45. God of Salvation

Getting to Know God Meditations:  45. God of Salvation

Mt 1:21   She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Jn 3:17  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Heb 2:1-4  We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Towards the end:  As we come to the end of this series it is perhaps appropriate that we try to sum up some of the key things we have considered as we have walked this particular path. If you asked me why we have the Bible, why it exists even, my answer would be that God has given us a mean of seeing reality in a way that no one or no thing anywhere else in all Creation does. That ‘reality’ explains why we are like we are, how we came to be like we are – indeed, it forces us to face what we are truly like – and it lays out possibilities of what can be, and all of these things are to do with God.

Restating the Problem:  The big picture presented by the Bible reveals the following:

  1. God designed and brought this world into being – it is no accident.
  2. God designed us with free will – necessary to enable us to be human beings with all of the creative potential we have. (we are made in ‘the image of God’ and so each of us can reflect something of Him – goodness, kindness, compassion, creativity – great potential).
  3. From the outset we chose to reject God’s design instructions and as a result we have never fully functioned properly since, i.e. actually every single one of us is dysfunctional – we aren’t living as we were designed to live.
  4. The Bible calls this propensity within each of us, Sin, what I define as self-centred, godlessness that leads to self-destructive unrighteous, seen in such things as pride, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, and wrath (the seven so-called ‘cardinal sins’ of the heart), and the outworking of those, lies, and deceit, violence, abuse etc. etc. We may be creative, compassionate etc., but it doesn’t stop us being self-centred and godless and doesn’t stop us making a mess of life – see the life histories of famous artists, writers, composers etc.
  5. As far as God is concerned He appears at a distance (if He exists) and so we are left to struggle through life using our own limited resources which often run out or fall short (hence so much ‘mental illness’ today).

Restating the Answer: The big picture presented by the Bible reveals the following:

  1. Although mankind ‘fell’ having rejected Him, He nevertheless was still there communicating and reaching out to us.
  2. To enable the world to see this in action, He called Abraham to start a family – Isaac, Jacob – that became the nation of Israel through whom He sought to reveal Himself in the way He provided for them, blessed them, protected and led them; yet they, like their ancestors, constantly turned away from Him despite all the incredible things He did for them, simply revealing even more clearly the fact of the presence of sin in each and every one of us.
  3. Eventually, now about two thousand years ago, He sent His Son from heaven, born as a baby, seen in the life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Through the ministry that Jesus exercised we saw the incredible love of God being manifest as he “went around doing good and healing,” and “accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did … through him.”  
  4. His death by execution on a cross at the hands of the Romans, but incited by the Jewish authorities, was a travesty of justice in human terms but in divine terms was justice being satisfied in respect of every single one of us as the Son of God took our punishment, in our place.
  5. The result of this – and this is the Gospel – is that every one of us can come to God and receive forgiveness for our past dysfunctional, godless lives and receive new power to live new lives from Him, whereby we receive His guidance, His directions, His enabling to live godly, good lives, lives that no longer strive for acceptance because we are accepted by The One who counts, no longer striving for self-centred goals because He who knows best, has things on His heart for each of us so that we may have a sense of purpose, direction and fulfillment than can come from no other source.
  6. Because of these things, death is no longer to be feared for He imparts and conveys eternal life to us so that ‘death’ is simply passing on into the eternity that we have with Him where all limitations on receiving His love and goodness are removed. That is our inheritance.

And So? Dishonesty, that comes from a fearful sense of inadequacy, so often stops us facing what we are really like. Insecurity, not knowing the love of God for us, is what blinds us to the wonder of what He offers to us, and so the work of God towards each one of us is to watch over each of us, looking, watching for a chink in this self-protective deceptive armor, so that His word can penetrate our darkness and shed light which, if we respond, grows and grows and brings conviction that shows us the truth about ourselves and the truth of what He offers.

It is a battle but as we surrender, all we find is that, contrary to the lies we have been fed, He is there for us and His arms of love are open to us. When we surrender our pride, our past and our present perversity and lay it down before Him, He takes it, removes it and replaces it with the most wonderful sense of being loved, accepted, forgiven, cleansed and remade. When that happens it is but the start of an eternal future, the wonder of which will never be fully appreciated this side of death – but we will some sense of it immediately. This is what this series has been all about.

