Everlasting Life

New Life
New Life

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What is eternal life?

Our life in Christ is a journey which begins sinful and finite, but progresses towards holy and eternal.  The progress towards eternal life requires both spiritual restoration and bodily healing.

We normally think of God’s eternal nature before his holiness. This first aspect of eternal life is quantitative—overcoming death to live eternally with God. However, this line of thinking is backwards: death is the penalty for sin. In other words, sin causes death. God’s forgiveness in Christ removes the sin, removes the penalty of death, and makes eternal life possible.

Unfortunately, sin not only triggers a death penalty; it pollutes us and damages our relationships. For example, the Apostle Paul’s conversion included God’s forgiveness, but Paul’s ravaging of the church was not easily forgotten (Acts 8:2). Likewise, the murderer who is forgiven has his guilt removed, but the life taken has not been restored and his broken relationships remain broken.

Consequently, the second aspect of eternal life is qualitative—removing sin’s pollution and reconciling our relationships through Christ. The Apostle John writes: “this is eternal life that they may know you the one, true God and the one who you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3; my translation). We are a new creation in Christ and reconciled to Him, but reconciliation has two parts. The first part is reconciliation with God and it is completed with the work of Christ. The second part is reconciliation with brothers and sisters against whom we sinned (2 Cor 5:17-20). This final stage in reconciliation, which can only be completed with and through the power of the Holy Spirit, requires both sanctification of the individual and participation of the church. This is also area where the spiritual disciplines can focus most productively.

Eternal life, accordingly, begins with the work of Christ (justification and reconciliation with God), but continues in the work of the church (reconciliation with those we have sinned against). The Good News is that in Christ and through the Holy Spirit God’s work in us will be complete.

[1] Because of original sin, we are cut off from God at birth by sin and destined to die because of sin’s penalty—death. In Christ, we see the image of a holy and eternal God. Christ both affects our moral improvement (sinful to holy) and bodily healing (mortal to immortal)..

[2] John 3:36; Rom 10:9-10.

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