The Gist of Eternal Life

Bible Book: John  17 : 3
Subject: Eternal Life

Jesus gives the gist of eternal life in John 17:3, where we read, “And this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Tracing the word translated “eternal” in the Book of Hebrews yields a pentagon of truth.


I. Initially, We Discover Eternal Salvation

Initially, we discover eternal salvation in Hebrews 5:9, where we read, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.”

Dr. Walter A. Elwell and Dr. Philip W. Comfort share the following on the purpose of the book of Hebrews: “In response to the threat that his Jewish-Christian friends might renounce Christianity and revert to Judaism, the writer by a ‘word of exhortation’ (13:22) communicated to them the finality of the Christian revelation. He sought also to inform his despondent, vacillating readers that Christ, the object of God's final revelation, is vastly superior to the greatest of Judaism's heroes. The author, in addition, affirmed the heavenly and eternal character of the salvation secured by Christ. Whereas the legal sacrificial system was powerless to effect the remission of sin, Christ the eternal High Priest ‘is able, once and forever, to save everyone who comes to God through him’ (7:25, nlt).

In short, the writer commended to his readers the need for patient endurance amid the persecution and sufferings to which the heirs of eternal salvation are inevitably exposed. Just as Jesus, the forerunner of our faith, suffered and patiently endured in anticipation of eternal reward, so ought harassed, oppressed believers ‘take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs’ (12:12, nlt) in anticipation of their reception in that eternal ‘kingdom that cannot be destroyed’ (12:28, nlt).

The author's final purpose for writing was to proclaim the fearful judgment that awaits those who repudiate Jesus Christ. Since ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (12:29, nlt), ‘what makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation’ (2:3, nlt)?”[1]


II. Fearfully, We Encounter Eternal Retribution

Fearfully, we encounter the teaching of eternal retribution in Hebrews 6:2b. This verse closes with the words “eternal judgment”. Of course, this refers to hell. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”. The ominous words of Hebrews 9:27 serve as a sobering reminder.

Someone tells “A venerable preacher preached a sermon on eternal punishment. Next day some thoughtless young men who had been present agreed to draw him into an argument on the subject in order to make a fool of him and his doctrine.

One of them, whom they appointed to introduce the argument, commenced his talk by saying, ‘I believe there is a dispute between you and me, sir, and I would like to settle it.’

‘Oh!’ said the preacher, ‘What is it?’

‘Why,’ the young man replied, ‘you say that the unregenerated and the wicked will go into eternal punishment and I do not think they will.’

‘Oh!’ said the minister, ‘if that is all, there is no dispute between you and me. If you will read Matthew 25.46 you will find the words, ‘And these shall go into eternal punishment but the righteous into life eternal.’ The dispute is between you and the Lord Jesus, and I advise you to go immediately and settle it with Him.’”[2]

Dr. Marchant Askren King (1903-1985) former professor of New Testament, Los Angeles Seminary, Los Angeles, California, shares, "'Eternal judgment' is settled forever in the righteousness of the Moral Governor of the universe. If He is God, He must punish sin. That He has done it vicariously in the death of Christ the Son simply magnifies the wonder of His grace."[3]


III. Believing, We Read about Eternal Redemption

Believingly, we read about eternal redemption in Hebrews 9:12. Within the context of this verse we read about “the eternal Spirit” (v.14) and “the eternal inheritance” (v. 15). The precious blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:22-28) is our only hope of redemption.

From Hebrews 9:12-15, 22, 24-26, and 28, we read, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. . . . And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. . . . For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. . . . so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”


IV. Expectantly, We Look for Eternal Reward

Expectantly, we look for a word about eternal reward. In Hebrews 10:32-39 we read, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: ‘For yet a little while, / And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; / But if anyone draws back, / My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”

In addition, we read in Hebrews 11:6 and 24-26, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. . . . By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer wrote a book titled Your Eternal Reward: Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The subtitle reminds us of the words of Paul the apostle who writes in 1 Corinthians 3:10b-15, “But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Dr. Lawrence O. Richards shares the following in his New Testament Life and Times, “How fascinating that people who are willing to use Jesus for their ends are totally unwilling to submit themselves to serve His purposes. Even though serving Him means winning an eternal reward.”[4]

Dr. A. W. (Aiden Wilson) Tozer (1897-1963) prayed, “Lord, some days it is especially good to know that there will be an eternal reward for those who walk in close fellowship with You.”[5]

Rev. Walter B. Knight (1897-1995), a former news correspondent, tells, “A young man, having studied violin under a great master, was giving his first recital. Following each number, despite the cheers of the crowd, the boy seemed dissatisfied. Even after the last number, with the shouts louder than ever, the boy stood watching an old man in the top balcony. Finally the old man smiled and nodded approval. Immediately the young man relaxed and beamed his happiness. The plaudits [praise] of the crowd meant nothing until he had won the approval of the master.”[6]

Dr. Stephen D. Renn explains, “The metaphorical sense of "wreath," "crown" refers symbolically to the believer's eternal reward in glory (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25; Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev. 2:10; 3:11; 4:4). See also Rev. 9:7. In particular, 2 Tim. 4:8 refers to the "crown of righteousness."[7]

Dr. M. R. DeHaan (1891-1965) presents an exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6 there are generally two views of interpretation. He shares the following, “First, will you notice that if this passage teaches that a man can be saved today, and then backslide and lose his salvation, he never can be saved. He is forever lost. Notice carefully what it says. ‘It is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.’ It is impossible. Then a person can only be saved once, and if he loses that, there is no more hope, and there is no use to invited him to come and confess and be saved again, for it is impossible. Now the very people who insist that the persons in Hebrews 6:4-6 were once saved and then lost their salvation, are the very ones who are incessantly inviting backsliders to return, and folks who have lost their salvation to come and be saved again. What a contradiction! Instead, if a person comes to us and says, ‘I was saved once, but fell away, and I want to be saved again,’ we should tell him, ‘Go away, there is no hope for you; it is impossible to renew you again to repentance.’ This interpretation breaks down completely, and we must look elsewhere for the true meaning.

