Do We Only Hope we Have Eternal Life?

hope of eternal lifeEvery so often, I answer Bible Questions and Theology questions that people send in by email. I not only answer them by email, but also try to post the answers on my blog, since I am sure that others might have similar questions.

Question about the Hope of Eternal Life

Here is a theology question that a reader sent in last week:

I am a new convert to the truth in God’s word of eternal security, therefore I was once a “conditional” securist but I no longer believe in this false doctrine. However something has been bothering me and I am having trouble understanding it, I have searched your website for the answer and was unsuccessful.

In the book of John in many places it is recorded as Jesus having told us we “have” eternal life now in the present, however elsewhere it the scriptures it seems to say we have the hope of eternal life but we don’t actually posses it.

This has confused me, does the Bible mean we have eternal life now, we just enter into it when we die? Or does it teach that we don’t yet have eternal life, but we will obtain eternal life in the future? The latter one sounds to me like conditional security (which I know we both do not believe in). However I am having trouble with this.

Could you perhaps help me to understand this?

Answer about the Hope of Eternal Life

Here is my answer:

The verse you might be thinking of is Titus 3:7. The way to understand this verse is to recognize that in Scripture, “hope” is not the same thing that we think of as “hope.” The Greek word for “hope” (Greek: elpis) is a certain or confident expectation, not a “I wish and dream it might possibly come true” (See Vine’s Expository Dictionary, p. 311). So the best way to understand “hope” in the New Testament is as an “expectation.” Since “certain expectation” is not what we usually think of when we use the word “hope” in speaking today, it might be wise to translate elpis as “expectation” as that word better carries the meaning of the term.

So, for example, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:1 about “Christ is our hope.” In the context, Paul is pointing out that Jesus is a certain and sure way of receiving eternal life.  Also, in Romans 8:24 he argues that our hope in God helps us know we will get what God has promised, even though much of what we hope for will only be received in the future.

It must be noted that hope in man is not certain, as men will almost always let us down. This is the point of Jesus in John 5:45. Some of the Jewish people put their hope in Moses, and specifically in obeying the Law of Moses (see the discussion of Jewish hope in TNDT, II:527-529). Jesus says that this only leads to them begin accused by the Law. Instead, we must hope in God, and specifically in Jesus Christ, Who will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5). Because our hope is in God and what He accomplished through Jesus Christ, we can know we have eternal life.

How to KNOW you Have Eternal Life

Below is a series of questions I sometimes use to help people KNOW they have eternal life. It is based off of several things that John writes in 1 John 5. I invite the person I am speaking with to turn to 1 John 5:11-13, and based on what we read there, to answer the following questions.

In case you don’t have a Bible in front of you, here is the text:

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 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 here are the questions I ask from this text:

believe in Jesus for eternal lifeIf you want to gain assurance of salvation, open your Bible to 1 John 5:11-13, and from the text, answer the following questions.

  1. What has God given us?
  2. Where is this life?
  3. Who has eternal life?
  4. How do they get eternal life?
  5. Who does not have eternal life?
  6. Is there any alternative?
  7. Has this been written so that we may hope we have eternal life?
  8. Is God making a promise?
  9. Would God lie to us?
  10. Have you received the Son?
  11. Then do you know that you have eternal life?
  12. On what ground or basis can you know this?
  13. When can you know this?

According to 1 John 5:11-13, if you have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life, you have eternal life.

God Himself promises it.

I “hope” that helps! Ha!

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  1. erick says

    Jeremy, I was talking to someone that believed in jesus but didnt know what for, like the person believed that he sacrificed himself to us and didnt really know the sacrifice was for. I told him it was for eternal life. Lets say that person died before I told him what the actual sacrifice was for would they go to heaven? Also to someone who forgot what jesus died for would they go to heaven as well?

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