The Big IF: Death

The Big IF: Death

The Big IF: Death.

Sometimes our eyes just skip over small words in Scripture when we are reading in a hurry. In other words, if we’re not careful, if we find ourselves skimming the Bible, we will miss what might be the most important word in our relationship with God. We might be blind to a little word that quite possibly is central to our discipleship of Jesus. The word is “IF.” If is not a word to skip over, because it is often followed by a “Then.” Jesus makes many promises in the Gospels, and many of them have an “If” attached. If you do this, then I will do that, says Jesus. He seems to offer many conditional promises, what seem to be promises with strings attached. Conditional promises highlight the fact that we need to do our part in our relationship with Christ. We need to accept our responsibility as we cooperate with Him. We are active participants in our walk with the Lord. God offers us unconditional love, but we do have obligations if we expect to receive what He has promised. When we do our part, we are not earning salvation. We instead are putting forth effort as we live into our life of deliverance. We are doing our part in order to receive God’s promises. Obedience to Christ often translates into actively fulfilling on the “IF” so that God can fulfill the “Then.” This is another way we are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and do for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13).

“Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death.” (John 8:51).

Jesus here is not declaring that His followers will never have to die physically, as if they would be just transported without literally dying. He is revealing that His followers will never die spiritually. Jesus is referring here to what is later termed “the second death” in John’s Apocalypse (Rev. 2:11, 20:6, 21:8). He hinted at this earlier in John 5:24Most assuredly I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in me who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  And Jesus unpacked what he means later in John 11:25“I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe it?” 

The plain and amazing fact is that Jesus has promised eternal life, and that the second death, the judgment of eternal separation from God, will not affect those who believe in Christ. Christians need not fear the second death after the first general resurrection. They will not have to experience the final fate of those who have categorically rejected God in their lives. Eternal union with God is promised to those who keep His word, who live in accordance with Christ’s message, who earnestly observe His teachings, and who trust in Him with their very lives. The second death, the spiritual death sentence, will not touch believers who are in Christ.

“And this is the promise that He has promised us – Eternal life.” (1 John 2:25).

The Father Promised Eternal Life. Scripture has made it clear that God desires that we have eternal life. In fact, St. Paul told Titus that God has promised eternal life “before the beginning of time.” (Titus 1:2). Creator God had desired eternal life for mankind when He made them in His image, but sin entered the world and derailed those plans. Sin brings death, and that was the end of eternal life for humanity. But God brought forth a Savior, His very own Son, who would bring eternal life to those who believed in Him. This Savior changed the destiny of mankind. And so now, “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3). God’s desire for mankind to have eternal life is so strong that out of love, He gave the world His Son, so that instead of perishing in sin, mankind would have the hope of eternal life (John 3:16). “For the wages which sin pay us is death, but the lavish gift of God is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

The Son Promised Eternal Life. Jesus came into the world to forgive sins and to offer eternal life to believers in Him. So promising eternal life was second nature to Him. He promised eternal life to all of those who are fully committed to Him (John 18:30). And eternal life was declared in His name from Peter (John 6:68), to John the Baptist (John 3:36), to John the Apostle (1 John 5:13). Even in a quiet setting with the woman at the well, He dramatically proclaimed that He was the fulfillment of all those prophecies about the fountain of life, “The water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14). And as the Lord of the Harvest, Jesus said that those who spread the Word of Jesus will reap a spiritual harvest of souls for eternal life (John 4:37). Jesus summed things up to Nicodemus in their nighttime chat… “The Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).

The Son IS Eternal Life. Jesus wasn’t just the Author of life. He wasn’t merely the Giver of life. He wasn’t just full of life, distributing life wherever He went. All of that is true. But the more basic fact about Jesus is that He embodied life, He was Life-in-the-flesh. He didn’t just offer eternal life… Jesus literally was and is Eternal Life. Christ’s middle name was Eternal Life. If the quality of eternal life became a person, that Person is Jesus. How many different ways can He put it? “I AM the Bread of Life.’ (John 6:35); “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:28); “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6). Jesus doesn’t merely have life. He is life. “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and He is eternal life.” (John 5:20).

Eternal Life Starts With Faith. We don’t have to wait for eternal life to start. Eternal life does not get delayed until we die. Eternal life begins the moment we believe in Jesus. Life everlasting has already begun in Him. Jesus is the only eternal Being. Eternal life starts with Him. Either we follow Jesus and live into eternal life with Him now, or we don’t get eternal life at all, bountiful life, fulfilling life, satisfying life, expanding life, overflowing life, eternal life. When we contain Christ through His Spirit, we contain eternal life, right now.

The Word, which gives life! He existed from the beginning.

We have heard Him, we have seen Him with our eyes,

We have contemplated Him, we have touched Him with our hands!

The Life appeared, and we have seen it.

We are testifying to it and announcing it to you – Eternal life!

(1 John 1:1-2, CJB version).