LIFE is a complex concept with varied shades of meaning, rendering several Hebrew and Greek terms. It may denote physical or natural life, but frequently refers to eternal life, a concept rooted in the Biblical understanding of [[creation]], [[fall]], [[redemption]], and [[eschatological theodicy]].
Usage in the Bible
Terms commonly rendered as life include chayyim, nephesh, ruach, chayah; zoe, psuche, bios, and pneuma.
Of the Hebrew terms, chayah is the verb which means "to live," "to have life," or the vital principle, "to continue to live," or "to live prosperously." In the Piel it signifies "to give life, or preserve, or quicken and restore life." The Hiphil is much like the Piel. The noun hayyim generally used in the plural is an abstract noun meaning "life," i.e. the possession of the vital principle with its energies and activities. Nephesh often means "living being" or "creature." Sometimes it has the force of the reflexive "self." At other times it refers to the seat of the soul, the personality, the emotions, the appetites--passions and even mental acts. Frequently it means "life," the "seat of life," and in this way it is used about 171 times in the [[Old Testament]], referring to the principle of vitality in both men and animals. Ruach signifies "[[wind]]," "breath," principle or source of vitality, but is never used to signify life proper.
Use in the Old Testament
Popular Use of the Term
The term "life" is used in the Old Testament in the popular sense. It meant life in the body, the existence and activity of the man in all his parts and energies. It is the person complete, conscious and active. There is no idea of the body being a fetter or prison to the soul; the body was essential to life and the writers had no desire to be separated from it. To them the physical sphere was a necessity, and a man was living when all his activities were performed in the light of God’s face and favor. The secret and source of life to them was relationship with God. There was nothing good or desirable apart from this relation of fellowship. To overcome or be rid of [[sin]] was necessary to life. The real center of gravity in life was in the moral and religious part of man’s nature. This must be in fellowship with God, the source of all life and activity.
Different Concepts of Life
The conception of life is very complex. Several meanings are clearly indicated:
In the Apocrypha
A similar conception of life appears here as in the Old Testament. Zoe and peuche are used and occur most frequently in the books of [[The Wisdom of Solomon]] and Ecclus. In 1 and 2 Esdras the word is little used; 2 Esdras 3:5; 16:61 are but a quotation from Ge 2:7, and refer to the vital principle; 2 Esdras 14:30, Tobit, Judith, and Esther use it in the same sense also. Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus use it in several senses closely resembling the use in Proverbs (compare Ecclesiasticus 4:12; Pr 3:18; 10:16). In general there is no additional meaning attached to the word. The [[Psalms of Solomon]] refer to everlasting life in 3:16; 13:10; 14:2,6.
In the New Testament
Of the Greek terms bios is used at times as the equivalent of the Hebrew chayyim. It refers to life extensively, i.e. the period of one’s existence, a lifetime; also to the means of sustaining life, such as wealth, etc. Psuche is also equivalent to chayyim at times, but very frequently to nephesh and sometimes to ruach. Thus, it means the vital principle, a living being, the immaterial part of man, the seat of the affections, desires and appetites, etc. The term zoe corresponds very closely to chayyim, and means the vital principle, the state of one who is animate, the fullness of activities and relationship both in the physical and spiritual realms.
The content of the word zoe is the chief theme of the New Testament. The life is mediated by [[Jesus Christ]]. In the Old Testament this life was through fellowship with God, in the New Testament it is through Jesus Christ the [[Mediator]]. The Old Testament idea is carried to its completion, its highest development of meaning, being enriched by the supreme teaching and revelation of Jesus Christ. In the New Testament as well as in the Old Testament, the center of gravity in human life is in the moral and religious nature of man.
In the Synoptic Gospels
The teaching here regarding life naturally links itself with Old Testament ideas and the prevailing conceptions of [[Judaism]]. The word is used in the sense of
This in no wise contradicts the statement that eternal life can be entered upon in this life. As Jesus Himself was in vital relationship with the spiritual world and lived the eternal life, He sought to bring others into the same blessed state. This life was far from being perfect. The perfection could come only at the consummation when all was perfection and then they would enter into the perfect fellowship with God and connection with the spirit-world and its blessed experiences. There is no conflict in His teaching here, no real difficulty, only an illustration of Browning’s statement, "Man never is but wholly hopes to be." Thus in the synoptists Jesus teaches the reality of the eternal life as a present possession as well as future fruition. The future is but the flowering out and perfection of the present. Without the present bud, there can be no future flower.
