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One of the more disturbing
things for a student of the NT is to discover that English translations have
added a word meant to clarify something (which it often does the opposite) or
they have omitted a word that can be of great value interpreting or
understanding the text of the NT. One
of the things of which they are most often guilty of omitting is the definite
article “the”, particularly when used with the noun “ζωη”,
which is the Greek
word for “life”. Now, it’s
true that abstract nouns often appear with the definite article in the NT, but I
think that when the word “life” has the definite article, the article should
be translated into English and that the noun “ζωη” then becomes a synonym for “the Kingdom”.
What I want you to do is to look
at several examples of this in the NT, where I think this is provable, based on
the context. I also want you to
look at some passages that have not traditionally been understood to be
referring to the Kingdom, but make complete sense when understood in that way.
Then, I want you to look at some other usages in which this does not
apply. When referring to the
Kingdom, the Scriptures do not make a great deal of distinction between the
Messianic kingdom to be established by the Lord when He returns and the eternal
Kingdom of the Father. Even in the OT, the prophets seem to make the themes flow
together. So, we will leave each of
these passages to be interpreted in context as to which Kingdom is being
discussed. It’s my opinion, based
on the Scriptures, that most of the passages in the NT refer to the millennial
Kingdom to be established at the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus
One of the clearest passages where you can see that “ζωη”
with the definite article “the” is synonymous with “the Kingdom” is
found in [Mark 9:42-45]. [Mark
9:38-41] In the preceding context, the issue of discipleship and
reward is being discussed. But, as
we move into the verses that we’re looking at here, Jesus raises the subject
of stumbling blocks to discipleship. [Discipleship
in a Jewish context is much more than just a casual follower; a disciple is
someone who has wholeheartedly and completely embraced the teachings of the one
being followed; this is clearly and plainly talking about saved people.]
The potential of sin causing a stumbling block to little ones, which I
think is a referring to new believers, is to be treated with the greatest
severity. You would be better off
losing your limbs or your organs than being the cause of stumbling blocks to one
of these little ones.
After this, motivations are given for the severity of the
action. [Mark 9:43] says, “And if
thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into THE
life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell [Gehenna, not the lake of
fire], into the fire that never shall be quenched [unextinguished fire].”
Then, in [Mark 9:45], it says, “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it
off: it is better for thee to enter halt [maimed or lame] into THE
life, than having two feet to be cast into hell [Gehenna, not the lake of
into the fire that never shall be quenched in this verse; it’s not
there.] Then, in [Mark 9:47], a parallel shows, “And if thine eye
offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into THE
kingdom of THE God with one eye, than having two eyes to be
cast into hell [THE Gehenna, not the lake of fire]:”
[Omit: fire, it’s not
[Matthew 18:8-9] This
passage shows the same effect, even though it omits the third part that is in
Mark 9. [Wherefore if thy hand or
thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt
or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting
[age-lasting] fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it
from thee: it is better for thee to enter into THE life
with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell [Gehenna, not the
lake of fire] fire.]
[Matthew 19] Another
example where “ζωη” plus the definite article “the” is
clearly synonymous with “the Kingdom” is found in a story, which I’m sure,
is familiar to almost everyone here; it’s the story of the rich young ruler.
[Matthew 19:16], the question is framed:
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing
shall I do, that I may have [subjunctive] eternal [age-lasting] life?”
This is talking about life for the age to come, or a share in the
millennial Kingdom. The answer that
follows couldn’t be much more clear: “…
if thou wilt enter into THE life, keep the commandments.”
[What are the commandments? Matthew
22:37 tells us, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first
and great commandment. And the second is
like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.]
(Side Note: The Majority
text, in Revelation 22:14, says, “Blessed are
they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of THE
life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
The oldest texts have, “Blessed are they that are cleansing their
robes…” though. Either way,
it’s talking about THE life.)
