Eternal Life: Not Just a Lay-a-Way Plan!

One of the first Bible verses that many of us learned was John 3:16, which, according to the King James Version, says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16 KJV) The same verse, in the English Standard Version (ESV) says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16 ESV) The terms; ‘everlasting life’ and ‘eternal life’ are synonymous; the KJV says ‘everlasting,’ while most of the modern translations say; ‘eternal.’ In the Greek text, it is the same word, which literally means; ‘without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.’

Now, I used the term ‘literally’ because although the definition talks about not having an end, the term is used, in most cases in the Bible, not to signify the length of life, but rather, the quality of life! When you really think about it, the truth of the matter is this; everyone who has ever lived, will actually live forever! The big question is; where? For you see, when the Bible speaks of death, it is not talking primarily about annihilation or a cessation of existence, it is talking about separation! The Apostle Paul described the condition of the Ephesian believers before they became believers as that of being ‘dead in your trespasses and sins.’ (Eph. 2:1) In 1 Timothy 5:6, Paul described a widow, who was living in luxury as being ‘dead while she lives.’ In each case, the primary meaning of death was separation. Physical death is the separation of the human spirit and soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of a person from correct fellowship and relationship with God. Eternal death is the eternal separation from the fellowship and correct relationship with God. According to the Bible, everyone of us came into this world DOA; dead on arrival. The most important thing in life is the race against time! For it is of the utmost importance not let death (physical death) catch you dead (spiritually dead)!

Well, that’s enough about death, the purpose of this post is to talk about life! More specifically; eternal life! Now, what most modern believers do not understand or have otherwise failed to incorporate into the practical reality of their lives, is the fact that eternal life is a present-possession of every believer! If you are a true believer in Jesus, you will not get eternal life when you die and leave this world; you have eternal life now! Jesus said in John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (NKJ) John, the Apostle wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (NKJ) Most ‘religious Christians’ don’t read the Bible correctly! They believe they will gain eternal life when they die! But the truth of the matter is; if you don’t possess eternal life now while you live, when you die, it will be too late! Those same ‘religious Christians’ also believe they will enter the Kingdom of God when they die, but according to the Bible, a person is either in the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness; right now! Paul wrote in Colossian 1:13: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (ESV) Note the tenses! Paul didn’t say: “He ‘will’ deliver us. .” He said; “He ‘has’ delivered us. . .” Paul didn’t say that God ‘would transfer’ us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” He said that God ‘has transferred’ us to the kingdom of His dear Son! The sad reality is the most Christians are not aware of this awesome reality! They have placed their hope in a delayed lay-a-way plan wherein they only hope to receive eternal life and enter into the Kingdom of God; after they die, in the sweet by-and-by! But that is NOT what the Bible teaches! The good news of the Gospel is that those who believe in Jesus, have eternal life; right now! Those who believe in Jesus are in the Kingdom of God; right now!

Well, what is ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ life? As stated earlier, although the literal meaning talks about the length of life, the biblical emphasis is not on the length of life, but rather on the quality of life. Jesus, who is the Life, gave this definition in his high priestly prayer in John 17:1-3, where we read: “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent– Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 17:1-3 CSB17) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and the one He sent – Jesus Christ! Now, we should note at this point, that ‘knowing’ in the Bible does not signify a mere intellectual exercise, but ‘know’ or ‘knowing’ in the Bible, denotes an intimate close relationship! (Such as in: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain. . .” Gen. 4:1 KJV) Therefore, Jesus defined eternal life as an intimate relationship with God the Father, through His Son; Jesus Christ! Eternal life only comes through and by way of the One who said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6 CSB17) Do you really ‘know’ Jesus? If you do, then you have eternal life right now! This eternal life is the life Jesus came to give, according to John 3:16 and John 10:10. Eternal life is Jesus living His life through us by way of the Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle Paul’s words recorded in Galatians 2:20.