It is possible that you may have only found it near the end – well, catch the wonder and go back when you have the time to see the detail that has been here in the previous 44 studies. It is possible you have been reading as an unbeliever. That can change; it just needs honesty, acceptance of the truth and a surrender to Him, receiving His salvation through Christ, a new life, and all this will happen as you pray. Don’t worry about the words, just utter your heart. For those who have been reading and you are already believers, let the truths we have been laying out, touch your heart afresh with the wonder of it all, and worship Him. Be blessed.

2. The Heart of God

Christmas Threads Meditations: Thread 2: The Heart of God

Prov 8:30,31  I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

(Additional Reading: Prov 8:22-31)

Catching God’s heart: I guess many of us would agree with those famous words from Jn 3: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him,” (Jn3:16,17) but I wonder if familiarity has dulled our understanding of these two verses. It was God’s love that sent His Son into this world. We saw in our first study that the Father sent the Son and we see it again in these two verses, but let me ask you a question that perhaps you’ve never been asked before: how do you think the Son felt about that? In the Godhead the authority is with the Father who instructs the Son and the Spirit, but this instruction is going to have some terrible implications within it  So let’s limit the question a bit to, what do you think Jesus felt about this instruction in respect of us?

God has Feelings?  I take us down this path because I think sometimes we lose all the emotion from the Advent story for I have a feeling that, for many, the emotion associated most with God would be anger, but I don’t believe that is the truth. Yes, God does get angry sometimes but is that all we find in the Godhead? I find our starter verses from Proverbs amazing. You really need to read verses 22 to 31 of Proverbs 8 to catch the full import of it. Technically it is ‘wisdom personified’ speaking but when you consider the Godhead, it has to be the Son who the creeds tell us was ‘begotten of the Father’ (and begotten simply means ‘comes out of’) who, from verse 27 on indicates that he was there alongside the Father creating the world.

It’s a lovely picture which corresponds perfectly to Jn 1:3 and Heb 1:2 and Col 1:16. But see what the Son says: “I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence.” (v.30) Delight, joy, pleasure, describe how the Son felt working alongside the Father. But then, even more wonderfully, “rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (v.31)  The son was blessed by the world they were bringing into being – and blessed by us human beings! Yes, he had this same joy and pleasure in us that he had in the world and in his Father. That is incredible! That’s how it was before the Fall.

Yes but we fell!  Yes, I can hear the negative put-down in this truth, but how do you think God felt about the Fall? Angry, yes, but anything else? Well a while later, when things start going seriously wrong in the world we read, “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Gen 6:6) The Message paraphrase puts it, God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart.”  This is one of those times when God appears, not only as the One who stands outside time and sees everything from beginning to end, but also as the One who is there in time experiencing it as if for the first time. If it had been us, we might have said, “Oh why did I ever create this world when I see what a mess it gets into?” and our hearts would be broken.

Think Again: We often come across ‘the joy of the Lord’ in Scripture but to see more of God’s emotions we simply need to watch Jesus outside Lazarus’s tomb: When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (Jn 11:33-36) The original Greek seems to suggest that in Jesus’ weeping there was also a feeling of anger as well as anguish, anger for the effect of sin, both in bringing about Lazarus’s death and the impact it had on the family, as well as what he no doubt felt for Lazarus himself. God who is troubled, God who anguishes – over us! This is the love of Jn 3:16 that instinctively enabled the Godhead to plan Advent even before they uttered a word to create the world.

Time to Pray – Thanks: “Lord, I catch but a bit of what your word seems to reveal about how you feel about us.  Father, thank you that you love us, and sent Jesus to die for us. Thank you that it is your love that energizes you to plan all of this to save us. Thank you so much. Amen.”

Prayer Time – Requests: “Lord, please forgive us that so often we never bother to try to catch your heart or understand how you feel. Lord, please open my heart, fill my heart with the truth, touch my heart with the wonder of the emotions you feel that are the guiding and motivating force behind all the Nativity accounts. Please help me see it this year like I’ve never seen it before. Amen.”

