Nature of Eternal Life


#1

The discussion of Presence in the Eucharist has developed into another topic regarding Christ’s mentioning of Eternal Life in John 6:40. You can read the original discussion here:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=1135235#

These are the questions I am looking to answer in this thread (with special emphasis on #3):

  1. What is the nature of Eternal Life (I’m looking for a definition here. It doesn’t do much good to discuss this without agreeing on what it is.)

  2. Is Eternal Life a gift?

  3. Do beings who are completely untainted by sin possess Eternal Life? (This includes Adam & Eve and demons before they sinned.)

  4. How does this affect the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?

Please note what this thread is **not about. **It is not about creatures who are incapable of being tainted by sin (animals) or about human beings who are or who have been tainted by sin (including those tainted by Original Sin, such as the unborn).


#2

[quote=Kay Cee] Interesting topic …

  1. What is the nature of Eternal Life (I’m looking for a definition here. It doesn’t do much good to discuss this without agreeing on what it is.)
    [/quote]

Are you asking what nature we will have or what will heaven be like? I will speak here of our own human nature. From what I understand we will retain our human nature for all eternity. We will not be like angels who posses only a spiritual nature. We will retain our bodies though they will be like Christ’s resurrected body.

Yes, I believe it is God’s plan for those who die in His grace to live forever with him. I guess you could that a gift. A really big gift.


#3

Kay Cee,

Great idea for a thread, and I will be interested to see the discussion it generates.I have been thinking/researching this issue ever since I saw the way it was brought up in the John 6 thread, yonder.

Let’s start with Question #1: Definition

I’m going to ascribe to Fr. Hardon’s definition in the Catholic Dictionary:

Eternal Life – The term used by Christ to describe the state of endless happiness enjoyed by the just in heaven (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:44; Luke 18:30; John 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12). It means not only everlasting duration but also fullness of life, which the believer possesses already here and now through participation in the life of God.

Thus it looks like it is a BOTH/AND situation. Eternal life is that endless state of happiness in the beatific vision in heaven (as of yet, not attained). AND eternal life is a perticipation in the life of God (sanctifying grace?) here and now.

What think you?
God Bless,
VC


#4

[quote=ncgolf]Are you asking what nature we will have or what will heaven be like?
[/quote]

I promised to let the other person in the discussion go first in stating an opinion, so I will limit myself here to clarification.

The discussion arose over the use of Eternal Life in John 6:40–“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

It sounds like eternal life is something that can be had–“may have eternal life.”

I doubt there’s much dispute about what “eternal” means. What does Jesus mean by “life” here?

Surely it is more than mere existence. God could make a turnip live forever. It would seem to have more to it than consciousness, otherwise it could be argued that demons possess it (or how else could they be conscious of their condition?)

But, as I said, I promised to let the other person share his (her?) view first, so I’m not going to get into my opinion about what it is just yet.


#5

Eternal life is the divine life of God.

  1. Do beings who are completely untainted by sin possess Eternal Life? (This includes Adam & Eve and demons before they sinned.)

Adam and Eve possessed the preternatural gift of bodily immortality before the Fall. Immortal life is not the same as eternal life. Neither the angels nor Adam and Eve possessed eternal life when they were created. They were, however, destined to receive etenal life at some time in the future.

  1. Is Eternal Life a gift?

Yes. It is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we receive the gift of partaking in the divine life of God – it is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we have eternal life abiding within.

Unrepentant mortal sin causes the eternal life abiding in our souls to be lost. Murder and hatred are examples of mortal sins that cause the loss of the eternal life abiding within.He who does not love abides in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1John 3:14-15


#6

I did not read the other thread, but I found some scripture related to this.

Eternal Life is in the Son of God:

1 John 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son.

John 5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given the Son also to have life in himself:

Thus, the nature of Eternal Life is the nature of divinity in Christ, Who has two natures: God and man.

