May 28: “What is Eternal Life?”

8 Minute Read


2 Samuel 13:1-39
John 17:1-26
Psalm 119:81-96
Proverbs 16:6-7


John 17:3 (CSB): “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.”


While I was teaching, I’ve asked the question many times before: “What is eternal life?”

Those who have never seriously thought about it typically answer: “It means that we are going to live forever.” And I say: “Not really.”

Yes, eternity does mean forever. We see that in verses like the following where it is used to speak of the duration of time that people will inhabit Heaven and Hell.

Matthew 25:46 (CSB): “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

In Matthew 25:46, the Greek word used for “eternal” is the same in both uses. Clearly, those who go to Heaven and those who go to Hell will live forever in those places.

But, when “eternity” and “life” are put together, they take on a nuanced meaning. It doesn’t simply mean that we will live forever in Heaven. It means that we have the life of the Eternal One inside of us. Passages like Romans 8:9 and 1 Corinthians 6:19 make it clear that the Holy Spirit (the Eternal One) takes up residence inside of us when we trust in Jesus for salvation.

Now, let’s look at one of the most popular verses in the Bible. Listen to what Jesus promises Nicodemus if he will only trust in the Son of God.

John 3:16 (CSB): “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus said that Nicodemus could have eternal life if he would only put his trust in the Son of God.

Was Jesus saying that Nicodemus could live eternally if he trusted in Jesus? Not really. We saw in Matthew 25:46, a few minutes ago, that everyone is going to live eternally somewhere. So the promise to Nicodemus wasn’t that he would live forever.

So, what is the promise of eternal life? It is the life of the Eternal One taking up residence inside of us. God, Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, inhabits every single person who transfers their trust from “self” to Jesus in order to come into a right standing with God.

Eternal Life: The life of the Eternal One has come to reside inside of the believer.

This is where the verse I have chosen as Today’s Bible Verse comes into play. Jesus further defines eternal life. He tells us what it is in its essence. Listen.

John 17:3 (CSB): “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.”

Jesus defined eternal life as coming into an experiential relationship with the Father and Son. The word for “know” in the previous verse means “experiential knowledge” and is the word used to describe even the most intimate of experiences of sex between a husband and wife (Matthew 1:24-25). It’s not simply intellectual knowledge. It’s an intimate, relational knowledge.

Eternal life is an invitation to experientially know God and His Son. Eternal life is essentially an invitation into the divine relationship. God, in His grace, has invited us into fellowship with the Trinity.

In fact, we realize that when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside the heart of a new believer, one of the things He will do is draw the believer into that relationship with the Father.

Galatians 4:6 (CSB): “And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!'”

When we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes inside of us and leads us to call out, “Daddy, Father” to God. He leads us to call out as a child to its Dad. He leads us to experience a relationship with the Godhead.

And this is what God the Son does, too.

Matthew 11:27 (CSB): “All things have been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal him.”

Jesus works to make God the Father known to those who trust in Him for eternal life.


Friend, I could keep going with Bible verse after Bible verse to make it clear that “eternal life” isn’t simply the ability to live forever. It is also not simply a “ticket to Heaven.”

Eternal life is the life of God in the soul of man. It is God coming to take up residence in us making our bodies the equivalence of the Old Testament tabernacle and Temple where God came to dwell among His people.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (CSB): “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.”

What does all of this mean? It means that eternal life is a relationship. If you are truly saved, there is a compelling desire within you to know and enjoy your God. That is what eternal life does within you.

Is that desire in your heart? Do you find yourself wanting to know God more and more, to enjoy Him? If not, you need to examine yourself to make sure you truly have eternal life.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (CSB): “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test.”

As you spend time in prayer and read your Bible, you may want to petition the help of a fellow believer (or author) to help you to understand what it means to grow in your knowledge and experience of God. Might I suggest three books as I conclude?

I just finished, “A Praying Life,” by Paul Miller. While the title makes it appear that it is a book about prayer, it is really a book about knowing God and being drawn into prayer as a result.


I am beginning, again, the book, “Experiencing God,” by Henry Blackaby. It is a classic that will be around for decades to come. I cannot recommend this book/workbook highly enough.


Finally, I will once again begin my trek through, “Desiring God,” by John Piper. It is a very in-depth look at what it means to be saved and what God has called us to do – to enjoy Him.


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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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