Lord Jesus), to them gave He power to become the sons (or children) of God, even to them that believe on His name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12,13). Thus by new birth, the relationship of children to the Father, through the Son, is eternally established. How precious beyond thought this is! And of course this could not be possible without the possession of eternal life. Here too personal faith is seen as a requisite in new birth.
- Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man is an absolute necessity to the reception of eternal life. In John 5, hearing the voice of the Son of God was indispensable: now eating and drinking is also insisted on in John 6. Both go together: one cannot be without the other for faith in the Deity of Christ means faith also in His true Manhood, His suffering and death. For this eating and drinking means a spiritual taking home to the soul of the truth of the Gospel, the necessary death of Christ for our sins. Indeed, this was actually in spite of the fact that they could not enter into and understand the full significance of His words at the time. Having faith in Him personally, they did, in spirit, partake of the value of His sacrifice, His sufferings and death, before the cross actually took place. Peter shows this in his loving words following, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God;” John 6:68,69. Our verse therefore shows that the death of the Lord Jesus was an absolute necessity in order that eternal life might be possessed by men: it is life vitally connected with the sufferings and death of the Son of Man, which is the very food of eternal life. It was of course in anticipation of Calvary that God could and did give eternal life before that time.
- Quickening (or making alive) is said to be by the Son in John 5:21: and “with Christ” in Eph. 2:5. If new birth emphasizes relationship with the Father, quickening emphasizes the power of God in bringing life out of death. New birth does not in itself intimate that man was dead, but that in his Adam-nature, corrupted by sin, he could not inherit the kingdom of God: he required a dew nature from God. But quickening supposes a state of death, in which Divine power must work, to bring life. Here too the resurrection of Christ is introduced, and the believer linked with Him in such a life. It is of course the same eternal life, of which we have been speaking, but seen now in resurrection power. Power then, linked with eternal life, is predominant in the thought of quickening.
- “I give unto them eternal life.” Here it is the Son who gives life, while Romans 6:23 tells us, “the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Num. Bible) If new birth stresses relationship and quickening stresses the power of God in bringing life out of death, these verses stress the grace of God in communicating eternal life. It is a wonderful act of Divine favor, apart altogether from any merit on the part of the recipient, a gift freely given of God. It is totally God’s sovereign work. Precious grace indeed!
- “Partakers of the Divine nature.” Peter tells us that it is by the “great and precious promises “That we have become this. This certainly connects with the fact of the word of God being that by which new birth is accomplished: and this Divine nature is of course to be identified with eternal life: it is the life of God (Eph. 4:18). But this verse emphasizes the blessed fact of God’s sharing with us this blessed nature, that it might manifest itself in every godly virtue, as a representation of Himself in an evil world.
- “If any man be in Christ, it is new creation.” Each individual believer is “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Eph.2:10. This emphasizes the fact of “all things” becoming new. The new creation, or by possessing eternal life, every believer is thereby “in Christ.” Just as the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, so also, “if any man be in Christ, it is new creation.” But the expression “new creation” emphasizes the entirely new order of things that God brings into being by His creatorial power.
- “The washing of regeneration.” The Lord Jesus tells Peter, “He that is washed (bathed) needeth not save to wash his feet.” John 13:10. And Hebrews 10:22 adds, “our bodies washed with pure water.” Regeneration here certainly involves new life, and of course that eternal life of which we are speaking: but the insistence here is upon the moral cleansing that takes place in saints of God, though sin is not eradicated. The washing of mere moral reform would not suffice: it must be the washing of regeneration: a new life must be present, or the cleansing is not cleansing at all. Thus the reception of eternal life is the actual “bath” or “washing” that breaks the power of sin in the soul.
None of these things could have been known, or so expressed by saints in the Old Testament, in spite of the fact that they certainly possessed eternal life. For this was not at the time a subject of revelation. The Son of God had not come, to make clear what eternal life is. In His coming to Israel (the sheepfold), He says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,”—not a different life, or different kind of life, but “it,” the same life, more abundantly. John 10:10. Their having life actually depended on His coming, though in some true sense they already had life, but it was to be made more abundant. If in grace, before Christ’s coming, that life was given to them in anticipation of His coming, yet they could not possibly know the vital, precious character of the eternal life in all its fullness until He came who is Himself “that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us.” 1 John 1:2.
We may add to this the great fact that is peculiar to our own dispensation, the blessed gift of the Holy Spirit, given at Pentecost. Israel did not have the abiding of His Presence, as does the church, the body of Christ. It is His own presence that is “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14);and becomes “rivers of living water” flowing forth (John 7:37-39).
What a lesson is this for our souls! Though we are blessed infinitely, marvellously, with eternal life, “the life of God;” yet this is not enough. We need God Himself dwelling in the soul by the Spirit, who makes known to us the Father and the Son in blessed reality. It is this great fact that so distinguishes Christianity from every previous dispensation: it enables us to understand eternal things: it places us in a position apart from the world and from time.
But eternal life itself is above and beyond all dispensation, before them, and outlasting them all, yet expressing itself in its many and various ways throughout all of them. For eternal life is the very nature of our God and Father. It is perfectly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ in every detail of His life on earth, its purity untainted by anything through which he passed. And this is the marvellous life that is communicated to every believer. Of course it exists in us side by side with the corrupted life we have received from Adam: so that cannot look within to see what that life is like. We must look simply at the Lord Jesus: there we see it in perfection. But it is operative in every child of God.
We enter into it now by faith; but in the presence of the Lord Jesus, in the eternal state, we shall enter into it in its fullest expression, that is, with every surrounding circumstance vibrant with that life, in contrast to circumstances of death and decay. In this sense eternal life is a “promise” (1 John 2:25); but it is the same life we have known in new birth. And just as natural life develops gradually, so in us eternal life gradually develops, by proper food, exercise, atmosphere, and occupation. May we have grace to allow it its fullest and purest expressions, through abiding in the love of Christ.