(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following lengthy article is now being printed for free distribution. Bro. Crass has long been a student of the Bible and has taught an adult Bible class at the Preston Rd. church of Christ in Dallas, Texas for several years. Anyone desiring any number of these tracts for free distribution should send their request to TRUTH Magazine, Box 469, Aurora, Ill.)
In the discussion of Eternal Life it is essential, first, to consider the origin of lif e.
For fundamental reasons all life must have its origin in God, the source of all life. Let us examine a few of these fundamentals. (1) The plan God devised for man's redemption rests upon the basis of man's first state of existence. God, in creating man, placed him upon a plane of purity and innocency equal to his own moral nature, and pron.ounced him "good and very good." (2) God made Adam a full grown being, and gave to him of his own Spirit. No other person had a beginning like unto Adams'. By inspiration Adam is called the son of God. (Luke 3:38.) Adam and all his descendants are, therefore, the offspring of God and partake of the nature of God's Spirit, and their spirits shall live as long as God shall live. (4) Had not man thus been endowed by his creator with a sinless nature, and a spirit to survive through all eternity, the doctrine of Reconciliation could not have been true, nor could man have been saved from, or punished for his sin.
Reconciliation requires a) Friendship with God, or moral equality with God. b) By transgression man fell from his original purity, and was alienated from God. c) In order f or man to be reconciled to God he must be brought back to his original state of sinlessness. This is accomplished in his forgiveness of sin in obedience to the gospel.
Contrast these truths with Darwin's theory of evolution, or any other theory of man's beginning on the earth. If it were possible for man to have evolved from a one cell organism to a higher physical and mental form of life, what of his first beginning, was it one of purity and holiness? And of his spirit, could it live forever and forever? Think about it.
Life created in the "image and likeness of God" had its beginning in the person of Adam. The story of man.'s creation is simply told: "And Jehovah God f ormed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." (Gen. 2:7.) Thus Adam became God's son.
In the Old Testament it is revealed that God is "the God of the spirits of all flesh . . ." (Num. 16:22.) And in the New Testament it is stated . . . 4iwe are the offspring of God . . ." (Acts 17:28, 29) and that God is "the Father of spirits . . . " (Heb. 12:9.) It follows that every son and daughter of Adam partake of God's Spirit, -and their lives begin in a state of purity, without sin.
God set before Israel, and before all men, the choice between life and death.
"I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the, blessing and the curse, therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed." (Dent. 30:19.)
Life and death are the antipodes of each other. All rational persons have the power of choice. They are admonished to choose life.
Some may ask, "How can death come to on,e possessed of a never-dying spirit?" Death is not spoken concerning the spirit, except in the sense of separation. Indeed, death is the result of a separation. "The body without the spirit is dead." (Jas. 2:26.) This separation is only temporal. The eternal separation is spoken of as the "second death." (Rev. 20:14.) This separation takes place after the Day of judgment.
Jesus taught that the spirits of all men shall live through all eternity in a state of consciousness. (Matt. 25:46.) Without consciousness neither rewards nor punishments could be administered. Without consciousness heaven could not be a place of happiness, neither could hell be a place of torment.
Jesus also, revealed that his Father was the "God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matt. 22.32.) Therefore, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all men live in the spirit. This conclusion is reinforced by our Lord at the time of his transf iguration: "And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah talking with him . . ." (Matt. 17:3.) Even though Moses and Elijah had been dead for centuries, yet they lived in the spirit and were able to converse with Jesus about his decease which was soon to be accomplished at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:31.) We have learned from the foregoing that the spirits of men live eternally.
Let us now consider the destiny of the spirits. The spirits of men are by the Lord divided into two groups. To those in the first group God has promised life with the blessing. And for those in the second group God has pronounced death with the curse. Yet God does NOT wish that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Pet. 3:9.)
All spiritual life is in Christ. "In him vNias life, and the life was the light of men." (Jno. 1:4.) The teaching of Christ is spiritual light and life of men, for all those who choose life.
"As the Father has life in himself, even so gave he to the son also to have life in himself. " (Jno. 5:26.) "He that hath the son, hath lif e, he that hath not the son of God hath not life." (Jno. 5:12.) Reference here is to eternal life with the blessing. Men out of Christ have physical life.
"And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his son.." (I Jno. 5:11.) Now we know of a certainty that eternal life is in Christ, "who is the way, the truth, and the life." Likewise we know by the word of the Lord that those out of Christ do not have eternal life abiding in them.
It is our desire to help men see the importance of being in, Christ-that their eternal salvation depends upon it, and then to point out the way of entrance into Christ.
