For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This is perhaps the verse in the Bible most widely used by Christians! God wants to give everlasting or ETERNAL LIFE to those who believe in Him!
But what is eternal life? The immediate response would be to live forever and that would be the correct, but not complete, answer.
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.
24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He wants us to have eternal life. Yet Genesis 3:22-24 tells us that God took strong measures to insure that Adam and Eve did not have eternal life!
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The difference is that God did not want Adam and Eve to live forever in their current state of sinfulness! God does not want sinners to live forever.
God's plan is that the sinner be changed, not merely live forever physically!
The everlasting life or eternal life Jesus spoke of in John 3:16 is that change! God does not merely wave His magic wand and impart unlimited days to us!
In one sense, we all have eternal life from the moment we are born into this world. We will all die physically but our souls will live on forever.
The type of eternal life Jesus spoke of is spiritual life. It is not merely a quantity but a quality of life. It changes us forever from the inside out. It infuses God's kind of life into us. Not all men have this kind of "eternal life."It comes to us when we accept Christ as our Savior and believe in Him!
We must be "born again" to receive this blessing! This term is often mocked and overused today. It is used to mean anything from making a comeback in sports to changing careers to meeting one's soulmate.
Nevertheless the new birth is a very literal transformation in the spirit of a man or woman when Christ comes into his or her heart!
A new QUALITY of life has come to reside which will remain forever. This is the true biblical definition of eternal life!
We fail to realize that this very real and extreme change is necessary if we are to receive eternal life. So often it is thought that God simply gives us a ticket to heaven with no inner change and we will go about our lives as before - but that is not the case!
Many with this view may make a few outward resolutions to become better, more loving people but without the drastic inner change of the new birth, there is no genuine eternal life!
God holds out this life to ALL as a gift! But He will not allow those without this kind eternal life to eat of the tree of life to live forever!
We may be blind to the fact that when we come to Christ, we are not merely asking God to let us into heaven to live forever. The new birth is not a kind of "add-on" to our current lives.
Rather, we are leaving our current lives at the door and accepting God's new supernatural life in it's place.
We cannot hold on to control of our lives when we come to Christ. We must surrender those lives forever and receive the eternal life of John 3:16 in its place!