Oh fellow believers! We have such a great salvation, but the sad reality is that too many believers die with most of their food still on their plates! They die without ever scratching the surface of the depth of provisions God had for them in this life! They are like the story I read about a couple who saved all of their money to pay for a cruise. They had never been on a cruise before! In fact, prior to this cruise, they had never even left their small home town! Well, after they boarded the ship, during the entire cruise, they never ventured out of their room! Every day, they sat in their room, eating the sandwiches they had packed, looking out of their windows at the ocean and at other people who were enjoying themselves on the ship. Since, they never ventured out of their room, when the captain learned of their absence from all of the ship’s functions and festivities, so he sent a steward to check on them, for he feared they might have died during the voyage! When the steward knocked on their door, he was amazed to discover the couple had been happily secluded in their room for the entirety of the cruise! He asked them why they had not partaken of the amenities and festivities of the ship. The couple replied that they couldn’t afford it! The steward asked to see their tickets and after inspecting their tickets, he was almost speechless! He explained to the couple that when they paid for their tickets, every meal, every amusement, every show, and every amenity was also included in the price of their tickets! The sad reality was, by the time the couple discovered this, the cruise was over and the ship was returning to port!

Well, that’s the way it is with many Christians today! They have packed their lunch and they are eating in their rooms because they believe their only reward will come after they die and go to Heaven! They have not read Romans 8:32, where the Apostle Paul said: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (KJV) They don’t realize that over two thousand years ago, every blessing was bought and paid for on Calvary’s Cross! The Apostle Peter reported: “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet. 1:3 CSB17) Yes! Everything we need for this life, God has already provided! It’s all included in ‘eternal life!’ Jesus said: “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ‘ or ‘What will we drink? ‘ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:31-34 CSB17) Freedom from worry and anxiety is included in eternal life! Seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness is eternal life! All these things (the things we need in life) being added is included in eternal life! What is eternal life? Eternal life is the abundant life! It is the life of intimate communion, fellowship, and relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer! When is eternal life? Eternal life is now . . .and later!

An Honest Look at John 10:10

I think one of the most egregiously misquoted and misapplied biblical passages today is John 10:10! I cringe every time I hear it misquoted and misapplied. Even more distressing is the fact that the misquotes and misapplications are being done, not just by people in the pew, who have had no theological training, but also by preachers in the pulpit! I would like to suggest that this passage, this quote from Jesus, as of late, has been notoriously misquoted, misapplied, and misunderstood by too many pastors, preachers, and parishioners.

Now, let’s look at the passage:

      The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (KJV)

       The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

We can see, just from just a quick glance, the glaring misquote that most people make! Jesus DID NOT SAY: The ‘enemy,’ Jesus said: The ‘thief.’ There is a substantial difference between an enemy and a thief! Perhaps the gross misapplication stems from the misquote? When the term ‘enemy’ is used, the devil quickly comes to mind. But Jesus did not say ‘the enemy,’ he said ‘the thief’ and Jesus WAS NOT REFERRING TO THE DEVIL when he used the term; ‘thief.’ (Please excuse the all caps, I realize it is interpreted as shouting, but I want to shout to get my point across!)

Now, before we get into the context of the text, I think it would be good to stop for a moment and understand why it doesn’t make sense for Jesus to have referred to the devil as a thief. There is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness temptation accounts that many have allowed to go over their heads. Let’s look at Luke 4:5-8: “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (NKJ) The interesting thing about this dialogue is that Satan claimed that the authority over all the kingdoms of the world and their riches had been given to him. He also claimed to have had the right or the authority to give the authority and riches of those kingdoms to whoever he wanted. Now, the interesting thing to me is that Jesus did not dispute this claim! Surely, if the devil was lying at this point, Jesus would have known it and since the devil knew that Jesus was the Son of God, he knew that Jesus would have known that he was lying! In addition, if the devil was lying, the temptation wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! Therefore, since the devil, whom the Apostle Paul also referred to as ‘the god of this age’ has authority over the kingdoms of the world and their riches, what sense does it make for him to be trying to steal material things from believers? In fact, the more reasonable strategy (the one the devil actually uses and the one he tried on Jesus) would be for the devil to tempt us with the offer of material goods! Therefore, to say that the devil is the enemy who comes to steal, makes absolutely no biblical sense! If any thing, the devil comes, not to steal our material blessings, but to actually give material riches for the purpose of attempting to seduce us away from God! Furthermore, if the devil would want to steal anything from us, it wouldn’t be our stuff, it would be our faith and joy!

