To answer that good question let’s read the words of Jesus Christ in John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent me, HAS ETERNAL LIFE, and does not come into judgment, but has PASSED OUT OF DEATH INTO LIFE” (NASB). To some people, eternal life means that those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior will “go to heaven and live forever.” Yet in these words the Lord Jesus assures the believer that he/she HAS ETERNAL LIFE the moment they believe on Him. It is a PRESENT POSSESSION! So, one does not have to wait to get to heaven to have it and enjoy it. And as we shall see, it is not just “living forever” (which is true); it is a QUALITY OF LIFE as well. In fact, it is the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ which He imparts to the believing sinner.

In order to really grasp this, let’s look at the opposite of eternal life, which is DEATH. We saw in John 5:24 that the believer has “passed out of DEATH into LIFE.” This can’t be referring to PHYSICAL DEATH (which is the subject of verses 28-29), so it must be speaking of SPIRITUAL DEATH. In verse 25 Jesus went on to say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when THE DEAD will hear the voice of the Son of God, and THOSE WHO HEAR WILL LIVE.” Jesus is obviously speaking of those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). This began with Adam and Eve the moment they partook of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:1-6). Their sin immediately brought them into the state of “spiritual death,” which means their spirit was now “dead towards God.” Death means “separation” and they were now “separated from God spiritually,” with no desire to have fellowship with Him. Yet the moment a sinner believes God’s Word and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, their “spirit is quickened.” Let’s quote the verse alluded to above, “And YOU HE HAS MADE ALIVE, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1…NKJV). This NEW LIFE that God imparts to the believer gives them the desire to have fellowship with God and the ability to truly KNOW HIM. Jesus spoke of this in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

It should be said that others also confuse ETERNAL LIFE and IMMORTALITY. As we have seen, eternal life refers to the “spirit of man” being made alive spiritually, but immortality refers to the “body of man.” A believer in Jesus Christ may still experience “physical death” for he is still MORTAL (i.e. subject to death). When a believer dies physically their body is buried and their spirit departs the body and goes to be with Christ in heaven (see Luke 23:39-43; Philippians 1:21-23 and 2nd Corinthians 5:8). But the day is coming when his body will be resurrected and reunited with his spirit. This is confirmed by John 5:28-29a, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the RESURRECTION OF LIFE.” Their bodies are now “made ALIVE,” as we see in 1st Corinthians 15:52-54, “the dead will be RAISED incorruptible…when this corruptible has put on incorruption…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘O Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting?’ ‘O Hade, where is your victory’?” After the resurrection of life takes places the believer’s body will truly be IMMORTAL (i.e. not subject to death).

In closing, let me ask my reader, “Have you acted on the words of Jesus in John 5:24-25?” In other words, have you believed God’s word and heard the voice of the Son of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but HAVE ETERNAL LIFE” (NASB).  Let me repeat what we said before; the moment you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior “you have eternal life” and this LIFE is the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ. I feel compelled to end my answer by quoting words of absolute assurance to the believer: “And the testimony is this, that God has given us ETERNAL LIFE, and THIS LIFE is in His Son, He who has the Son HAS THE LIFE; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that YOU MAY KNOW THAT YOU HAVE ETERNAL LIFE” (1st John 5:11-13).  (466.3)  (DO)