It is well known that the expressions everlasting life and eternal life occur often in John’s Gospel. In the NKJV and KJV translations, everlasting life occurs eight times and eternal life nine times. But in all seventeen places, the Greek it translates is the same: zōēn aiōnion.
The NASB, NET, HCSB, ESV, LEB, and CEB do not have everlasting life at all in John. They translated zōēn aiōnion as eternal life in all seventeen places. The NIV has everlasting life once in John (John 6:47).
I do not know why this variation exists. I prefer translating zōēn aiōnion as everlasting life in each place.i But eternal life conveys the same basic idea.
The question this article addresses is how many of the thirty unmodified uses of the word life (zōē) in John’s Gospel refer to everlasting/eternal life.
The answer is: about half of them. Here are fourteen uses that definitely refer to everlasting/eternal life:
John 1:4: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
John 5:24. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
John 6:33: “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:35: “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’”
John 6:48: “I am the bread of life.”
John 6:51: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
John 6:53: “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.’”
John 10:10b: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
John 11:25a: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
John 20:31: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
Three other uses probably refer to everlasting/eternal life (John 5:21, twice, John 5:29).
The promise of everlasting/eternal life doesn’t occur just seventeen times in John’s Gospel. It occurs over thirty times when we count in places where the word life by itself has that significance.
Are some of those thirty uses of the word life without an adjective your favorite verses in John? They are for me. I especially love John 5:24 (having passed from death into life), John 5:40 (coming to Jesus that we may have life), John 6:35, 48 (“I am the bread of life”), John 10:10b (that you may have life and that you may have it more abundantly), John 11:25 (“I am the resurrection and the life”), John 14:6 (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), and John 20:31 (“and that believing you may have life in His name”).
Life. Life everlasting. That is what the Lord Jesus promises to all who simply believe in Him. Wow! May we never lose sight of that amazing promise.
i The adjective eternal suggests unending in both directions. It implies that the person with this life has always had it. That is not true of believers. The adjective everlasting suggests something that does not end. That is true of believers. God is eternal. We are not. Be we do have everlasting life.