“What Jesus Said about Eternal Life”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “life is short.” Oh, in the grand scheme of things, that is true. We don't know how long we will live. We don't know the number of our days. Yet, we do know there is coming a time when all of us will face the reality of our mortality. And with that in mind, most of us want to make the most of our time on this earth. We want to live a full and abundant life. We want to accomplish as much as possible and to be a blessing to this world and to the people God puts before us. In the Bible we find many ways to do just that. We also find in the Bible a way to live that will bring about blessings, both now and for eternity. It revolves around believing on Jesus Christ as God's one and only Son, and then allowing that belief to make a difference in the way we live. In today's lesson, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will focus on receiving the eternal life Jesus offers and how we can experience that life, even now. Our study will come from the Gospel of John. Throughout his message, John emphasizes the Good News message of Jesus, revolving around believing in Him; and it is at the core of a foundation of our relationship with the Savior of this world. The eternal life Jesus offers is not just something that will last forever, but it’s something we can experience today. I invite you to stay tuned to this station, as we study what Jesus had to say about eternal life.
The Bible records many statements Jesus made throughout His public ministry. Oh, He had something to say about things like money and love and prayer and a host of other topics. Many of those statements are recorded for us here in the Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And we have looked at some of those statements in previous lessons. Well, there is one topic Jesus spoke about which received a great deal of attention in the Gospel of John, and that is the matter of eternal life. And why is that? Well, John wrote his Gospel to a group of people in the early to the mid-nineties, some 60 years after Jesus lived upon this earth. And those who received that message were experiencing some persecution. They were being challenged in their faith, and they needed to decide whether or not they would cling to Jesus or give in to the temptations of the culture. Well, John shared with them some good news. He reminded them of the salvation, or the eternal life, they had already received from the Lord. And he inspired them to remember that and to hang on to Him. Eternal life is still important to consider today. Many believe that eternal life is received through hard work and continual effort. And yet Scripture tells us something just the opposite. It tells us we cannot work for that eternal life. We can never do enough good deeds to say to God that I am worthy, or I am deserving, to inherit that eternal life and gift of salvation. No, rather, eternal life is received when one believes in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son that comes from the living God, and then begins to live a faithful and obedient life as a committed disciple. Jesus offered many prayers, throughout His ministry, to His Heavenly Father; and some of them are recorded here in Scripture. And the longest of those recorded prayers is found in John chapter 17. And as Jesus begins that prayer, in verse 3, He gives us a definition of eternal life. He said, <“This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”> Throughout His ministry, Jesus wanted people to have a relationship with His Father, and to understand and to appreciate His love for them. And Jesus taught that the greatest thing His Father did was to offer eternal life. And He offered that to everyone who would receive it; and that was those who put their faith in His Son. Believing in Jesus was at the heart of what people needed to do in order to please God. It was the most important thing that would lead to receiving that eternal life. When Jesus came to this earth, He offered a new life. He offered a full and abundant life, according to John 10 and verse 10. And in the midst of all of that, it would lead to an eternal life, as one put his or her faith in Him. In writing his Gospel, John reminded his readers of that great truth. And with that eternal life came salvation from a number of things, salvation from sin and from separation from God and from spiritual death and Satan. And yet at the same time, it also brought about something good. It brought about the promise of being saved for something better. It would open up the door to a life of good deeds and servicing God's kingdom, and even fellowship with other believers. And that is what eternal life, or salvation, is all about. Is saves us from something bad, and it saves us for something good. One of the most familiar and often quoted passages in the Bible is John chapter 3, verse 16; and, perhaps we are all familiar with that. But we back up a couple of verses and we catch the full context of what Jesus said, beginning with verse 14: <"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."