We've previously touched on the place of "eternal" life in a POST from last October. There we looked at the English words "eternal" and "forever" (etc.) and how they obscure the original languages. Today, I'd like to come at it from a more hands-on angle and concentrate on its use in Matthew versus its use in John.
We've previously noted that God's plan (His purpose for the ages) permeate both scripture's prophetic words and scripture's doctrinal words. It should be clear from even a cursory reading of scripture that God dealt with men (and angels) differently in different ages and that God has plans for this age and the ages (plural) to come.
Biblical ages are not tied to time as much as they are connected to conditions.
Scripture speaks of
- the age
- the ages
- the age of the age
- the age of the ages
The distinctions among the different application of "age" and "ages" are lost in the English use of "eternal" and "forever and ever," etc. We noted in the previous study how Young's Literal Translation sheds light on the word (we give the NKJV for a comparative).
The Lord shall reign forever and ever! - Ex 15:18 [NKJV]
Jehovah reigneth -- to the age, and for ever!' - Ex 15:18 [YLT]
We noted in our previous study how confusing the English translations can be.
In the Greek, we see the words "aionios" and "aion" translated as "forever and ever." But when they used separately, "aion" is given a variety of translations: “world”, “course”, “age”, “eternal” as well as being part of "since the world began." It is a word well-connected to earth and time as well as to the ethereal idea of "eternal.".
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have [aionios] eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal [aionios] life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting [aionios] life.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting [aionios] life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
We first note that all four words translated "eternal" or "everlasting" come from the same Greek word, "aionios." We pull back the lens and make the comparison. The Lord states in John that "aionios life" ("life age-during" [YLT]), is a gift by grace which is secured by faith. Period. Yet in Matthew, the "age-life" there is the result of keeping the commandments. We know that keeping the commandments (works) was never the path to the free gift of resurrection life. That idea is dismissed as impossible in the book of Romans and elsewhere.
We should also see that "keeping the commandments" would have been impossible to men like Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. As the Ten Commandments were not given until the time of Moses. In fact, Israel was redeemed out of bondage to Egypt (a type of the world system) before Moses was give the Ten Commandments. The commandments given to Israel in Exodus 20 are specific to that nation, for a specific purpose: that she would be a kingdom of priests for the nations (Ex 19:5-7).
We turn back to Matthew to see that the "commandments" in Matthew 19:17 are a reference to a part of the Ten Commandments.
‘Which ones?’ he asked. ‘These ones,’ Jesus answered: ‘ “don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t tell lies under oath, respect your father and mother”, and “love your neighbour as yourself”.’
Now to those who try to use the words of the Lord here to teach salvation (resurrection life) by works or salvation by the Law or salvation by the Ten Commandments, they must follow through the entire passage.
‘If you want to complete the set,’ Jesus replied, ‘go and sell everything you own and give it to the poor. That way you’ll have treasure in heaven! Then come and follow me.’ When the young man heard him say that, he went away very sad. He had many possessions.-Matthew 19:20-22
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
-2 Tim 2:15-16