A World Waiting To Be Won Duncan Heaster email the author


22. We Will Be Saved

22-1 Assurance Of Salvation || 22-2 Believing In Salvation || 22-3 “Eternal life” Assured Now || 22-4 Preaching The Good News

23. The Loneliness Phenomenon

23. The Loneliness Phenomenon

24. How To Fund Missionary Work

24. How To Fund Missionary Work

22-3 “Eternal life” Assured Now

For all the above reasons, I believe that we should be able to believe that we will be there, if the Lord were to come right now as we read and write these words. There is much talk in John’s writings of ‘having eternal life’. I don’t think these passages are directly relevant to the question of whether ultimately we will be there in the future Kingdom; but rather do they speak of a present experience of sharing the quality and spirit of the eternal life of Jesus. The fact is that our names are presently in the “book of life” (Phil. 4:3).

We have eternal life insofar as the life that Jesus lived and lives, He will eternally live. If we live that life, we are living the essence of the life which we will eternally live. The lawyer asked the Lord what good thing he must do “to inherit eternal life”. The Lord replied that he must properly love his God and his neighbour: “this do, and thou shalt live”. By living a life based on this, he would be living the life which he would eternally live (Lk. 10:25,28). And thus the Lord responds to the query about inheriting eternal life by changing the emphasis of the question- He replies by speaking of the life we should be living now. “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (Jn. 10:28) sounds as if the eternal type of life being given is an ongoing process. Consider the repeated parallelisms in the Lord’s teaching:

Labour / work, as Israel worked to gather manna, as the crowds walked around the lake to get to Jesus

For the food that gives eternal life

Believe in me

Receive eternal life

Eat me daily, eat / absorb my body and blood, the essence of My sacrifice; have this as your real food and drink in life

Receive eternal life

Come to me, having heard and learnt of the Father

Never hunger, never perish, receive eternal life

Behold the son, believe on him

Receive eternal life

“I am”, God manifested in the person of Jesus

The bread that gives eternal life

The manna of Christ

Gives eternal life

Jesus came down from Heaven [i.e. manifested the Father]

Gives life unto the world

By Jesus doing God’s will

I get eternal life for you (“the world” of believers)

By giving His blood to drink and flesh to eat

Gives eternal life

The Spirit and words of Jesus

Quickens / gives eternal life

The Spirit of Jesus, His disposition, His mindset, His way of thinking and being, is paralleled with His words and His person. They both ‘quicken’ or give eternal life, right now. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth [present tense]…the words that I speak unto you, they are [right now] spirit, and they are life…thou hast [right now] the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:63,68). Yet at the last day, God will quicken the dead and physically give them eternal life (Rom. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:22,36). But this will be because in this life we had the ‘Spirit’ of the eternal life in us: “He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by [on account of] his spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). Again we have the same words, ‘quicken’ and ‘his spirit’. And Paul says that our resurrection will have some similarities with that of our Lord- who was “put to death in the flesh but quickened by [on account of] the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18). It was according to the spirit of holiness, of a holy life, that Jesus was raised and given eternal life (Rom. 1:4). What all this means in practice is that if we live a ‘quickened’ spiritual life now, a life modeled around what Jesus would have done or said in any given situation, then we have the guarantee that we will be ‘quickened’ in the Kingdom. Thus Rom. 8:2 speaks of “the law of the spirit of life in Christ”. Having “the spirit” in our hearts is therefore the seal, the guarantee, of our future salvation (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14). By “the spirit” I do not mean an overpowering force which makes us righteous against our will. I take it as a description of a life that has the spirit / mind / disposition of Christ at its core. And remember that Jesus Himself is described as “the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). “The Spirit” is a title of Jesus (Rom. 8:16,26,27; Rev. 2:7,11 etc.). To walk each day in the Spirit is to live in Him, to act as He would act. It is this “Spirit” which will be the basis of our new life. Living life in that Spirit is living the life we will eternally lead. If we don’t like the righteous, clean life in Christ, if we find it limiting and boring, then we are signing ourselves out of the eternal life. There will be no point in our receiving it. The eternal life is there to be lived. It’s there for the taking in the sense that it is there to be lived. If we live it, we have it. And our bodies will be changed at the Lord’s coming so that we can eternally live it.

