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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Life

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God is the source and controller of all life. He brings it into existence, sustains it, and brings it to an end, all according to his purposes (Genesis 2:7; Numbers 16:22; Deuteronomy 32:39; Job 34:14-15; Psalms 36:9; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:20; 1 Timothy 6:13).

Human life is especially sacred, for people exist in God’s image. Israelite law therefore considered that any person who murdered another was no longer worthy to enjoy God’s gift of life and had to be executed (Genesis 9:5-6; Numbers 35:33; see IMAGE). The law required that even when people killed animals for food, they had to carry out the killing with fitting acknowledgment that the life belonged to God (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:2-4; Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:15-16; see BLOOD).

Human life

In speaking of human life, people often make a contrast between physical life and spiritual life. But God’s intention is that all aspects of a person’s life be united harmoniously. God wants people to enjoy their physical life fully, but to do so in a right relationship with himself (Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalms 16:9-11; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; Ecclesiastes 9:9-10). The life that is proper to them is one in which physical and spiritual aspects find their fulfilment as a unity (see HUMANITY, HUMANKIND).

Sin, however, has so changed the character of human existence that life is no longer as it should be. Because of sin, the lives of all people are affected by the power of death. The result is that physically they are doomed to death and spiritually they are dead already (Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 4:18; see DEATH). They are cut off from God and therefore cut off from true spiritual life, the life that is life indeed, eternal life (1 Timothy 6:19).

The Bible may speak of human life from both the physical and the spiritual aspects (Genesis 25:7; Genesis 27:46; John 5:40; John 6:33), but these two aspects are not opposed to each other. Nor are they completely separated. Life in its physical earthly existence finds new meaning when people are ‘born again’. They then receive spiritual life as the free gift of God (John 1:13; John 3:5-6; Ephesians 2:5; see REGENERATION). They find life in its truest sense; they begin a new existence (Mark 8:35; John 12:25).

Even though physical death is the common experience of all, believers will never be separated from God (John 8:51; Romans 8:38-39). Their physical death is viewed as a temporary ‘sleep’. At Christ’s return, God will raise them to resurrection life, where sin and death will have no more power (John 11:11; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Eternal life

Life in its highest sense is what the Bible calls eternal life (1 Timothy 6:13; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; 1 Timothy 6:19). In referring to this life as eternal, the Bible is emphasizing its quality rather than its length. The word ‘eternal’ comes from the Greek word for ‘age’ or ‘era’. Eternal life is the life of the age to come. It is the life that belongs to the eternal and spiritual world in contrast to the life of the temporal and physical world (John 4:10; John 4:13-14; John 6:27; John 6:35; John 6:40). Certainly, that age will be unending (John 6:51; John 8:51), but more importantly it will be an age when people enjoy the close personal relationship with God for which they have been made. They will enjoy the life that God desires them to live (John 6:63; John 10:10; John 17:3; Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5-6; Philippians 1:21; see ETERNITY).

This eternal life has its source in God. In fact, it is a characteristic of the nature of God himself. It has been revealed through Christ, made possible through Christ, and is available to all through Christ (John 1:4; John 5:26; John 14:6; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 5:20).

People cannot achieve eternal life by their own efforts. It comes solely as the gift of God (John 10:28; Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11). But God gives this gift only to those who repent of their sins and commit themselves in faith to Jesus (John 3:16; John 11:25; John 17:3; John 20:31; Acts 11:18; 1 John 5:12). God wants people to have confidence and assurance in the eternal life that he gives them. Those who have eternal life have salvation; those without it are under condemnation (John 3:18; John 3:36; John 5:24; 1 John 5:13; see ASSURANCE; SALVATION).

Being part of a world affected by sin and death, believers may have to pass through physical death, but they will never die in the sense that really matters (John 11:25-26). They have eternal life now (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:1; 1 John 3:14), and can look forward to the experience of that life in its fulness in the age to come. When Jesus Christ returns, they will be raised from death to enjoy the resurrection life of glory, perfection, power and immortality (Matthew 25:46; John 5:28-29; John 6:40; Romans 2:7; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Timothy 1:10; see RESURRECTION).


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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Life'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/l/life.html. 2004.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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