Is Eternal Life Inherited Now or After Death?


“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test saying, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'” – Luke 10:25

What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Jesus answers the question with a question. He asks, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

The lawyer does not answer with the ten commandments. He does not answer with eating certain foods while abstaining from others. He does not answer with passing judgment on others who broke the law. He does not answer with keeping the feasts. He does not answer with tithing.

No, the lawyer’s reading, more literally his repetitive knowing, of the law said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” The lawyer understood the law the same way that Jesus taught it. The lawyer understood that everything in the law hung on love for God and love for neighbor.

Jesus said, “You have answered correctly.”

You inherit, receive, take possession of, eternal life when you love God and love your neighbor. There are no other steps, not other processes, no other commands.

But, Jesus told the lawyer that he must not only understand the law as love for God and love for your neighbor.

Jesus said, “Do this, and you will live.”

“Do this.”

Meaning, put this into practice right now. Act out loving God and loving your neighbor right now.

If you love God and love your neighbor, then “you will live.”

Meaning, you will inherit, receive, take possession of, eternal life, the life of the age, right now. Not in the future. Not when you die. But, now. You will live now.

Do now. Live now.

Eternal life is doing now Jesus’ understanding of the law – loving God and loving your neighbor.

We can see eternal life as something for now in another way.

You inherit something as a result of a death. Jesus literally died and became a life-giving spirit. Once he literally died, eternal life was available to be inherited. Because Jesus died, we do not have to die to receive eternal life. We only need to agree ourselves with his death.

Notice how Paul says it in Romans 6:3-11.

“Do you now know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now, if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus has died and cannot die again. Therefore, if we have died with him, then we are united with him in his resurrection ad believe that we will live with him. Jesus is living his life now to God. And, if we have died with him, then we are alive to God in Christ now. To be alive to God in Christ is to have eternal life. For God is eternal, of the age, ever present, always now.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5)

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him.” (Colossians 2:11-13)

Paul is speaking about all of this as a present reality to be experienced and lived now.We were dead. But, we have been raised, resurrected, just as Jesus was raised from his death. We have been made alive together with Christ. We have his life. His life is eternal life.

Jesus’ life is eternal life.

“If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 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. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:9-13)

God gave us eternal life. This life, eternal life, is in Jesus. Eternal life is Jesus’ life. If you have the son, Jesus, then you have eternal life. The Greek verbs for gave and have indicate that this giving and having of eternal life was done in the past. It is something that is already achieved, already accomplished. Therefore, we have eternal life now.

While Paul speaks of being baptized into the death and life of Jesus, John speaks of believing in his name to have eternal life. It is the same thing.

In Romans 7:6, Paul says, “We serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” John says it differently. For John, to believe in Jesus is to love God and love your neighbor.

But, they are saying the same thing. And, they are saying just what the lawyer understood the law to be, what he needed to do to inherit life. Which Jesus said if he did that he would live.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:1-2)

How do we know God’s love and thereby love one another?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through through him.” (1 John 4:7-9)

If you love, you know God because God is love.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Eternal life is knowing God. If you love God and love neighbor, then you know God and have eternal life.

Not after you die.


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