In the Fourth Gospel
The fullest and richest teachings regarding life are found in the [[synoptic gospels]]. The greatest word of this Gospel is "life." The author says he wrote the Gospel in order that "ye may have life" (Joh 20:31). Most of the teachings recorded, circle around this great word "life." This teaching is in no way distinctive and different from that of the synoptists, but is supplementary, and completes the teaching of Jesus on the subject. The use of the word is not as varied, being concentrated on the one supreme subject.
In the Acts of the Apostles
In His intercessory prayer, John 17, Jesus said His mission was to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him (17:2). The record in Ac is the carrying out of that purpose. The word "life" is used in several senses:
In the Writings of Paul
Here also the words for "life" are used in various senses:
In the Writings of John
In the Other Books of the New Testament
The [[Epistle to the Hebrews]] speaks of our lifetime or periods of existence upon earth (2:15; 7:3), likewise of the power of an indissoluble life (7:16); [[James]] promises the [[crown of life]] to the faithful (1:12). This reward is the fullness of life’s possibilities hereafter. Our lifetime is mentioned in 4:14 and represented as brief as a vapor. [[Peter]] in 1Pe 3:7 speaks of man and wife as joint-heirs of the grace of life, and of loving life (1Pe 3:10), referring to the totality of relationships and activities. The "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2Pe 1:3) constitute the whole Christian life involving the life eternal.
The Biblical idea of renewal and eschatological theodicy
Careful discussion by James Orr (The Christian View of God and the World, pp. 165-211) and Alexander Heidel (The Gilgamesh Epic and [[Old Testament]] Parallels, pp. 137-223) has made clear the uniqueness of the Biblical concept of [[immortality]] over against supposed [[pagan]] parallels. The Biblical form of immortality is not merely the survival of the soul, but life of the whole man in [[body]] and [[soul]]. “It is said we have no doctrine of Immortality in the Old Testament. But I reply, we have immortality at the very commencement—for man, as he came from the hands of his [[Creator]], was made for immortal life. Man in [[Eden]] was immortal. He was intended to live, not to die...it is not an immortality of the soul only that the Bible speaks of—that is left for the philosophers—but an immortality of the whole person, body, and soul together. Such is the Christian hope, and such,...was the Hebrew hope also” (Orr, op. cit., pp. 202, 203). [[Heidel]], writing fifty years later than Orr, emphatically reiterates Orr’s findings. “In [[Mesopotamia]] man was thought to have been created mortal, so that death was the natural result of his constitution; in Israel he was believed to have been created for never-ending life, wherefore death was something unnatural.... Even the latest [[Babylon|Babylonian]] and [[Assyria|Assyrian]] records reveal nothing of a resurrection of the flesh, a doctrine so clearly set forth in [[Daniel]] and [[Isaiah]].... These differences set the eschatology of the Mesopotamians and that of the Hebrews as [[far apart as the East is from the West]]” (Heidel, op. cit., pp. 222, 223).
Thus the matrix of the Biblical theology of life is already cast in the created constitution of man and the hope of a heavenly and gracious redemption from sin and death. There is a straight line from [[Eden]] and the [[Fall]] to the appearance of the last Adam and His redemptive work. Redemption-life must include the historic, space-time death, resurrection and [[Second Advent]] of Christ, as well as the impartation of benefits to sinful men in individual renewal and resurrection.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the basis of redemption-life
Minor edit. For the present purpose it is convenient to refer to the inspired philosophy of history given in Hebrews 2. The divine purpose of redemption and triumph is found in the promise of Psalm 8 that all things will be put under man in the “inhabited earth” which is to come. To that end, the majestic [[Son of God]], crowned with glory and honor, tasted death for every man. Through death and the inseparable resurrection, He brought to nought him who had the power of death, and delivered those held in bondage. Having made the one sacrifice for sins forever, He resumed His place of sovereign sway at the right hand of God, “then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb 10:12-15).
The palingenesia of the individual
Life as connected with regeneration
This life which is connected with man’s recovery from sin is basically an ethical and spiritual conception. The death which is its opposite is a death in trespasses and sins. Life involves regeneration, “a profound renovation and reorientation of personal nature and ethical alignments and loyalties, a new birth.”
A regenerate person is in the kingdom of God (Col 1:13), but there is also a future aspect of the kingdom into which he will enter (John 3:3, 5; Matt 7:21). These two aspects of the kingdom, in other terminology are called “life”: the one who believes in Christ has life (1 John 5:12) and he will enter into life (Mark 9:43) which is the kingdom (Mark 9:47).
