What The Bible Says About Eternal Life
by Wayne D. Turner
Most religions (but not all) contain some provisions for eternal life of the soul after death. Today many Christians tend to confuse what they have heard regarding other religions with true Bible doctrine. Even within the realm of churches who proclaim to be based upon the Bible, there are tendencies to mix a measure of humanistic ideology with scripture, resulting in false doctrine. As clearly as possible, this article will present precisely what the Bible says one must do to have eternal life.
Let me be clear from the outset of this article that the Bible clearly teaches that there is eternal life after physical death in Heaven with Jesus Christ. Everything in that sentence is clearly stated in the Bible and indisputable by those who respect the Bible as God's definitive Word. So here's the big question, "How may I know that I will go to Heaven when I die?"
Let's begin by putting a Bible definition to eternal life. Notice the words of Jesus as he prayed in John 17:3, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." There is no eternal life without knowing Jesus Christ. We'll explain later exactly what "knowing Jesus" means. Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Can a person come to God without Jesus? Well...Jesus himself says emphatically "NO" in that verse. There is no alternative means by which one may reach Heaven. That brings us to another disputed point among the cults - the concept of those in Christ going to Heaven. There are those who teach that eternal life does not mean that we spend it in Heaven. Two passages of scripture dispute that fallacy. I Peter 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you," Also notice II Corinthians 5:1, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." That's pretty indisputable I'd say; eternal life means going to Heaven.
So...what exactly must a person do to have eternal life in Heaven? It's simply stated really, despite the complexity many have attempted to attach to it. The verse that comes to mind to begin this discussion is John 1:12-13, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." That verse has all the essential concepts of the salvation experience that we want to discuss in this article. As a matter of fact, you may have heard the salvation experience expressed using terms found in this passage: (1) "receiving Jesus as Savior" (2) "believing on the name of Jesus" (3) being "born again" in Jesus. As you can see, all three of these are valid terms for explaining the miraculous process of salvation. However, before we can understand salvation in Jesus, we need to first understand exactly what we are being saved from.
Scripture teaches that all of us come into this world with an unregenerate mind; we all have a need for salvation. Paul says in Romans 3:10, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:" He further adds in 3:23, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" For those who may have been thinking that they are not bad enough to need salvation, think again. The scripture plainly says that "all" of us are sinners in need of salvation. This is one point where man's reasoning often injects itself into the process. Many often reason that we need to just "do better" or "do righteously" to earn salvation. However, Titus 3:5 disputes that concept of salvation by our own righteous-looking works when it says, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" Our own "righteousness" can't save us; we need a cleansing ("washing of regeneration") which is facilitated by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, when making his presentation to Nicodemus in John 3, refers to this supernatural process of the Holy Spirit as being "born again" - spiritually. In John 3:1-8 Jesus compares this spiritual birth to physical birth. Just as one is physically born into a family, those who come to God for salvation must be born "spiritually" into God's family - "born again." Peter describes it like this in I Peter 1:23, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." This born-again experience places us into God's family as Paul states in I Corinthians 12:13, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." So, the salvation experience consists of being "born again" by the Holy Spirit - supernaturally delivered by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Jesus Christ. That means that the salvation experience takes place at a particular time and place, just like your physical birth did.
You may be wondering why this relationship with God requires receiving Jesus. We saw it clearly stated by Jesus himself in John 14:6, but why can't a person have a relationship with God without Jesus? Here's why. People in the Old Testament awaited a Messiah - a redeemer. Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 9:6-7) that this redeemer would be born as a child, yet he would be God incarnate among us. In Isaiah 53, we are told that the Messiah must first suffer. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy when he was crucified on the cross. Jesus was "made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:7) for the express purpose of dying on the cross for our sins. Paul said it like this in II Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." So, Jesus was a sinless man who was designated to bear our sin and die for it just as though he were the most sinful man to have ever lived. Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin when he died on the cross, we are made "righteous" before God when we are born into God's family.
So, what does one do to be born again - to be saved? Let me put it simply by quoting a short verse, Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." How does one "call upon the name of the Lord?" Well...through prayer, of course. At one particular place and time, each of us must "call upon" Jesus (in prayer) to save us from sin. When we do so, that constitutes the "born again" mandate of Jesus in John 3. It's not something that we need to continually do; we are "born again" just once - baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. That means that each of us must come to a point where we pray a prayer similar to this: "Lord, I know that I'm a sinner; I know you died for my sin; come into my life and be my Savior." Of course it does not have to be those words exactly, but it does need to be you sincerely asking Jesus to become your Savior.
If you have never done so, I invite you right now to pray to God through Jesus Christ for salvation. When you "call upon the name of the Lord" in prayer, you will be saved - made righteous before God. Your place in Heaven at that moment is reserved, and eternal life is secured.