When Do We Get Eternal Life?

O. C. Lambert

The Baptists in their desperate attempts to prove their most loved doctrine, of “The Impossibility of Apostasy,” wrest many scriptures. One of their favorite lines of argument concerns eternal life. Their text is frequently the King James Version of John 3:36, which reads: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; for the wrath of God abideth on him.” They place great emphasis on “hath.” They would have us believe that because “hath” is used here, that the believer becomes the possessor of eternal life at the moment of belief, before he obeys. But it is noticeable that they never use the Revised Version when talking about this passage, for it puts life after obedience. Here it is: He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life.” This demolishes their contention for eternal life before obedience.

But does the statement “hath eternal life” mean that a man gets possession of eternal life at the moment of belief, or even in this life? Their whole contention rests on the assumption that there is no other interpretation possible. Seven days before the Children of Israel got possession of Jericho, the Lord said: “I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.” But according to Baptist interpretation the Bible is wrong here! The Midianite interpreter of his fellow soldier’s dream is made to say: “into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host” (Josh. 7: 14). That was before Gideon ever went out with his three hundred armed with lamps, pitchers and trumpets! Who can believe that Gideon already had possession? Nobody but a Baptist. In Mark 9:31 Jesus makes this statement: “The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him;” The Baptist would say, (if he stays with his argument of John 3:36), that Jesus was already in possession by his enemies! So “bath” does not necessarily mean that the believer is in actual possession of eternal life.

We Only Hope For It

Romans 8:24, 25 shows us that the word hope cannot be properly used with reference to things actually in our possession. “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? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” While we cannot hope for what we already have, yet we are said to hope for eternal life. “That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). Paul speaks of himself being in the hope of eternal life as follows : “In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2). Arranged in the form of a syllogism the truth appears:

1. We cannot hope for what we possess; 2. We hope for eternal life ; 3. Therefore we do not possess eternal life.

We Must Lay Hold On It

“And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25). “For bodily exercise profiteth little : but godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Paul speaks of Timothy’s “unfeigned faith” (2 Tim. 1:15), which, according to Baptist doctrine, would be equivalent to possessing eternal life, but he also commands Timothy as follows: “Fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Tim. 6 :12) Timothy had faith, but he did not possess eternal life.

In the same chapter where Timothy is admonished to lay hold on eternal life we are informed that we will have to wait until the “time to come” to lay hold upon it. “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6: 17-19). Jesus, in the following statement, says that we get eternal life after we lose our lives: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal” (John. 12:25). Not only does the preceding passage tell us that we do not get eternal life in this world, but the following states that we get it in the world to come: “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive many fold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18: 29-30). Matthew 25, from the thirty-first verse to the close of the chapter, gives us a view of the final judgment, and tells us that after the judgment the righteous shall go away “into life eternal.” (verse 46) We can only go into a thing when we are outside of it. If the righteous had been in eternal life before this time, they could not get into it. From these scriptures it is unmistakably plain that we do not actually get eternal life until the time to come, in the world to come.

Heirs In The Time To Come

In Matthew 19:16, the rich young ruler asked what he must do to “have” eternal life, but in the record according to Luke 18:18, he asked what he must do to “inherit” it. It is clear that the term “have” is here used as the equivalent of “inherit.” This is a good question, and all men should be concerned about it. Peter understood that the word of Christ was the source of information. Hear him: “To whom shall we go, thou hast the words of eternal life?” (John 6:68). Paul says that grace reigns “through righteousness unto eternal life.” (Rom 5:21) Since righteousness is God’s commandments (Psa. 119:172), grace reigns through God’s commandments unto eternal life. This harmonizes with Heb. 5:9, which says: “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life” (Rom. 2:7). This states that the reward for well doing is eternal life.

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Author: Editor

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