WHAT DOES THE BIBLE MEAN BY “ETERNAL LIFE”

And this is eternal life, that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John17:3) 

As considered in earlier posts, refences to “death” in the New Testament particularly by Paul rarely if ever refers to “damnation” or even physical mortality, but to an absence of what is being considered in this post: αἰώνιος ζωὴ.  That is usually translated as “eternal life”, which likewise is NOT referring to “going to Heaven when you die” as has traditionally been understood. The Bible Gateway provides the following helpful comments regarding what first century Greek writers (such as the apostles) would mean by αἰώνιος:

“aiṓnios does NOT focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age it relates to. Thus, believers live in “eternal life” right now, experiencing this quality of God’s life now as a present possession. (Note the Greek present tense of having eternal life in Jn 3:36, 5:24, 6:47; cf. Ro 6:23.)]”

[Bible Gateway HELPS word studies – my highlighting]

In other words, references to “eternal life” or “life” in the New Testament relate to a present experience of Life with a capital “L” as a result of being in a living relationship with God through a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, as should be clear from our featured verse (Jn17:3).  Note also the following references:

 “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has (present tense) eternal life, and (also) I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn6:54)

And: “No murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1Jn3:15)

These also confirm that eternal life (literally age-life) is something to be experienced now. It should be noted that even the sinless Saviour asserted that He “lived by the Father” (Jn6:57) in the same way “those who eat Me shall live by Me (same verse).  That should make clear that “eternal life” as Jesus, Paul and others speak of it cannot refer to avoiding perdition or going to Heaven  for these were hardly issues for Jesus Himself, yet even Helived by the Father”. It relates to a present empowering relationship with the divine; “death” being the deprivation of such. Similarly when Jesus says of those who hear His voice and follow Him: “I give to them αἰώνιος ζωὴ and they shall never perish”, He is not being tautological (unnecessarily repetitive): Life pertaining to the age, which the Christian possess but others do not, is one thing; “never perishing” i.e. living forever is another, albeit the one results in the other. Such an understanding will be important when we get to Acts and Paul’s revelation concerning the Gentiles’  unexpected inheritance and the fact that they also were to receive “eternal life”, which was something of a surprise even to the Apostle Peter:  

I (Peter) realized then that God was giving (the Gentiles) the identical gift He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way? This account satisfied them, and they gave glory to God, saying “God has clearly granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life (Acts11:17-10)

It pertains to the fellowship of the secret (plan) hidden in God (cf. Eph3:9), being the subject of my first book, some recent blogs with more to follow shortly.