Eternal Life is knowing the Father, and the Son:

John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Thus, the Son gives Eternal Life by giving to know the Father, and the Son.

This is because no one knows the Father, but the Son.

John 17:25 Just Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee: and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have made known thy name to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.

Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him.

Now, the Son is the Word, and has Eternal Life within Himself in that He “knows” the Father. He has the words of eternal life

John 1 7:8 Because the words which thou gavest me, I have given to them; and they have received them, and have known in very deed that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

John 6:69 And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

God is eternal, and to know God requires eternity, and only the Son knows the Father so it requires the Son to reveal Him, and we must believe the Son to receive this.

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come: and he hath given us understanding that we may know the true God, and may be in his true Son. This is the true God and life eternal.

Galatians 2:20 And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me.

John 6:55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.

Thus, the nature of Eternal Life is to live in Christ and know the Father in the Son.

I get the notion that it is the Word that conveys knowledge and understanding to our intellect, and it is the “flesh and blood” of Christ that physically joins us to Him in Whom Eternal Life resides.

But to those who do not believe:

John 12:48 He that despiseth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

Yes:

1 John 5:11 And this is the testimony, that God hath given to us eternal life. And this life is in his Son.

John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he may give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him.

Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him.

It is a gift to those whom He chooses, and those who believe will receive.

Not as a consequence. They also had to practice faith, which implies they don’t have it yet. Eternal Life is knowing the Father, and what is known or seen is no longer faith.

Seems unrelated. That doctrine regards the Blessed Virgin Mary being conceived without Original Sin. Being sinless does not cause Eternal Life, any more than a perfect light bulb causes electricity. But it is required to participate.

hurst


#7

[quote=Kay Cee]1. What is the nature of Eternal Life (I’m looking for a definition here. It doesn’t do much good to discuss this without agreeing on what it is.)
[/quote]

Well, I don’t think you’ll ever get everyone to agree on this one. Although there is a root definition of “eternal life” in Scripture provided by Christ Himself:

JOHN 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent
.”

Like “ncgolf” stated, the “eternal” part of the term “eternal life” should be obvious. It could also be translated “everlasting” life, as it is in some translations. But according to Christ’s definition it’s not so much having to do with existing forever, but an eternal quality of “LIFE” that unbelievers, the unredeemed, those not reconciled to God, living in (spiritual) darkness, do not now possess, but is now possessed by those who have truly believed in Jesus Christ, redeemed (“purchased”) by His shed blood, and no longer living in darkness. Paul, addressed believers in Galatia with an interesting statement:

GAL 4:9 "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God,
how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things,
to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

Those Galatian believers had the “life” Jesus defines above because through faith in Him they knew God, even better, they were known BY God. This is explained by Paul, writing to BELIEVERS in Ephesus:

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, (1)made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (2) raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, (3) in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-7).

The believer, once spiritually dead (being born in Adam), at the time of belief in Christ is “made alive together with Him.” This is called spiritual “regeneration,” (“born again”) causing him to know God and the things freely given to him by God (1 Cor. 3:12-13). He becomes, at the moment of faith in Christ, a child of God (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:2) and, spiritually speaking, having died with Christ he is raised up with Christ and is now (positionally) seated with Christ in the heavenly places in Him. This is how God now sees the all the redeemed “in Christ.” And is what is meant when it says he HAS eternal LIFE (in Christ). Positionally the believer is now raised to new life in Christ and is now seated with Him in Heaven, all in view to the end that God will for the ages to come show the surpassing riches of His grace toward him in Christ Jesus. This being the eternal aspect of the LIFE which is given to the believer, gift-wise, the moment he believed. In other words, this new LIFE in Christ is as eternal as Christ Himself. As Christ cannot die again, neither can the believer who is now IN HIM (see John 11:25) Sin itself cannot snuff out this LIFE because the debt occurred because of his sins was cancelled out and nailed to the cross (Col. 2:13-14).

