This is a brief summary of a sermon I am preaching at my church on “Advent Christian distinctives” (Yes, I belong to the Advent Christian family of churches). God willing and technology cooperating I will make the audio available next week.
Does the believer in Jesus Christ have eternal life now? The biblical answer is both, “Yes” and “No!” In the matter of eternal life in immortality the Bible teaches the following:
1. God alone has underived immortality as his exclusive possession.
Paul spoke of human beings who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Rom. 1:23). To Timothy he exclaimed: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1Tim. 1:17). He speaks of God “who alone is immortal” (1Tim. 6:16). Thus God’s exclusive underived immortality is explicitly contrasted with the mortality of humankind.
2. God has given the Son “life in himself”.
Christ Jesus has “destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2Tim. 1:10). Not just in word, but in deed. God has life in himself. He has given the Son to have “life in himself” (John 5:26) and to give that life to others.
3. Immortality is a prize we must seek after.
Jesus spoke of “those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age [the age to come] and in the resurrection from the dead” (Luke 20:34-36). Only some, “those considered worthy”, will rise to life in the age to come.
Paul speaks of “those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality”. The promise is that “he [God] will give [them] eternal life“(Rom. 2:7). No one seeks what one already has. One cannot be given what one already has. Life in immortality is a prize we are still seeking.
4. Eternal life is ours now – as a promise through faith in Christ.
There are verses (particularly in John) that speak of eternal life as a present reality. So, “God has given us eternal life, and … He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:11-12). How can this be?
Eternal life is literally “the life of the Age to come“. It is a promise we have from God (1John 2:25, Titus 1:2, 2Tim. 1:1). Christ has it now and we who possess him possess it in him (1 John 5:11-12, Col. 3:4). It will certainly be ours in the age to come (Mat. 25:46, Mark 10:30, John 12:25, Rom. 2:7, 16). In Scripture (particularly in John) future things that are certain are spoken of as though present (John 17:22 cf. 7:39).
5. Immortality will be “put on” – when Christ comes again.
Eternal life in immortality will be ours – as a personal possession – when Christ comes again. Thus Paul tells us: “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then [and only then] the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1Cor. 15:54).
6. Our hope is in Jesus coming again!
For those who see immortality as the reward of the righteous when Jesus comes, we look to Jesus’ Coming as the climax of history. Our Saviour comes and he brings his reward – eternal life in immortality – with him (Isa. 62:11 c.f. Mat. 16:27, Rev. 22:12).