Eternal Hope – Part 39

Eternal Hope – Part 39

November 2010

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 39


In the last three issues of the Dear Co-laborer letter I sought to address my concerns regarding the direction professing Christians have taken in regard to the expectations of Christ. Before continuing with the question of eternal hope in the Old Testament, allow me to give a brief summary of where we had been prior to this digression.

With the theme of eternal hope playing such a significant part in the lives of New Testament believers, I find it startling to discover that we have no record of God giving the individual an eternal hope in the Old Testament. We do see a gradual shift from the temporal to the eternal; the nation to the individual; and action to motive, particularly as we move to the exilic and post-exilic prophets. For example, God says through Daniel, “Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence.”[1] This promise of the resurrection was never given to any particular individual, however.

In the Synoptics, although Jesus ministered to the masses through acts of healing, most of His dialogue was either with the Scribes, Pharisees, or Sadducees – or with His disciples. In either case, His words are void of grace; they deal with God’s rejection and judgment. Only when we come to John’s gospel do we encounter a different tone. Most of the material in John’s gospel cannot be found in the other three gospels; particularly in John Jesus talks about election. Because election and grace are the head and tail of the same coin, you also see in John an emphasis on grace not found in the Synoptics. For example, Jesus says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”[2] The believer finds his security in the fact that God chose him rather than vice versa.

Reflections on the Gospel of John

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[3] These words of John the Baptist are the clearest explanation of Jesus mission that I can find in any of the gospels.[4]

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven… That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”[5] Jesus tells Nicodemus that to see (v. 3) and enter (v. 5) the kingdom of God,[6] he must be born again. The Savior eliminates all doubt as to what He means when He introduces us to the concept of eternal life.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”[7] This appears to be the continuation of John the Baptist’s declaration concerning Jesus. By way of contrast, Jesus promises the woman at Jacob’s well, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”[8] Jesus contrasts the water He offers with that which one drinks from Jacob’s well.

“And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”[9] When the disciples meet Jesus at Jacob’s well, He tells them it is a time for reaping. The one who preaches the gospel receives an “eternal wage;” what you sow and reap in this life, when properly done, accrues eternal benefit.

“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son… 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. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live… Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”[10] Jesus rebukes the religious leaders in Jerusalem because they condemned Him for healing on the Sabbath. You receive a mixed message from Jesus’ words in this passage: On the one hand He says, “The Son quickeneth… He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life,” but later He says, “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” The “good” must refer to “believe” and “evil” to unbelief.[11]

“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed… And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day…[12] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life… I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever… Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day… he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”[13] Jesus says this in His talk on the Bread of Life; we labor for the eternal, not the temporal, but we have everlasting life in the first place because we believe.[14] Believing means partaking of Christ, the Bread of Life.

“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”[15] Peter understands that eternal life can only be found in the words of Christ.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”[16] Earlier we saw that the resurrection is a present reality: “Whosoever liveth and believeth on me, shall never die.”[17] Those who have eternal life have been resurrected in the sense that it is a fait accompli.

At the close of Jesus’ message on the Good Shepherd, He makes this claim: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father… My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”[18] Although Jesus doesn’t specifically mention eternal life in the earlier verses, He makes Himself clear later when the Jews challenged Him.

At the resurrection of Lazarus Jesus speaks to his sister: John 11:24-26: “Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”[19] Although Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, this was not to eternal life; Lazarus had to physically die once again.

When Jesus rebukes Judas for criticizing Mary, He makes reference to His death: “Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.”[20] I don’t find in John’s gospel Jesus seeking to prepare the disciples for His death, as found in the Synoptics.

Jesus speaks these words after His triumphal entry, before celebrating the Passover Feast with His disciples: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal… For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting.”[21] Evidently, even in John’s gospel, where he emphasizes grace, believing is not enough; you must “hate” your life in this world in order to obtain eternal life.

“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.”[22] In this, John’s prologue to the Upper Room Discourse, we see the hope of eternal life in the certainty of Jesus regarding His fate.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also… Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”[23] In these words of comfort spoken by Jesus, the disciples gain an assurance of spending eternity with Him. “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.”[24] Throughout these closing words of Jesus’ discourse, He talks about the Holy Spirit replacing Him when He goes to the Father. In all of this material, an eternal hope is implied.

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”[25] In this, His high priestly prayer, Jesus defines eternal life: knowing God. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee[26]… Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.”[27] Among the things for which Jesus prays is that His “own” join Him in an eternity with God.

“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”[28] When Jesus made this statement to Pilate, He implied that His kingdom is heaven; He did not come to rule over the institutions of man.

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”[29] These words Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene, the first, according to John’s gospel, to see the resurrected Christ.

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”[30] John tells us that the purpose of his gospel is that people “might have life through his name,” that is, an eternal hope.

Grateful for His life,


[1] Daniel 12:2, JPS
[2] John 15:16, KJV
[3] John 1:29, KJV
[4] In verse 36 John again says, “Behold the lamb of God,” but does not mention His taking away the sin of the world.
[5] John 3:13, 15-16, KJV
[6] Reference to the kingdom appears three times in John’s gospel: John 3:3, 5, 18:36. It seems to me that in all three references, the kingdom is both future and spiritual.
[7] John 3:36, KJV
[8] John 4:14, KJV
[9] John 4:36, KJV
[10] John 5:21-22, 24-25, 28-29, KJV
[11] Cf. John 6:29 where Jesus says that the work of God is believing.
[12] A person gains eternal life the moment he receives Christ (cf. John 17:3). He will never be more alive spiritual than at that moment. The only dying he has left is that of the body. Thus, Jesus ties the resurrection to eternal life; the one flows from the other. In this sense, the resurrection is a present reality:
[13] John 6, 27, 40, 47, 51, 54, 58 KJV
[14] Note how John’s gospel contrasts with the Synoptics: Believe is the condition for salvation in John rather than good works as frequently found in the Synoptics; John emphasizes grace to a degree not found in the Synoptics. Note also that in John you find an emphasis on election not found in the other gospels. Cf. e.g., John 6:44, 10:28-29, and 15:16. Jesus offers it, as illustrated by the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. In John our Lord Jesus takes the initiative, more often than not (as seen by Jesus going to the Pool of Bethesda in John 5), while in the Synoptics, people come to Jesus for help. Regarding prayer: you find the Synoptic writers encouraging perseverance in prayer in a way you don’t in John. In all of this, in the Synoptics it is up to you; in John it is up to God.
[15] John 6:68, KJV
[16] John 8:51, KJV
[17] John 6:40, KJV
[18] John 10:17-18, 27-28, KJV
[19] John 11:24-26, KJV
[20] John 12:7, KJV
[21] John 12:25, 49-50, KJV
[22] John 13:3, KJV
[23] John 14: 2-3, 19, KJV
[24] John 16:28, KJV
[25] John 17:3, KJV
[26] Cf. also verse 13
[27] John 17:11, 24, KJV
[28] John 18:36, KJV
[29] John 20:17, KJV
[30] John 20:31, KJV