John 17:3 (NASB)

3 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NRSV)

15 "Which he will bring about at the right time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen."

  • Excellent question. +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 23:36

6 Answers 6


Luke records the words, Luke 8:14, of Jesus when he describes the cares and riches and pleasures of life, using the Greek word bios, life - the time on earth, the living on the planet. Luke also records the words of Abraham (recounted by Jesus) who uses the Greek word zoe to express the kind of life that the rich man had as he ate sumptuously every day within a gated compound, separate from the general public, Luke 16:25.

Zoe life - above and beyond just living on planet earth - a life of food and enrichment. But, in the rich man’s case, it could not last, for he died and was treated accordingly : as he had failed to share his privileges with the disease-ridden cripple left outside his gated compound by someone who - on a daily basis - left Lazarus there to beg.

John says that he that hath the Son hath life, zoe, I John 5:12, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. He also says that he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ hath both the Father and the Son, II John 9. Zoe life, a superior life to just existing.

So : abiding in the doctrine of Christ, one shall have the Son and thereby one shall have zoe life.

This life is further defined in other places as eternal life, for example in John 6:47 : He that believeth in me hath everlasting (eternal) life. The life that is received is eternal life, for the life is divine life.

This is the character of the life that is received. It is not a matter of duration for it was not possessed eternally : there was a point of time when this eternally existing life was received into union with the mortal being.

But there remains the problem of death. If the mortal being die, what of the eternal life within the immaterial soul ?

Paul explains the resolution by using the word immortality, athanasia, three times in scripture - twice in I Corinthians 15 : 53 and again 54, and once in I Timothy 6: 16.

This mortal, he says, shall put on immortality. In resurrection - or, for those alive at the time, in a change of state - an immortal humanity shall be put on that shall know no death. This is the human nature that will be given to those who already have eternal life, divine life, abiding in union with their own spiritual being.

Until he appears, who only possesses such immortality (a fact of his risen human nature) I Timothy 6: 14, only one has such immortality - the only Ruler, the King of Kings. But in his appearing, shall many be granted that same immortality. To as many as have already received him, in spirit, and believed on him in the doctrine of Christ, to these he shall give - also, as well as eternal life - immortality.

  • All quotes are from the KJV.

  • The ‘immortal’ expressed in I Timothy 1:17 is a different word - aphthartos.

  • Nigel J@ Appreciate your effort, I have a question for you. Adam before his act of disobedience, did he have immortality or eternal life? Commented Apr 7, 2019 at 19:12
  • @ Nigel J Paul said that Adam was not deceived (1 Ti 2:14) he willfully and deliberately chose to disobey and then as a criminal he tried to hide. When brought to trial, instead of showing sorrow or regret or asking for forgiveness, Adam attempted to justify himself and pass the responsibility off on others, even blaming God for his own willful sin.” (Ge 3:7-12) Therefore Adam justly deserved death, eternal death, without any hope of a resurrection. The supreme judge "God" sentenced Adam (Gen 3:17-17)and said to him :For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Appreciate your comment. Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 14:47
  • @ Nigel J. You have made many assumptions, provide scriptures to support your claims Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:38
  • @OzzieNicolas Adam never had eternal life or immortality before or after he ate the fruit.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 10:39
  • 1
    @Anne My understanding is that 'eternal' life is life of a unique kind and only can be of once source and is a matter of spirit. 'Immortality' applies, I understand, to human nature, bodily.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 19:40

Father, Son, Holy Spirit are immortal, they have always been, always will be. They were never (born) therefore never to die. Man was born to live always, but sin/partaking of tree of good & evil appointed him a time to die. So Christ overcame death on the cross, to offer man eternal life (eternity). Heaven to us who follow Him in salvation, and Hell for UN believers.
Before creation there was no time value. No start, no end. There was the God head (trinity) and Universe or Universes. . Bless you.

  • Man was born to live always... that doesn’t mean he was immortal just because he was destined for immortality. The tree of life would indicate a need or a redundancy depending on your angle of approach. Psalm 82 speaks of the sons of God as losing their immortality and yet they were created creatures. Thank you for your response. Please scroll down and click on the tour @SybilChoate Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 2:38
  • @Sybil Choate : Adam before sinning had eternal life, but not immortality . if he did not eat and drink he would have died. The Bible tells us that Jesus was created. "αρχή=arche=beginning" Compare verses below. Rev. 3:14 (NASB, KJ21,MEV,RSV,MOUNCE) Compare proverbs 8:22 (NRSV, ERV,NIRV,NRSVCE)(Col. 1:15 NRSV,KJ21,NASB) “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this." Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 9:35
  • That’s what I tried to say. Apparently I didn’t do well. Maybe to wordy...thank you for the response. Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 23:07
  • @ Nigel J In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was "with God," Hence he could not be God. " My Father is greater than I "You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I."(John 14:28) James Moffat New Test .John 1:1 " The Logos existed in the very beginning, the Logos was with God, the Logos was divine. " The word became flesh but not God. (Moffat, John 1:14) "So the Logos became flesh and tarried among us; we have seen his glory — So how could the Word be God? Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 20:22

Eternal life is not immortality, because eternal life is only given to those who believe. Non believers have immortality, only their afterlife will be spent in hell. They will not have eternal life, which is knowing God, like Joseph knew Mary, was in union.

John 17:3This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.


John 17:20I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Eternal life is the substantial life, the life with lasting results, unlike the life of unbelievers, futile living, which bears fruit which do not last, treasures that perish. Eternal life is chayei olam, the type of meaningful life that will be lived in the Age to Come. This life results in fruit which count, have meaning in God's plan because we are in union with Him, just as Christ was in union with Him, so God is involved. Because He is involved, the life we live is part of the Kingdom of God, the conquering plan of God.

