People who can be characterized as either agnostics or atheists are skeptical, or do not believe, that Christians and, perhaps, others who believe in the existence of God, will actually have an eternal (i.e., everlasting) life. Although there are many scriptures in the Bible that support the belief that Christians will live forever, most, if not all, agnostics and atheists doubt that the Bible is credible, despite considerable evidence that it is. [For reasons to believe that the Bible is credible, click on “Is the Bible Reliable?”]
Eternal life is a term that is often used interchangeably by Christians with the term eternal salvation. And, it is important to distinguish eternal life from eternal death.
Unger’s Bible Dictionary states that eternal life “is a priceless treasure, the gift of God. It is not to be confused with mere endless existence, which all possess, saved as well as unsaved.” Unger goes on to say, “[O]ne possessing mere natural life will be separated from God in the lake of fire eternally, whereas the one possessing eternal life will be united and in fellowship with God for all eternity. Thus, separation from God is eternal death; union with God is eternal life.” [Note: The relevant scripture regarding the lake of fire is Revelation 20:14b-15.]
Because we believe that the Bible is credible, we have confidence in the following scriptures – and others – which support the belief that Christians (i.e., people who have genuinely trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior) will have eternal life (aka, eternal salvation).
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible. And, when bold print is shown in the scriptures that we quote in this article, it is to focus on certain words that we will be addressing in our subsequent discussion.]
Scriptures Regarding Eternal (or Everlasting) Life
John 3:14-16: [Jesus said] “[A]s Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.”
John 3:36a: [Jesus said] “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. . . .”
John 5:24: [Jesus said] “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
John 6:40: [Jesus said] “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:47: [Jesus said] “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes [a]in Me has everlasting life.”
John 10:27-28: [Jesus said] “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
Romans 6:22-23: [Paul states] “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1 Timothy 1:15-16: [Paul states] “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”
1 John 2:24-25: [Paul states] “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.”
1 John 5:11-13: [Paul states] “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
The aforementioned scriptures make it sufficiently clear that Christians will have eternal life. However, agnostics and atheists may question how Christians who are already dead and those who are dying every day can legitimately be said to have eternal life. The explanation is that after the mortal body of a Christian dies, that person’s body will, at some future date, be resurrected.
Scriptures Regarding the Resurrection of Christians
One scripture that supports the belief that the bodies of Christians will be resurrected is Romans 8:11, which declares,
[I]f the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Another such scripture is 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which asserts,
[T]he Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. [Note: With regard to the meaning of this last statement, verse 17 indicates that Christians who are still living at that time will rise to meet Christ after the dead in Christ have done so.]
Proof that the dead can be resurrected is provided by the Bible, which cites at least two specific examples of people who were resurrected after the death of their physical body. One of these examples is found in John 11:38-44, which pertains to the resurrection of a man named Lazarus, whom Jesus Christ resurrected after Lazarus had been dead for four days. However, the resurrection of Lazarus was meant to be only temporary (i.e., there was no intention for his resurrection at that time to transform his earthly body into an immortal body).
The other example that we will mention is the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself. His resurrection is attested to by a number of scriptures in the New Testament of the Bible. [For a discussion of the evidence that Jesus Christ was resurrected from death, click on the title of our article entitled “Was Jesus Christ Really Resurrected from Death?”]
Statements in the New Testament indicate that people who are genuine Christians will have an everlasting existence, which is often referred to as eternal salvation. People who do not believe in eternal salvation have only the personal opinions of themselves and others on which to rely in this regard, since there is no irrefutable evidence to support their reason(s) for not believing in eternal life. Furthermore, if a transcendent, omnipotent God does exist, many things that may not seem plausible to us as humans, are plausible. [For a discussion of reasons to believe that God exists, click on “Evidence that God Exists.”]