Examine with me, therefore, the opposite view of the ‘security’ people who believe in the doctrine of ‘Once in grace, always in grace.’ (Now remember, we are merely trying to show the true interpretation of the passage. . . .)

It is argued that professors may pose as believers and yet not be possessors, for if Hebrews 6:4-8 teaches that a man can be saved and then lost, but can never repent and be saved again. So there is no use inviting such an one to come back to Christ, since it is impossible for him to repent. As someone has said, You have a through pass to perdition.

For this reason our good friends reject this interpretation and insist that these folks never were saved at all. They were mere professors and not possessors. But that presents the same difficulty. Remember, it says of these that it is impossible to renew them to repentance. Do we believe that if a man has been a false professor, a mere church member, a religious hypocrite, there is no chance for him to be saved? Is it true if a person has once made a profession of Christ, but later it proves to be not genuine, there is no hope for such an one to ever be saved? It would be difficult to reconcile this with the invitation of the Gospel, and the message of ‘whosoever will may come.’ We have all seen hundreds, yea, thousands, who formerly had been religious professors, but had gone into sin, then have come to Christ and found Him as willing to forgive as He is to any other.”[8]

Dr. DeHaan concludes the passage refers to rewards of the believer. Believers will have a missing reward, a meager reward, or a massive reward. In eternity some will receive a massive reward that we thought would receive a meager reward and others will have a missing reward that we thought would have a massive reward. Some preachers will have a missing reward because the sermons they preached were for vainglory and not God’s glory. Some deacons will have a missing reward because they serve in the power of the flesh and not in the power of the Spirit. Some Bible teachers will have a missing reward because they serve for a selfish motivation.

When the Bible calls something sin, it is sin. We judge with righteous judgment to say so. However, when it comes to Christian service, we must be very careful lest we misjudge the motivation another, because we do not have the ability to see the heart of another. While their actions might be good, their motivation might be evil. We read in 1 Samuel 16:7b, “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”


V. Gratefully, We Find the Eternal Security

Gratefully, we find the principle of eternal security many times in the Bible. For example, we read from Hebrews 12:2 and Hebrews 13:5b, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. . . . For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) explained, “In God’s faithfulness lies eternal security.”

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe, pastor, Bible teacher, conference speaker, prolific writer of Christian literature and theological works, refers to the “security of the believer” as well as the “security of the deceiver.” Satan would love for an unbeliever to have a “false assurance” of salvation only to stand unprepared and unsaved before the Lord Jesus Christ, the righteous judge of all the earth.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)



The Oregonian carried a story some time ago about a sign ordinance in Portland, Oregon. There was an issue about some “Where Will You Spend Eternity?” signs. Actually, the question is a paradox because we can never spend eternity. Remember, eternity never ends. It is hard to wrap our mind around this concept.

Dr. Lewis A. Drummond (1927-2004) stated, “When everything else is over and said and done, only one thing ultimately matters: Do you know God? Can you face eternity with Him?”[9] Will you have eternal rejoicing or eternal regret? Allow me to encourage you to repent and place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.

From 1 John 5:11-13 and 20 we read, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. . . . And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Here again, as in John 17:3, we have the gist of eternal life.

[1]Tyndale Bible Dictionary, eds. Walter A. Elwell and Philip W. Comfort (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001 / Database WORDsearch Corp., 2006)

[2]Archibald Naismith, 2400 Outline, Notes, Quote, and Anecdotes for Sermons, 2 Volumes in 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books House, 1967, 1975, 1991), pp. 70-71 # 284

[3]Marchant A. King "Let's Study Hebrews 6"

[4]Lawrence O. Richards, New Testament Life and Times, Luke 19:45-24:53 Word Studies, (Cook Communications Ministries, 2002, / WORDsearch Corp., 2007)

[5]A. W. Tozer, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings, “Enoch Escaped Death”, April 27, ( Zur Ltd. 1991, 2008 / Database WORDsearch Corp., 2009)

[6]Walter B. Knight, Knight’s Master Book of 4,000 Illustrations (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956), pp. 571-572

[7]Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts, ed. Stephen D. Renn, “stephanos”, #G4735 (2005 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005 / Database WORDsearch Corp., 2007)

[8]M. R. DeHaan, Hebrews: Twenty-Six Simple Studies in God’s Plan for Victorious Living (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959, 1966, 1976), pp. 97-98

[9]Lewis A. Drummond, Pulpit Digest, 60 (March -April, 1983)


By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / / (251) 626-6210
© September 25, 2011 All Rights Reserved