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Eternal life in the New Testament always emphasizes the quality of life a person experiences when God rules His life. It is a life that never ends because it comes from the eternal God.

A person receives eternal life, or to use an equivalent expression is saved, by believing or simply trusting in Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13; 3:16, 36; 20:31; Acts 4:12; Hebrews 2:3).

When God took the initiative to save lost sinners He sent His Son because He loved unloved and unlovable.

The best summary of the good news of eternal life is found in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

God “so loved” points to a specific action in the past in which “God sent His Son.” The way God demonstrated His love for the world is that "He gave His only Son" to die for our sins (Romans 5:6, 8).

The apostle John contrasts “eternal life” and eternal death. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never die . . .” (John 10:28a). The final destiny of man is either eternal life or eternal death. He is either saved or lost. No other choices are available.

“Eternal life” is a new quality of life. It is God’s kind of life which a believer has now as a present possession, and will have it forever (John 10:28; 17:3). It is the life of God in the believer because it is a living relationship with God in Jesus Christ. When we believe on Jesus Christ we share His very life.

Eternal life is the very life of God Himself. What is this kind of life? What is it like having this quality of life?

Eternal life is the quality of life a believer has when God rules his life. The main emphasis is always on the quality of life a person experiences when God rules His life. It is a life that never ends because it comes from God who is eternal. It is a new life that goes on and on with God in control.

“Salvation” and eternal life are used synonymously in John 3:17. All who believe in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. It is a life in which the best is yet to come.

The word “perish” does not mean annihilation, but a final destiny apart from God in an eternal hell (Matthew 5:22; 10:28; 18:9; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 20:15-20).

Those who do not believe are condemned already, even though God did not send His Son to condemn but to save. God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23). John 3:36 parallels verse eighteen and tells us that believing on God’s Son who came to provide salvation can avert divine judgment. “He that believes not is condemned already.” You do not have to die and go to hell to be under the wrath of God. The “wrath” of God is the action of a righteous God against evil (Revelation 6:16-17; 19:15). Just like the life God freely gives is eternal, so punishment is also eternal.

The wrath of God is the opposite of eternal life. It is an eternal death because the wrath of God is set against him for all eternity.

The person who disbelieves has already been judged and received the sentence of condemnation (John 3:18). “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

There are only two groups of humanity in the eyes of God: those who put their faith in His Son, Jesus Christ and are saved, and those who have rejected Him and are condemned.  Not only will the unbeliever be condemned, but he is already condemned.

To reverse the rebellious, disobedient way of thinking about God, the sinner must believe on

Christ. If a person does not believe on the Son, the wrath of God continues on Him.

The apostle John presents eternal life as both present and future, the now and the yet to be. He does the same with condemnation and judgment. There is the present condemnation of unbelief and the future judgment before the great white throne (Revelation 20:15-20).

Jesus Christ died to make it possible for us to receive eternal life. God gave over His one and only Son to die for our sins (Romans 5:6, 8). He loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). The reason why the Son of Man must be lifted up was so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

John 3:36 brings the great chapter on eternal life to a climax and a somber ending. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” The person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God already has eternal life. Eternity has begun. However, the person who does not believe, or disobeys the Son, will not see God’s kind of life, but the wrath of God continues to remain on him.

How do you receive eternal life? “But as many as receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in Hi name, who were born not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Jesus said, “Even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). Look and live! Believe and receive God’s free gift of life! “Everyone who believes may in Him have eternal life” (Jn. 3:15).

The Lord is patient and not willing that any should perish, but that all come to repentance; He continues to plead with sinners up until the time of death (2 Peter 3:9).

Key Scriptures

John 3:14-16, 36; 1:12-23; 20:31; 5:24; 6:36-37, 44-58; 10:26-30; 11:25-27; 17:2 1 John 2:25; 4:9-10; 5:11-13; Romans 8:28-30, 38-39

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. Mankind is given only two options: trust in Jesus Christ the Son of God for eternal life, or reject Him and be eternally condemned (Acts 4:12; John 6:44, 47; 14:6). What will you do with Jesus Christ?

2. For the person who believes on the Son “eternal life” is a present experience. The believer shares even now in the life that God gives. The present experience of eternal life is the believer’s now because it begins in the new birth and lasts throughout eternity. This life ever moves toward its divine source and issues in eternal life.

3. Since eternal life is a personal relationship with Christ who lives in you, there is peace, love, joy, and life that comes from His life in us. We live this new quality of life by drawing from His life within us.

4. Where will you spend eternity? Again, there are only two possibilities: in heaven with God, or in an eternal hell.

5. Since eternal life consists of the quality of life a person has when God rules his life, we should make sure our daily life is yielded to Him.

6. Have you put your complete trust in the Son? Has He given you His life? To have eternal life is to have the Son. Christ in the believer is life (John 10:10). We enter into that life when we believe on the Son (John 5:21-30, 39-40).


For Further Study

Luke 23:32-43 Eternal Life Today 
Gift of Eternal Life 
Luke 10:25-37 The Good Samaritan and Eternal Life 
John 17:6-8 How to Receive Eternal Life 
Do You Have Eternal Life? 
Life in Christ 
Where will You Spend Eternity?
Numbers 21:4-9 Bronze Serpent
Eternal Consequences of Critical Choices 
Are You One of the Elect of God?
How can a Christian be Lost Again?
John 14:6-9 Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life 






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Unless otherwise noted "Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE" © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.


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