William Nicholson, 1862
"Lay hold on eternal life!" 1 Timothy 6:12
This subject is pre-eminently important one in which you are concerned, and it deserves supreme attention. It can only be found in the Gospel — how empty, then, are all systems of human philosophy!
There is something peculiarly solemn in the advice of an aged Christian, or one eminent for piety — to a young convert. So in the case of Moses; and Christ's last discourse with his disciples; and Paul's advice to Timothy, in the preceding verses. He advises him to "fight the good fight of faith," under the assurance that his conflict would terminate in victory. "Eternal life" he would realize as the prize of his high calling, etc.
I. The Object of the Christian's Conflict:"eternal Life."
"Life," as used in the Scriptures, is a very significant word. It is frequently expressive of all possible good. To "have" this life, implies an interest in the Divine favor, assimilation to God — the possession of the Holy Spirit. John 6:35; 20:31. In fact, it is the very opposite of condemnation, guilt, alienation from God, etc. etc.
"Eternal Life" is the perpetuation of this spiritual life in another world, refined, consummated — the full and uninterrupted enjoyment of God, and the vision of his glory through interminable ages. Hence observe,
1. Eternal Life is not merely a perpetuity of existence.Demons and apostate spirits have perpetual existence, but not eternal life.
2. Eternal Life being the gift of Godj implies that we have forfeited it by sin — and that it can never be obtained by our own obedience.
3. That Eternal Life is bestowed upon sinners through the mediation of Christ.1 John 5:11. "He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him!" Hebrews 5:9. Romans 6:23; John 4:14; 6:40. Eternal Life is then in Jesus only, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life! John 6:68. Not to Moses, duties, ordinances, sacrifices, or graces. Eternal Life is not in repentance, faith, etc. John 17:3; 1 John 5:20.
4. Eternal Life has a future aspect.It will be realized in Heaven. It is said, "God has prepared for us a city," etc. There is in reserve an inheritance, a kingdom, a crown, an eternal weight of glory, etc. John 14:1, etc.; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Matthew 25:46; Hebrews 11:16; James 1:12.
Eternal Life implies,
1. Union of body and soul by a glorious resurrection from the dead, that the whole man, glorified, purified, immortalized, may enjoy it. The soul enters into the possession of this life subsequently to death; "Absent from the body — and present with the Lord!" 2 Corinthians 5:8. But the salvation of the believer will not be completed until the resurrection morning.
2. The absence of all evil, and therefore it will be a life of perfect happiness. No sin — no curse — no effects of sin, as bodily decay, and sickness, and bereavements. No death — no grave and corruption. By any of these that life of exquisite bliss will never be interrupted. "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:15-17. "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away!" Revelation 21:4
3. Divine manifestation. "They shall see God;" Matthew 5:8. "We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2. They shall be "present with Christ."
"Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." John 17:24. And what glory is this? It is the glory of Jehovah in the face of Jesus Christ. For God shows his glory there, as he does his grace here — through Jesus Christ. All the glory of the Father — all the glory of the angels — all the glory of the saints — all the glory of Paradise, are concentrated in the Sun of Righteousness.
"I will show you all the glory of Greece," said an ancient to his friend; and so saying, he took him to Solon, the Spartan lawgiver. "And is this all?" said his friend. "Yes," replied the ancient, "when you have seen Solon, you have seen all." And so when the saints see Christ, they see all the glory of Heaven in him; "the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne is the light thereof." But what must it be to see this glory?
4. A life of increased and still increasing knowledge. Mysteries of creation, providence, and grace, will be explained by the God of Light. 1 Corinthians 13:12. The mental capacity will be expanded, the understanding matured — Jehovah will be seen as he is — bodies known as they are — spirits comprehended — mysteries developed, their cause explained, and their consequences unfolded.
5. Life of blessed companionship. With angels and perfected spirits — patriarchs, prophets, apostles, departed friends, etc. Then Heaven will be the scene of mutual recognition. The family of God will know each other there. 2 Corinthians 4:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20; Colossians 1:28
6. All this freedom from evil, and possession of glory, is crowned with eternal perpetuity! It is "Eternal Life." Most of the Scriptural representations of Heaven have connected with them certain adjectives which convey the idea of eternity.
Whatever, therefore, shall be the employments of the citizens of Heaven — whether it be meditation upon the works, the attributes of Deity, or conversing upon the wonders of creative wisdom, and the reign of Jehovah's grace; whether it be admiring or adoring the ineffable glories of the Godhead, or uniting with ten thousand times ten thousand angels in one grand chorus to the praise of him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb — they shall never be exhausted with fatigue, never be languid in their energies, never require a repose for the renewal of their strength.
Eternity is the duration of their being — eternity is the perpetuity of their undiminished powers — eternity is the consummation of their desires — the completion of their highest hopes, and the stability of their best inheritance. "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 3:16. "For we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." 2 Corinthians 5:1. "For our light affliction, which is but for n moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen, are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18. "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 1:11. "Him that overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out." Rev. 3:12. "Your sun shall no more go down, neither shall your moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended!" Isaiah 60:20.
II. What is implied in "laying hold on eternal life"?It refers to the termination of the Christian conflict. When the race is run; when the battle is over, and the enemy is vanquished — then shall he come to the goal, and the hand of Almighty love will bestow the crown of endless life, and through grace, and with the highest gratitude, the believer will "lay hold on it." The Christian conflict will have a good outcome. This implies,
1. Faith in the Divine Scriptures respecting Eternal Life. Heathens, philosophers, etc., have had vague notions without the Gospel.
2. Faith in Christ who bestows and prepares for it. "He who believes," etc. Experimental acquaintance with the Gospel — resting on Christ — separation from the world, self-denial, etc.
3. Actual engagement in Christian duties and conflict. Striving for it, running, wrestling, fighting, pressing forwards, etc.
4. By realizing and feeding upon the promises respecting it. "Looking for that blessed hope," etc., frequently anticipating it — cheered with the prospect. Be not satisfied with present attainments. Behold the Paradise before you!
If the famous Carthaginian general, Hannibal, could inspire his troops with so much courage by a prospect of the plains of Italy from the barren Alps, which they were passing — then how much more animated should Christians become with the prospect of Eternal Life!
1. See the wisdom of Christians in laboring to lay hold on Eternal Life.
2. See the folly of sinners. They lay hold of phantoms, shadows — and neglect the substance!