Does the Bible Promise Everlasting Life?
info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
- ‘In the Beginning’
- The Works of ‘the Word’
- The End of the Universe?
- Doesn’t the Bible Speak of ‘Everlasting Life?’
- The ‘Tree of Life’
- The Importance of the Meanings of the Words
- What We’re Not Saying
- The Actual Words of Psalm 102
‘In the Beginning’
God, time, and space are extremely hard for us to understand, because all we are familiar with is the things we can see around us… and everything is finite (it all has a beginning and an end). For scientists can now prove both mathematically and by observations that our earth, our solar system, our galaxy, and even our universe had a beginning.
So what came before that?
Well, since common sense teaches us that nothing can come from nothing, the logical conclusion is that it was created by a living, intelligent entity whom we call ‘GOD.’ And He appears to exist in a realm where there is neither space nor time, since (according to Einstein's Theory of Relativity) time and space began with the ‘Big Bang.’
Thus, even time and space are just the creations of God.
The Works of ‘the Word’
However, our universe (time, matter, and space) seems to have been a secondary creation by The God (gr. ho Theos), because we were told concerning His son Jesus (at Colossians 1:15-17): ‘He’s the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (gr. protokos pases ktiseos – first/taken all creation). Through him, everything in heaven and on the earth was created, both the things that are visible and those that are invisible. Everything has been created through him and for him, regardless of whether they are thrones, or rulerships, or governments, or powers.
He was before everything and everything came into existence through him.’
And John wrote at John 1:3:
‘Everything [else] came into existence through him’ (gr. panta di autou egeneto – or – all by him generated).
So was Jesus actually involved in the creation of the universe?
Yes, it appears so, for we read this about him at Hebrews 1:10 (note that the whole Chapter is a discussion of the important position that Jesus held): ‘Long ago, O Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and your hands made the heavens.’
The End of the Universe?
Then, is our universe eternal?
Scientists tell us no, because it is all made of energy; and by its very nature, energy wears out.
We can see this in all of nature, for that which is hot eventually grows cold, and even the atomic energy in such powerful radioactive elements as uranium decays, which eventually turns into lead.
Is this what the Bible teaches? Yes, for Hebrews 1:11 continues:
‘But they’ll pass away while you still remain; for like clothes, they will grow old.’
So is the Bible saying that the universe will come to an end at some future date?
Well, notice what Hebrews 1:11, 12 goes on to say that Jesus will do:
‘Then, as [you would do to] a robe, you will wrap them up and repair them like clothes. Yes, you are the one, and your years will never expire.’
Doesn’t the Bible Speak of ‘Everlasting Life?’
Therefore, with the above Bible description in mind, the question must be asked:
Does the Bible promise everlasting life?
And the fact is; it doesn’t… at least, not in those exact words.
Why not? Because the Greek word that other Bible translators render as everlasting (aionos) simply doesn’t mean that. It's what we get the English word eon from, and it means a long time. (For more information on the true meanings of the words, see the linked Note, ‘Age, Eternal, Perpetual, Everlasting, Immortal, or Forever?)’
On the other hand, there are scriptures that do seem to imply unending life. For example, Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54: ‘Then that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality. But when that which is dying puts on immortality, the words that were written are fulfilled: Death is swallowed in victory.’
Notice that the Greek word we’ve translated here as immortality is athenasia, which simply means undying (not incapable of death, as some have claimed), and the Greek word we translated as incorruptibility in that same verse is aphtharsian. (For more information on the meaning of aphtharsian, see the linked commentary, ‘Corruption’). So, since aphtharsian (incorruptibility) is paralleled to athenasia (immortality) in this scripture, it seems to imply that humans that are resurrected will not be raised in the deteriorating (aging) condition that we are all so familiar with today – so such humans will not continue in a dying condition.
And what God has planned for us after that, no one knows.
The ‘Tree of Life’
Another promise which may mean that people will receive unending life, is found at Revelation 2:7. For there it says:
‘I’ll allow the one that conquers to eat from the Tree of Life that is in the Paradise of God.’
So from this scripture, we might conclude that when those that ‘conqueror’ eat from that ‘tree of life,’ they will continue to live. (For more information, see the linked Note in Revelation, ‘Tree of Life’)
The Importance of the Meanings of the Words
Note that most religions teach that zoe aionos and athenasia mean the same thing (and they may). Yet, there are some religions that try to differentiate those that receive zoe aionos (life age-long) as is promised in several scriptures from those that are spoken of as receiving athenasia (not dying) and aphtharsian (incorruptibility) in 1 Corinthians 15. For they say that those who will receive immortality (which they interpret as meaning incapable of death) are taken to heaven, while the rest of the faithful (including such noteworthy ones as AbraHam, IsaAc, Jacob, Moses, David, etc.) will remain here on the earth and will always be capable of dying. However, such a conclusion comes from a misunderstanding of the true meaning of Paul’s words as found in 1 Corinthians 15. (For more information on what he was talking about, see the subheading, ‘The Possible Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:35-54’ in the linked document, ‘God’s Promise of an Inheritance.’)
What We’re Not Saying
Don’t get us wrong. We aren’t trying to prove that God will eventually wipe out all of His faithful ones, for that would be inconsistent with His love. What we are pointing out is that ‘everlasting life’ on earth (as some teach) isn’t what was promised in the Bible, since the Bible also shows us that the earth and our universe (as scientists correctly conclude) will eventually ‘grow old’ and will need to be ‘wrapped up’ and ‘repaired’ by Jesus, as we were told in the First Chapter of Hebrews. And we simply don’t know what will happen to the faithful at that time… whether they will be taken to heaven, or ‘transported’ into a rebuilt universe, or whatever. All we are discussing here is the actual meanings of the words that Paul used. And anything that might be concluded beyond that is unsupported by the Bible.
The Actual Words of Psalm 102
By the way; the words of Hebrews 1:10-12 (above) were actually quoted from a far-more ancient inspired song of King David, Psalm 102. For in verses 25-27 we read:
‘In the beginning, you founded the earth,
And the heavens are the works of your hands.
Yet, they will pass by, while you still remain,
And like clothes (an old robe), they’ll grow old.
Then you’ll wrap them up and they will be changed.
But, you’re the same, for your years don’t expire.’
As you can see, both the scriptures in Hebrews 1 and Psalm 102 read very much the same.
However, there is one more verse at the end of Psalm 102 that Paul didn’t include in Hebrews, (verse 28). And this helps us to better understand the meanings of both scriptures.
For there it goes on to say:
‘So the sons of your servants will live in [your] camp,
And through ages, their seed will remain.’
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