Eternal Life – What the Bible really says

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

The Bible is quite clear. We all sin and therefore we all die. Death, the Bible teaches, is a punishment. It is literal. It is very real. The dead are unconscious (see Ecclesiastes 9:5). A very bleak and to the point picture is painted. Mankind is doomed. He cannot save himself and he cannot save his fellows.

If that is where the story of the Bible’s teaching finished then, like many in todays world, it would indeed be a good idea to live life according to our own human pleasures and lusts. To fulfill every desire that enters into our heart. As the apostle Paul puts it: “…if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” 1 Corinthians 15:32. BUT that is not where the story ends. The Bible talks about an amazing hope which has been lost by many – even those who claim to believe in it’s pages. That lost hope is the subject of this brief article.

Gods promise of eternal life

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” Titus 1:2

Its interesting to consider that God has promised eternal life to those who serve him with all their hearts. These men and women will fail to adhere to all that is asked of them and so this giving of eternal life is, in fact a gift. This is the true message of the Bible – that eternal life is something to be hoped for – but not yet received. It is not something inherant within us (immortal soul), it is not a right – it is God’s gift to give to whom He will.

Resurrection still future

“When will this gift be given?” we might ask. Will it be immediately upon our deaths? Will we have a soul which floats up to purl like gates to be met by Peter? The Bible is clear:

“…many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Daniel 12:2

“For the Lord (Jesus Christ) himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:” 1 Thess 4:16

So when Jesus returns to the earth a resurrection of the dead will take place – it is then that this gift will be bestowed upon the faithful. This is clearly future for the Bible teaches that Jesus’ return will be plain to see:

“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Revelation 1:7

Will all mankind rise from the dead?

The previous verse from Daniel shows that not all mankind will rise from the dead. “Many” says Daniel (12:2) – NOT all. Who will not rise then?

“Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.” Psalm 49:20

“The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” Proverbs 21:16

Those who die in ignorance of God’s promises will not rise from the dead – they will remain unconscious.

Who will rise from the dead?

Clearly it is those who have understand the promises of God – who have either accepted it or rejected it.

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?  And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:17-18

There are in fact three classes mentioned here as being raised for judgment; “the righteous”, “the ungodly” and “the sinner”. We can duduce by the verses already looked at that these three classes describe the following people:

  • The righteous – those who accepted the gospel message, were baptized and did all they could to live right before God – this display of faith in God enabling them to be accounted righteous and thus be given the gift of eternal life – being “saved” from death.
  • The ungodly – those who initially accepted the gospel message and were baptised but sadly fell away.
  • The sinner - those who heard the gospel message and rejected it. They were responsible to it’s call but didn’t get baptized or accept it.

It is clear that not all those that rise from the dead will be given this gift. Daniel has already told us that some will rise and be given “everlasting life” but others “shame and everlasting contempt.” This can also been seen by looking at these passages:

“And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Acts 24:15

“He that rejecteth me (Jesus), and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:48

Belief and Baptism essential

Knowledge and acceptance of the gospel is therefore essential if we are to share in the hope of eternal life. Knowledge in what exactly? The Bible teaches that it is not every jot and title that has to be believed – neither is it a loose belief that Jesus simply exsisted and can save. The Bible tells us an understanding of what is termed “the gospel” (or the good news) is required.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16

“For 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

“But 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 Tim 1:10

But what is the gospel? This subject is the object of this website – see the Bible Teaching section of this website to see what the Bible tells us about the gospel. In simple terms it is a knowledge of the the promises God has made to the Jewish fathers and how they tie into the work of the Lord Jesus Christ who died as a representative of mankind (2 Peter 1:4 and Gal 3:8). Those who are baptized into his name recognize this work and associate themselves with him.

The gospel message consists of two parts – “the things concerning the Kingdom of God” and “the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12) – this has to be believed and the proof of that belief is in the baptism of the individual. The person must then continue to live a Godly life and obey Gods commands:

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14

“And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:17

So the gift of eternal life is conditional and will be hard to obtain but in Gods mercy there is hope. He has offered a great way of escape from what we rightfully deserve – eternal unconsciousness on account of sin.

The decision is yours

“And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.” Acts 17:32

So dear reader, will you mock or will you listen and study God’s word on this matter? This is a serious issue and should not be a matter we take lightly because:

“…but now (God) commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31

Click here for more information on The Ressurection »

Other articles that may interest you:
Death – what is it?

The Resurrection
The Bible teaches that human nature is mortal

Posted by Matt Davies on Monday, March 15th, 2010

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