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The concept of eternal life or life everlasting is all through the Old Testament. Let's look... In Genesis 22 Abraham is to offer his only son as a sacrifice. In verse 5 he says, "Stay here with the donkey, the lad and I will come back to you." In Exodus 3, Moses encounters the bush that is burning yet not consumed. God says, “I Am the God of your father Abraham, the God of Isaac and of Jacob." Present tense verb! Deuteronomy 32:3: "There is no God besides Me, I kill and make alive, I wound and heal, nor is there any who can deliver from My Hand." In 2 Samuel 12:14-29, King David stops weeping when his baby dies. He asks, "Why should I fast, can I bring him back? I shall go to Him, but he shall not return to me!" Job 14:7-14: "If a man dies, shall he live again?" Job 19:25,26: “For I know that My Redeemed lives...that in my flesh I will see God." Psalms 49:15: "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave..." Psalm 133:3: "It is like the dew of Hermon descending upon the mountain of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing - life forevermore" Isaiah 43:1,2,4: “Thus says the Lord who created you...and formed you..fear not, I have redeemed you...when you pass through the waters, I will be with you, when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned...I have loved you..." Ezekiel 37:1-14: The story of the dry bones, the revival of the nation of Israel. Daniel 12:2 and 12:13: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake...(notice shall, future), But you go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and arise..." The book of Jonah. Micah chapter 4:10: "...you will go to Babylon; there you will be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you." The Lord is our strength and our Salvation.
Habakkuk 2:4 indicated that the just would live by faith -- a promise that the New Testament connects not just to this temporal life, but to the life to come in passages such as Romans 1:15, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38, in the sense of specific faith in Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Two Old Testament passages that come readily to mind as examples of this faith were David's confidence that he would once again see the deceased son whom he had had with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:23), and Job's statement that even if worms would destroy his body, he would nevertheless see God in his flesh (Job 19:26-28).
If God was going to tell anyone that he would someday live with him in an eternal heavenly kingdom, and that he would never die it would have been Abraham; if not him then Jacob, Joseph, or maybe Moses. Neither of these men were told anything about that. God promised that he would be with them wherever they went, and would help them to do what he sent them there to do. That was enough for them to try to digest at the time. "Eternal life" is a hard sell; it was then and it still is now. Trying to get them to understand the concept of eternal life would be like teaching 8th graders calculus when they're struggling to grasp basic algebra. The term 'eternal life' doesn't appear anywhere in the OT. The term 'everlasting life' appears once: Daniel 12:2. The next time it shows up in the Bible is in the book written by Matthew, when a rich young man asks Jesus "what good deed must I do to have eternal life"? (Matt 19:16). (I can imagine Jesus telling the young man, 'do what I told Abraham to do,' or 'do what I told Moses to do when he asked me about it.') I believe 'Eternal Life' is the "mystery hidden for ages and generations but now [is] revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles (the whole world) are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:26,27). Peter said something very similar:... "things that have now been revealed to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into (First Peter 1:12). (Salvation is a common theme in the OT; it referred to a temporary fix; it referred to being rescued or protected from danger; it meant to be delivered. It didn't mean you would live forever). I think Peter and Paul are telling us that the concept of the Spirit of God inhabiting people was kept secret; that means eternal life wasn't a widely known thing. God spoonfed the people; I think he's still doing it. For ages the Law was almost exclusively preached to the church; it's still a major player in most churches; it's a difficult thing from which to try and deliver the people. The true gospel, the good news of the grace of God is slowly gaining ground. It is the truth! Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of mankind. Those who trust in his salvation are forgiven; they're also given a new life (born again), an eternal life. Teaching that you still have to obey the law, or live a God-approved life or lifestyle is teaching that grace only empowers a believer to live godly. That's heresy and robs God of his glory. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16) It doesn't say 'whoever will live godly...' The disciples knew nothing about eternal life; they didn't understand anything about Jesus' ministry. I don't see where anyone understood it at that time. Well, maybe one man. When Jesus was brought to the Temple on the 8th day of his life to be offered to God, a man named Simeon said this: "God, you can now release your servant in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I've seen your salvation; (here it is) it's now out in the open for everyone to see: a God revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and glory for your people Israel" (Luke 2). Of course there were individuals who knew of the concept of eternal life in the kingdom of God. But it was a well kept secret! The grace of God (called 'a license to sin' by enemies of the gospel) is the new baby food for Christians. Why is the teaching of the law being allowed to hang around and be taught right alongside the gospel (the grace of God)? I think it shows how God does his business; He's very methodical; both the Law and Grace are important for us to understand. The best way to really understand God's amazing grace is to compare it to your own efforts. OT ~ law brings death. NT ~ grace; gospel of life...
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