As the discussion
in this passage continues, you must understand that the same subject is under
discussion until Matthew 20:16 [So the last shall be first, and the first
for many be called, but few chosen, it’s not there.]
Where we see the word “good”, in the sense of “generous”, Jesus
and His disciples use many different synonyms.
In verse 16, we see
the expression “eternal [age-lasting] life; in verse 17, we see the term that
we’re studying, “THE life”. In 23, Jesus uses the synonym, “the Kingdom of heaven”.
[Actually, it’s the Kingdom of the
Heavens; it’s always plural, even though the KJV usually
translates it as singular.] In
verse 24, he repeats the idea for emphasis by using the term, “the kingdom of
God”. In verse 24, the disciples have to get in on the action, and
they ask, “who then can be saved?” I
think they are referring to “saved” in an end times meaning.
Finally, in verse 28, Jesus uses the expression, “THE regeneration”
and defines it as clearly and plainly as possible, as “when the Son of Man
sits on His throne.” When is this
going to be? Remember, 1
Corinthians 15:24-27 tells us that Christ’s rule is temporary; it’s for 1000
years. God’s Kingdom is forever.
I know that I am a part of God’s Kingdom, because I am saved, and that
salvation cannot be taken from me, but I hope to be a part
of Millennial Kingdom for those 1000 glorious years!
I hope you can
appreciate that these passages that we just looked at make it clear that when “ζωη”
is used with the definite article, it can be synonymous for “the Kingdom”.
Let’s look at the book of the Revelation.
This principle of “ζωη” with the definite article as
being synonymous with the Kingdom can be very useful in understanding the book
of the Revelation. For example, “ζωη” with the definite
article appears three times in the letters to the churches.
In [Revelation 2:7], you find that the “one who overcomes” is granted
the right to eat from the tree of THE life. If you substitute “the Kingdom” for “the life”, you
can see that the promise is not fulfilled until Revelation 22:14, where the
subjects are promised that their right will be to the tree of the Kingdom.
In Revelation 2:10, “the one who overcomes and is faithful until
death” is promised what? It says,
“a crown of life”… This word
“crown” is “stephanos”, which is a victor’s wreath, not a sovereign
crown (diadema), which does not apply to us.
But, the Greek text doesn’t say that:
It says, “THE crown of THE
life”. The one who overcomes and
is faithful until death will receive the crown of the Kingdom.
It’s a reward.
There’s one more verse in this
part of the Revelation that I want you to look at. It’s a verse that I’m sure you’re familiar with, and
many people find it very puzzling. [Revelation
3:5] It should not really cause you
concern, but there does seem to be a subtle implication that believers can be
erased from the Book of [the] Life. This
verse is promising exactly the opposite, by using a figure of speech, which is
called litotes. Litotes is a figure
of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed
by negating its opposite, as in “This is no small problem”.
What it’s saying in this verse is the one who overcomes (present,
active, participle) is promised that “he will absolutely not [ou mE; double
negative; emphatic] be blotted out of the book of the life”.
Now, if “the life” is the same thing as “the Kingdom”, then a
definite and clear idea surfaces. To
be blotted out means that a believer who doesn’t overcome (who isn’t
faithful to the end) may lose his inheritance; his right to rule and reign.
Your salvation can’t be lost, but your inheritance can.
You can’t be unborn, but you can be cut out of the will.
In Revelation 13:8 and 17:8, you
can read some passages that are almost parallel. In [Revelation 13:8], because of the grammar, “everyone
whose name has not been written…” This
promise is fulfilled in 21:27. Certain
character types have been eliminated from the Lamb’s book of the Kingdom!
[Revelation 17:8] seems
different. First of all, there is a
group idea being discussed; it’s “names”, not “name” as in 13:8.
Also, the descriptive phrase, “of the Lamb” is missing.
