Questions From Readers
What does having “life in himself” mean?
“Just as the Father has life in himself,” stated Jesus, “so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself.” Prior to making this remarkable statement, Jesus said: “Most truly I say to you, He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life . . . The hour is coming, and it is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who have given heed will live.” Here Jesus was referring to an extraordinary power bestowed upon him by the Father—the ability to give humans a fine standing before God. Moreover, Jesus is able to resurrect those sleeping in death and to impart life to them. For Jesus, having “life in himself” means that he is granted these powers. Like the Father, the Son also has “in himself the gift of life.” (John 5:24-26; footnote) What about his followers?
About a year later, Jesus addressed his listeners, saying: “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.” (John 6:53, 54) Here Jesus equates having “life in yourselves” with gaining “everlasting life.” Expressions with the same grammatical construction as having “life in yourselves” are found elsewhere in the Greek Scriptures. Two examples are, “Have salt in yourselves” and “receiving in themselves the full recompense.” (Mark 9:50; Romans 1:27) In these instances, the phrases do not signify power to bestow salt on others or to mete out recompense to anyone. Rather, internal completeness, or fullness, is indicated. Thus, the expression “life in yourselves” used at John 6:53 simply means entering into the very fullness of life.
With reference to his followers as having life in themselves, Jesus mentioned his flesh and his blood. Later, when instituting the Lord’s Evening Meal, Jesus again spoke about his flesh and blood and directed his followers who would be taken into the new covenant to partake of the emblems of unleavened bread and wine. Does this mean that only anointed Christians, who are in the new covenant with Jehovah God, enter into such fullness of life? No. The two occasions were a year apart. Those who heard Jesus’ words recorded at John 6:53, 54 had no knowledge of an annual observance with emblems representing Christ’s flesh and blood.
According to John chapter 6, Jesus first compares his flesh to manna, saying: “Your forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness and yet died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.” Jesus’ flesh, along with his blood, was greater than literal manna. How? In that his flesh was given for “the life of the world,” making everlasting life possible.* Hence, the statement about having “life in yourselves” at John 6:53 applies to all those receiving everlasting life—in heaven or on earth.—John 6:48-51.
When do Christ’s followers receive life in themselves, or enter into the fullness of life? For the anointed Kingdom heirs, this happens at their resurrection to heavenly life as immortal spirit creatures. (1 Corinthians 15:52, 53; 1 John 3:2) Jesus’ “other sheep” experience entry into the fullness of life after the end of his Thousand Year Reign. By then, they will have been tested, found faithful, and declared righteous for everlasting life in the Paradise earth.—John 10:16; Revelation 20:5, 7-10.
In the wilderness, both the Israelites and “a vast mixed company” needed manna to stay alive. (Exodus 12:37, 38; 16:13-18) Likewise, to live forever, all Christians, whether anointed or not, must avail themselves of the heavenly manna by exercising faith in the redeeming power of Jesus’ flesh and blood laid down in sacrifice.—See The Watchtower, February 1, 1988, pages 30-1.
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All true Christians can have ‘life in themselves’