Introduction to Christmas Threads

Christmas Threads Meditations: Introduction to Christmas Threads

Gal 4:4  when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman

Something More? Christmas approaches – again! I must confess that I have a ‘thing’ about Christmas and for that reason, (apart from trying to fight back the glitz and let the real light shine through) I pause at this time of year and pray, “Lord, please allow me to see afresh the wonder of what you have done.”  As I have been praying I have had a sense of something different. The idea of threads that make up a tapestry came to mind. Can we together push back the glitz and see afresh the wonder of the thing Matthew and Luke bring to us in their early chapters?

About Time: So by way of introduction, for meditation purposes, may I snatch out of context the apostle Paul’s words in Galatians, “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman,” because they seem to summarize or encapsulate just what this is all about. The Message version starts it, “when the time arrived that was set by God the Father.” Jesus came at a time that was set by God, i.e.  God had an agenda and so Jesus’ coming was not some random, haphazard event that just happened to pop up in history two thousand years ago but was a preplanned mega-event on the divine calendar.

The NIV’s, “when the set time had fully come,” has three interesting words. First note, the ‘set time’, suggesting the established or exact or precise time, a fully considered or worked out time. Again, taking my comment above about God’s ‘agenda’, I believe there is a real sense in the Old Testament (and New) that God had specific things He wanted to happen before He ‘sent’ His Son. The other word, ‘fully’, suggests completion or worked through to a designed end. Everything about this screams of careful planning on God’s part.

In the latter half of that verse note three words: “God sent his Son, born of a woman.”  The thee key and arguably most significant players in the Nativity story are God, His Son, and the young woman Mary. How we take some of these things for granted! The truth is that a figure from elsewhere could just be dropped into the present. He needn’t have gone through the trauma of baby and childhood and the accompanying threats.  Yet that is how God chose to enter the world we know, and we’ll return to this later because, again, I think there are things here we take for granted.

I referred earlier to the Nativity as ‘a preplanned mega-event on the divine calendar’ so as we run up to this ‘mega-event’ this year, would you like to embark on a journey with me, a journey made up of a number of threads that go to make an incredible tapestry, hopefully to the glory of God.

Prayer Time – Thanking: Our starting point in prayer must be thanks: “Lord Jesus thank you that you came to this earth in human form. Father, thank you that you sent Jesus at a very precise time to reveal you to us and to die for us. Thank you that you chose to achieve this using a human body, ‘born of a woman’; you drew that close to our human experience in your desire to win our hearts. Thank you so much. Amen.”

Prayer Time – Asking: But there always need to be requests, for the wise realize they always need God’s help, so can we pray together, “Lord as we come to your word to reflect again on the wonder of this time that we call Christmas,  may we snatch some words from the psalmist and ask of you, ‘Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things’, (Psa 119:19) not so much from your law as from the testimony of your word. Deliver us from the familiarity with this story and enable us to catch again the wonder of it, that our hearts may truly be moved to worship. Amen!”

9. God of Purpose: Jesus

Getting to Know God Meditations:  9. God of Purpose: Jesus

Jn 1:1-3,   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Acts 2:22-24   Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,  put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead

New Seekers or Old Believers?  Because Jesus Christ is such a significant and crucial figure in human history – and in the life of Israel – and because it is being said that the present younger generation is the first biblicaly illiterate generation, it would be wise to identify who we are talking about. But how to do that for seeker and those of you who are believers of long-standing? Well may I simply say what I am going to do here is lay out summary notes of what the Bible teaches about Jesus.

For the new seeker this simply says the Bible says a great deal about him; he is no obscure figure in misty history. There are also limited references to him as an historical figure in other writings outside the Bible but the Bible is full of details about him and therefore acts as our primary source. For long-term believers, may these notes simply act as reminders and maybe a challenge to update and enlarge your knowledge. For those who wish to pursue these things in much greater detail you will find much detail in an earlier series of 62 studies I wrote entitled ‘Focus on Christ’.

Big Pictures: The above two sets of starter verses show us something of the diversity of the descriptions that are found in the New Testament about Jesus. The first three Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – were written within a relatively few years after Jesus’ time on the earth. John was written a number of decades later after he had had time to mull over all the things he had seen and heard in those three most incredible years of his life and was writing, probably from Ephesus where he was still a church elder and probably one of the only remaining original twelve apostles who traveled with Jesus.