The transition from death to life in the Pauline epistles
Palingenesia in the New Testament
This last-mentioned passage introduces the striking word, palingenesia, which is the organizing principle of the entire concept of redemption-life. The word occurs only here and at Matthew 19:28. Each of these occurrences serves as an organizing center for the two stages of the restoration of life. In the Titus context (3:4-7), the clear connotation is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the individual. In the Matthew passage, the word refers to the time of resurrection and release of the creation from its groaning and will be further discussed below. “In one of the only two passages in which it [palingenesia] occurs in the New Testament (Matt 19:28) it refers to the repristination not of the individual, but of the universe, which is to take place at the end: and this usage tends to stamp upon the word the broad sense of a complete and thoroughgoing restoration. If in Titus 3:5 it is applied to the individual in such a broad sense, it would be coextensive in meaning with the anakainōsis by the side of which it stands in that passage and would differ from it only as a highly figurative differs from a more literal expression of the same idea. Our salvation, the Apostle would in that case say, is not an attainment of our own, but is wrought by God in His great mercy, by means of a regenerating washing, to wit, a renewal by the Holy Spirit” (B. B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines, p. 454).
Johannine testimony to the transition from death to life
The manifestation of life in good works
After the initial impartation of life and faith, the life and conduct of the believer come under close scrutiny in the Bible. It is constantly assumed that effectual calling will issue in good works. This intense ethical concern with practical holiness and heart-conformity to the law of God is never blurred. The normal transition in the Pauline epistles is from a statement of doctrine to the ethical application and exhortation: Romans 12:1, 2 is typical of the whole series. The contrast of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is clear in Galatians 5. The purpose of Christ’s death is that we might be delivered from this present evil world (Gal 1:4, cf. 6:14). This triumph is actualized by the Spirit (Gal 5:5, 25).
The ethical nature of the new life
The life imparted to man dead in trespasses and sins is ethical and holy in every sense. Death came because man had corrupted the holy character God had given. For the spirit of holiness to make His abode with men and lead them supernaturally to the triumphant issue envisioned in the Scripture, it was necessary that the [[Lamb of God]] should take away the sin of the world. The awesome spectacle of the Son of God bearing the sins of men surely shows that holiness is not compromised when God forgives the sinner. Justice is satisfied. The blood of Christ purges the conscience from dead works and gives peace. The life thus righteously purchased and bestowed by the Holy Spirit manifests itself in a conflict with sin and a striving for holiness without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14). The resurrection is anticipated esp. because it means the perfection of holiness, the entire sanctification of the whole person. Heaven is not simply eternal existence, but there will appear a shining perfection of all God intended man to be: “his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads” (Rev 22:3, 4).
The palingenesia of the individual in the Old Testament
The question of the spiritual state and privileges of believers before the cross has been widely discussed. It would prob. be conceded by all that “...the believing Israelite was born anew (cf. John 3:3, 5, with Luke 13:28)...” (Scofield Reference Bible, p. 768, fn. 1). This statement represents the understanding of Bible-believing people. The principal point gained here is that a new birth is admittedly characteristic of the redeemed of all ages. Discussion may continue concerning the content of the faith of believers before the cross, their spiritual privileges, and the fullness of their relation to the Holy Spirit. If it be conceded that all believers are born anew, it prob. will also be admitted that such regenerate life could and can be sustained only by the constant presence and work of the Holy Spirit.
The Old Testament has its own terminology for the renewal of the heart. Circumcision of the heart is required in Deuteronomy 30:6; its ethical bearing is indicated in the resulting loving Jehovah with all the soul and with all the heart. Ezekiel 36:25-27 links the work of the Spirit to the renewal of the heart, promising a “new heart” and ability to walk in God’s law. Jeremiah’s great prophecy of a new covenant is climaxed by the promise that God will write His law on the heart even as He forgives sins. It is noteworthy in this latter passage that Jeremiah is rebuking his generation (Heb 8:8) as is implied in the words “and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every one his brother, saying, Know the Lord...” (Jer 31:34 KJV). The implication is that Jeremiah was teaching and exhorting his self-righteous and rebellious generation. The inference is clear that the forgiveness and the writing of the law on the heart was contemplated as available to faith in Jeremiah’s day. The rebuke lay in the fact that there would be a day in a glorious future when all would know the Lord, and the work of teaching and exhorting would no longer be necessary.
