Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 13, 1958
NUMBER 40, PAGE 13b-14a

Eternal Life -- When?

Forrest Darrell Moyer, Tucumcari, N. M.

This question comes to me from a friend: "Does the word of God teach that a person has eternal life in his possession as soon as he becomes obedient to the gospel?"

The Baptists and those in accord with them on the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy teach that the child of God is now in possession of eternal life, and that they cannot possibly lose it. What is the scriptural teaching concerning this subject? May we consider it openly and candidly.

1. The Scriptures teach that eternal life is a promise to those who follow God's will: "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." (1 John 2:25.) Thus, we readily see that eternal life is a promise. Because it is a promise, we live in hope of receiving it. Paul himself lived "in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." (Tit. 1:2.) He teaches us to live in hope of it: "That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Tit. 3:7.)

Does one have in his actual possession what he hopes for? Let the Bible answer: "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom. 8:24.) Paul says that we do not hope for what which we already have. But he says we live in hope of eternal life. Therefore, we do not have eternal life in our possession at present.

"But," someone says, "doesn't the Bible say that "he that believeth on the Son hath eternal life?" (John 3:36). Yes, but we have already seen how he has it — in hope or in promise. It is just as it was with Abraham. God said, "A father of many nations have I made thee." (Gen. 17:5.) Was the father of many nations in actuality or in promise? It was in promise. (Gal. 3:16ff.) Paul explains it in Rom. 4:17: "As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." We do not have eternal life in our possession — it is in promise.

2. Eternal life will be a reward to the faithful. In Gal 6:7-8 we read: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life." Therefore, we see that eternal life shall be given if we sow according to the Spirit. When should we expect it? Jesus said it is "in the world to come, eternal life." (Mark 10:30.) Therefore, it is not in this present world that we receive it. It is a reward to be given in the future.

3. But when will eternal life be given? We are told: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." (Matt. 16:27.) When do we receive our reward? At the second coming of Jesus. But still further, in Matt. 25:31-46, we are told that Jesus will sit on his judgment throne and pass the sentence to all nations. Verse 46 says, "And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life." When do we receive eternal life? "When the Son of man shall come in his glory." (v. 31.) Thus, in Romans 2:5-11 we learn that on the judgment day (v. 5) that God "will render to every man according to his deeds." (v. 6.) What will he render? Notice v. 7: "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life." What is he saying? He says that God will render eternal life to them who continue in well-doing. Then v. 8: "But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil . . ." Eternal life is rendered on the judgment day. That is why Paul says, "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life." (Rom. 6:22.) When is eternal life given? At the end.

It should not be difficult for us to understand that eternal life is not our present possession, but that it will be ours when Jesus comes. Are you continuing in well-doing that you may have eternal life?