This is Life Eternal

August 4, 2002 / No. 3109

Dear Radio Friends,

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” These words are found in Christ’s Highpriestly prayer in John 17:3 as He approached the hour of His death.

In John 14-16, Jesus often reminded His disciples that He must leave them. But He also assured them that He will send another Comforter. Now, in the hearing of His disciples, He confirmed the submission to His heavenly Father. He desires that God be glorified. He knows that the hour has come that the Son will glorify the Father and the Father will glorify the Son. How? Verse 2 of this passage: “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” He prays also, in the later part of this chapter, not for the world but for those whom the Father has given Him.

He is very conscious of the purpose for which He has come into the world. As He prays, He acknowledges the word which we must take to heart: “And this is life eternal.” He, the Son of God, should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is that life eternal. What is it? That they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.

These words of our Lord not only define what everlasting life is, but they tell us how that life is revealed, how God has been pleased to reveal that life and to give that life as a precious gift to His children.

We bring you the Word of God this day, in our tenth sermon in the series “Preparing to Die Willingly.” In the last two messages we will focus on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that He spoke from the cross on Calvary as He Himself faced death, so that we may know the power of Jesus Christ over death and be comforted in the knowledge that we have eternal life.

But today, as we continue to prepare to die willingly, let us understand that it is only when one knows God and when one knows what eternal life is in Jesus Christ that one is prepared to die. Do you know that because He lives you live? Do you know that there is eternal life in the knowledge of God, the knowledge of love that He has been pleased to reveal to His people? Ah, then you can face death, saying with the apostle Paul: Nothing can separate us from the love of God – nothing, not even death itself, when you know the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is life eternal. Do you know what life eternal is? Life eternal is the knowledge of the love of God. That is right. This is life eternal: that they might know thee, Jesus says in John 17:3. That is, those whom Thou hast given Me should know Thee because knowing Thee, and that in love, is life eternal. Life, you understand, is not mere existence. Imagine if you were on the planet all alone, with no fellowship, no communication, no contact with any other. Maybe I am a “people-person,” so I think it would be horrible, although I must admit that more and more I, too, like to be a little more alone. Not alone to myself, though. I realize that more and more as I taste of God’s goodness and mercy, it is a wonderful thing to be alone with God, to talk with Him in prayer, to hear Him as His Word is read and meditated upon, to know Him and His presence as we abide in Christ and He with us.

Life eternal is the knowledge of the love of God.

But life is not mere existence. Life, the definition of which is given in our text, is the knowledge of God. It is the knowledge of love because, you see, the opposite is also true. What is death? Death is the just judgment of God, eternal separation from God. Death is not any relation, you know? Death is not simply, well, if you do not know God, then once you die you will become as nothing, as when a beast dies and the blood enters into the ground. Oh, no. With men, death does not mean a running away from God. In fact, in death the unbeliever must meet God as his creator and his judge. And eternal death will mean forever experiencing the wrath of God in hell-fire.

But what is life eternal, then? Life eternal is the exact opposite. Life eternal is not separation from God, not facing the wrath of God, not death, but being near to God, knowing God, knowing the love and fellowship of God as our God, who is not ashamed to be called our God, or to call us His people. Life eternal is knowing God as a Friend who loves us and who is pleased to dwell with us. Life eternal is knowing that, though before Him we must perish on account of our sins, yet because He has manifest Himself to us in His love in the Son of His love, now we can abide with Him forever and forever.

This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, Jesus says. You understand, this is not mere intellectual knowledge. We are not going to prepare to die willingly if we simply have an intellectual knowledge about God. Much less is it an academic matter. It is not found in the wisdom and philosophy of men. It is not even simply knowing the facts and details of the Bible, important as those things are in the study of the Scriptures. Rather, it is a knowledge of God, the knowledge of God who is pleased to reveal Himself as our Friend in His love. Our Lord Jesus Christ bowed in prayer before He made that call at the end of Matthew 11: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” His prayer was this: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” Our Lord made that a matter of thanksgiving. Thanks, Father, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent. Thanks, Father, that Thou has revealed them unto babes.