True Christianity

For some years after my baptism, I had the impression that the Christian life was a matter of reading the Bible daily, understanding it ever more deeply, especially in matters relating to prophecy, preaching our understanding of doctrine to others, often in an argumentative way, helping out with the more obvious needs of my brethren around me, attending gatherings, giving my opinion in the various questions and controversies and projects that came along in the life of the community, avoiding the more obvious public sins… But I remember very clearly the moment when I perhaps rose up a level in my conversion to Christ. I was on a campaign in a small town by the sea, in northern Ireland. I sat down at lunchtime on a wall with my sandwiches and propped my Bible open, looked out to sea and reflected a little. It suddenly struck me that the whole and entire purpose of our lives is to imitate Jesus, to have His Spirit / disposition within us. This is Christianity. To live and be like Him. All those years of Bible reading, study, argument and (more or less) good works had somehow missed that utterly essential point.

When our lives are in focus on this perception there is a subtle, yet powerful change in our thinking.  We are to be in a personality cult behind this Man, this more than Man. How He was and How He is, ought to continually and radically influence our daily lives. Perhaps for you this was always obvious, but for me, in reality, it had not been. Immediately I grasped the need to read the Gospels more carefully, more often, indeed, daily. For there we have the record of the Lord’s life. I saw in a split second that the entire point of the Old Testament records was to teach us something of the spirit and essence of the Man they pointed forward to. That word was all made flesh in Him, as it is to be in us. Of course I knew something about the types of the Law, the promises about Messiah etc. But the personal relevance had been lost on me…that there, in all those things and indeed in so much more, there is the revelation of yet otheraspects of this Man whom having not seen we love. And because I want to be like Him, I must know Him; and there is in the very knowledge of Him an imperative to be like Him. So we want to know Him. And this is why we need to pray before our Bible readings, that our blind eyes will be opened to see something of Him there, in whatever passage we are reading.

Our Brethren Will Be There

If we believe that all in Christ, all who are ‘Christian’, will be in the Kingdom…then, we will act joyfully and positively toward our community, abounding in hope. We have to assume that our brethren are likewise going to be there; for we cannot condemn them. Therefore we must assume they too will be saved along with us. Consider how Paul repeatedly has this attitude when dealing with his apostate  Corinthians:

“For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23)

“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor. 6:2,3)

“…such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11)

“For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17)

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12)

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive…And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly…Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory” (1 Cor. 15:22,49,51-53,57)

“And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation…But as God is true,  our word toward you was not yea and nay.  For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea. For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen” (2 Cor. 1:7,14,18-20)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18).

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life…Therefore we are always confident…” (2 Cor. 5:1,4,6,8)

And Paul was just the same about his Galatians, many of whom he says seemed to be departing from the Christian faith. He feared he may have “laboured in vain” for some of them (Gal. 4:11), but he writes of his expectations in a totally positive way: “Christ hath redeemed us…that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit [i.e. salvation]” (Gal. 3:13,14)

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ…then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:27-29)- yet Paul could write this despite knowing his readers’ lack of faith in Christ (Gal. 1:6; 3:1,3-5; 4:9,11,19,21; 5:4,7).

“And because ye are sons…thou art no more a servant, but a son: and if a son, then an heir of God though Christ” (Gal. 4:6,7)

“So then brethren we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Gal. 4:31).

If we believe that we ourselves will be there, we will spark off an upward spiral of positive thinking in the community of believers with whom we are associated. Think carefully on the Lord’s words to the Pharisees: “For ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Mt. 23:13). If we don’t believe we will be there, we end up discouraging others.

“Hereby we know…”

But to return to our question. Can we know that we have the spirit of Jesus, and that we are living the eternal life, to the point we are confident that “we will be there”? John addresses this question head on. “Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him… if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 Jn. 3:19-22). The answer of our conscience is therefore highly significant. Now living in societies as we do, based around shame and guilt, we can condemn ourselves more harshly than God does. Baptism is “the answer (RVmg. ‘appeal’) of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 3:18). Note how the phrase “toward God” occurs in both passages. We need to reflect more deeply upon what baptism really meant. Just as Romans 6, the classic baptism chapter, is asking the Romans to think back and remember what their baptisms really did for them before God. There we were counted as being ‘in Christ’. God now looks upon us as if we are in Christ, covered with His righteousness. In the court of Divine justice, the fact we have been baptized and had our conscience cleansed is our appeal for justification. And it will be heard. We condemn ourselves for our failures, yes. But on the other hand, do we believe that we really are baptized into Christ, with all that means in terms of how God now sees us? Do we believe rather than merely know…the most basic elements and realities of our Christian faith? I believe we do underneath, but we need to think deeply about all this.

