The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 233)
 

Whoever Believes in Jesus has Eternal LifeFaith in Action
Gospel


The Gospel is wonderful; it is simple enough for a young child to understand, yet so profound that we will never plumb its depths fully. However, many ignore the Gospel because they do not realise the deadly danger they are in.

Imagine that all the people in the world are on a giant ship sailing in a vast ocean. The ship continues moving on but is slowly sinking because of a serious structural defect. Only a miracle can save the passengers, but many do not even believe that the ship is sinking. The truth is that we are like the passengers on a sinking ship, not realising the danger and destined to perish if there is no miraculous rescue.

God has executed His rescue plan as proclaimed in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

In this article we shall examine this verse through four questions.

What danger is the world facing?
The world is in danger of “perishing”, which is the opposite of eternal life. Out of the world of sinners, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (v.16b). One who believes in the Son has eternal life; one who does not believe will perish. Further clarification is found in John 3:18, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The word “condemned” is a legal term; it refers to being found guilty and sentenced to death in a court. The human race is facing a death sentence and the death is eternal, a direct opposite to eternal life.

How did the world come to this tragic state? John 3:19 answers, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Darkness is the opposite of light. God is light, but the people love the darkness.

Why? Because every person is born a sinner with a sinful nature. All are under the curse of sin ever since the fall of our first parent Adam, as described in Genesis 3. The whole creation – men, animals, nature – is groaning and suffering until now (Rom 8:22).

The evidence of sin is everywhere – disease, pain, fear, disharmony and wars, environmental pollution, decay and death. The sinfulness of men is universal, across time and place.

The curse of sin does not come from an impersonal force like “karma” as some people call it. Scripture is clear that the curse is the result of the judgment of a living God, as stated in v.19. Furthermore, John 3:36 states, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” We remain in the wrath of God when we do not trust the Son of God.

God, because of His love, wants to rescue us from His wrath. You may ask, “Why can’t God just love us and not judge us?” Would you want to live in a society where crimes are not punished? We would recoil from living under such lawlessness.

God, being holy and righteous, has to punish sin. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”. God’s wrath is perfectly righteous; there is nothing more terrifying than to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31). A healthy fear of the Lord is true wisdom (Prov 9:10) and because He is our Creator, He has the right to hold us accountable to Himself.

Does “perish” mean extinction into nothing? No, eternal death is “eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (2 Thess 1:9). The absence of God means the absence of love (for God is love, 1 Jn 4:8), joy (for God is the source of joy, Matt 25:23), peace (for God brings peace, Eph 2:14). In fact, the absence of God is the absence of all goodness.

The Bible uses the word “hell” to refer to the place in the afterlife for people who love the darkness. What is hell like? None of us living now has experienced it, and I pray that you will never experience it. Some people may joke about a preference for hell rather than heaven, thinking they would enjoy it because their friends would be there having parties together. Would they?

Our Lord Jesus is very compassionate to the lost, yet He teaches much about hell. He describes hell as outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, great sorrow and pain (Matt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). He also says that it is a place of unquenchable fire (Mk 9:43) and fire is that which causes unspeakable pain. To “perish” is not annihilation, but to suffer in hell eternally and the Son of God came into the world to save us from hell.

Why does God want to save the world?
Is it because man is good and lovable? Far from it; man is sinful and sin is detestable to God. Is it because man is indispensable to God? No, God has always been self-sufficient in Himself. He does not need man, but man needs God (Acts 17:25).

John 3:16 reveals the reason – God loves man in spite of his sinfulness. God the Father gave His best, His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to save the world. Jesus Himself is fully God, a member of the Trinity, which is God in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The mission of Jesus Christ is grounded in the intense love of God; God is also the initiator of salvation. He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). His will is for people to turn to Him and enter the kingdom of God (Mk 1:15). He says in Ezekiel 18:23, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

What has God done?
God gave His only Son to save the world through, first, His Son being born into the world as a man, and second, the lifting up of the Son on the cross to die.

The Incarnation of Jesus
Jesus was fully man; He was born into a family, grew, ate, rested, and slept like any one of us, except that He was perfectly sinless. Was Jesus also fully God? The question is important because the Gospel, the good news of salvation, is all about Jesus. If Jesus was not God who “became flesh” (Jn 1:14), then the Christian faith is in doubt.