"For this is the will of my father that every one that beholdeth the son, .qnd believeth on him, should have eternal life." (Jno. 6:40.) Faith in Christ as the son of God is the f irst essential leading to eternal life . . . "f or except ye believe that I am he ye shall die in your sins." (Jno. 8:24.) Repentance is named as the second essential of salvation, or eternal life. To believers in Christ, the apostle Peter speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit commanded: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the, name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gif t of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38.) "They then that received his word were baptized; and there were added unto them in that day about 3000 souls." (Verse 41.) A divine pattern, or mold, was here established by the authority of Jesus Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Peter, bound in heaven the terms or conditions of remission of sins, and by these terms the Lord added them to the church, (verse 47), the very church Jesus said: "I will build." (Matt. 16:18). Hence, the order of faith and repentence is divinely established. And the fact that baptism is the consummating act of entering into Christ, into his spiritual body, is likewise taught.
Let us approach our theme from the very beginning of life. The spirit of every infant child, born into this world, is as much a part of God as its body is a part of its parents. The character of every infant is as pure as the angels of heaven. "For to such belongeth the kingdom of God." (Matt. 19:14.) Reconciliation, a part of the gospel, deman,ds that all persons have a pure, sinless state of beginning, in order to be reconciled to God. (II Cor. 5:19-20.)
Every child born into this world, growing to the years of accountability, transgresses the law of God and is alienated from God. Upon hearing the gospel, and becoming obedient to it, enters the spiritual body of Christ, "who is the way, the truth, and the life." Christ's body, the church is the way-."the new and living way." (Heb. 10:20.) Those who thus enter the way and continue to live faithfully unto death, pass from the temporal to, the eternal state of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (I Pet. 1:11.)
This, in brief, is the story of each Christian. from birth to eternity, showing the corresponding steps leading to the realization of eternal life in God's presence forevermore.
God, out of his great love and mercy offers eternal life to all men, alike, upon the same terms or conditions of the gospel. But Rot all men choose life. "And Paul and Barnabas spake out boldly, and said, it was necessary that the word of God should first be spoken to you. Seeing ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." (Acts 13:26.)
Judging oneself unworthy of eternal life involves several things: a) Ignorance of God's will. (Eph. 5:17.) b) Indifference to Christ's sacrifice. c) Neglecting the soul's greatest need. (Matt. 26:16.) d) By being deluded by false teaching. (Matt. 15:9.) e) Finally, because they "believed not the truth." (11 Thes. 2:10-12.)
The sense in which we now have eternal life is revealed in, the following: 1) In promise and prospect. (I Jno. 2:25.) 2) In hope. "In hope of eternal life . . . which God promised. . ." (Tit. 1:2, 3:7). Paul defines hope: "For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: For who hopeth for that which he seeth? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (Ro,m. 8:24, 25.) If we were in actual possession of eternal life now, we could no longer hope for it. We hope only for things we do not now possess.
Let inspiration tell us when God's promise is fulfilled and hope becomes a reality.
1) It will be after the fight of faith, rather than at the beginning of faith. (I Tim. 6:12.)
2) After sowing and reaping. Not before sowing to the Spirit. (Gal. 6:8.)
3) In time to come. Not this present time. (I Tim. 6:19.)
4) In the life to come. (I Tim. 4:8.) "Who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life." (Luke 18:30.)
5) After the resurrection of the body. (Jno. 5:28, 29.)
6) It shall be after the day of judgment. (Matt. 25:46.)
The truth of this inspired evidence is unimpeachable. It is final to all who love the truth.
Not withstanding the foregoing scriptural statements, some contend that eternal life is miraculously given or bestowed, and cannot ever be lost. They say, "When God saves one, He saves him eternally." If this were true it would require God to forgive one's sins before he committed them. Absurd?
In support of this contention John 10:28 is cited to enforce their assumption " . . . and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, and no man shall snatch them out of my hand."
To apply these words of Jesus to the beginning of the Christian life, instead of the end, forces Jesus and his apostles to contradict themselves time a n d again. But if the words of Jesus are applied to the time: and place where the Lord's people come into possession of eternal life, to this I agree.
Paul says God will "render to every man according to his works, to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory, and honor, and incorruption, eternal life." (Rom. 2:6, 7.)
The theory, that eternal life is miraculously given and presently received, some feel the necessity of affirming that "the seeking for glory, and honor, and incorruption," is not seeking for eternal life. Why? They already po,ssess it. They seem not to understand that eternal life, is composed of glory, and honor and incorruption. The crown of life and eternal life are the same. "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give the crown of life." (Rev. 2:10.)
All accountable persons are travelting toward one of two destinations, heaven or hell. There is no other port, or destination to weary pilgrims.
God counsels every responsible being to choose life, or to choose heaven. Moreover, God counsels all rational beings against choosing death, and the curse. There is no neutral ground. Men make their choices known by their conduct. Even by neglecting the matter of acting one way or another. Even one may make the wrong choice, and when he realizes his error, he may change to the saf e way of lif e.
Death with the curse does not mean, as some think, annihilation, or ceasing to be. Let no man deceive you about this. But rather, it is a life of eternal separation, from God, and heaven. The curse of death carries with it eternal punishment. Only inspiration is adequate to describe the punishment to be hif licted.
