This lesson focuses on the phrase “eternal life” (Mark 10:17, 30) and its meaning and practical application for today.

The gospel of Mark is about Jesus and specifically, what it means to be a follower of Him. Mark has been teaching us who Jesus is and what His kingdom is all about and how, as His followers, we are live in that kingdom and under His kingdom authority.

For the past few weeks we have been in Mark 10. Mark 10 is about the kingdom of God and Jesus has been teaching His disciples, and us, about this kingdom. There are some things He wants us to know and we need to know if we are going to experience what Jesus purchased for us on the cross.

Let’s dive in and see what we discover.

Mark 10:17-31

As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” 28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. 29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.” (NLT)

This encounter with the rich young ruler is sandwiched between this phrase “eternal life” (vs. 17, 30). We are going to spend two weeks on this. Today I want us to focus in on this phrase “eternal life.” Next week we will return and see some lessons from the rich young ruler himself.

The rich young ruler has a good question. He asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Most people will ask this question in some form. They may ask, “How can I go to heaven when I die? How can I become a Christian? How can I get saved? How do I get eternal life?” There are many ways to ask this question, but the rich young ruler asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What does the Bible mean when it says “eternal life”? The phrase “eternal life” is used over 50 times in the Bible. What does it mean?

Eternal life is a quality of life

First, when the Bible talks about eternal life it is referring to a quality of life, rather than simply the quantity of life. Many people, when they think of eternal life they think of two things.

  • They think of eternal life as everlasting That is correct, but there is more to eternal life than it being simply everlasting.
  • They also think of eternal life as starting after they die. You may have heard the question or been asked the question, “Where will you spend eternity?” That is a legitimate question; however eternal life doesn’t begin after death it begins before you die.

When the Bible talks about eternal life it is referring to two things. The Greek word for “eternal” (aionios) carries the idea of quality as well as quantity. It’s both. Eternal life involves both the duration of life and the depth of life. Eternal life refers to the participation of the believer in the life that is in Christ. For this reason, eternal life can be thought of as something that Christians experience now. Believers don’t have to wait for eternal life, because it’s not something that starts when they die. Rather, eternal life begins the moment a person places their faith in Christ for salvation. As a believer, you possess eternal life right now. Listen to what God’s Word says about this.

  • John 3:36 says, “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life” (NLT). Notice the believer “has” (present tense) this “eternal life.” Eternal life is not something you gain when you die, you gain it when you are born again into God’s family.
  • Later in John 5:24, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life” (NLT). You not only have an eternal future, but you also have an eternal perspective. As a believer, you know you have eternal life. You know where you are going. You know where you are headed once you die. You also know that you have “already passed from death into life” and you now have an eternal perspective on life that effects the quality of your life. You don’t think temporary, you think eternal. Because of this your quality of life (what you live for, your values, how you respond to trials, difficulties and valleys in life) changes. You see everything through an eternal lens. You have a life perspective rather than a death perspective.
  • Look closely at 1 Timothy 6:11-12, “But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses” (NLT). Paul tells Timothy to “hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called” He is not talking about the possibility of losing your salvation. He is talking about holding tightly to the quality of life that is found in Christ. Hold tightly to the quality of life that is characterized by righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight for this eternal life. Don’t let this world and the devil rob you of the kind of life God has purchased for you. We are talking about the here and now. A quality of life that sees things and people from an eternal perspective. Eternal life.

When the Bible talks about eternal life it is referring to both the everlasting life that we will experience in heaven, but it is also referring to the quality of life that only comes from Christ and following Him. Eternal life is a quality of life founded in Christ.

Eternal life is through Christ alone

Number two, eternal life is through Christ alone. Eternal life is exclusively found in Jesus. There is only one entry point into eternal life. There is only one pass code that opens the gate to eternal life. His name is Jesus.

Look at what we are told in 1 John 5:11-12, “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (NLT). To have eternal life you must place your faith in Christ alone. The gospel is exclusive; there are not many ways to God, but only one. There are not various paths that lead to heaven. There is only one. Eternal life is through Christ alone.

Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (NLT). All world religions to do not lead to the same place. There is only one path to God and that is Jesus. Eternal life is not found in being good, being religious, or being open to other religions. Jesus said, “I am the way.” Eternal life is through Christ alone.

Peter would echo this truth in Acts 4:12 when he said about Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (NLT). Receiving salvation, being saved, and receiving eternal life can only come about by Jesus. Eternal life is through Christ alone.

Eternal life is received

Number three, eternal life is received by faith. You receive eternal life by believing in Jesus for salvation. You are trusting in His life, death, burial, and resurrection as Lord for your salvation. You believe He is the Son of God who came to save the world and that He died for your sins so that you could have eternal life.

One of the greatest verses in the Bible is John 3:16. Listen carefully to what it says, “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (NLT). A couple of observations.

  • Eternal life is made available for “everyone.” It doesn’t matter how sinful you are or how good you think you are. Eternal life in Christ is made available for everyone. For you, me, and everyone on this planet. You may think that God does not love you, but that is not true. We are told that “God loved the world.” He loves you. God offers you eternal life if you will receive it.
  • Eternal life is received by those who “believe in him.” You must place your faith in Christ for salvation. You must believe that you are a sinner and that Jesus died for your sins and that He is Lord over all. You “believe in him” for salvation.

Eternal life is given

Number four, eternal life is given, not earned. We do not earn this eternal life nor do we merit its continuation. Whether we are talking about the quantity or quality of this eternal life we don’t deserve it because we earned it by being good or changing into a nicer person. Eternal life is a gift.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (NLT). You do not have to work for it. You do not have to pay for it. It is free. Someone else paid the price for you to have eternal life. All you have to do is unwrap it by faith. Pick it up in faith. It is free. It is free “through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life is given, not earned. It is a gift.

Eternal life is satisfying

Number five, eternal life is satisfying. It is satisfying to your soul. Jesus had a personal conversation with a woman at a well one day. Her life had been a life that was thirsty for meaning, value, and love that she thought she could find in going from one man to another. Her soul was thirsty for something that she was not finding in these relationships. Using the water in the well as an object lesson, Jesus said to her, “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:14, NLT). Jesus is offering this woman “eternal life” that is marked by a quality that removes a thirst for this world and the temporary things it offers. It quenches the thirst regarding value, meaning, and purpose. This “eternal life” satisfies the soul – the mind, the will, and emotions of who you are. Regardless of what is happening around you, eternal life in Christ produces a quality of life the world cannot create.

Eternal life is relational

Number six, eternal life is relational. It is personal, not academic. Eternal life deals with having a relationship with Jesus, not just knowing information about Jesus and agreeing to that information.

One day Jesus was praying. And John 17, Jesus prayed this, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, so that the Son may glorify You, just as You gave Him authority over all mankind, so that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:1-3, NASB). The word “know” (ginosko) is an experiential word. It means to know someone experientially, intimately, and closely. Eternal life is not simply a conscious awareness that God exist. Eternal life is a knowing Jesus by following Him, obeying Him, loving Him, talking to Him, letting Him work through you, and growing in Him. It is a relationship. When the Bible talks about eternal life it is talking about a personal relationship with God that impacts the quality of your life.

Eternal life can bring assurance

One last thought about eternal life. Eternal life can bring assurance. Some believers struggle with their assurance of salvation. Because of bad teaching, believing the wrong things, or simply having a misunderstanding of God’s grace and salvation some believers are not sure if they have eternal life. Look at 1 John 5:13 which says, “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (NLT). If you have placed your faith in Jesus for salvation, then God wants you to know that you have eternal life. He wants you to have full confidence that you belong to Him, that He loves you, and He has a plan for your life. He wants you to “know you have eternal life.” That’s what 1 John is all about.


Now let’s return to the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer is nothing, except place your faith in Christ. Eternal life is an inheritance. You don’t work for an inheritance. It is given to you.