18/08/19 “The meaning of life from a biblical Christian perspective”
The meaning of life is a complex topic that has been written about by many people, both Christian and non-Christian. To most people, this present existence we have for maybe up to 100 years (or occasionally more) is “life”, yet the Bible says that most are dead in trespasses and sins until they are made alive by God’s Spirit (Ephesians 2:1-2). By this definition, most people never actually live. Because they never call upon the name of the Lord to be saved, they remain dead in their sins and trespasses until the day they “die”.
Another question must also be looked at carefully. Do Christians possess full eternal life (in all its reality) from the time they are saved, or is it that eternal life is imputed to them yet not actually fully theirs in actual practice until they die? Look at the following:
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 – 51Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
It is in death that we take on our incorruptible nature, not before death! Can the corruptible truly possess the full version of eternal life? Can we have full eternal life without immortality? My view is that while we are 100% assured of the reality of full eternal life one day (and legally it is ours right now), while on the earth we are looking forward to that time when we shall be fully eternal. When we offload this body of death, then we shall know the reality of eternal life as we can never know it in all its fullness on this earth.
We are legally righteous before God once we are saved, that is, our righteousness is imputed, even though we can and do sin, but one day we will experience the reality of full righteousness once we offload our bodies of death, once our mortality puts on immortality. Likewise, can eternal life properly exist in imperfect bodies? We are promised eternal life from the time we are saved, yet is this not a promise that we take on by faith, as Abraham took on the promise of the heavenly city even though he would never see it in this world?
Hebrews 11:8-10 – 8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.
Clearly faith is that which makes the promise as sure as if we actually have the fulfillment, even though that fulfillment is after death, as in the case of Abraham.
The following passage clearly indicates that (a) our heavenly rest is yet in the future, (b) we may assume that such rest is eternal, and (c) like the Hebrews in the wilderness, some may not enter that rest, even though they had the promise.
Hebrews 4:1; 9-11 – 1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left [us] of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. …..
9There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God [did] from his. 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that while we are promised eternal life from the time we are saved, that this same eternal life is imputed to us by the promise of God. I realise that there are verses which appear to say that we have eternal life once we are saved. For example, 1 John 5:13 – These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. It is clear that we do possess eternal life as Christians (that is, it is legally ours), but is it an actual reality or by promise of God before we die? I might have a legal document such as a will that says I possess a large number of shares, yet those shares, even though they might become mine upon the death of the testator, might be used for income by another person in the interim, and only become usable by me after the death of that other person. I legally possess those shares from the time of the death of the testator, yet not actually have them to use, buy or sell until after the death of another person. Are they my shares during this time even though I cannot actually use them? The answer is yes. In effect they are held in trust until the interim person dies. That interim person may use the income from the shares, yet the actual share capital remains mine in name. Even though I cannot gain any benefit from those shares, they are still legally an asset of mine.
In this way I may have eternal life imputed to me by God’s promise yet not realise its benefits fully until after I die. Thus it is the same as our righteousness which is imputed to us before we die, yet only becomes fully actual after we die. Therefore, while Christians may claim that they have eternal life now, it is only by the promise of God which we may have faith in just as Abraham had faith in that heavenly city which he would not see before he died. Faith makes the promise a reality. Faith is not in the actual promise, either, but in the one who makes the promise. Many may promise eternal life (even the freemasons promise this!) but only one, that is, God, will deliver on such a promise.
We are saved by hope in that which is yet unseen, and patiently wait for it.
Romans 8:22-25 – 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only [they], but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, [to wit], the redemption of our body. 24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, [then] do we with patience wait for [it].
Well, now I have set the scene. Most people today are dead in trespasses and sin (and therefore, because the Bible declares them to be dead, they must of course be dead – spiritually dead). And even those who by faith possess the gift of eternal life by the promise of God are still bound in this body of death. This inevitably leads to conflict between the two, the old man and the new man, the outward man and the inward man. Paul clearly stated that he was enclosed in a body of death in the following:
Romans 7:22-25 – 22For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Yet even in this body of death, Paul could claim that he was free of any condemnation of guilt which resulted because of this corrupt body of death.
