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Friday, July 15, 2016

The Promise of Eternal Life

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, 
 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

As we've testified previously, this is one of the most famous, but misunderstood passages in Scripture!  Yes, this Promise has universal implications, but Jesus primarily meant to impact His first-century audience with these words of comfort! Read in context, especially with the next few statements, we can see that it was also a condemnation of those who refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God & would not accept
Him as their Messiah. This, however, is not the point in question today; today, we will explore '
everlasting life' itself!

We've also explored the meaning of the term; it means 'age-during', in other words, 'for the ages'! Whatever this phrase might imply, this too is not the issue we will consider today. The issue at hand is the Nature of the Resurrection that brought Eternal Life. Although this issue, the Nature of the Resurrection, has been explored previously in this blog, this post will reveal a slightly different 'take' on the subject. There are numerous statements in the Greek Scriptures, made by Jesus, that seem to indicate a slightly different nature than has been traditionally understood; statements like that which Jesus made to the sister of Lazarus. Jesus told Martha that 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die' ( John 11:26 ). As we've seen previously, the context of these words of comfort will show their intended first-century impact, although we may see this as a universal ( catholic ) truth, as well! 

The Institutional Church has traditionally understood the Nature of the Resurrection as exactly like that of Her Head! Today, we will further explore this 'Nature'. When Jesus comforted Martha with those words ( above-John 11:26, etc. ), He was not speaking of the biological body of her brother; in fact, He was not referring to biology at all! Now, according to His promise in the previous statement, Lazarus' biological body did come back to life, but it 'passed away' again; Christians today, those who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, continue to lose their physical presence: if Jesus had been referring to biological bodies, wouldn't you think that Lazarus would still be traversing the earth, although some 2,000 years old?

The Nature of the Resurrection, as we've noted previously, was spiritual & relational: it was the Restoration of the Israel of God, His Congregation, to the Blessing of Right Relationship with Him! It is a universal truth, because all who have accepted that Jesus is the Messiah & religiously keep that Right Relationship with the Creator enjoy the Blessings of His Presence forever, so we may rightly say that this Promise was ( is ) for us as well. However, we may also see, as this biology continues to perish & rise again in the Great Circle of Life, that the Nature of the Resurrection is somewhat different than the Institutional Church has led people to believe for centuries!

If those who believe in Jesus would 'never die', we might well ask why there are no reports of 2,000 year old men & women walking around; if there were, wouldn't you think that this would be newsworthy? I mean, just imagine the stories they could tell! But seriously, it takes more than a bit of 'wrangling' to make Jesus' words mean that 2,000+ years after He spoke them, long after He promised to return to that generation ( Matthew 24:34, et al ), that their biological bodies would come back to life after rotting in the ground for millenia & turning back to 'dust'. The Promise of Eternal Life, yes, is to ALL those who believe in Him, but it is not individual biological bodies that inherited this Promise; although in some sense, Eternal Life is experienced by & inhabited by biology, it was the spirits of just men & women made perfect ( Hebrew 12:23 ) who received & still receive this 'everlasting life'!

Jesus statement, recorded in John 3:16, is very plain! If He had meant that those who believed in Him would inherit eternal, everlasting life 2,000+ years later, don't you think He would have better indicated this to His first-century audience? They were expecting to receive the Kingdom that Jesus told them was 'at hand' & 'within you' or 'in your midst' ( Matthew 4:17, Luke 17:21, et al ): Daniel had promised & prophesied of this Kingdom as well, so think of their disappointment when they realized that 2,000+ years later, they STILL  have not inherited! But seriously, since their individual, biological bodies were NOT the referent here, but 'the spirits of just men made perfect', we may take great comfort in the glorious fact that, though this biology WILL perish, our spirits will never die!

The sad fact is that biology DOES go the way of the 8-track; the Hebrew Scriptures say that 'people are grass' ( Isaiah 40:7 ), in other words, in 'the morning' they flourish & grow, but in 'the evening', they are cut down & wither. This in itself was a metaphorical reference to the Resurrection, as the Messiah brought the Promise of Eternal Life. In the Great Circle of Life, we can see that biology does go on, it will persevere forever, because of the necessary cycle of life & death, death & life: we know that the spirits of just men & women made perfect, however, will never die, but will bless this biology forever!

Charles Haddon Shank

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