The men of faith of Hebrews 11 “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (11:13). The simple exegesis of the following vv. shows that they must have had a heavenly homeland in view, a city prepared by God. As G. Vos so well said, “It requires the assurance of the eternity of religion in the individual soul to secure the permanence of religion as such” (Pauline Eschatology, pp. 364, 365) Christ said, “...because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). The presence of supernaturally imparted life in the soul carries the demand for and proof of eternal life with the soul’s Savior. Hence the principal concern of the Biblical thought with eschatology and esp. resurrection. Vos eloquently says, “....We encounter....[in the Psalter] the ideas of peace, universalism, paradise restored, the dwelling of Jehovah’s presence in the land, the vision of God, the enjoyment of glory, light, satisfaction of all wants, the outlook beyond death towards an uninterrupted contact with God and a resurrection” (Pauline Eschatology, p. 332). The weightiest argument for the fullness of a supernatural renewal in Old Testament believers is drawn from the efficacy of the cross of Christ. Whatever blessings of the goodness of God a sinful race has experienced, must come because of the cross of Christ. Because it is the one sacrifice which actually atones for sin, it is absolutely unique: there is no other sacrifice for sin. If we grant that men in all ages have received countless blessings because of the one act of grace on Calvary, there is no reason why the Holy Spirit, because of the certainty that the atonement would be made, could not have applied its benefits in all ages from the beginning.
The palingenesia of creation at the resurrection and the age to come
Life in the intermediate state
Although spiritual life is imparted to men in this life, physical death still comes. The Bible has its adequate assurance for the believer: “to die is gain” (Phil 1:21), and there is the calm assurance that “the Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim 4:18). Paul desired to be “absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8 KJV) though this was less desirable than having the resurrection body (Phil 3:20, 21), and being “clothed upon” with immortality. Through this “intermediate state” the soul, made perfect in holiness, and enjoying communion with Christ, is preserved until the hour of resurrection. The swift tableau which John gives of the souls beneath the altar (Rev 6:9-11) clothed in white robes, would suggest that God has made death itself the occasion of an advance in their perfection and holiness. Here are “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:23) awaiting the resurrection.
Life as related to resurrection
The concept of the resurrection of the dead in Christ is necessary to the completion of the Biblical scheme of man’s entire deliverance from sin and death. Through resurrection or instantaneous transformation of the living at the Parousia (1 Cor 15:51, 52), believers are prepared to inherit the kingdom (15:50). So keenly is the resurrection felt to be related to full attainment of life that it is referred to as “coming to life” (Rev 20:4) or “making alive” (Rom 8:11). Modern alternative conceptions of resurrection as simply “spiritual” or “the persistence of the personality through death” do not approach the historic concreteness of the Biblical view. Nor do they really solve the problem of death, the radical and unnatural rending apart of soul and body. For the healing of that stupendous rent in man’s being there is needed, as Christ said, the power of God in the resurrection of the dead (Matt 22:29).
Palingenesia of creation
The palingenesia, then, of the individual issues in the resurrection. At this point in the analysis, Romans 8:18-25 opens a further vista. Paul here logically connects with the resurrection of believers the deliverance of the creation itself. Since man is connected with the creation through his physical body, it is appropriate that when the body is made immortal, the creation should be raised to share the same glory and liberty, and itself experience a palingenesia.
The conclusion is that an extended period of time when Christ and immortal saints reign is an integral part of the whole process of palingenesia, of renewal and fulfillment of the creation-purpose that man redeemed should have dominion through Christ, thus fulfilling the promise of Psalm 8.
Life in the eternal state
The delivering over of the kingdom
At the “end” (1 Cor 15:24, 28) the Son delivers the kingdom to the Father, and death has been completely banished. The death which is contemplated in 1 Corinthians 15:26 is to be distinguished from John’s “second death.” The unrighteous dead do not have part in the palingenesia, yet the unnatural separation of soul and body is mended ere they are handed over to their final doom. It is suggested that Satan’s authority over death is done: Christ, the source of all life, in the sovereign exercise of judgmental authority, raises all the dead to life (John 5:21-29) and thus shows that He has life “in Himself” (5:26).
Life triumphant in the eternal state of perfection
The Bible scheme of recovery of man from sin and death thus reaches its goal as, through resurrection, and a triumphant palingenesia, the redeemed enter into the everlasting kingdom of Christ, which is eternal life. Running through the splendid imagery of the heavenly scenes of the eternal state is the clear note: “So shall we always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them” (Rev 21:3).
The Biblical keynote of life is never lost. The unrighteous enter their final doom, which is the second death (21:8). The righteous enter into life, having their names written in the Lamb’s book of life (21:27). They have access to the river of water of life and the tree of life (22:1-2, 14).
The light falls on the intensely ethical and personal features of the life of the redeemed. “There shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Rev 22:3, 4 KJV).