Creation, Death, Eternal Life
Jesus Christ tells us in John 8:51, "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." This sure promise of our Lord to His people is confirmed by a wealth of other Scripture passages. The Gospel of John especially overflows with His promises of eternal life for His people.
The life Christ brings is not a mere earthly extension of physical breath. George MacDonald rightly condemns this "poor idea of living forever, all that commonplace minds grasp at for eternal life [which is] its mere concomitant shadow, in itself not worth thinking about." No, the life Christ brings is life of a different kind altogether--it is God's own life! For to "as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). This is why we must be "born again, born from above" (John 3:3, 5-7J. Because in this new birth from above we receive God's own supernatural life, it is everlasting. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that "whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16, 36).
To repeat, this new life is not the physical, natural life we enter by natural birth. This is why Jesus exhorts His hearers not to "labor... for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you" (John 6:27). Over and over again Jesus repeats this exhortation (see John 6:40, 47, 51, 53-58; John 8:12, 23, 51; John 10:27-28; John 12:44-46, 50; John 14:6, 19; John 17:2-3). Just before He raises Lazarus from the dead, Christ unforgettably reveals Himself to Martha: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." The entire Gospel of John was "written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing you might have life through his name" (John 20:31).
The unconverted man, not having Christ in himself, does not have this life. C. S. Lewis makes this very clear:
But what man, in his natural condition, has not got, is: Spiritual life--the higher and different sort of life that exists in God. We use the same word life for both: but ... the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which comes to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay ... is Bios.
The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe, is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or a statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man. (Mere Christianity, p.123) A little further on Lewis adds: "The whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always has existed and always will exist." (ibid., p.137)
The Apostle John again elaborates on this theme of eternal life in Christ: "That which we have seen and heard [of Christ, the Word of Life, and eternal life Himself] we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that "your joy may be full" (I John 1:3-4). He warns us not to love the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of (natural "Bios" life) life--because "the world is passing away, and the lust of it: but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:15-17). Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ shows that "we have passed from death to life" and "He who does not love his brother abides in death" (I John 3:14-15). I John 4:9 reiterates John 3:16: "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
We who believe in Him have this new life in Christ now: "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life: he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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." (I John 5:11-13) The epistle ends on the same note: "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true: and we are in Him who is true, His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." (I John 5:20) In Galatians 2:20 St.Paul sums up the Christian's new life as the sharing of Christ's crucifixion, death, and resurrection: "I am crucified with Christ, yet I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me." Life in Christ is a new creation: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation" (Gal.6:15). "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (II Cor. 5:17). "God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Eph.2:4-6). Our "new man" was "created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph. 4:24). Romans 6 is all about our (if we are believers) being dead to sin (our old natural man having been buried together with Christ in His death) and our resurrection together with Him to "newness of life." Our believing loved ones are with Him in eternal joy now, "absent from the body and present with the Lord, which is far better" (Philippians 1:23, II Corinthians 5:1-6).
Here we also find the glorious truth that death no longer has dominion over Christ; "Likewise you [believers] also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:9-11) Colossians 3:3 reminds us believers that "you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." One of the most impressive passages on the powerlessness of death over Christ and His people is I Corinthians 15:12-58. Here our Christian faith is made dependent upon the true and historical resurrection of our Lord: "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable." (I Cor.l5:17-19) "But now Christ is risen from the dead ... For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. ... The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. ... And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. ... then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'" (vv.20, 21, 26, 49, 54) Other wonderful New Testament verses showing us the powerlessness of death over Christ's people are the wonderful fourth chapter of II Corinthians, II Cor.5:l-8, Philippians 1:19-23, Phil.3:20-21, I Thessalonians 5:9-10, and II Timothy 2:11.
This victory over death is hinted at in the Old Testament as well. Examples are Exodus 3:6, which Jesus Christ quotes to show the resurrection-denying Saducees that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob "is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:31-32). What Bible-believing Christian has not rejoiced in spirit upon reading the words of Job: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27) Let us rejoice in Psalm 16:10-11; Ps.l7:15; Ps.49:15; Ps.115:17-18; Isaiah 25:8; Is.26:19; and others. The glorious words of Isaiah 66:22-24 forecast the wonderful prophecy of Revelation 21:4 that God will dwell with His people in joy forever in His new heaven and new earth where "there shall be no more death."