Yes, it is a matter of revelation. Eternal life is the gift of God’s grace whereby He makes Himself known to us, so that we do not just know about God, but we know Him. We do not just, from creation, know His power and His Godhead. No, we now have in Jesus Christ a knowledge, a personal, intimate knowledge of God – who He is, what He has done for us, how He is our covenant God and Father and we His children. Jesus declares, This is life eternal; this is that knowledge of love that God’s people have been given with the almighty God.

Eternal life is the gift of God’s grace 
whereby He makes Himself known to us, 
so that we do not just know about God, but we know Him.

Is this true of you? Is communion with God your highest blessing? Can you say, “I will give up everything, even my life, for the sake of fellowship with God”? This is life eternal, this is life for evermore.

There is more. Jesus says, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God.” This knowledge of love is the knowledge of consecrated love, of dedication to the one and only true God. Eternal life is to know God as the One only true God. Those who do not know the God of the Scriptures do not have eternal life. Those who do not know the God who has revealed Himself, who is sovereign, and who reveals Himself to whomsoever He will and hides Himself from whomsoever He will do not know the God who is the only true God.

This is the very foundation of the Christian faith: “Hear ye, O Israel, our God is one Lord.” Jesus’ testimony is, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). In fact, this is the very first commandment of all: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” They are called gods which are not God. Now, understand, amidst war, amidst terrorism, there seems to be a renewed cry to unite by respecting all religions. And there is a fear, even among Christians, that if we stand up and insist that salvation is in Christ alone and that Jehovah, the God of the Scriptures, is the only true and living God, then we would be calling for persecution. We should, they say, “for the sake of evangelism,” take a softer approach. Oh, people of God, I make bold to say to you as a minister of the gospel: Before the face of God: beware the days of Antichrist, because this will be challenged more and more. Peace, at the expense of truth.” This is going to be the mark of the Antichrist, according to the Scriptures. And this is not the first time that there are many antichrists that are popping up all over the place. All through the history of the world there were those who came and said, “Follow me,” instead of, “Bow before the true and living God of heaven and earth.” Daniel’s friends had to be cast into a pit of fire for not bowing before the king. Daniel himself, who prayed to the God of heaven and earth instead of obeying the command not to worship Jehovah, was cast into the den of lions. And Jesus says in Matthew 24 that we must expect greater tribulation, far greater than that which the world has ever seen, because, do you not see, as the world becomes more and more one, there will be this rising, powerful voice that says, “For the sake of world peace, for the sake of world unity, we join together in spite (and despite) of our faith.”

Do not misunderstand me. Christ is gathering His church from all nations, tongues, and tribes. We believe in the one, holy, catholic church. Indeed, the gospel must go to every creature and we must bring that gospel without prejudice, without regard to one’s background (whether he may be rich or poor, whatever country he may come from, whatever race he or she may be, male or female). Oh, no. We must bring the gospel to all men. But, do you not see, not at the expense of the message of the gospel! Not at the expense of the glorious truth: This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

And Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. No, this does not mean that we must know God, on the one hand, and Jesus Christ, on the other hand. For the very prayer of Jesus is that God might be glorified in His Son and His Son be glorified in the Father. We know Jesus Christ His Son when we bow to acknowledge the true and living God. And we know the Father, the true and living God, when we know Jesus Christ His Son. Through the Son we know the Father, Jesus said in John 14. Ye believe in God; believe also in me. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (v. 9). Indeed, if you reject the Son, you reject the Father, and the truth is not in you. You reject Jesus Christ, the Christ sent by God; you reject Him as the way, the truth, and the life – then you know that there is no way for you to come to the Father.

Notice what Jesus said: This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. God has been pleased to reveal Himself. He is the invisible, the immortal. But He has made Himself known, revealed Himself to us in His Son, Immanuel. He is the sent from God, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the chief Prophet/Priest/King of His people. Does not God send others? Absolutely not! Only those who pointed to the Christ, who said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” who acknowledged that they were not the Messiah but that there was One to come – only those who now preach Christ alone have the revelation of the true and living God. There is nothing we can know about God except through His Son Jesus Christ.