John writes for a Greek-thinking dominated world and so he uses this big philosophical language that would be  understood by them. Jesus, he says, is the Word, (Gk. Logos meaning focus of all life, the meaning behind everything). Meanwhile the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, days after Jesus has ascended, declares under the anointing of the Holy Spirit who fell on the believers that day, that Jesus was a man but enabled to do the miraculous by God, for which he was opposed by the authorities, put to death on a cross but rose from the dead. A short, sharp, non-philosophical testimony. This record was written only a relatively few years after the event and the believers struggled with the concept that this man was God. It took John, and also Paul as he listened more, to understand that this was God incarnate, God with us, the ‘Emmanuel’ of Isaiah prophecies.

The Prophesied One:  We said in a previous study that there are over 300 prophecies about a coming Messiah, descriptions noted by the Jewish scholars through the centuries, that fitted Jesus perfectly and, it should be said, never seen in any other figure. Thus the Jews expected One to come who would be:

A prophet like Moses (Deut 18:18), a ruling conqueror (Balaam’s prophecy) (Num 24:17-19), a shepherd (Ezek 34:23), a prince (Ezek 37:25), a ruler from Judah (Gen 49:10), the Seed of David with an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam 7:12-), one bringing the presence of God with him (Isa 7:14), a mighty ruler (Isa 9:6-7), a Son of man coming with the clouds to rule (Dan 7:13,14), God’s servant  (Isa 42:1-/49:1-/50:4-/52:13-).

Summarizing this we might say that in the OT the Jews saw the coming One as a compilation of:   Son of David, a great ruler, a prophetic messiah, a priestly messiah, a son of man (human in form), and a  suffering servant.

Past, Present and Future descriptions: to fill out this summary overview we might summarize his being and activity as shown in the Bible as follows:

  1. Past History: he came from heaven, lived on earth, taught widely, healed the sick & raised the dead, performed a variety of miracles, cast out demons, was arrested, falsely tried & crucified, took our sins on the Cross, rose from the dead and taught his followers for a number of weeks and then ascended into heaven.
  2. Present Experience:he draws people to God, heals & delivers, moves in affairs of world to bring about God’s purposes, prepares the church for his second coming.
  3. Future Activity: he will return to earth, being seen by every person, will take his followers to be with him, will vanquish the enemy (all evil), will judge every person.

Greater Content: For those who would like a little more detail here, here are some of those things slightly expanded:

  1. Jesus left his glorious position in heaven to come to earth (Jn 17:5 / Jn 6:38).  Jesus didn’t just come into being when he was born on earth; he had existed throughout eternity with the Father in heaven.
  2. He put aside the glory he had previously in heaven and lived in human frailty (Phil 2:7). In heaven he had been the glorious Son of God in full splendour. He put aside all that to come down to earth and wear a human body.
  3. He was tempted in EVERY way we are, but he DIDN’T give way to sin (Heb 4:15).  Jesus lived an ordinary human life with the same sort of human body, had human emotions, and lived among the same sort of people, and therefore faced the same temptations we face in our lives; he understands us! Yet he didn’t succumb to any temptation and didn’t sin.
  4. He came in perfect obedience to his Father in heaven (Heb 10:7 / Jn 5:19). Despite the pressures of living in a human body, at all times he sought the wishes of the Father in heaven and did all he was told to do, even though that was sometimes incredibly difficult.  His rule was “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39).
  5. He allowed the Holy Spirit to minister through him to heal the sick, deliver the demonized, raise the dead, and generally counter the works of Satan on earth. (Lk 4:18,19 / Mt 11:4,5). His life was one of selfless giving, despite frequent tiredness and constant demands of people on him, he poured out God’s love in power.
  6. He was plotted against and falsely tried. (Acts 4:27 / Isa 53:3,8 / Acts 2:23)  Because of his total goodness, the self-centred, godless and unrighteous attitudes of those who should have known better, made them vulnerable to the promptings of the enemy and they rose up against him.
  7. He was beaten, tortured and crucified by Satan’s agents and was railed against by the demons hordes but never responded wrongly (Mt 27:26-30 / Psa 22:12,16 – prophetic insight into the mind of the crucified One)  Every violent expression of sin was turned upon him and he received it all in his body. Every violent expression in the spiritual realms was turned upon him and he received it in his spirit.
  8. He took our sin upon himself on the Cross. (2 Cor 5:21 / 1 Pet 2:24 / Isa 53:12)  As he hung on the Cross, it was as if all your individual sins, deserving punishment, were laid on Jesus, as if to say, “Here are the reasons you are hanging here taking this punishment.”  In that sense it was, in God’s eyes in eternity, as if they were transferred from you to him.
  9. He rose from the dead as proof of who he was (Acts 2:24 / Acts 17:31).  The resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate proof that he was who he said he was.
  10. He ascended into heaven to rule at his Father’s right hand. (1 Pet 3:22 / 1 Cor 15:25 / Eph 1:20-22 / Psa 110:1) See also the following for Jesus seated with the Father: Mk 16:19, Acts 2:33, 5:31, 7:55, Rom 8:34, Phil 2:9, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3, 8:1, 12:2. See also the following for Jesus ruling: Eph 1:22, Heb 2:8
  11. He is now IN THE PROCESS of putting everything in subjection under his feet (1 Cor 15: 24,25  / Eph 1:19-22 / Eph 2:6,7).  As he reigns at the Father’s right hand, Jesus works out the Father’s will on earth, continuing to do the things he started doing, but now through his church. This means Jesus reigns or rules or brings the Father’s will through the church, which is a gradual process.
  12. That process will be completed when he comes as conquering king (Rev 19:11-17 / 1 Thess 4:16,17 / Mt 24:27,30,31, 1 Cor 15:24-26)  The end is quite clear: Jesus will return in glory and all will see him coming. At that point, we who are on earth will be caught up to him. He will then deal with his enemies once and for all.