When we worry about whether or not 'we will be there', we inevitably reflect how God's justice demands that we not be there. And yet God's justice is a reflection of His character of love; it's not human justice. Note how 1 Jn. 2:29 and 1 Jn. 4:7 parallel love and justice; and this parallel is to be found in the Old Testament, not least in the concept of hesed, God's covenant love. His justice involves His love. And His love is the love of grace and salvation. But as Paul argues to the Romans, it is God who justifies, and so there is nobody who can condemn. The Christ Jesus who died for us is not going to condemn us if we are in Him (Rom. 8:33,34 Gk. and RVmg.).

The fact we were called to baptism therefore inspires us to believe that we really will be there in the Kingdom. This is prefigured by the way in which Moses pleaded with those who doubted in the wilderness that the fact they had been brought through the Red Sea was a guarantee that God would likewise bring them into their inheritance in Canaan (Dt. 1:29-33). Yet they failed to believe this; they forgot the wonder of their Red Sea deliverance, just as we can forget the wondrous implications of our baptism, and thus lose faith in our ultimate salvation.

We walk in a world where lives have become living deaths. The deep hopelessness of the non-Christian or post-Christian world is tightening its chilly grip on world  culture. And yet for us, the hope of the Truth should result in the experience of  exuberant, unstoppable, intoxicating, energizing hope, and the joy which this brings. And such an experience is without doubt worth preaching. Indeed, it will bubble out of us in some sort of witness to this hopeless world. It’s not just a life beyond the grave which we offer, but life before the grave too!

Keeping Commands

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 Jn. 2:3). What pleases God? We read the Bible daily and learn there what pleases Him. Do we do at least some things that please God? Surely we know that we do. But I don’t think he meant ‘If you do  enough works, then you can be assured of salvation’. Works and keeping commandments can’t earn us a place in the Kingdom; we will be there by sheer grace alone. Such a view would be contrary to the very basic spirit of the Gospel of grace. I think John had some specific commandments in mind: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on [Gk ‘into’] the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment” (1 Jn. 3:23). We believe into the Name of Jesus when we are baptized into His Name. We “love one another” by keeping the agape, the love feast, the breaking of bread, with one another. If we refuse to break bread with any of our brethren, then we cannot have a good conscience. I am not saying that simply being baptized and breaking bread can save anyone. But if our self-examination reveals that we believe in what those two basic commands of the Christian life really imply, then we can have a good conscience, knowing we have kept His commandments, and are thus assured of ‘being there’. The Kingdom has been promised to us. We ask for it to come, that we might be there. And we must act as if our prayers have been answered, even though physically they haven’t been. And so all joy and peace will come through believing. We will feel the truth of 1 Pet. 1:9, that we are “receiving the end of [our] faith, even the salvation of your souls…”; and of Col. 1:13, that we have been delivered from the power of darkness, and been in prospect “translated into the kingdom”.

And so the reader will observe that we are not concluding anything other than what we have always stood for- baptism, continuing in the breaking of bread, daily Bible reading and striving for the imitation of Christ. But the tantalizing thing is, that by doing these things with serious belief, we are assured that “we have eternal life”. We can therefore believe and act as if ‘we will be there’. And yet so many of us fail to do this during a fairly high percentage of our Christian lives, despite doing all of those things. Yet, we will be there. Those basic practices of the Christian life assure us of it. This is the good news. That if the Lord comes today, we can say with assurance, that by His grace we will be there. We can even now "glory in hope of the glory" (Rom. 5:2 Gk., RVmg.); and this 'glorying' requires an absolute confidence. And because of that spirit of glorying, we are bidden glory in the tribulations we encounter in this world (Rom. 5:2,3 RV). This is indeed "good news"; anything less that full persuasion of eternal life would not be such ultimately good news. God's salvation is indeed "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Lk. 2:32 RV); the light of human life is the fact that we will be saved, and this light is what we are to reveal to the world by preaching the Gospel to them.