Luke 11:20But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

All Scripture from the NASB.


"Eternal life" (αἰώνια ζωἠ) and "immortality" (ἀθανασία) can be synonymous, for both can stand for the feature of ontological impossibility of death for the Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is to say, this feature of impossibility of not being, but the essential or ontological necessity of being properly belongs only to the Trinity, whereas if anything or anyone else has it, then it is only by the bestowal of this feature as a graceful free gift from the Trinity.

However, both the "eternal life" and "immortality" can have a different turn of a meaning, if they stand not simply for the necessary existence, but for the character of this existence, which character is the eternal, changeless and indestructible bliss of the Trinitarian love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is to say, any man, even a sinner, will have a continuous existence through grace of Trinity (and "hell" is that continuous existence without though participation also in love); however, the "eternal life" means participation not only in a continuous existence, but life in the very reality of the Trinitarian love, for "eternal" stands for the feature of this perfection, changelessness and indestructibility of this blissful love.

Therefore, all will be given perpetual existence, but only those who will willingly participate in the Trinitarian love, forgive their enemies and, like God, be good also to the evil and the ungrateful (Matthew 5:45), will have also the "eternal" life, that in to say, life filled with the perfection of the Trinitarian love. The same is conveyed by the term "immortality" for if through Christ one defeats one's egotism and embraces Christly love, then such a person has defeated death and gained immortality, that is to say, passed from death to life (1 John 3:14). Thus, "eternal life" and "immortality" in this second sense is attainable and should be attained already in this historical life, and then it will be continued to all Eternity and all Infinity.

  • @ Levan and Sybil , God as the source of life is not subject to death, therefore He is immortal (Hab 1:12 1Tim 1:17 . Jesus is the first to be given immortality, it is seen from the inspired words of Paul that Jesus did not have immortality : " We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him."Rom 6:9 Satan is not immortal Jude 6, Mat 25:41. Adam was given eternal life,but not immortality, for if he did not eat his body would have deteriorated and died , even if he did not sin.Kingdom heirs will be given immortality 1 Peter 1:3-4 Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 15:37
  • 1
    @OzzieNicolas "Christ being raised..." this phrase of Paul needs to be interpreted, for Paul says elsewhere that the very world was created by the Son (Hebrews 1:1-2); now the one who creates the word which is immortal derivatively (as creation) is of course immortal underivatively and properly, so Son is immortal properly, and God in full sense of the word. "Christ" means the human nature adopted by the immortal Son, who rises the dead body of Himself coacting with Father, for Father and the Son's activity is one (John 5:17), and this human nature of the Son will never die after resurrection. Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 20:01
  • @ Levan: God Has Spoken to us by means of His Son Jesus, hence Jesus is not God. Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,[Jesus ] whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom [Jesus] he [God] also created the worlds.Heb 1:1-2 Despite being his Father’s “master worker,”(Pro 8:30) he never laid claim to the title of co-Creator. He glorified God as being the one and only Creator and subordinate to the Father."My father is greater than I"(John 14:28), John 4:34, 5:36, 10:25 , 14:10 Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 14:51
  • @OzzieNicolas "Worlds" in Heb 1:1-2 means the entire created order of universe, visible and invisible (angels, unseen physical laws etc.), therefore, necessarily, the Means of the creation, the Son is outside of the created order of universe, and therefore necessarily uncreated and therefore necessarily also eternal; as eternal, thus, also co-eternal to Father, and as co-eternal, so also co-infinite with Him. Now, co-eternal and co-infinite with God can but be God in no lesser sense. That is why the Son demands the equal honor to Himself as to Father (John 5:23) without committing a blasphemy. Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 16:29
  • Jesus reiterated on many occasions that He is God's son, he never claimed to be God. (John 10:36, 19:7) He confessed that his authority originates from the Father:" Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise."John 5:19 (Compare John 5:30. 7:28-29) Jesus is a created being, so he cannot be God or equal to God: "The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God." Rev. 3:14 NASB Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 18:45

The two terms are similar, in that God alone has immortality, and by definition has eternal life. But it is possible to not be immortal, yet posses eternal life. Immortality implies not having a beginning OR end, but eternal life comes to those who are resurrected into the Kingdom of God at Christ's return, human beings who HAD a beginning, but henceforth will live forever.


I have a bit of a problem when Human Doctrine is used to explain scripture as Levan does. The concept of the trinity does not seem relevant to the question of immortality vs eternal life, or at least only in context of the individual referred too ie "God" or the non-scriptural word "Godhead", thus doctrine seems irrelevant when considering how these terms refer to those who had previously been subject to death. Was God ever subject to death? No, therefore when considering life for humans vs God we need not further endeavor to bring in doctrine ie "trinity". So how do we differentiate the meanings of Biblical words that are used to describe the essence of originally dissimilar Persons? Such as "immortal" which seems to describe that continued life is not dependent on intervention by any force/power outside of the individual being spoken of. Is this the correct definition? Whereas "everlasting life" may be used to describe a persons continuation of life being dependent on replenishment of an outside source of life sustaining material, eg food, water, spirit, etc. Is this the correct definition? And yet everlasting life can also be applied to an immortal. Both flavors of meaning have been applied to the same greek words making it difficult to have an understanding of the how the words apply to My life as a human. Simply put, does eternal life/immortality mean the same thing? It seems that the original Greek word's that are translated these two ways (immortality, everlasting life, eternal life etc) do not have a specific universal application, but the meaning is in reference to the context? Thus can it be so that immortality does not always mean that, for the person spoken of, continuation of their life for eternity is not dependent on any outside effect? What about that?

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