What is eternal life?

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In the Synoptic Gospels, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, we see that Jesus is declaring the kingdom of God, but he gets these questions from the lawyer talking about what must I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus begins to answer that in terms of who will experience the resurrection unto life. There's a sense in which eternal life is what will happen at the final resurrection, at the final judgment; who will experience the salvation and deliverance of God in the final day? We see that also in Luke 18 where Peter is saying we've left our families and our homes to follow you, and Jesus says that anyone who has left family or father or mother to follow me for the sake of the kingdom will inherit much more in the new world – inherit eternal life. Again there he seems to be talking about this final judgment, this final salvation, the experience of the new heavens and the new earth. But interestingly, in John's gospel this concept of eternal life has much more prominence. We see less reference to the kingdom of God, and Jesus talks more about eternal life, not just in terms of the final salvation of the resurrected life in the new heavens and the new earth – he does refer to that – but he says in John 5 and in John 6 that whoever believes in the Son, whoever believes my word, whoever abides with me right now experiences eternal life. And so, in John's gospel we get the sense of already beginning to participate in this kingdom of God, in this new life, where it's a little bit different in the Synoptics.

Answer by Dr. Gregory R. Perry

Dr. Gregory R. Perry is President of Thirdmill Seminary and Vice President for Strategic Projects at Third Millennium Ministries. He served as Associate Professor of New Testament and the Director of City Ministry Initiative at Covenant Theological Seminary 2003-2017.