In addition to that, the preposition “epi” [on] is used, rather than
“en” [in]. Here, in this verse,
this expression that we’re looking at, “the life”, will help your
interpretation. The emphasis of
this verse is the existence of the Kingdom from the foundation of the world, not
the writing of the names. God has
always had a kingdom in existence that men could enter, based upon covenant
loyalty, or faithful living. Even
as far back as Genesis 4:7, God says to the first murder, “If you do good,
won’t you be lifted up?” This
is the reason Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and built a city: In this act of defiance, he was establishing a rival kingdom
by building his city.
I want you to see two other
occurrences in the Revelation that are interesting. First, look at [Revelation 20:12]. This is an awkward sentence construction here, which says,
“another book was opened which is (the book) of THE life.
And the dead were judged from what was written in the books, according to
their works.” If you substitute
“the Kingdom” for “the life”, as you’ve done in the other verses, this
makes sense. If “the life” is
“the Kingdom”, then the books that are being opened are the chronicles of
the Kingdom. In the Book of Esther,
you will remember that when the king could not sleep, he had the court
chronicles read to him. The
chronicles showed that Mordecai had once done the king a great service. Not only had the name of Mordecai been recorded, but also
what he had done was written there for all to see.
The result was that when the king had corrected his oversight, Mordecai
was rewarded with high honor.
The other usage that I want you
to see is in [Revelation 21:6]. The
offer is made “to anyone who is thirsty”, the resurrected Lord will give
“the water of THE life”, or “the water of the
In these passages in the book of
the Revelation, I hope you see how substituting “the Kingdom” for “the
life” helps you to understand what is being discussed, rather than using the
general expression “life”.
The usage of the word “ζωη” is a little more of a
problem. In some instances, the
term “the life” is used as a proper name or title for the Lord.
The most familiar verse that this is true is in John 1:4:
“The Life was the light (the source of revelation) to men.”
[John 20:31] The way you
interpret this verse depends upon how the word “believe” is understood.
The first “believe” is in the aorist tense:
it’s punctiliar, it’s an event.
How are you saved? Acts 16:31 tells you that you are saved forever by simply
believing in the Lord Jesus in the aorist tense. However, the second “believe” in John 20:31 is a present,
active, participle: It implies
living a faithful life. If you live
a faithful life, it tells you that you will have life in His name.
significant passages here in John that realizing that “the life” is the same
as “the Kingdom” will open new possibilities for interpretation.
[John 3:36] says, “He that believeth [present, active,
participle; faithful life] on the Son hath everlasting [age-lasting] life: and
he that believeth not [present, active, participle; unfaithful life] the Son
shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
There is no definite article, but there is the adjective that describes
which life this is referring to: age-lasting
life, or life in the millennial age to come.
[John 5:24] [Verily,
verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent
me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed
from death unto THE life.]
This verse is interesting because it implies that the individual who is
living a faithful life, has the life of the age to come as a present possession. However, there is a futuristic meaning to the present tense
due to the Hebrew thinking behind it. (If
you’re living a faithful life, you have THE life, but you
won’t receive it until the future, is the best that I can explain it.
Does that make sense? If you
pay for something over the phone with a credit card, it’s yours; you’ve
bought it, but you don’t receive it until later.)
If you live a faithful life, you will not come into judgment, because you
have already been transferred from THE death to THE
life. It is interesting to note in
this context, that the book of the Revelation does not explicitly mention a
pre-Kingdom judgment for those who participate in the first resurrection, but
only mentions the books being opened after the Millennial reign.
[John 6:48] says,
(Jesus is speaking) “I am THE bread of THE
life”. Jesus is referring to
himself as the one who brings THE life to the world.
Of course, this provision is dependent upon a person eating the bread,
which is an act of faith. But, in [John 6:51], in what sense does the world have life?
It has been suggested that “life” may refer to a life spent on the
earth. But, doesn’t it make more
sense in this verse to suggest that Jesus is actually giving His flesh in
exchange for the “kingdom of this world”?