Romans 8:1-2 – 1[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
So even Christians are still bound by a body of death while at the same time they claim possession of eternal life by promise of God. In a sense they are tied to that body of death, yet by the promise of God (whose promise is sure) they are very much alive. But that life only really becomes a complete reality after they throw off the body of death by dying.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 – 54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where [is] thy sting? O grave, where [is] thy victory? 56The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. 57But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus life (real life, eternal life) is not a complete reality for anyone living today, except by the promise of God who never lies (Numbers 23:19). There are those who will say that, as per 2 Corinthians 5:17 (Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.) all things are now new. But if Paul is correct, according to Romans 7, the old man (the flesh, the outward man) continues to be in conflict with the new man (the spirit, the inward man). All things will not become new all at once, but that which God promises is as sure as actually having the complete package right now. Because God’s promise is always sure, we may claim to have righteousness before God when in fact we still struggle with sin. God’s promise is as sure as if we already had full eternal life right now. He that hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6). That good work He has begun in us when we called upon the name of the Lord to be saved will surely be continued to completion. God has promised and therefore it will happen. By God’s promise we have imputed righteousness through the blood of Jesus Christ. We know, like Paul, that we still struggle with sin (and our bodies of death) but God sees us as in Christ, complete (perfect) in every way because of Christ’s perfection. Even in our imperfection, God sees the perfection of Christ in us. In Christ we are perfect, complete, even though we struggle with sin in life until we die. For in him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Colossians 2:9-10)
So what is the point of living life on earth if we are not actually fully living? Let’s go back to Adam and Eve. We know that they were created perfect, uncorrupted by sin. They were not just deemed righteous; they were righteous! Effectively they had an unlimited license for eternal life. But this was tested in the temptation that caused them to disobey God and thus lose their license for eternal life. This would also cause all their offspring to be imputed with that same sin. For as in Adam all die (1 Corinthians 15:22a). Not only did Adam forfeit his license for eternal life; he also forfeited it for all his descendants.
Adam was told that in the day he sinned he would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Many interpret this as meaning spiritual death, for his physical death was almost a thousand years later. Some do teach that it meant his physical death, in that his physical death was certain to happen once he had sinned. But truly Adam ceased to have eternal life from that moment on. He became dead in his trespasses and sins, and could only regain eternal life through the salvation offered to him by God. Effectively he ceased to live; he merely existed from this time onward. In the same way, all his descendants have merely existed, not truly lived.
From the time of the fall, not one descendant of Adam has really lived on this earth (in the true sense of the word) – apart from Christ, that is. All are born in trespasses and sin and therefore all are dead because of Adam. Some will be saved by calling upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13) but even then their eternal life (in its entirety) is imputed by the promise of God until they have the victory in death. That is, they only obtain the full effect of the promise after they die and offload this body of death. Not one person descended from Adam has possessed a full active license for eternal life while living on this earth. Eternal life is unlimited by any restrictions; this can only happen after we die. Christians right now may have a licence by promise of God who will not lie but they cannot use that licence fully until after they leave the flesh body behind in death.
This life we now live (that is, our existence) therefore becomes a preparation for the life to come. All are born under condemnation of sin (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23) and therefore will never get eternal life unless they do something about it (John 3:18). Therefore, to get eternal life one must do something about it. Many try to gain eternal life via various means, both religious and physical, but only one way exists to the eternal life offered by God (John 14:6; 1 John 5:13). So, in order to get eternal life according to the Bible, one must follow the requirements of God. These are to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13), for only through Christ may one receive eternal life (John 5:24) and he who does not believe in Christ cannot have eternal life (John 3:36). (This is a slap in the face for calvinists who teach that you must be given new life (through regeneration) before you are able to believe in Christ and be saved.)
That means that this life (or rather, this existence on earth) is merely an opportunity to learn of Christ, believe on Him and receive eternal life as a result. This is the meaning of life here on earth, for without eternal life, there can be no real life in heaven in the future, and this present life is the only time we’ll ever have to choose eternal life. Everyone starts out lost, but some will end up saved. Unless you make the right decision, you will fail the test at the end of your life and end up without a license for eternal life for all eternity! You must get eternal life while you are yet on this earth, for once you die, you will have no more opportunity to do so forever.
This life is like the first stage of an insect’s life which involves some sort of pupae stage, that is, grub or caterpillar or similar. Grubs or caterpillars do not resemble the final being but must spend their pupal stage preparing for their real life. Let us consider all on earth to be like moth caterpillars or grubs when born. Moths are generally creatures of the night and could well-represent the condemned sinner who is also described as a creature of the night (John 3:19-20). But eternal life belongs to those who are of the day (John 3:21); we’ll call them butterflies, creatures of the day. However, if all are born to be moths, how can any be butterflies? The answer is simple: those who come to the light and embrace it (that is, come to Christ, the light of the world) may become “butterflies”.