  1. Is Eternal Life a gift?

YES - Most definitely!!:

ROM. 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  1. Do beings who are completely untainted by sin possess Eternal Life? (This includes Adam & Eve and demons before they sinned.)

NO! It’s those who are redeemed from sin and death through faith in Christ Jesus that are given, gift-wise, eternal life. And this LIFE is in the Son. Angels are not “in Christ.” Redeemed man, being in Christ, has a unique relationship with God that even the holy angels do not have. An eternal relationship with God that not even Adam and Eve had before the fall. We are eternal objects of His sovereign GRACE in Christ Jesus- to His glory.

1JOHN 5:11 “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.”

  1. How does this affect the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?

Mary was born in Adam just as we all are. She was redeemed from her sins and given the gift of eternal life when she too believed the message of the cross her Son bore for her sins.

Blessing,
Bene


#8

So I take it then that hurst and bene7 think that although *we *can possess eternal life, celestial angels can’t?

Am I reading that right?


#9

[quote=Kay Cee]So I take it then that hurst and bene7 think that although *we *can possess eternal life, celestial angels can’t?

Am I reading that right?
[/quote]

I wasn’t focusing on whether angels can possess eternal life. I had said they did not possess it as a consequence of being created sinless. They still had to make an act of charity in faith, for the glory of heaven is beyond their nature. Once they did that, then they were glorified by God. I believe that their glory comes from Christ.

Both men and angels may possess Eternal Life, for we will be like them:

Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.

According to the Summa, when God created the angels, they were not yet in the glory of heaven. They were in his grace, sinless, and free to accept or reject obedience to God. But it wasn’t until after their choice that they could go to heaven.
catholicprimer.org/summa/FP/FP062.html#FPQ62OUTP1

hurst


#10

[quote=Kay Cee]So I take it then that hurst and bene7 think that although *we *can possess eternal life, celestial angels can’t?

Am I reading that right?
[/quote]

Kay Cee, what do you think eternal life is?

Bene


#11

[quote=bene7]"NO! It’s those who are redeemed from sin and death through faith in Christ Jesus that are given, gift-wise, eternal life.

[/quote]

This implies that Adam & Eve had to sin in order to be given eternal life by redemption. Is that what you believe?

You contradict yourself, and this is contrary to scripture. Angels see the face of God.

Matthew 18:10 See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Christ said no one knows the Father except the Son, and those Whom He chooses to reveal Him.

Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him.

Thus the angels must go through the Son to see or know the Father, just as we must.

But we shall be like them:

Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they shall neither marry nor be married; but shall be as the angels of God in heaven.

They were not automatically in heaven! Otherwise, you must believe they can sin now and fall from glory. They were able to sin, and thus were not confirmed in good yet.

2 Peter 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but delivered them, drawn down by infernal ropes to the lower hell, unto torments, to be reserved unto judgment

Since we are to be like the angels in heaven, and we will be confirmed in good, then they are already confirmed in good now, and have that beatitude belonging to Eternal Life, which is consists in knowing the Father in the Son.

It follows that Adam & Eve were not in beatitude, though they were in grace, even if they had never sinned. They would remain in grace, but also remain outside of beatitude - until given to them by God. For the beatitude of heaven is beyond both the nature of sinless man in grace and the nature of sinless angels in grace.

Conclusion 1: Neither sinless Adam & Eve in grace nor sinless angels in grace possessed Eternal Life.

But in Christ Jesus, Who has the Words of Eternal Life, we are able to receive Eternal Life! Just as breaking one point of the law makes us a lawbreaker of the whole thing, so believing one Word of Eternal Life make us possessors of the whole thing - conditioned on us persevering and growing in this faith and knowledge. For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed that grew into a tree, or leaven hid in 3 measures of meal until it be leavened (Matt 13:31-33). We do not fully experience it now, for we must persevere in penance unto salvation (2 Cor 7:10). And our life is hidden in Christ. etc. etc.

