How a person can have eternal life is one of the most crucial questions that could ever be posed, since eternal life is connected not only to salvation from sin and eternal punishment but also the enablement to glorify God and love Him. So how can a person be saved and receive the gift of eternal life?
To know the answer to this question, we simply need to examine what the Bible says, since it is God’s Word to us and is unwaveringly clear on this topic.
The brief article contains a brief but thorough examination of what the Bible says about eternal life. In order to allow the Bible be the main speaker on and explainer of this topic, my comments are short and each one is only an introduction to the Scriptures.
Man’s Need for Eternal Life
God created man in His image, and man had a perfect relationship with God
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, and every person who has ever lived has likewise sinned against God
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)
Due to our sinfulness, our relationship with God has been broken
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isaiah 59:2)
Why has our relationship with God been broken? Because, God is perfectly holy and cannot even look upon sin (2 Samuel 22:31)
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. (Habakkuk 1:13)
God is a perfectly just and righteous judge who must punish sin fairly
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deuteronomy 32:4)
In His Word, God declares that the only just and fitting punishment for any single sin, no matter how big or small, is physical death and eternal condemnation in hell
For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12)
Consequently…the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men (Romans 5:18)
Therefore, no one could possibly make payment for his own sins and meet God’s righteous requirement for entrance into heaven
No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him– the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough– that he should live on forever and not see decay. (Psalm 49:7-9)
Nothing impure will ever enter [heaven] (Revelation 21:27)
You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. (Psalm 5:4)
So, in a nutshell, the bad news is…the only way for man to get to heaven on his own is to live a perfectly sinless life, which is impossible. Couple that with the fact that any single sin is strong enough to send a person to hell forever (James 2:10), and we have quite a dilemma on our hands.
God’s Provision of Eternal Life
The good news is…that’s not the end of the story. The Bible speaks about more than sin and judgment; it declares salvation from sin and reconciliation with God. God is more than righteous, holy, and just; He is also gracious, merciful, and loving. He desires to save people and restore their relationship with Him.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:21)
So, how is it possible for God to forgive sinners while satisfying His perfect justice by upholding the punishment He declared on sin from the beginning of time? The answer…Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, part of the Divine Trinity. The Bible says in John 1 that Jesus (the Word) is God! Jesus left the glory of heaven and came to earth as 100% God and 100% man. While on earth, He lived a perfect, sinless life.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-8)
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
Since He was absolutely perfect and without sin, Jesus was the only one who could pay for our sins, satisfy God’s wrath, and provide forgiveness.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Christ paid the price for sin by dying on the cross and rising from the dead, without which we could not be forgiven.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)
Jesus Christ acted as our substitute. He lived the life we couldn’t live and paid the price we couldn’t pay to provide us with the salvation we couldn’t earn.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18)
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
How to be Forgiven and Receive Eternal Life
By His grace, God offers the free gift of salvation. In other words, there is no way to earn it. All we can do is receive it through faith in Jesus Christ.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Since salvation can only be received through faith in Christ, it is tremendously important to understand what constitutes true faith. Saving faith includes:
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:8-9)
2. Belief / Trust
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved…so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)
As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:11, 13)
I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. (Luke 13:3)
“Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)
The Consequences of Eternal Life
When a person truly receives Christ through saving faith, God applies Christ’s payment for sin, removes all eternal punishment, credits the person with the righteousness of Christ, reconciles and restores the broken relationship, and grants eternal life. If a person refuses to reach out to God in faith and repentance, he/she will be judged and will spend eternity in hell.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 21:15)
Once a person is saved (a Christian), he is immediately indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who enables and leads him to live a holy and transformed life.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)