Jesus’ Most Precious Promise

A Personal Perspective

I was raised Jewish and gave my life to Christ at age 28. However, in the 34 years since, not a single family member has come to the same saving knowledge. My parents died one year apart while still in their 50s and, to the best of my knowledge, neither of them knew Christ.

As a Christian, I understand fully what this means. My atheist youngest sister simply believes their bodies were lowered into the ground, and that their existences ceased. My brother and older sister, who have a murky belief in God, are convinced my parents are in what they understand to be Heaven. After all, my siblings would espouse, our parents were good people.

The Bible, however, is clear on this issue, and it is Jesus, most concisely, who clarifies it, the promise of it the most precious in all the Word of God.

The Promise

I write of eternal life, and though the Old Testament teaches it, it does so in shades of gray. The New Testament, however, has no such haze. Eternal life is affirmed as a vivid and luminous truth, one cascading from our Lord's lips in surges of hope, joy, and glory. The term eternal life occurs 41 times in the NT (NASB version), and is spoken of by Jesus 17 times.

Jesus' first utterance of eternal life occurs in Matthew 19:29: And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. This concludes the rich, young ruler episode. Whereas the wealthy Hebrew would not sacrifice possessions for the Kingdom of God, Jesus, by comparison, assures all who do live sacrificially for Him will spend eternity with Him.

If this precious promise was all Jesus said regarding eternal life, it would be enough; but, there is more.

The Contrast

To make sure people understand just how glorious the promise of eternal life is, Jesus contrasts it with its counterpoint, eternal damnation. In His teaching regarding the sheep and the goats, Jesus tells us that the goats – those who reject Christ as evidenced by their failure to care for the least of these (Matthew 25:45) – will be sentenced to the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41). Notice that the fire – which I take to be literal – is eternal. Rejecters of Christ have, technically, eternal life as well, but in a far different place; the theological term eternal life is not used to describe the condemned.

By contrast, the sheep or the righteous Рthose who have accepted Christ as evidenced by their loving willingness to care for the suffering ¬¬Рwill go into eternal life (v. 46).

This, however, is not the first time Jesus contrasted eternal life and its antithesis. During a heated discussion with the Jewish leaders, Jesus made a defense of His deity. To confirm He is equal to God, He proclaims: 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 (John 5:24).

Here, eternal life is contrasted with death, that is, eternal damnation, not the cessation of the soul. And though death is a sobering reality, note that even in this context Jesus continues to extend the precious offer and promise of eternal life.

What Really Matters

So precious is the promise of eternal life that Jesus implores men and women to accept the promise, not letting the trappings of this world deter them. He says: Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal (John 6:27). Of course food has value – we require it to live – but it has no impact on eternity. Only Christ can offer that, and He beseeches everyone to dine on it.

Jesus further expounds upon the glory and preciousness of eternal life when He says: For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day (John 6:40). Here is the promise of resurrection, that a physical, eternal body will accompany a spiritual, eternal existence.

The Best of All

Perhaps the best and most precious of promises made by Jesus lay in His explanation of what eternal life actually is. He says: This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17:3).

In the Bible, to know someone implies an intimate relationship, not simply head knowledge. In this instance, Jesus' promise is that those granted eternal life will spend the ever after in continual intimacy with God and the Lord Jesus in an unending existence of joy and bliss.

May Jesus' precious promise of eternal life be the light of encouragement that inspires you to live fully and dynamically for Him in these very dark and perilous days!

David Ettinger is a writer/editor at Zion's Hope, Inc., and has written for Zion's Fire magazine since its inception in 1990.