The Six Properties of Eternal Life

December 20, 2021 Concordia Publishing House

The following excerpt is adapted from Philipp Nicolai’s The Joy of Eternal Life, a systematic theology of God’s gift of heaven. Below, the first of Nicolai’s “six properties” is featured. 

Holy Scripture Ascribes Six Properties to Eternal Life

WHO, THEN, would not heartily long for such a life? Who would not desire to hear of it? The portal to this mystery is unlocked by defining or describing eternal life. Who would not ponder further? I will go on to greater explanation of the noble, comforting article and indicate six properties which the Holy Spirit applies and ascribes to eternal life.

  • The first is known as the love and counter-love between God and His elect.
  • The second is the honor and glory of this love.
  • The third is God’s loving inhabitation or indwelling in His elect.
  • The fourth is known as God being all in all.
  • The fifth appears in the love of neighbor.
  • The sixth consists of perfect unity and union through the bond of love.

The First Property: Love and Counter-Love between God and His elect

Deut. 32:46; 2 Cor. 13:11; Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; 1 Cor. 13:8, 13; Rom. 8:38–39

Love and counter-love in God and His elect is the substance of the first property and first good of eternal life, and it is full of living joy, living comfort, and living refreshment. O precious joy, O precious comfort, O precious refreshment where God and man live together in sweet, holy love! For God loves with a surpassing love and is a God of love and is holy Love itself. And as He loves man heartily, He also desires heartily to be loved in turn and makes counter-love the chief of all commandments so that His covenant established with us and revealed in the Law consists of nothing but love and counter-love. Now there is no doubt that this contract and covenant of love, with which the Law is concerned, is kept nowhere so perfectly, firmly, and indissolubly as in eternal life. For there, as St. Paul says, hope and faith cease, but love never ceases. Rather, it is so strong and powerful that no authority, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth can abolish or destroy it.

How Do God and His Saints Occupy Themselves in Heaven?

Therefore, if you wish to know what God and all the saints do in heaven, I can answer safely and say in truth that they celebrate an eternal, joyful wedding feast and live in altogether perfect love. God loves the angels and men, and the blessed angels and men love their God in turn with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind.

The Love and Counter-Love of God and His Elect in That World Is a Great Mystery

From Augustine’s Manual, ch. 20

Now, this love with which God is loved by His elect in that world is a great mystery, for the thoughts and words of the elect there, as Augustine says, taste of heavenly love and smell of heavenly love, so entirely has God’s love claimed and possessed them. God loves them and with His love kindles a counter-love in them—in those who turn wholly to Him. He loves that He may be loved, and in His loving asks nothing but that He may be loved in turn, so that God, angels, and men may all rejoice and glory with one another in love. Therefore, also the blessed angels and men are concerned with no other affects or thoughts but attend only to love: that they may love their God and may requite His love with their love.

God and His Elect in That Life Spring and Flow with Pure, Holy Love and Counter-Love

Isa. 55:2

There the elect soul pours itself out and springs like a flowing fountain with eternal love toward God. And as the soul is a spring and fountain of eternal love toward God there, what sort of inexhaustible fountain and everlasting spring do you think that God must be in turn to the precious soul, His beloved lover and chosen bride? There in truth the soul swims, moves, and flows in unmixed love and feels only heavenly pleasure. Indeed, out of fervent and heartfelt love it speaks of this deep mystery of love with its God, and in the midst of this conversation it tastes of the sweetness of His love, and from this taste of the sweetness of God it continually grows and increases in love and, as Isaiah has put it, grows fat in delight so that it desires nothing more dearly and thinks of nothing more dearly than its dear God.

Post adapted from The Joy of Eternal Life by Philipp Nicolai, copyright © 2021 Matthew Carver. Published by Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

What about the other five properties? Read the rest of The Joy of Eternal Life to find out!

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