By Dr Edward Tamale Sali & Pr Isaiah White
According to 1 John 5:13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
There are many Bibles verses that remind us about life in another realm known as eternal life. This life is for those who believe in the Son of God.
Few of us may understand this idea. Besides, there are those who even question whether it really exists at all.
What it is not
We are better off beginning this discussion by looking at what eternal life is not. Eternity is not immortality as some describe it.
Immortality refers to the quantity of life, while eternal life has the significance of quality. The implication is: mortal life becomes immortal only when it deserves to be so.
It is not assessed by its length on Earth, but by its goodness, spiritual beauty and capacity to love.
Eternal life and immortality have been mistakenly considered one because of the common error of imagining unending time as synonymous with eternity.
Most people explain it as the life in Heaven, after death on Earth.
“To me, eternal life is everlasting life, meaning living forever. When life ends here on earth it surely continues somewhere else like in Heaven,” Dorcus Nyakato, says.
Some religions such as the Sadducees refute eternal life by rejecting the afterlife narrative.
In Islam, it is believed that there is “Akhirah,” which is life after death.
To the Muslims, life on Earth is a test from God to prepare them for eternal life. They believe it is a reward in paradise for those who did good during their time on Earth.
However, the Bible explains that eternal life begins on Earth. This is revealed in Matthew 22:32: “I am not the Lord of the dead, but of the living.”
Eternal life is not what we receive when we enter Heaven. It is not a far-off reality. That life has already begun. Our eternal life is grounded in our relationship with God (John 17:3).
Since we have entered into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we can enjoy our eternal life here on Earth.
More on eternal life
Eternal life is God’s life; a life that is forever indestructible. Unlike the life we know, eternal is a life that has never existed. Therefore, cannot end.
It is God’s life and since He has no beginning and no end. This life is like Him.
The quality of this life is divine. It is God Himself. So, anyone who has God in him/her, has this life.
In Jewish ideology, the term “Chayim” (transliteration), which is literally translated as “alive,” refers to a particular life upon which living is based.
There can only be one eternal life that is the foundation and source of all other living lives, and that is only God’s.
The Old Testament’s appreciation of life is that true life is connected to God’s infinite being.
In Genesis 2, God created human beings, but also created the tree of life (Genesis 2:9) from which human beings could continuously eat to ensure unending living.
Genesis 3:24 reminds us that when humanity fell away from its Creator, they could no longer access the tree of life to live.
We are told that even before the fall of man, human life depended on God’s eternal provision of life, and that is eternal life.
The New Testament (NT) perspective categorises life into two: natural life which is known as “Bios” and divine life, known as “Zoe”.
The Scripture clearly distinguishes between these two forms of life.
Based on the New Testament text, bios is the lower form of life, whereas Zoe is not only the advanced form, but a completely different one.
It is a life from which all lives result, and upon which all lives depend.
Bios is a Greek word from which “Biology” was derived. This is the life that can be tested in scientific laboratories, and it is the life in all animate creatures.
In the New Testament, life is termed as flesh. The Greek word that means the same is “sarx”.
It is the life that Apostle Paul warns us against: “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die (you will experience a dying spiritual life), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body (the self-originated form of life), you will live (receive the eternal life).
“For as many as are led by God’s Spirit, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14).
God is eternal life
Zoe is God Himself. This is attested to in the scriptures: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life (Zoe). No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6 NKJ).
Eternal life is God’s nature and by nature, God is life (Zoe). He is life in Himself and this life is eternal life. God’s life is not just from Him, but in Him.
John explains: “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12).
Bios is sustained by nature. Scientists know what a human cell and gene need to live. The different gases in space and the structure of the universe all contribute to bios sustainability on planet Earth.
For this reason, many scientists assume that this is all life is.
The Word of God says: “In Him is life” (John 1:4). Since God is eternal, His life is eternal. The Psalter puts it: “For with you is the fountain of life” (Psalms 36:9).
When this God spoke to the sinful Samaritan woman, He called Himself the fountain that quenches thirst as bios water does.
He also refers to Himself as a fountain that leads to eternal life.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).
Eternal life is ours
Sandra Rosemary, a born-again Christian, says external life is a gift every believer has been given by God.
“The Bible says in John 3:16 that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” Rosemary says.
She further notes that we can live eternally only by accepting Jesus Christ as our Saviour.
This is further explained in John 11:25-26 when Jesus told Mary: “I am the resurrection and the life.
“He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Abraham, Jacob and Isaac were all believers in the eternal God. Therefore, they had eternal life. We can, as well, have eternal life when we believe in Jesus Christ.
Whoever does not believe in God has bios, and is destined for death. But whoever believes in God has life and life eternal.
The Bible says the living know they shall die (Ecclesiastes 9:5). It is only believers in Christ who know they are eternal because they no longer live according to the flesh (Bios), but to life in God (Romans 7:5-6; 8:5-13).
The Greek word for eternal is “Aionios.” It means “Constant, abiding and everlasting.”
In other words, the aionios- zoe life that Jesus gives to His true followers is constant and abiding.
This is the reason God said: “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
We all know how fraudulent life is, and what we call life is not life in the Gospel. True life is eternal life and can only be accessed through Jesus Christ.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life(1 John 5:12-13).