The infinite Justice of God rewards men for well-doing, and punishment for evil-doing.
"A man that hath set at naught Moses' law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses." Under Moses law every act of disobedie4ce exacted the death penalty. But the law being temporal it provided a temporal penalty. "Of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be Judged worthy who hath trodden under foot the son of God and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an, unholy thing (Heb. 10:28, 29.)
"The much sorer punishment" to be inflicted under the reign of Christ is seen in the fact that the penalty is eternal death, and the punishment everlasting, having no end.
In the language of Paul: "Behold the goodness and the severity of God: toward them that fell (by disobedience), severity, but toward thee (God's elect) God's goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou shalt be cut off." (Rom. 11:22.)
The severity of God's punishment is eviden,ced by fire, as is seen in the following:
1) Punishment consists in "fierceness of fire." (Heb. 10:27.)
2) "In flaming fire, rendering vengeance" . . . (11 Thes. 1:7, 8.)
3) . . . "to be cast into eternal fire." (Matt. 18:8.)
4) . . . "names not found written in the book of life, he cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:15.) (Phil. 4:3.)
5) . . . for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29.) "What shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (I Pet. 4:17.)
Being infinitely just, God alone, is capable of pronouncing an unprejudiced, impartial, just sentence against sinf ul man.
God's love f or man is evidenced by the gift of "the son of his love" to redeem man f rom his fallen state. , God desires the salvation of all men. But when man refuses the terms of His mercy he invites death with the curse. In. so doing he moves toward the point of judging himself unworthy of eternal life.
Perhaps, the greatest aspiration in the life of a Christian is to be able to lead the lost into the marvelous light of the gospel of Christ, that they may be led into eternal life. We can more f ully appreciate the state of the lost in the light of the words of Paul, which follow:
"That ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise having no hope and without God in the world. (Eph. 2:12.)
Every one who is apart from Christ, not in Christ, is without the promise of eternal life. This includes not only the wicked, but also many professing Christianity. This is due to the fact that they have not: entered the spiritual body of Christ, due to erroneous teaching.
The purpose of this little tract is to point those into whose hands it may come, the scriptural way of entrance into Christ's spiritual body, "the church which is his body."
Read carefully the following: "And he is head of the body, the church . . ." (Col. 1:18.) " . . . and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body." (Eph. 1:22, 23.) It is stated by Paul that the body is the church, and that the church is the body. And Paul adds: "There is one body." (Eph. 4:4.) Since the body is Christ's, it follows that the church is also Christ's.
"For in one Spirit (under the direction of one Spirit) were we all baptized into one body." (I Cor. 12:13.) Paul baJ)tized Crispus and Gaius. (I Cor. 1:14.) But Paul could not baptize in the Holy Spirit. The water of the flood was a f igure or type of the water of baptism . . . . eight souls were saved through water which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism." Holy Spirit baptism is ruled out by "a true likeness", water. (I Pet. 3:21.) Water baptism is the one baptism of which Paul speaks. It is the only baptism Jesus commissioned his apostles to preach and to perform. The apostles baptized by immersion only.
"Or are ye ignorant that all we (includes Paul) who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death . . ." (Rom. 6:3, 4.) Scriptural baptism is by immersion. Baptism is called a burial. It is a symbol of Christ's burial and resurrection.
The New Testament reveals no other way of entering Christ's spiritual body. Certainly scriptural baptism is preceded by faith in Christ, and by genuine repentance.
"Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of man, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." (Col. 2:8.)
"In whom (in Christ) we have our redemption through his blood the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the richness of his grace . . ." (Eph. 1:7.) God forgives us, of our sins on the basis of Christ's shed blood. How is the blood of Christ applied to saving of the soul? "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation." (Rom. 1:16.)
Where is the blood of Christ today? Is it not in the body of Christ? The church which is his body contains the blood of Christ. Proof ? "Feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28.) How much of Christ's blood is in the church which is his body? Every drop of it. It follows that the blood of Christ is not to be found in any other place in all this world. No human institution contains any part of Christ's blood. Paul tells us that we reach the merits of Christ's blood, not his literal blood, when we "were baptized into Christ Jesus we were baptized into his death" (Rom. 6:3.) Christ shed his blood in his death, the place where we reach his blood.
Some say: "Baptism will not save one, the blood of Christ saves."
One may as well assert faith will not save. Or that repentance will not save.
The truth of the matter is this: Faith in Christ, genuine repentance, and baptism in the name of Christ, are the identical terms or conditions by which one enters the body of Christ, and reaches the merits of Christ's blood. By these same terms God adds one to the church. (Acts 2:47.)
To the lost on the broad way of life, to the careless and indifferent, and to those who have never known the way of salvation, is this little pamphlet dedicated.
The texts used herein are from the American Standard Version of the Bible.
Truth Magazine I:8, pp. 14-19