Eternal Hope – Part 38

Eternal Hope – Part 38

March 2010

Dear Co-laborer:

Eternal Hope
Part 38

My objective in this study is to explore the Scriptural teaching on an eternal hope, and how/when it came into existence. We see traces of it in the Apocrypha, clearly in the Pseudepigrapha (but much of it was written during the NT era), and emphasized in the ministry of Jesus. Scholars speculate that God began to reveal it to the Essene community. We are now seeking to look at what the NT teaches on this before some concluding remarks.

Reflections on the Gospel of Luke

This proclamation follows Jesus’ miracle of providing fish: “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”[1] Although Peter calls himself a sinner, nowhere that I am aware of does Jesus call the disciples sinners or breakers of the law (with, of course, the exception of Judas the betrayer). Also, when the Savior says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,”[2] He never discusses the basis by which a just God can forgive the sinner without violating His justice. In the house of Simon the Pharisee, a sinful woman washes the feet of Jesus with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with oil, and Jesus responds with these words, “Thy sins are forgiven.”[3] The woman does not ask Jesus for forgiveness. Note, this is the second time Jesus claims to forgive sin,[4] and He makes no reference to His propitious death as the basis for being able to do it.

“For I say unto you, among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”[5] In Jesus’ response to the people after He assured John’s disciples that He is the Christ, I am not sure if He refers to the present kingdom or to an eschatological hope.

When you study the life of Christ from a synoptic perspective, this appears to be the fourth reference to Jesus death: “When the days drew near for him to be received up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”[6] The word “received up” means, “to take or receive up” as in the resurrection or ascension. Only in Luke will you find this reference.[7]

Jesus sends the seventy out ministering, and when they return, Jesus gives this comment after hearing their report: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”[8] Later, “a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”[9] Jesus answered him by giving the parable of the Good Samaritan. Evidently, the importance of preparing for life after death occupied the thinking of this lawyer.

“The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here… Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”[10] Jesus’ solemn warning suggests that hell will not be the same for everyone, and is similar to the judgment pronounced in Luke 10:12-15; Jesus does not say that the generations of Solomon and Jonah go to heaven. Rather, the present generation has more light, and thus less excuse, than they.[11]

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear (phobia): Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”[12] Because God has the power to send people to hell, He alone should be feared. Jesus continues, telling the multitudes not to fear the temporal. Many, if not most, evangelical Christians that I have met, believe the opposite; they argue that believers should not fear God – respect Him, yes, but have a phobia of Him, definitely not.

“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”[13] In most of this material Jesus teaches accountability, and although He doesn’t specifically say “eternal” accountability, the context seems to suggest it. Whatever else a person accrues from increased resources, he accrues increased accountability in the Day of Judgment.[14]

In a passage paralleling Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.”[15] In both passages Jesus teaches that many who have assurance of salvation will not gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

“And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”[16] In this, the conclusion of the parable of the Prodigal Son, the father assures the elder son that he will not re-divide the inheritance with the prodigal, suggesting that forgiveness in God’s economy does not eliminate consequences. In another story Jesus says, “And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”[17] This, the conclusion of the parable of the Unjust Steward, teaches that the believer should invest his temporal resources in such a way that they will accrue eternal benefit. The unrighteous steward, representing the unbeliever, is wiser than those professing faith in Christ, in that he invested in what he thought was the most important, while Christ’s followers invest in what they know is least important – unrighteous mammon. At another time Jesus says, “But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”[18] In this, the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus teaches that what you sow in this life you will reap in the life after death.

Speaking of the end times, Jesus says, “For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation… I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”[19] Jesus, teaching what to expect at the time of His return, says that people will behave as in the days of Noah and Lot; they will live disregarding the promise of His return.

“For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.”[20] In this, the fifth time Jesus tells the disciples of Him imminent death, God keeps the disciples from understanding what He says.[21]

“For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.”[22] In this, the conclusion of Jesus’ parable on the mina (found only in Luke), He teaches that in eternity the rich get richer and the poor become poorer. Each servant receives one mina from his master and one returns 10 minas, receiving as a result 10 cities, and another returns 5 minas, resulting in his obtaining 5 cities. In this, Jesus teaches that He rewards in the kingdom of heaven on the basis of faithfulness to opportunity.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”[23] The Sadducees, due to Greek influence, denied the resurrection of the dead. Seeking to trap Jesus, they asked about marriage in heaven. From Jesus’ answer we learn that the union of a man and a woman in marriage does not exist in heaven. Note the reference to a person’s works being strategic in obtaining eternal life: “But they which shall be accounted worthy…”

While on the cross, “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”[24] Jesus gave this promise to one of the thieves suffering with Him on the cross.[25]

“He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words.”[26] The angel spoke these words to the women who came to anoint Jesus’ body on Sunday morning. They “remembered His words,” but obviously His words, when first spoken, didn’t make sense. Otherwise, they would have expected to find an empty tomb rather than a body needing anointing for burial.

“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”[27] Jesus spoke these words to those walking with Him on the road to Emmaus. Evidently, the Old Testament contains adequate material for people to understand the mission of Christ. With the possible exception of Isaiah 53 (which the Hebrew people thought applied to the nation), I have no idea where Jesus took the disciples in making this explanation.

In our next issue we will look at the Gospel of John.

His … Yours,


[1] Luke 5:8, KJV
[2] Luke 5:32, KJV. Cf. also Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17
[3] Luke 7:48, KJV
[4] Cf. Matthew 9:2
[5] Luke 7:28, KJV
[6] Luke 9:51, RSV
[7] It may be cross-referenced with John 7:10, but I am not certain.
[8] Luke 10:20, KJV
[9] Luke 10:25, KJV
[10] Luke 11:31-32, 52, KJV
[11] In this material, exclusive to Luke, Jesus rebukes and pronounces woes on the religious elite of Israel. The context suggests that the consequences of their behavior will accrue to their eternal hurt.
[12] Luke 12:4-5, KJV
[13] Luke 12:47-48, KJV
[14] “The teachings of the law, the teachings of grace, and the teachings of the kingdom are separate and complete systems of divine rule which are perfectly adapted to the varied conditions in three great dispensations… Every teaching of the kingdom which contemplates the responsibility of the individual is, in like manner, based on a covenant of human works, and is, therefore, purely legal in character.” Chafer, Lewis Sperry, Systematic Theology, Dallas Seminary, Dallas Texas, 1976, Vol. IV, pages 225-226. In light of this, it seems that Chafer would argue that words such as these do not apply to the believer in Christ, but to those who will live with Christ during the millennium.
[15] Luke 13:23-30, KJV
[16] Luke 15:31, KJV
[17] Luke 16:9, KJV
[18] Luke 16:25, KJV
[19] Luke 17:24-25, 34-35, KJV
[20] Luke 18:32-34, KJV
[21] Cf. my comments on John 13:26 where we learn that the Deceiver was deceived. When Jesus, in this same context, says, in Mark 10:45: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many,” the disciples evidently did not connect these words with His imminent death; the Messiah promised in the Old Testament could have become a ransom for Israel without dying. Luke tells us that on Jesus final trip to Jerusalem, the disciples “supposed that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear” (Luke 19:11). Obviously, they did not anticipate the Cross.
[22] Luke 19:26-27, KJV
[23] Luke 20:34-36, KJV
[24] Luke 23:43, KJV
[25] This conversation with the thief on the cross appears only in Luke.
[26] Luke 24:6-8, KJV
[27] Luke 24:26-27, KJV. Cf. also Luke 24:45-47