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 life.John 5:24
My former English teachers would probably die laughing if they knew I was about to give a grammar lesson. Nevertheless, here goes!
Verbs appear in three general forms – past, present, and future. A verb in the past tense refers to something that has already happened in the past. A verb in the present tense refers to something that is happening right now. It may have started earlier, but it is currently taking place. A verb in the future tense refers to something that has not happened yet.
I know that I am really belaboring this point but I want you to see how easy a concept grammar is sometimes. I am doing this because very often theologians forget basic English (and Greek) grammar when interpreting scripture according to their personal doctrinal slant.
The scripture given above is often used to teach that belief in Jesus is a necessity to gain eternal life. It is taught that this act of belief must precede the impartation of eternal life.
But what does the text actually say?
The verb “hath” is a present tense verb. This means that a person who believes already has eternal life. Further, Jesus confirms the result of having eternal life by saying that they will not be condemned later. Why? Because the person IS passed from death unto life. He is already alive! This means the person has already been born again. He already has eternal life when the act of belief occurs.
This text is not conditional; it is a declaration. It does not teach that you must do something to gain eternal life. It teaches that your belief is an evidence that you already have it! If you believe, then it is a certainty that you are ALIVE! Not because of your belief but by the sovereign grace of God!
What a glorious and comforting message!