But, let’s get back to the passage! One of the primary rules of biblical interpretation is context! So, in order to put John 10:10 in proper context, we have to look at the overall conversation Jesus was having and more specifically when he first started to talk about the thief. Consequently, in order to put John 10:10 in its proper context, we have to at least, go back to John 10:1, where Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (NKJ) So, we see that the thief in the context of John 10, is not trying to steal what the sheep have, but is actually trying to steal the sheep! In verse 8 Jesus said: “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” (NKJ) So, we see that Jesus used the terms; ‘thief,’ ‘thieves,’ and ‘robbers’ to refer the religious leaders who came before him, who were taking advantage of people (the sheep) for their own selfish gain! The thieves and robbers were the religious leaders who sought to gain access to the sheep by some other way than Jesus; the door of the sheep (v. 7).

Therefore, when taken in its proper context, it is obvious that John 10:10 was not a direct statement about the devil, but rather it was a statement about the false religious leaders who did not care to properly instruct the sheep, but rather abused the confidence of the sheep for their own gain! The thief, who comes but to steal, kill, and destroy in John 10:10 is NOT THE DEVIL, but rather is the false prophet, the false teacher, the false religious leader who abuses and uses the people of God for selfish personal gain!

To further substantiate this conclusion, it is interesting to note that, in the Greek text, the word that is translated as ‘kill’ in John 10:10 is a word that is used only 14 times in the entire Greek New Testament and only once in John! It is not the normal word that is most often translated as; ‘kill.’ It is a word that denotes, not just a simple killing, but rather killing in the form of a religious sacrifice. Since the thief kills the sheep as a religious sacrificial offering, this further supports the identity of the thief as a religious personality!

Even after verse 10, Jesus continues his argument, but shifts the analogy of the false religious leaders from being thieves and robbers to being hirelings; mere hired-hands. The hireling, Jesus says in verses 12-13, cares nothing for the sheep, therefore, runs when he sees the wolf coming because he is in it only for the money!

Now, I hope no one gets the impression from reading this that I am a devil’s advocate! No! I am not trying to defend the devil, I am just arguing for handling the biblical text with exegetical integrity! We should be most careful to do due-diligence in reading, studying, preaching, teaching, and interpreting the biblical text! The Apostle Paul cautioned his young protégé Timothy by saying: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15 ESV)

(Just as an aside, when 2 Timothy 2:15 is quoted and referenced, most often used is the King James Version, which says: “Study to shew thyself approved . . .” But even in quoting and applying this text, there are two things that most modern biblical readers don’t realize. First, the Greek word that is translated as ‘study’ in the KJV is a word that means, ‘1) to hasten, make haste 2) to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence. Secondly, during the time the KJV Bible was written, the English word; ‘study,’ did not have the primary meaning it has today! Today, when we think of study, we think of intense reading, meditating, and remembering. But when the KJV was written, the primary meaning of ‘study’ was; ‘to endeavor’ ‘to try.’)

The lessons I hope to convey in this post are manifold, namely: 1) Don’t simply assume or accept a meaning or interpretation of a text simply because it’s the meaning or interpretation most people give it, even if those people are preachers and pastors who are supposedly biblically literate. 2) Remember the primary rule of biblical interpretation is context, and 3) Make every effort to become astute in handling the Word yourself! Your salvation and spiritual well-being is too important to leave solely in the hands of some pastor, preacher, Bible teacher, or any other person!