There is nothing we can know about God 
except through His Son Jesus Christ.

This was the case in the Old Testament and even more clearly revealed now in the New Testament. It will continue unto all eternity. How can we see the invisible God except in the face of His Son? Without His Son there is only eternal death and separation from God. The question is: Do you know the Son? And do you know Him as your Redeemer, as your Savior? Then, like the Son, those who have eternal life will pray: “Father, glorify Thy name.”

You see, eternal life is not only the knowledge of God’s life. But I submit to you: eternal life is a Christ-centered life. It is a life that the child of God knows is his only because of Christ. Because of Christ there is eternal life. And so the child of God embraces Christ by faith and knows that in Jesus Christ is life. Outside of Him is only death. Such ones who have eternal life abiding in them are Christ-centered. They have been engrafted into Christ. They now seek the will of Christ. They use this life no longer to dwell in the cesspool of sin. They go on in this life no longer trying to merit any righteousness of their own, because they know there is none. Their righteousness is alone in Jesus Christ. But on the other hand, they do not then go on walking in sin. They walk according to and out of that eternal life that abides in them. They know that they cannot, except they abide in Christ. The raging battle in them is so severe, so real, that they realize that the moment they do not abide in Christ, in the knowledge of Christ, in the presence of Christ, then they fall back into sin. And so they abide in His Word. They search His Word to seek to walk in His footsteps, to walk according to that example that He has given in His Word. And they walk as those who have eternal life abiding in them and who, therefore, cry, as Jesus Christ cried, “Not our will, but Thine be done.”

Whatever is of sin, whatever is of death, whatever is displeasing to God must go. Whatever is of Christ, whatever glorifies God in His Son, whatever is the revelation of God in His Son, that the child of God desires to do and to walk in that way, so that, just as the Son prayed: “Glorify Thyself,” so is this the desire of the child of God. To know God more and more. To know Him with love. To know Him through His Son. And in that way, then, to glorify the God of revelation.

The wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 6:23). Yes, let us never forget that. Eternal life is a gracious gift which God gives to whomsoever He wills.

Many have a problem with that, and they want to say that God gives it to all and it is up to man’s free will. Allow me to show you the utter incredibility of that. Even our children understand that life, earthly life, is a gift. It is not something earned. You did not call your Mom from the womb and say, “OK, I would like to cooperate and be born now.” Well, if our first birth did not include our will, surely eternal life is still more the sovereign gift of God, the gift which includes not only all the blessings of salvation, but the very power to believe which, by the way, is the very first blessing of all – regeneration, being born again so that when we are born from above by the irresistible power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we then see and we then hear and we then partake of Jesus Christ, by faith, knowing eternal life abides in us, that incorruptible life, that immortality which God gives to His people through His Son. That is our text. “That they might know thee.” Who are the “they” that our text is referring to? Verse 2 tell us that He has power over all flesh. Yes, He is the Savior of the world, that is, Savior of all peoples, whether they are in the United States of America or in Singapore, whether they are in Pittsburgh or in Grand Rapids, whether they are in California or New York, or whether they are in the Middle East or in China, Jew or Gentile – from all nations of the world He gathers His people.

That He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him! Yes, to as many as receive Him. But these were born not of blood, nor of the will of men, but of God. Jesus prays for them in verses 9 and 10 of this passage. Not for the world, He says, but for them which Thou hast given me.

Beloved, let us then walk as the sons and daughters of the living God. We who have come to know Him, let us honor and acknowledge Him as the true and living God until that day when Jesus Christ shall return, and then we shall see God face to face and bask in the knowledge of God’s love for us through Jesus Christ. Amen.

We thank Thee, Father, for the glorious mystery of Jesus Christ whom Thou hast revealed to us and to whom we look as the author and finisher of our faith. Amen.