W. Claude Hall
Scriptures should not be arrayed against each other. One should have insight enough into the Scriptures to know there are no contradictions. If the Lord did not give us a perfect revelation, then we have no guide in religion. Infidels are made by preachers oftentimes. For instance, one preacher will proclaim that the Book teaches we have eternal life right now and can’t lose it. The other will stoutly deny this and say we have eternal life in the world to come. Each reads his proof out of the Bible, and the poor listener cannot tell which is right, hence sometimes goes into unbelief. Who can blame him?
These are a few of the passages referred to as teaching one has eternal life now: “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47); “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life” (John 5:24); “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). There are many more such passages. These all seem to teach that actual possession of eternal life comes here and now.
But there is another set of Scriptures that seem to teach right the opposite. Here are some of them: “But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time…and in the world to come eternal life” (Matt. 10:30). Paul, in writing to Titus, said, “In hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). One is taught by the Bible that he cannot hope for that which he has in actuality.
What kind of explanation shall we make of these seeming contradictions? Is it the proper procedure to continue to array these statements against each other? The plan more reasonable to pursue is to find a solution which is reasonable and true. This may be done, for John himself, the one who wrote the former passages, makes the matter plain in his last writings. I have often wondered if he did not read his gospel in later life and decide that some preachers in later centuries would misinterpret those statements, so he made one more which would forever settle the case with those who would desire a harmony of all Scriptures. He may have done this, but we know the Holy Spirit guided his writing and made his meaning clear. Here is a Scripture which makes both sets of statements relative to eternal life easily understood: “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:25).
There are two ways of having anything—one by promise, and the other in actuality. We first have our wives by promise, then by actuality. We have eternal life by promise. That is the way John said we have it. Paul had it “in hope,” and when we get to the city of God we will have it in actuality. This makes all seemingly contradictory passages clear and plain. All discrepancies disappear.
When John says, “he that believeth hath everlasting life” that is, of course, nothing but the truth. We do have it, but in which way? We have it in promise. When Paul said he had eternal life in hope, he stated the truth. When Jesus said, “and in the world to come, eternal life,” He spoke of the actual possession of eternal life.
One additional thought is sufficient for this lesson. If one has eternal life in promise, then there is a possibility of being cut off from that promise by unrighteous living. Let us, then, “take heed lest we fall.”