And So? Whether you believe this or not, this is the clear and specific teaching about Jesus Christ as seen in the Bible. We now need to move on and see how all of this is designed to impact the people we can become, i.e. all about our behaviour.

Snapshots: Day 24

Snapshots: Day 24

The Snapshot: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac.” You are a God like all the other gods who demand child sacrifice? No I am not. Then why do you want me to kill Isaac? I don’t. But you said….  I simply said take him. But you said sacrifice him? I want you to be willing to give him up. But isn’t that the same as killing him? No, I simply want you to learn to trust me. And you will raise him from the dead? If that’s how you want to see it. Very well, here he is. Stop. But you said…. No, I said learn to trust me with those most precious to you. Then you don’t want me to kill him? Of course not, I said that. But…. Don’t you realize I love him more than you do? But…. Hold all my gifts to you lightly, don’t make them more than me, otherwise you will cheapen them. What?

Further Consideration: Our problem, so often, is that we don’t realize how much God loves us and our loved ones. A good number of years ago, when our three children were young (they are now in their late thirties) my wife had an accident. I will spare her blushes by not telling you what happened but she was bleeding – badly. We put a towel against the cut and rushed her to hospital. In the Accident and Emergency dept they instantly saw there was a big problem and immediately started work on her while I was asked to wait outside. Their problem was that they could not stop her bleeding. She had cut an artery and nothing they could do would stop it.

In a semi-unconscious state she heard their desperate urgency and realized she could be dying. Lying there while they sought to stop the bleeding she prayed and said, “But Lord, what about my three children, who will look after them?” (I could have felt offended about this except that I was passed it at that point and anyway didn’t know until afterwards what she had prayed). But as she prayed, asking for help, she very clearly heard the Lord who said, “Don’t you realize that I love them and care for them even more than you do?” And that was it. The bleeding stopped, crisis over, but a changed wife.

God did NOT want Isaac dead; He just wanted Abraham (and us) to learn something. At the end of it, Abraham named the place, “The Lord will provide.” (Gen 22:14) Here’s the thing, Mount Moriah where this happened (v.2) is according to 2 Chron 3:1, Jerusalem, the vicinity of Calvary where another son was sacrificed – for you and me. God doesn’t want your death or mine, Jesus has already given himself in our place, to carry our sin, so that we can carry on living – for ever! Some are revolted by the picture of Jesus dying for them but it is only pride that keeps us from facing our need and our hopelessness and then, as a drowning person grabbing a straw, we accept the Cross.

Snapshots: Day 2

Snapshots of the Bible Story: Day 2

The Snapshot: “In the beginning… God …. was the word…”: (Gen 1 & Jn 1) In the beginning was The Thought and the Thought was One, independent, reliant upon no one, and the Thought expressed itself as a word and the word was one with the Thought, one Spirit, one essence, coming out of it, begotten of it, and the Thought and the Word were perfectly one and because they understood each other, the Word uttered, “My Father,” and  the Thought uttered, “My Son,” and together they existed in perfect unity, perfect harmony, perfect oneness and yet unique, one who existed always, and one who was begotten out of the eternity.  One.  Wonder and marvel.