Jesus affirms His deity in John 3:13, when He says, “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” Jesus was the only one who descended from heaven and also ascended to heaven after accomplishing His mission of salvation. He claims exclusive authority in speaking about heavenly things because He came from above. He is the source of good news concerning heaven. No one else has descended from heaven bearing good news like Himself.

Implicit in this teaching is a warning not to fall prey to deception. We are to be careful of false prophets and people who claim to have received special revelations. Jesus is the only One who has revealed the true living God to us (Jn 1:18; 17:26).

The evidence of the deity of Jesus cannot be more convincing than the eyewitness accounts in the four Gospels. In them, we read of Jesus’ righteous and gracious character, His authoritative teaching, miraculous healing, supernatural signs and wonders, the fulfillment of Scripture, resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven. He has fully vindicated Himself by the overwhelming evidence; Jesus is truly, fully man and fully God.

The Lifting Up of Jesus
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn 3:14). Crucifixion, resurrection and exaltation are tied together in the lifting up of the Son of God. Moses lifted the bronze snake on a pole so that all who were bitten by snakes might look at it and live. The bronze snake on a pole was the means God used to grant physical healing to the children of Israel (Num 21:4-9).

Moses’ act foreshadowed the lifting up of Jesus on the cross; those who look to Jesus for salvation will be saved from eternal death to eternal life. By God’s provision, new spiritual life is graciously granted through Jesus.

Because God is righteous and holy, He cannot simply forgive the sins of men without punishment for sin. Jesus, the Son of God, willingly came into the world to take our sins upon Himself on the cross. God poured out His wrath on Jesus, who bore all our sins on His body. Because God has punished Christ on the cross for our sins, He can justly forgive us.

At the cross, both the law of God and the love of God were fulfilled and satisfied. The holy wrath and love of God came together at the cross; God is absolutely holy and loving.

Jesus died on the cross for the sins of those who believe in Him; He rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. By living a perfectly sinless life, dying and rising for us, the Son has accomplished His mission perfectly. Jesus is gloriously alive today; we worship a true and living God!

What must I do to be saved?
Only a person who believes in the Son of God, Jesus, is saved. When you believe in Jesus, your sins are forgiven.

Do you see yourself as a sinner before God? Do not compare yourself to another person because that is not God’s standard. His standard is perfect obedience to His commandments. His greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, and the second, “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39). Who can fulfil such standards? “None, no, not one”, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:10;3:23).

Our sin is that we do not love and glorify God; in fact, we reject Him. We break the greatest commandment of God and all other commandments. We need to repent of our sin and turn to Jesus.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). Do you realise that you are lost in sin? The true conviction of sin will drive a sinner to Jesus for forgiveness.

God requires us to take a step of faith by believing in Jesus with our mind, heart and will; this is our human responsibility for salvation. Through faith in Christ, our sins are forgiven. More than that, we are also clothed with the righteousness of Christ. To believe in Jesus is to rest entirely upon Him and His perfect work, and follow Him.

Do you desire to know eternal life? Eternal life is not just about longevity, it is life to the fullest (Jn 10:10) – a rich life from Christ in the presence of God. After death, we look forward to bodily resurrection to a glorified life that will be free of sin, sorrow and sickness, with pure enjoyment beyond our wildest dream (Isa 25:8; Rev 7:16-17; 21:4-5; 22:3-5).

Eternal life begins at the very moment of our new birth and will be perfectly consummated in future in the new heaven and new earth where God will dwell among His people (Rev 21:3). It is a life full of joy, vitality, praise and worship to our holy, exalted and loving God.

Conclusion
Jesus’ invitation to His kingdom is universal; He is inviting all to come to Him. Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (Jn 7:37).

God “commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30-31). He requires us to make a choice – either obey or disobey His command. In so doing, He has set before us the choice of life or death. God holds us fully responsible for our response to the call of the Gospel.

The incarnation of Jesus and His death on the cross are the ultimate expressions of God’s mercy, love and grace to us. If you have understood the Gospel, take a step of faith to commit your life to Jesus. Remember, one day, you will have to face your Maker. The choice you make while you are alive will determine your final destination when you die. So, what will it be?


Peter Ooi
- Peter Ooi is an associate member of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship and an editor of Fishers.

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