Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 9, 1949

"When (!) Is Eternal Life?"

Cled E. Wallace

Dr. Julian Price Love discusses this question at length in a late issue of the Presbyterian Outlook. Dr. Love is professor of Biblical interpretation at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. Here is a high-light of his discussion.

"Again and again the New Testament rings the changes on this thought that real life is an eternal present. 'The free gift of God is eternal life," declares Paul. 'This is the testimony," writes the beloved apostle, 'that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.' Eternal life is our present possession. We do not wait for it until some distant dream-time. It is the quality of all true living now; it is God's way of life that is always eternal."

"Again and again the New Testament rings" some "changes on this thought" Dr. Love fails to ring some changes on in a lengthy article. A certain young man came to Jesus and inquired what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus made it clear that eternal life is conditional, told the man to keep the commandments, that if he would sell his possessions and follow him he would have "treasure in heaven". That was the answer to his question. In the same connection he told his disciples that whoever left wife, houses, brethren, parents or children "for the kingdom of God's sake" would "receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life". "Treasure in heaven", "in the world to come eternal life". There is something about it we can afford to work and wait for. "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal". This is according to Paul and "the faith of God's elect". "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Rom. 8:24,25) It looks as though we hope and wait for it.

What is eternal life if not something we are to hope and wait for "until some distant time", call it dream-time if you insist? Paul had some definite ideas on the subject given him from above. He rings the changes on them. God will "render to every man according to his works; to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life." Those who patiently obey God and do good are seeking, hoping, waiting for something. What is it? Glory and honor and incorruption. What does God render to them? What they seek, hope and wait for. What is THAT? "ETERNAL LIFE." In contrast the factious and disobedient will have rendered to them anguish and tribulation. It looks as though remission of sins, peace in Christ and the hope of an eternal inheritance based on the promises of God ought to be enough.

Simon Peter also rang some changes on this question. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time". (I Pet. 1:3-5) This inheritance, this salvation yet to be revealed, consisting of praise, glory and honor to be received "at the revelation of Jesus Christ", this is the eternal life the New Testament rings the changes on.

The argument usually runs about like this. The Christian HAS eternal life. It being eternal he cannot lose it. Therefore it is impossible for a child of God to so sin as to be eternally lost for he has eternal life as a present and therefore eternal possession. Presbyterians and Baptists teach this doctrine. But Paul rang the changes on the conditional character of eternal life even for the Christian. "So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die: but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8: 12,13). Can a man who is in actual possession of eternal life die? These "brethren" could if they lived after the flesh and Paul's warning was not a false alarm.


In his instituting of the Lord's Supper, Christ used the imperative mood of the verb, saying "this do in remembrance of me". (I Cor. 11:24) Thus we have not only an approved example (Acts 20:7), but a direct, specific command for the Lord's supper.