Do We Presently Possess

Eternal Life?

by Patrick T. Donahue

Notice the following Bible passages that clearly teach that a faithful Christian has present possession of "everlasting life":

As with any Bible subject, we should take the plain meaning of these six passages unless something elsewhere in the Bible dictates otherwise. Many teach that there is such justification (to reject the obvious meaning in this case) because of passages like the following that teach that we "hope" for eternal life:

But passages like these two do not contradict the plain meaning of the six passages above. Let me illustrate. Suppose our baseball team has a lead going into the fourth inning. I could say we have (currently) the lead, and at the same time say that we hope to have the lead at the end of the game. You see, a team can have present possession of a lead at any point during the game, but until the end of the game, that lead is tenuous. Because it is possible for the lead to be lost, we can presently possess the lead, and yet still hope to have the lead at the end of the game. This especially makes sense when we understand that having the lead during the game is good, but having the lead at the end of the game is all that matters in the end. The end of the game lead cannot be lost. That is the only score that will count.

The same is true of eternal life. We presently possess it if we are faithful Christians. But until our life is over (Revelation 14:13) our possession of eternal life is tenuous, since it is possible to lose it (fall from grace, Galatians 5:4). It is important to possess eternal life presently, but what will matter the most in the end is if we possess eternal life at our death, and therefore in the hereafter, where we can’t lose it.

Some say that we only possess eternal life "in prospect" or "in hope." But that is really saying that we don’t actually possess eternal life here and now, and that would contradict the six proof texts that this article begins with. And as far as I know, there is no passage forcing us to the conclusion that we only possess eternal life in prospect while on this earth.

A reading of John 6:29-58 would seem to indicate that the terms "eternal life" and "spiritual life" are used interchangeably and refer to the same thing. Notice that "eternal life" is used in antithesis to spiritual death in Romans 6:23 ("For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord"). I think the reader will agree that I John 5:12 is talking about our present possession of spiritual life, and it is made equivalent to "eternal life" in verses 11 and 13.

In conclusion, the Bible teaches that faithful Christians are in present possession of eternal (spiritual) life. But we can lose that life/salvation, therefore we hope to have the same at the day of judgment.

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Pat Donahue for the article! Pat can be reached at: Patrick T. Donahue, 4607 Old Railroad Bed Road, Harvest, AL 35749, (256) 721-0726,]

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