ETERNAL LIFE vs. TIME LIFE

Our Savior has said of that people whom he calls his sheep, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.” — John x. 27, 28. And again, the apostle says, “The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” — Romans vi. 23. When the word eternal is applied to God in the scriptures, we understand that it means something more than an extended existence from some given or implied date, onward interminably; for it also means without “beginning of days or end of life,” and that which is like the Son of God, “from everlasting to everlasting.” — Heb. vii. 3; Psalm xc. 1, 2. Webster defines the word eternal as meaning without beginning or end, but allows its application to whatever is of endless duration; but in a scriptural sense we understand it to be used only as applicable, in its full extent, to that which distinguishes eternal things from things of time, or things temporal from things eternal, as defined by divine inspiration, thus, “While we look not to the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Evidently the things of time, as contrasted with eternal things, are called temporal; for they are finite, transitory and limited, both as to beginning and ending.

Now if, according to this definition of the word eternal, the first or earthy Adam and his posterity had possessed eternal life, how could death have passed on them? or with what propriety could it be said, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life?” How could they be in need of that gift, if their Adamic life was eternal, in this sense of the word eternal?

We are slow to believe that any intelligent being will deny that the eternal life which Jesus says he gives to his sheep is a life of a higher order than that which was given to mankind in the earthy Adam. If that life which was given to Adam, and to all his posterity in him, had been incorruptible and eternal, it could not have become corrupt, for the very meaning of the word incorruptible is applicable only to that which cannot possibly become corrupted; but corruption and mortality are too clearly developed in all the human race to admit of any doubt. “Death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” — Rom. v. 12.

That the life which was given to Adam, when “man became a living soul,” was liable to corruption and death, is clearly implied in what was said to him by his Creator concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “For in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” — Gen. ii. 17. If man had been incorruptible, he could not have corrupted himself by disobedience, and to the extent of involving all his then undeveloped posterity in corruption, depravity and death. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” — Rom. v. 12, 19. And “Sin hath reigned unto death.” “For the wages of sin is death.” Now if man had been, as a natural man, incorruptible, he could not have corrupted himself and his posterity in the corruption of either sin or death. But seeing that Adam, as the earthy parent of all mankind, has by his disobedience involved all his posterity in corruption and death, consequently all who descend from him by ordinary generation are born of his corrupted and corruptible seed; and as all seed is restricted by a decree of God, to bring forth after its kind, so all who are born of the seed of the earthy Adam develop only his corrupted and depraved nature. Surely no nature can be born of the flesh of a higher order than the nature which Adam himself possessed; and all mankind are his children in the flesh, and possess and deve1op his earthy nature. And if any of his children could be born again of the flesh, or if they could be born a thousand times of the flesh, it would not change their nature. No birth, whether natural or spiritual, can produce or bring forth any other than the nature which has produced it.

The nature of Adam before he sinned was incorrupt, for God pronounced it “very good ;” but even as it came from the creative hand of God, it was not incorruptible, for if it had been, it could never afterward become corrupt. Anything that is liable to corruption is corruptible, and such was the nature of the earthy Adam, as the natural head and progenitor of our race, in whom all mankind have their creation. It was not only corruptible, but corrupt, before any son or daughter was born to him, for he possessed no incorruptible seed by which to multiply and replenish the earth. All who are born unto him are born then of seed corrupted, and incapable of bringing forth other than a corrupted prodigy. And as the corruption of Adam’s nature involved death, “so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Thus we are told in the word, that by one man’s offense death reigned, and that “sin hath reigned unto death.” — Romans v. 17, 21. In this same chapter we are told that Adam is the figure of him that was to come, and that, as in the figure, sin and death have come upon all men unto condemnation; so by the higher nature of the second Adam, who is the Lord from heaven, the head and spiritual progenitor of a chosen generation, the free gift of life and immortality has come upon all who, by being born of God, are made partakers of the divine nature. “That as sin hath reigned unto death,” by the earthly Adam, to all his seed, “even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord,” unto that seed which shall serve him, and be accounted to the Lord for a generation. — Psa. Xxii. 30.

Now as all who are born of the flesh are born of corruptible seed, and develop the fleshly nature of Adam, so all who are born of God are born of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever; and the nature produced by the incorruptible seed differs as widely from our earthly nature as death and life, as sin and holiness, or as widely as the sources from whom they came, the one from Adam, and the other from Christ.

God in creation has given to all mankind mortal life in the earthly Adam, and he has given, by generation from himself, to all the children of the second Adam, eternal life. Our life in the flesh, in its nature and kind, is temporal, natural, corruptible, mortal, and sadly depraved; and it was provided for and given to mankind in Adam by the creative power of God; while our spiritual life has its fountain and origin in the self-existent God. This life, we are told, 1 John i. 2, “was with the Father.” It is and was hid with Christ in God. — Col. iii. 3. And was given us in Christ, according to the record of heaven. — 1 John v. 11, 12. This life is Christ, and proceeds from the eternal Father by generation and birth, thus securing vital relationship, as sons of God, and joint heirship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Had the gift of life been but an extension of our natural, Adamic life interminably, it would neither be eternal life in the proper sense of the word, nor would it develop any vital relationship to God. But it is a sonship in the Son-ship of the Son of God, who is himself the eternal life of all his heirs. Well may we dwell with delight upon the words of the beloved John, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God.” — 1 John iii. 1.

In speaking of the priesthood of Christ, it is said, “Who is made (a priest) not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.” — Hebrews vii. 16. And in the third verse of the same chapter we are told that this endless life is without beginning of days or end of life. And in speaking of the superlative glory of his regal supremacy, it was said to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever,” &c. “And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thy hands: they shall perish, but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment: and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.” — Heb. i. 8-12. David, in the spirit of prophecy, has said of him, “Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of thee, and thou gayest it him, even length of days forever and ever, his glory is great in thy salvation: honor and majesty hast thou laid on him; for thou hast made him most blessed forever; thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.” — Psa. Xxi. 3-6.

