Want to die eternally? First! What is eternal ‘life’?
Eternal life traditionally refers to continued life after death, as outlined in Christian eschatology.
In the verses above we see that eternal life is a gift of (from) God. A reward is a bonus in return for something done. It is a show of appreciation in return for some good thing done by the recipient. So, when we give someone a “gift” in return for some kindness shown we are actually giving them a reward.
When it comes to biblical salvation we must be able to distinguish between a gift and a reward. In the verses above we see that eternal life is a gift of (from) God.
A gift has no strings attached to it. A gift is given out of love (grace, kindness, benevolence) it is not payment for something done. In law, when something is “gifted” ownership is given to the recipient and cannot be reclaimed by the giver. Thus, it is with the giving of eternal life. God gives us this life only through faith (trust) in Jesus Christ and the blood that He shed on the cross for the remission (forgiveness) of our sins. As the Apostle Paul stated Romans 3:24-25 “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Romans 3:24-25). Jesus made it clear that once this life is given, it cannot be taken away: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
A reward is a bonus in return for something done. It is a show of appreciation in return for some good thing done by the recipient. So, when we give someone a “gift” in return for some kindness shown we are actually giving them a reward.
The Bible is plain to any who think that they can gain heaven based on their own goodness, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
We cannot appreciate the magnitude of God’s gift of eternal life until we first understand that the wages of sin is death. Wages are what we “earned,” what we “deserve.” “Death” is not only physical death, here, but spiritual and eternal death. Our sin was an offense to the infinitely holy God, and thus justly deserved eternal punishment. But God’s grace, which was greater than all our sin, brings us eternal life instead.
And we pray:
Lord, help us to see that your punishment for sin is just and to sense something of the true heinousness of sin. Help us to appreciate more fully how much we were forgiven, and having been forgiven much, to love much.