Conclusion 2: Eternal Life in Christ is begun upon receiving any part of Christ: Word, Body & Blood, disciple or apostle, etc. For since He reveals the Father and we receive any part, so we participate in knowing the Father, and thus in Eternal Life. But our irrevocable entrance depends on our continued response! (tons of scripture could be cited here)

In other words, Eternal Life involves eternal beatitude and being confirmed in good. While some may be granted that in this life, most of the saved only obtain it in the next.

hurst


#12

To Kay See.
Its not much of a discussion involving you, particularly as the OP, if you are not going to say what you think eternal life is!!!


#13

I apologize for the delay. When I first tried to log on yesterday, I couldn’t get through. Then, when I could finally get through, I didn’t have much time.

Okay, here goes:

  1. What is the nature of Eternal Life (I’m looking for a definition here. It doesn’t do much good to discuss this without agreeing on what it is.)

The Bible gives us a definition: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3)

I think our understanding of this hinges on the word *know. *Surely *know *is not being used in an intellectual sense, such as knowing that God the Father and Christ exist. If that were the case, demons would have eternal life. No, the knowledge has to be much deeper, much more intimate than that. It is knowledge so deep that this knowledge itself is *life. *Eternal life=Know God.

We can gain a better understanding of this from what little we do know of God already. We know He is a perfect, all-loving Father. A perfect, all-loving Father wants what is best for His children.
[font=Courier New]
Now, God loves all His children, but some of them are not going to end up having eternal life. Eternal life is not just for the one He knows, it is for the ones who know Him.
[/font]

  1. Is Eternal Life a gift?

Yes. John 10:28 states, “And I *give *unto them eternal life.” Romans 6:23 says, “The gift of God is eternal life through Christ our Lord.”

  1. Do beings who are completely untainted by sin possess Eternal Life? (This includes Adam & Eve and demons before they sinned.)

I say the demons did.
[list=1]
*]Demons had to possess some knowledge of God before they fell, or it would not have been possible for them to rebel. You cannot rebel against an unknown.
*]This knowledge must have been intimate, or they could not have realized God’s loving nature. Without that realization, they would not be culpable in sinning (for example, you cannot sin against a turnip).
*]They could only be created in one of three states:
[/list][list=1][list=1]
*]righteous
*]unrighteous
*]non-righteous
[/list]
[/list][font=Courier New]We can eliminate b, since God does not generate a species of immortal beings in a state of unrighteousness, that is, sinfulness.

We can also eliminate c, since a being with love has some righteousness to it, so in order to be non-righteous, angels would have to be either non-loving or incapable of love. If they were incapable of love, the good angels could not have chosen God since the very act of choosing love is a loving act. And, since God is love and since all angels were created in His image and likeness, angels would have to possess love. They therefore could not be non-loving.

[font=Courier New]This leaves option a.

Matthew 25:46 tells us that the righteous go to eternal life, that is, those who are in a good relationship with God go to eternal life.

Now, at this point, someone may object that the passage says, “go to eternal life,” not “*already possess *eternal life.” But this quote is about sinful human beings. The Bible does speak of eternal life as something:
[list=1]
*]that has already been given to us (“And this is the testimony: God *gave *us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” 1 John 5:11),
*]that we *already possess *(“I write these things to you so that you may know that you *have *eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:13)
*]that we *will receive *in the future (But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life." Mark 10:30).
[/list]If we sinful humans can already possess some degree of eternal life (and apparently will possess more of it in the life to come), how much more deserving were creatures who were loving and in a state of having never sinned. Why would God deny it to them while giving it to us?

Therefore, I conclude that demons once possessed some degree of eternal life but lost it.

[/font][/font]4. How does this affect the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?

The reason I included this question was because I figured if I posted the above, someone would say that under those conditions Mary would not need a Savior. However, she is still descended from Adam and as such needed to be saved from Original Sin.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.