> Two times in these three verses, eternal life is emphasized, and it revolves around believing in Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus, in this passage, also referred to a story that is recorded for us in Numbers chapter 21, about the snake there in the wilderness. Well, God’s people, the Israelites, were leaving Egyptian captivity, and they were headed to the Promised Land. And as they sojourned there in the wilderness, they became tired and weary. They did not like those traveling conditions. They did not enjoy the same food over and over again every day. Some of them even thought it would be better if they went back to Egypt. And so they complained; they grumbled about their situation. They complained to Moses and to God. And God got tired of hearing that and so He sent some poisonous snakes among the people. And when those people were bitten by the poisonous snakes, obviously, they died. Those who remained recognized that that would soon be their fate and so they repented. They quit grumbling and complaining and they asked Moses for a solution. And God gave Moses that solution. He told him to wrap a snake around a pole and set the pole in the midst of the people. And whenever the people would look upon that snake, they would be healed, physically, and they would not die. And Jesus referred to that in anticipation of what would happen to Him -being hung up on a pole, or a tree, a cross, at His crucifixion. And the analogy is obvious, there in chapter 3. As the people looked upon the snake, they were physically healed; but as they would look upon Jesus Christ, they would be spiritually healed, as they believed in Him as God's Son. Now, many people followed Jesus throughout His ministry. They liked what He said. They were healed and they were fed, and the various other things. But when Jesus called for a commitment, when He called upon them to actually put into practice the things He was saying, many people went away. They did not want to make that commitment to becoming a disciple. And Jesus turned to His apostles and He asked them the question, “Will you also go away?” It was the apostle Peter who spoke, in chapter 6 and verse 68 of John, these words: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” You know, Peter recognized Jesus had something special to offer. He had the words of life. He had the words of life that nobody else had. And His words, if followed and if obeyed, would lead to an eternal life with God. One of the first things people think about, when eternal life is mentioned, is, it is in the future. They think about life with Jesus and with the Father, with other believers, in heaven. The common thought is eternal life is something one receives at death. And that is true; and that is the emphasis of other New Testament writers. Eternal life is referred to as something in the future. And yet for John, eternal life is also a present reality. It does not just take place when one dies. I want you to notice what John recorded. These are Jesus' words, here in chapter 5, verse 24, <“Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."> Jesus plainly states that those who believe in Him possess eternal life in the here and now, as well as in eternity. Eternal life is received when someone puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. And once that life is received, it continues to grow. It is fully realized, then, when one begins to live forever with Jesus in heaven. If I told you I had a garden in my backyard, what would you think? Perhaps you would think I have a vegetable garden, and I grow those vegetables and go out on a regular basis and pick that produce and bring it in and enjoy a good meal. Some of you might think I have a flower garden in my backyard, and I go out and look at those beautiful flowers, admire their beauty, and cut off some of them and bring them in to enjoy from time to time. Well, when in reality, it is early in the spring time and those vegetable seeds and those flower seeds have just been planted. Oh, they are in the ground and they are growing, but it is not time to cut off the flowers or to harvest the produce. Well, the same can be said about someone's retirement account. A person might say, well, I have a retirement account, and indeed they do; and yet it has only been in place for a few years. Not much money has been invested into that account. And the owner of the account is a rather young person, and certainly enough time has not passed for that money to be taken out and to be used in retirement. Well, in a similar way, eternal life begins when a person comes to a believing faith and obedience in Jesus Christ. It begins with a seed that continues to grow until it reaches full maturity and is experienced in heaven. On one occasion, Jesus’ good friend passed away. His name was Lazarus. And Lazarus lived with his two sisters, Mary and Martha, in a little village called Bethany, just a couple of miles away from Jerusalem. When Jesus heard Lazarus had died, He stayed where He was for a few days. And then after that, He went to the tomb. Once He arrived, He had this conversation with Martha, one of the sisters. It's recorded in chapter 11 of John beginning with verse 23, <Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”> Believing upon Jesus as God's Son brings eternal life. And there is coming a day when Jesus, Himself, will raise up all of those who do believe in Him. Well, Jesus went ahead and raised Lazarus from the dead, here on this occasion, and he lived on earth once again. But as He told Martha, Jesus is not only the resurrection, but He is also the life. And even though one experiences physical death, we still know that eternal life awaits. Let's look at another story. It is found in John chapter 6. On the north-eastern slope of the Sea of Galilee, on a grassy plain, Jesus feeds a multitude of people with just a few loaves of bread and some small fish. After that, He walks across the Sea of Galilee and He calms those troubled waters, and then arrives on the other side. Well, after that takes place, we pick up the story here in verse 25, <When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” Then they asked Him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One whom He has sent.”> As we stated earlier, many believe that we can never work our way to heaven. And that is true. We can never do enough to gain that right standing before God. We can never serve enough or pray enough or anything else. But there is some work that we are to do. And Jesus tells us right here in the passage we just read, our work is to believe in Him as God's one and only Son. Jesus continued to teach His disciples, as we continue reading here in John chapter 6, with verse 32 and following. <Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen Me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away."