In the dialog with Pilate later in this book, kingship becomes a very
Jesus is talking about discipleship, and discipleship is described as
“following Jesus”. The promise is made that if you follow Jesus, you will not
walk in darkness, but you will receive the light of THE life.
This reverses the order of John 1:4 where the Life became the Light.
This verse promises that if you follow Jesus, you will have your eyes
opened to a knowledge of the Kingdom. In
John 16:12, the Lord tells his followers that He has much more to tell them, but
they cannot bear it at that time; this is a promise of later revelation of the
coming Kingdom that they weren’t being given then. Then, in Acts 1:3, we’re told, that his post-resurrection
appearances and speeches were things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
This epistle seems to be ambiguous in the way it uses “ζωη”
with the definite article, but it’s not ambiguous.
[1 John 1:1] “That which
was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of THE
life;” In [1 John 1:2; (For THE
life was manifested, and we have seen it,
and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life [THE life, THE
age-lasting is precisely what it says], which was with the Father, and was
manifested unto us;)], it’s easy to understand that “the Kingdom was
manifested (the signs and wonders but especially the events on the Mount of
Transfiguration) and we (the apostles) have seen and bear witness and proclaim
to you the age-lasting Kingdom. [1
John 3:14] is a parallel to John 5:24. “We
know that we have passed from THE death unto THE
life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his
brother abideth in THE [thanatos] death.”
[1 John 5:11-12]
becomes much more clear when you substitute “the Kingdom” for “the
life”. We see there, “And
this is the record [testimony], that God hath given to us eternal [age-lasting]
life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath (holds fast; faithfulness) the
Son hath THE life; and
he that hath not the Son of God hath not THE life.”
The word translated here as “hath” is sometimes better translated as
“regards”. (Re-read and
substitute “regards”; it makes sense.)
is one other occurrence of “the life” that I want us to look at, and it is
in a passage in James that you are probably all familiar with.
[James 1:12] “Blessed is the man
that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown [stephanos]
of THE life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love
[present, active, participle; how do we show that we love Him?
We obey His commandments] him.” If
you endure – if you continue in loving Him and in living a faithful life –
you will receive a victor’s crown; the crown of THE life! Here, “ζωη” with the definite article is
obviously and clearly talking in futuristic terms about judgment and reward.
Are you saved by your actions or by continuously loving the Lord?
No! The Lord will give the
one who passes the test the crown of the Kingdom!
This is talking about rewards in the age to come.
Brothers and sisters, I want to see you there, and I want us to be ruling
and reigning side by side!
This concept also helps us to understand the meaning of
death in [James 1:15; thanatos]. You
can lose your life in the age to come. Romans
8:38-39 tells you that you can’t lose your everlasting salvation, no matter
what. Not death, not angels, not
things in the present, nor things to come.
This passage in James is talking about losing the Kingdom, not your
everlasting salvation. You can lose
that! It’s yours to lose!
Don’t blow it!
This idea also makes it easy to understand verses such as
Matthew 7:14: “Because strait is
the gate, and narrow is the way, which
leadeth unto THE life, and few there be that find it.”
You are encouraged to pursue the difficult, constrained path of
discipleship that leads to the blessings of the Kingdom.
The narrow gate means of course that you must enter through faith in
Jesus the Christ, which only allows entrance for one individual at a time.
But, there is a warning contained in the passage:
There are only a few who will find it.
This is the same warning given in other places about many being called,
or invited, but only a few will be called out or chosen or elect. Many will be saved, but few will rule and reign in the coming
Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sister, you can have THE life; you can receive a victor’s crown; you can enter in at the narrow gate. All you have to do is live your life faithfully; you have to continuously love Him. When do you do that? You do that always, in everything that you do. Your salvation is secure and you cannot lose that under any circumstance. But, you can lose your inheritance; you can lose your crowns; you can lose your life in the age to come. Life your life faithfully and don’t blow it! Don’t lose your life!