Further Consideration:  I have tried to convey a truth using the words ‘Thought’ and ‘Word’. Now the Bible doesn’t describe God as a Thought but it does describe the Son of God as ‘word’. I hesitate to put an article before ‘word’ because ‘a’ is imprecise. However, the apostle John does describe him as ‘the word’ (Jn 1:1,14 & 1 Jn 1:1), speaking into the Greek culture of his day for which the Greek word for ‘word’, ‘logos’, was taken to mean ‘plan, reason or purpose behind all things’.

But I have used the word ‘Thought’ of God to capture the sense of distinct existence, distinct from inert material, to describe a sentient being, one who is responsive, emotional, perceptive, being capable of rational thought, consideration and expression. In Day 1 we observed the revelation of the Bible showing Him to be all-powerful, all-knowing etc. but that could be said of Terry Pratchett’s giant tortoise weaving through space carrying all on his back, but the God of the Bible is infinitely greater than this, He has a mind that is rational and so my previous definition of ‘spirit’ as ‘power or energy with personality’ equally underplays the reality of who He is. If He was not spirit but material then we might describe Him with a ‘brain’ billions of times greater than anything we can conceive.

But then, perhaps for our benefit, perhaps to convey something more of Himself to us, the Bible conveys the idea of the Godhead, a God who expresses Himself in three forms, and the second form is as a ‘Son’ begotten of (as the Creeds put it – meaning simply ‘brought out of’) God who then, as the two exist distinctly but one, is considered as ‘Father’. There is communication. In a mind there are ‘thoughts’. Now consider two ‘thoughts’ that having come into being, remain as two separate distinct thoughts. We move forward.  Marvel and worship.

40. The Salvation Process

Short Meditations in John 6:  40. The Salvation Process

Jn 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”  

Hell or annihilation (depending on what you believe) is the ultimate fear when death is faced – what comes next? One of the things about the whole record of the Bible is this looking towards ‘something next’ after death, and although there are in the Gospels warning against a fiery destruction for unbelievers (e.g. Mt 3:10,12, 5:22, 7:19, 13:40, 18:8,9, 25:41) there are also many encouragements about eternal life (e.g. Jn 3:15,16,36, 4:14,36, 5:24, 6:27,40,47,54,68, 10:28, 12:25,50, 17:2,3). This ‘eternal life’ was often expressed in the terms of ‘being raised up at the last day’ (see also 5:28,29) and thus we now find in v.39,40,44,54 – this reference that Jesus will “raise them up at the last day” i.e. four times in this chapter to make the point.

But this point is, in the light of the complete verse, the last part of a process that takes place, and has to take place, with every fallen sinner who wishes to avoid the destructions warned against above.  The start of this ‘process’ (an ongoing action with a number of elements) is, for the fallen sinner (all of us) turning to Jesus. It is seen in this verse as two stages: a) looking on the Son and b) believing in him. We can see those two stages so clearly in people coming to the Lord.

Initially most are very largely ignorant of Jesus but then as the individual has their attention drawn to the Gospels which they read, or are told about, they become aware of Jesus in a new way. Believing in him really should have three aspects although, as we’ve said before, they often only filter into our consciousness in stages. They are that a) he is the unique Son of God, God in the flesh, b) he has come to be Saviour of the world, and also c) he is Lord.

We must never see our salvation in mechanical terms, one thing automatically following another. The promise of eternal life is given to the new believer and the indwelling Holy Spirit (who is eternal) is the means of our lives being carried on after death and into eternity. It is because of the work of Christ on the Cross that this becomes possible and so it is Christ (and his Spirt, the Holy Spirit) who will raise us up to be with him in eternity. The reference to “at the last day” which appears in these verses three times, we so often think of as either Jesus’ second coming (see Rev 19:11-) or the final judgment day (Rev 20:11-) but it could also very simply mean the last day of our physical lives. Applying Scripture to this part of our existence is not easy, suffice it to say we are promised a new raised up life that Jesus will enable to happen after our deaths. Hallelujah!