These scriptures, if we understand them, testify of Christ in his Mediatorial relation to the church, which is his body, and perfectly harmonize with 1 John i. 2, and v. 11-13. And this testimony is given that those unto whom it is addressed may know that they have eternal life, and that this eternal life is in the Son of God. This life of the body, the church, is the life which the Son asked for. It was with the Father, hidden in God, and was given to the church in Christ. For “the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Thus, as our natural or temporal life was given to us, and hidden for us in the earthly Adam, and developed by ordinary generation, so our spiritual, eternal life was given to us, and hidden for us with Christ in God, and is made manifest to us experimentally by extraordinary generation and the new birth. Our natural birth from Adam is of a corruptible seed, which is mortal; but our new birth is of incorruptible seed, which is both spiritual and immortal. In our Adamic life, our relation is to the earth, and of the earth, earthy; but in our life in Christ, our relation is established in his Sonship, and as sons of God in his Sonship, and heirs of God in the heirship of him, “Who being the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, is the appointed heir of all things.” This heir-ship is established in the relationship of that eternal life which was with the Father, in which the head and body are, and were, and forever shall abide in vital eternal union; one with Christ in this eternal vitality, even as he is one with the eternal Father in the Godhead.

As our natural birth of the flesh brings us forth, in our fleshly, earthly nature, as the degenerate plants of a strange vine, only capable of producing grapes of gall, in clusters that are bitter, so our spiritual, eternal life in Christ is brought forth by being born of the Spirit, as plants which God’s right hand has planted, that God may be glorified in us, as branches of the true and living Vine, of which the Father is himself the Husbandman, that our fruit may be unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. The apostle John, in the closing verses of his first epistle, reminds the little children, to whom he writes, of three things which he says we know. First, “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” Second, “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” Third, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true; even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

How do we know that whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin? We know it because nothing that is corruptible can be born of incorruptible seed; and therefore, as the Holy Ghost has declared by the mouth and pen of the inspired apostle, we know that none of the corruptions of our flesh are born of God, for they are only evil continually. Our flesh, with all its elements, is depraved, and there is nothing good in it; but it is born of the flesh, and therefore it wars against the spirit which is born of God. “They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit do mind the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally (or fleshly) minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” This distinction is made between the two natures, impersonated as two men, yet both dwelling in every Christian; one is called the old man, the other is called the new man. The old man is born of the flesh, and is flesh, always in bitter opposition to all that is spiritual and good; the other, which is called the new man, is born of the Spirit, and is not a child of the flesh, for it is after God, created in righteousness and true holiness. One of these men is under the power of death, for death has passed on it because of sin; the other is life because of righteousness. One is corrupt, with all its deeds; the other cannot sin, because it is born of God, and the incorruptible seed of God remains in him, and there.. fore he cannot sin, hence the Christian, who embodies both the old and the new man, is admonished to put off the old man, and to put on the new man; because “they that are in the flesh (or old man) cannot please God,” and “to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” “This I say, then, Walk after the spirit, (new man,) and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye (Christians, who possess both the old man and the new man) cannot do the things that ye would.” — Gal. v. 16, 17. By this array of Bible testimony, corroborated by our dai1y experience, we know that whosoever and whatsoever is born of God sinneth not; and knowing this, we cannot believe that our flesh with its corruptions is born of God, or that any pure, spiritual or heavenly aspiration or element that we possess is born of the flesh.

And being in possession of this knowledge, we know that we are of God; his spirit witnessing with our spirit that we are born of God. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” — John xvii. 3. “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true.” How else could we have this knowledge of the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent? For we must admit the truth of Jesus Christ’s testimony, that this knowledge is eternal life, according to John xvii. 3. We know it, then, because Christ has declared it; and as he has given us understanding, we know that we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. And as he is in the Father, and we are in him, therefore our life is hid with Christ in God. The church is in Christ, and Christ is in the Father, and he and the Father are one, (not two); for all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in and belongs to the Son. And the church is one with Christ, even as he is one with the Father. God is in Christ. — 2 Cor. v. 19. Christ is in the Father. — John xvii. 21-23. The Head of the church is Christ. — Eph. i. 22. And the Head of Christ is God. — 1 Cor. xi. 3.

This is the true God, and eternal life. This Jesus, who has come in the flesh, who is in and one with the Father, is the true God; all others are imaginary and false. “He that hath seen him, hath seen the Father; for he is in the Father, and the Father is in him.” — John xiv. 9, 10. This is not only the true God, but he, being the true God, is eternal life. He is most truly the “blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality (or eternal life) dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.” — 1 Tim. vi. 15, 16.

As Christ only hath immortality, or eternal life, he is himself the life, the eterna1 life and immortality of his church, his body, and of all the members of that body. He only hath it. It was not found in Adam. No man hath or can see or approach unto it, for it is hid with Christ in God. And although he gives this eternal life unto as many as the Father has given him, it is only as he gives himself to them, for this life is in the Son; so that he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life, neither have they power, capacity or desire to approach unto it.

This, then, being the true God, in distinction from all other gods, God’s little children are admonished to keep themselves from idols. To trust in or worship any other than the true God, who in all his eternal fullness dwells bodily in Christ, is idolatry. And to ascribe eternal life to any other than the true God, is idolatry. Or to ascribe the power to approach unto the true God and eternal life to any human power, is idolatry. Therefore, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
June 1, 1879

Republished:
Volume 127, No. 9
September 1959