“This is eternal life: that [we] may know You, the only true God, and the One You send — Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) I’m always a bit bewildered that people don’t seem to realize they are in hell. Obviously some people are extremely aware of being in hell — their circumstances make their condition painfully obvious. For others, however, this earth has many pleasures — its natural beauty is one of its best attributes. Of course, we owe that entirely to the Creator. But, after the fall into sin by Adam and Eve, we — in our natural state — also find ourselves in trapped in hell. Remember the angels usher us out of the garden of Eden and bare the way back.
Jesus reveals God to us. As we accept Him as God — that is, Lord and Savior, Healer and Coming King — we are ushered out of hell and into His kingdom. Because we remain on this earth for a time, we may be very aware of the trappings of hell around us. But, we are not of this world. We are foreigners, waiting for our full inheritance, our heavenly country, as the author of Hebrews writes.
Knowing God is eternal life.
Jesus promises that His sheep listen to His voice and follow after Him because He knows them. He says that he “gives them eternal life and they never perish; no one [is able to] snatch them from [His] care.” God the Father who is “greater than all” gives Jesus the sheep “and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s care.” Then Jesus reminds us that He and His Father are One.
Jesus tells the Jews to believe Him because His deeds show that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. (John 10:37-38) The author of Hebrews tells us that “faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Our reality is that our salvation is secure — God is more powerful than anything in the universe, and He is able to sustain us. Paul writes that he is convinced that “nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths — nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Jesus promises the same blessed assurance. Therefore, the hymn: “This is my story; this is my song — praising my Savior all the day long. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story; this is my song!”
Paul is redundant, quite often. He appears to be trying as hard as he can to make the churches understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. He writes, “For sin pays a wage, and the wage is death, but God gives freely, and His gift is eternal life, in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul contrasts an earned wage with a free gift; he contrasts sin and death with eternal life and union with Christ. The benefit of the free gift, says Paul, is holiness. In contrast, the benefit of sin is death.
Paul says this is a matter of slavery: either slavery to sin or slavery to righteousness. “You used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19,NIV)
Paul writes of being “dead to the law through the body of Christ.” (Romans 7:4,NIV) “By dying to what once bound us, we are released from the law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6,NIV)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” concludes Paul. He is trying again to make the church understand the simple gospel of Christ; that the free gift of God is salvation from sin, the development of righteousness leading to holiness and eternal life.
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.”
Most importantly, “the one who has the Son has life.” (1 John 5:12) Secondly, “this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Fear is incompatible with love — if we are loved by God, what have we to fear?
“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true One. We are in the true One — that is, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
Fear is incompatible with eternal life — if we are “in the true One”, what have we to fear?
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33)
Fear is incompatible with the justification of God — if God has given us His Son, what have we to fear?
“As we have worn the likeness of the man made of dust, so we shall wear the likeness of the heavenly man.”
“The man made of dust is the pattern of all men of dust, and the heavenly man is the pattern of all the heavenly.” (1 Corinthians 15:48) “What is sown in the earth as a perishable thing is raised imperishable. Sown in humiliation, it is raised in glory; sown in weakness, it is raised in power; sown as an animal body, it is raised as a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)
Paul writes to reassure his readers that the resurrection has not yet occurred but that it will. He tells us that “flesh and blood can never possess the kingdom of God, and the perishable cannot possess immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:50) For this reason, “this perishable being must be clothed with the imperishable, and what is mortal must be clothed with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53)
Paul says to us, “If it is for this life only that Christ gives us hope, we of all men are most to be pitied. But the truth is, Christ is raised to life — the firstfruits of the harvest of the dead. For since it is a man who brings death into the world, a man also brings resurrection from the dead. As in Adam all men die, so in Christ all will be brought to life.” (1 Corinthians 15:19-23)
“And when our mortality has been clothed with immortality, then the saying of Scripture will come true: ‘Death is swallowed up; victory is won!’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
“The spiritual is not first, but the natural, then the spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 15: 46) Paul writes of the sequence of the defeat of the last enemy, death. We are not born incorruptible; rather we are born “in corruption.” (1 Corinthians 15: 42)
In the sequence in which death is defeated, first comes Adam, then comes Jesus. In other words, writes Paul, first we “bear the image of the man made of dust” but later we “also bear the image of the heavenly man.” (1 Corinthians 15: 49)
“For this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15: 53) When this happens, says Paul, then “death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15: 54)
Obviously death exists in the here and now. Anyone who claims that death is already swallowed up in victory has missed the sequence. Jesus defeats death in His body so that one day He will clothe us with immortality in a resurrected body, a heavenly body like His. At that time, death will be defeated and we will own our victory.