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John 10:15, ESV

As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.

This verse is part of a passage where Jesus uses the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep to illustrate his relationship with his followers.

John 10:28, NKJV

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."

In this verse, Jesus is expressing the assurance of eternal life for those who follow him. He emphasizes the security of his followers, stating that they will never perish and that no one can take them away from him.

Is there a theological distinction between Jesus' life on Earth and the eternal life that he grants to the sheep?

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  • I must be misunderstanding the question, please help me. If by 'theological distinction" you mean that in God's mind there is something different about Jesus earthly life and the eternal life of the follower wouldn't the answer have to be "yes"? Wouldn't God see a distinction between any two individual's lives? If there were no distinction then would there even be an individual life? If there were no distinction between living on earth and eternal life then wouldn't they both be the same thing?
    – David D
    Commented Feb 14 at 17:43

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To ask for a theological difference between Jesus' earthly life and the eternal life he grants to his sheep is surprising. I've never heard such a question before! Two verses from John chapter 10 are to form the basis for answers, so I will try to stick to the remit.

Verse 15 states a theological principle that we could never have known had not Jesus told his followers, John writing it down for all Christians to learn. This is the interchangeability of God's knowledge of his Son, and the Son's mutual knowledge of the Father. They know each other so intimately that nothing about the other is unknown.

From that theological principle / fact comes the reason in verse 15 for what the Son did on Earth - the whole reason why he agreed to be sent, to be born of Mary, namely, to lay down his life for his sheep.

Verse 28 follows on from verse 27 where his sheep, who he knows, hear his voice and they follow him. Such ones are given eternal life by the Son. The second point in verse 28 is that the sheep shall never perish. The third point is that no-one can snatch them out of his hand (verse 29 adding that that is the same as saying that no-one can snatch them out of the Father's hand, for the hand of the Son is equivalent to the hand of the Father. Not literal hands of course, this is spiritual language.)

This shows vast differences between Jesus' earthly life, and that of his sheep. The Son of God was already alive, in heaven, as the only-begotten Son of God, prior to adding human nature to his divine nature. He was sent to Earth. None of us existed prior to being born on Earth. Second, the Son was sinless and never sinned while living on Earth. We are born in sin, with a sin nature. The Son could never have laid his life down as a perfect sacrifice had he sinned. No other human could ever have done what the Son did. Third, Jesus explained (in verse 18) that he had power to so lay down his life, and that the Father had given him power to take it up again. We have to die (as the wages of sin is death) but we are powerless, to either avoid death or, when dead, to take up our lives again.

These are just differences that pertain to the eternal life he grants to his sheep, which is what you ask about.

He cannot give what he does not already have.

He gives us what we do not have, nor can have without being gifted it.

This eternal life starts at the point of being born again of the Spirit (John chapter 3). Verse 28 has Jesus saying:

"And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." A.V.

Eternal life is not held out to believers like a carrot dangling on a stick, just out of reach of the poor donkey pulling a cart behind it.

The massive difference here is that our lives must all end in death, unless the Son grants us eternal life now, before we die physically. Then, spiritual life, real life, eternal life in Christ begins with the new, spiritual birth, never to end. Yet never will that gifted eternal life put us on a par with the eternal Son of God, for he had no beginning, nor will he ever have an end. We all had a beginning, being creatures. Receiving eternal life can never alter the fact that there was a time when we never existed. The Son was never created, is not a creature, and has always existed. That is one, massive, difference between his life (even when on Earth) and our human lives (even when with Christ in the glory.)

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Jesus' 1st Coming = Mortality - Came to Defeat Sin and Death in place of the Elect

Jesus' 2nd Coming = Immortality - Comes to Gather the Elect and transform them to immortality

The distinction between Jesus life on earth and the eternal heavenly life is that Jesus came into this fallen world sharing the sinful flesh that we all have, sharing in the temptations and sufferings that come along with it, so that he could take it all upon himself and nail it to the cross to defeat sin and death, the power of the god of this world, the devil Satan.

Now when one denies himself (his old carnal life in the flesh) and picks up his cross to follow Christ, he has put off the old body of death and has put on the new body of Christ, which grants eternal life.

As a New Creation in Christ, our fresh spiritual bodies given to us upon believer's baptism are currently invisible, but when the Day of Christ comes, it shall be visible.

What is now visible will soon be invisible, and what is now invisible will soon be visible.

Jesus Christ lived his life of human incarnation in sinful flesh without sinning to show us the way to eternal life by living through the Spirit of Christ which is the same Holy Spirit that is granted freely by God our Father to all who believe in Jesus' name.

Conclusion. At Jesus First Coming, he came into fallen sinful flesh like the rest of us to take the body of corruption and destroy the sin in the flesh. The old body died on the cross in Christ, and God raised Christ from the dead into a new heavenly body of the resurrection, a body which we will put on in due time when Christ returns at his Second Coming to resurrect and transform us.

We will all be just as Jesus is, immortal and glorified, and we will go into the joy of our master: the Eternal Kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world to rule and reign with the King everlasting.

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