> Once again, Jesus offers life to all of those who believe in Him. He is the source of our spiritual nourishment. He is the bread of life. He is the living water that flows through us. And when we believe in Him, we have all we need, not only for eternal life, but for life, even now. Well, having stated all of that, we must recognize the opposite is true, as well. Notice these words from John, in chapter 3 and verse 36: <He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.> Eternal life, both now and in the future, is not promised to those who do not believe in Jesus. For when one rejects Jesus as God's Son, and lives without a relationship with Him, then eternal life is not a present reality or a future expectation. And so with that in mind, we have a choice to make. Don't we? We can either believe in God's Son, we can believe that He is the Father's representation and that He came to offer His life as a sacrifice for all, as He died upon the cross, we can believe that, indeed, He is the source of our eternal life, or, on the other hand, we can reject Jesus. We can decide that Jesus is not the Son of God and that we will not believe in Him as the One who offers salvation to every person. Well, for one, the promise is eternal life, and for the other, the promise is the wrath, or the judgment, of God. John records several other statements, here in his Gospel, about eternal life; and they all basically say the very same thing. Eternal life is a present reality that we can embrace now, and we can experience an abundant life in Jesus, today; but eternal life is also a future expectation, something we can look forward to, in the days that may lie ahead, that we can be with Him forever. You know, toward the end of his Gospel, John offers a summary of Jesus' work and our response to it. We find those words in chapter 20 beginning with verse 30: <Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.> Some have suggested that John's Gospel is the Gospel of belief, and indeed that is true. Throughout the entire Gospel, he continually reminds us to believe in Jesus Christ, and when we do it brings about an eternal life with Him, forever. In the very last statement in John, chapter 21 verse 25, John writes that if all of the works Jesus did were to be recorded then the whole world could not contain those books. Just think about all that Jesus said and did throughout His life. And everything was designed to point one to Him and to a belief in Him. Yes, John's message is clear! When one believes upon Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and then lives out that of faith, that person receives eternal life. Oh, I am so thankful, today, that God, in His great love for all of mankind, provided a way, through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we could have eternal life, both now and in the future. And I pray that you have received that eternal life and that you are living out your faith in Jesus Christ on a regular basis. Yes, Jesus says some very important things about eternal life; and, I hope that we obey them.
For the most part, this is not one of our most favorite places to visit. Most of us try to avoid a cemetery. There are occasions, however, when we need to attend the memorial service of a dear friend or loved one, or we might need to go and visit a specific grave site. And yet, we want to avoid this type of place, if at all possible. Yet, when we do come into a cemetery, there are a number of emotions that overwhelm us. We think about the suffering that people might have experienced before they passed away. We think about the emptiness in people's hearts, of those who've lost their loved ones. Yes, lots of emotions come through our minds. And Jesus knows that. He knows we experience emotions. In fact, He died Himself. Before He did, however, He told us that He is the resurrection and the life. He even showed that, Himself, when He raised Lazarus from the dead, and when He raised other people, also; and that was special. And when He said that He is the resurrection and the life, He gives to us the promise and the hope of eternal life with Him; that this is not our final resting place, but there is a future home waiting for all of those who believe in Him. Yes, when we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we know that we also have the promise of rising again to an eternal life with Him, forever, in heaven. I would encourage you to think about His words today: “I am the resurrection and the life,” for all of those who believe in Him.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast on “Key to the Kingdom.” Eternal life is important to everybody. The good news is, we can have that eternal life, even now. This lesson has been uploaded on to our website. You can find it at keytothekingdom.com. It, along with many other lessons, is available in a variety of formats. I encourage you to find those that might be of interest and to download them without any cost or obligation. One minute devotional thoughts and two minute inspirational messages are also found on the website, and they offer some ideas for living in today's world. Information about our mission in India, the latest newsletter and a variety of other things are there as well. I trust you will find some helpful information about this ministry that will bless you spiritually. Another way to find us is by downloading a free app onto your smart-phone. Also, every Sunday night a short message is uploaded onto Facebook®. I encourage you to ‘like’ then share it with others. We simply want to make the Good News message, about the Lord and His love for us, available to as many people as possible. I do appreciate you joining us for today's broadcast and hopefully the lesson was a blessing to you. I also hope you will join us on a regular basis, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”