When these “caterpillars” and “grubs” die, they will rise again, some (the “butterflies”) to everlasting life and the rest (the “moths”) to everlasting condemnation.
John 5:28-29 – 28Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Therefore life is really all about becoming creatures of the light before we die. This present life on earth is but a blink of an eye compared with eternity. What we do in this blink of an eye, though, will determine our eternal future. Life is not about having a meaningful life on earth, or doing something with your life, or ensuring that you achieve any sort of fame or glory before you die (or anything else that may be a goal for people to aim at). So many people will say that you only have one life, so make it count. However, the only thing that will ever do anything useful for you is to determine your eternal future before you die. Forget that promotion if it gets in the way of your eternal life. Forget that desire to make a name for yourself. If all you do is to ensure your eternal future in heaven, then you will have achieved more than all those who have fame and riches.
This life is like the growing up stage of our current life: we are learning for the future adult life. If we neglect our education, if we decide that it’s more important to have a nice car, house, clothes, friends etc, than to study and learn for the future, then we significantly reduce our options for the future. And in particular this applies to our spiritual future. Think of this life as a preparation for the future. To succeed we must enrol in the university of eternal life (that is, be saved) and then continue to study to show ourselves approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Ultimately, if you are enrolled, then when you die you will pass the test, although some will be approved more than others.
If we go after the many distractions the world has to offer (like Demas who clearly loved this present world too much – 2 Timothy 4:10), then we may end up having to choose between the world and our enrolment at the university of eternal life. For what is a man advantaged if he should gain what he desires in the world, yet lose himself (his soul, his eternal life) (Luke 9:25). There is little point to being saved if you wish to just keep salvation in the background until you have finished enjoying the world! You may just, one day, decide that the time has come for you to concentrate on your eternal future, only to find that you have let it slip out of your hand while you were focusing so hard on enjoying the world.
Hebrews 2:1, 3 – 1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let [them] slip.
3How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him];
Those Hebrews were probably suffering persecution, and were being strongly tempted to return to the temple sacrifices of the old covenant, which is why the writer tells them to let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1) or, more literally, to make every effort to fight the battle that is set before them.
The battle can only be won if you let go of the world with all its distractions.
So the meaning of life?? Forget everything else that might distract you from your efforts to reach the finish line (and thus receive eternal life). Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us] (Hebrews 2:1) The book of Hebrews constantly exhorts its hearers to not give up, to push (fight) on to the end, to not fall in the desert (thus giving up their future sabbath rest). They are told that they are dull of hearing (Hebrews 5:11), that is, they just don’t seem to be able to understand (or want to understand) what the writer is trying to tell them. They are not growing (that is, they are not learning anything at the university of eternal life) and are still stuck on the milk (like babies) and not the solid meat (of learning) of the more mature scholar.
They were continually having to relearn the basic facts (the first principles) all the time (Hebrews 5:12). Instead, they were exhorted to study more effectively in order to grow as Christians.
Hebrews 5:11-14 – 11Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which [be] the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk [is] unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Chapter 6 of Hebrews has that contentious passage (Hebrews 6:1-6) that does appear to clearly teach that those who lacked the desire and application to study solid teachings were at risk of falling away, possibly such that they couldn’t be renewed again to repentance. (The writer says that they should go on to better things if God should permit (Hebrews 6:1-3). This appears to teach that growing as a Christian ensures our eternal security. It is related to taking up our crosses, without which Jesus said we were not worthy of Him [Matthew 10:38] and couldn’t be His disciples [Luke 14:33] if we did not forsake all!) Once again, we get this idea of needing to focus on solid teachings of the Bible in order to grow as Christians and thus better ensure our continued enrolment at the university of life.
The reason we exist in this world today is to enrol in the university of eternal life and to then study to show ourselves approved, with the assumption that the more we study the better the license for eternal life that we may obtain. It is clear that some will enrol yet study little (such as the thief on the cross) and others will study hard for much of their lives to learn biblical doctrine (rightly dividing the word of truth.)
2 Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
And to Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
The truth is that many will use their time in this world today to further their ambitions for the present, for the “now”. They will aim at achieving something before they die, thinking that this life is the only one we have. But in doing so they will miss out on the most important preparation they could ever do: that of ensuring their eternal existence in heaven by enrolling in the university of eternal life and studying hard to learn of Christ.
Ephesians 4:17-27 – 17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20But ye have not so learned Christ; 21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil.