|John 11:24-27 |
24 And Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection, and the life. He who believes in me, although he might die, yet he shall live."
26 Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.2 Do you believe this?" [Jesus has just said that you must be living in him, and then, believe in Him, (being in Him, you believe Him), (both together), to have eternal life. From the Word of the Lord within: "What must you do to inherit eternal life? — what everyone must do: keep the commandments, pick up your cross, and follow me. The works of my father must be done by all if you are to inherit eternal life."]
27 And she said to him, "Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
2 Jesus said in verse 26, "whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die." Mark, lives and believes in Jesus! There are two possible interpretations to these few crucial words:
First - if you are not dead, (whoever lives), and believe in Him, then you shall never die. This seems to excludes dead people from believing in Him, when only living people were being addressed, which exclusion of dead people seems obviously superfluous, "wisdom needs few words." In no other quotation of Jesus, do we see Him qualifying what He says to be applicable to those who live only.
Second - if you live in Him and believe in Him, then you will never die; or saying it another way, those in Him and believing while in Him will never die. It is also possible that Jesus' use of the word lives refers to who lives in the life of God, not the life of the flesh, which fleshly life must be lost to find the life of God. Either means the same thing: you must be living in Jesus, who is the life of God, who is eternal life, who must be possessed in sufficient measure to be your true Lord, controlling your every word and deed.
In my opinion, the later, (living in Him to believe in Him), is what He is saying because it is in conformance with the rest of the New Testaments' exclusions, requirements, and qualifying conditions of salvation. This statement then explains that to believe in Him is to first be living in Him; being in Him, you must believe what he says is true and are valid commands. Again, in my opinion this gives entirely new meaning to "believe in Jesus" because it refers to belief while living in Him. Obviously to live in Him, we must persistently believe what we hear Him say to us and then obey, receiving the engrafted word that saves our soul and imparts the life of God to us; but until we have salvation from sin, we do not have the assurance of eternal life; and even after we have been freed from sin, we still must continue for the rest of our life on earth to believe Him and obey Him.
There are many in Christendom who think that they are already in Christ because they believe that Jesus was the son of God and are born again, (See 1 John 5:1 for the refutation of that claim to be born again). To be "in Christ" is explained by Paul and John below:
- John explains who is in Christ: whoever keeps his word [obeys the Lord's commands spoken to him], truly the love of God is perfected in him; by this we know that we are in him. 1 John 2:5. If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:12. Notice, this is to be "in Christ" — to have the love of God perfected in you.
- Paul also explains who is in Christ: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom 8:1. To walk after the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit in thoughts, words, and deeds. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Gal 5:18. To walk after the flesh is to walk according to your carnal mind and evil heart, before it has been cleansed and purified; until them you are not in Christ Jesus because your are still walking in the flesh — in your lusts, desires, affections, pleasures, pride, anger, vanity, fear, worries, plans, etc.
- Paul further explains who is in Christ: Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Cor 5:17. This is not to imagine yourself a new creature; this is to experience the death of the old and the birth of the new; death of the sinful nature is the old which must go. And death of the old is only through the cross of Christ, sharing in the suffering of Christ, sharing in the death of Christ, sharing in the burial of Christ, sharing in the resurrection of Christ - that is NEW - all else is presumption and imagination, or make-believe Christianity. From the Word of the Lord within: "The new life is as radically different as a man who has lived underground his whole life, suddenly coming above ground to see the sun, the sky, the plants, the animals, the wind, the stars. If anyone is standing with a new heart, he is a new creature."
Now for those who think that beginning belief is all that is required for eternal life, first consider what Jesus told us:
Do not labor for food which perishes, but for the food that endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you; for God the Father has authorized and certified him with his seal. John 6:27
He is telling us that we must labor for food that endures to everlasting life. What food? The words we hear him speak to us impart the life of God to us, and Jesus is the life of God, and Jesus is everlasting life. So if you have experienced the appearance of Jesus to come and crush the head of Satan under your feet, if you have experienced the baptism of fire and death, if you have experienced the resurrection of Jesus within you, then you have experienced the receipt of eternal life — all else is lies, high notions, and presumption, which has become universal in Christianity today, supposedly excusing their believers to continue to live their life of lusts, pride, and immorality.
Then consider that Jude, (the half-brother of Jesus), advised the early Church to earnestly contend for the faith, waiting for them to actually experience Jesus bringing them their eternal life:
Beloved, while I was diligent to write to you about the common salvation, I found it necessary to write and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints. Keeping yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring eternal life. Jude 1:3,21. Now if you think that just believing is all that is necessary, for what are you advised to contend? And if you think you are instantly saved by believing, why would the brother of Jesus be writing believers that they must keep themselves in the love of God, looking, (future tense), for Jesus to bring eternal life? Do you think you are a more special Christian than those in the early Church, founded by the Apostles, who were looking for a future bringing by Jesus of eternal life to them in their lifetime? Eternal life is brought by Jesus at the completion of one's salvation in all generations of those who have the hope and have purified themselves! To those who persistently and patiently wait for him he will appear the second time, not to bear sin, but to bring full salvation. Heb 9:28. To wait on God is to persistently and patiently sit in humble silence, listen for his voice and words, watch for his revelations, hear his commands, and then obey Him; only those who heed and obey Him receive eternal salvation.Heb 5:9.
From the Word of the Lord within:
"What must you do to inherit eternal life? — what everyone must do: keep the commandments, pick up your cross, and follow me.
The works of my father must be done by all if you are to inherit eternal life."
If you are in Him and if you believe in Him, then you shall never die. When you are living in Him, He becomes your eyes, He supplies your thoughts, He supplies your words, He shows you what he wants you to do, He leads you. If you are going to walk in faith, you have to believe. To believe Him while living in Him is to be obedient. However, you still have free will; you can still balk at being told what to do; you can think that it would be better to wait for a better time than at the moment you are told to do something — doubt or delay or refusal to comply is not believing in Jesus while living in Jesus. Jesus is always going to stretch us so that we can grow in Him; He is always going to ask what He knows is a stretch of our faith, so that our faith can grow when we obey and see the results that we doubted. George Fox, just before having been translated into paradise was told to warn some traveling judges; here is Fox's account from his journal:
At a certain time when I was at Mansfield there was a session of the justices about hiring servants; and it was upon me from the Lord to go and speak to the justices, that they should not oppress the servants in their wages. So I walked towards the inn where they were holding their session; but finding a company of fiddlers there, I did not go in, but thought to come in the morning, when I might have a more serious opportunity to discuss it with them, not thinking the present to be an appropriate time. But when I came again in the morning, they were gone, and I was even struck blind so that I could not see. I inquired of the innkeeper where the justices were to be that day? He told me they were to have a session at a town eight miles away. And my sight began to come to me again; and I went and ran in that direction as fast as I could. When I came to the house where they and their many servants were, I exhorted the justices not to oppress the servants in their wages, but to do what was right and just to them; and I exhorted the servants to do their duties, and serve honestly, etc. They all received my exhortation kindly, for I was moved by the Lord to speak to them.
John Burnyeat gives us another account of this possible hesitation:
When the first-day of the week came, in obedience to the word of the Lord, I went to Aspetry, the place which the Lord set before me, to speak to one Warwick a priest. When I came, he was preaching in their bell-house, who, soon after I came in with a friend with me, began to put forth some subtle questions to provoke us to speak, that he might have an opportunity to cause us to be haled out, and sent to prison; but I resolved not to mind his temptation, but to wait upon the Lord. When he could not prevail with his questions to get his end upon us, he spoke to the constable to put us forth: who answering, bid him go on, and said, "they do not disturb us." Then the priest went on and finished with his sermon. When he was finished, I began to speak to the people; but the priest got away, and the people hurried me out, and kept me and the priest asunder, that I got not to speak to him that morning. So I came away with my friend, and thought to have returned home; but immediately after I got out of the town, the wrath and displeasure of the Lord in his word sprung dreadfully in my heart, and a dreadful cry was in me from the same, — cursed is he that does the work of the Lord negligently. Then I saw how I had let in a fear upon me, in which I had shunned the priest and spared him, for fear I should be sent to prison for speaking to him, the law being such at that day, that whosoever did disturb a minister, as they termed it, should be sent to prison. When I found out my weakness in this, that I had spoken to the people, and spared the priest, against whom I was sent to cry, then was I sorely afraid, and my heart was filled with horror, and a sore cry [prevailed] in me still, cursed is he that does the work of the Lord negligently. Then I knew not what to do, for the wrath of God was upon me; and another cry from the same word was sounded in my heart, saying, Babylon has sinned, all you that bend the bow, shoot at her; spare no arrows, for she has sinned. When it was thus with me, and I saw that I had not been faithful, but had missed my service, after I had come so far as the common [the public grazing land] above Plumland, I sat down; and there I mourned before the Lord, whom I had so grieved; and humbly desired of the Lord, that he would but grant me liberty to go again to clear myself, that I might come into peace with him again; and then let outward life or liberty go, which I did not value. So waiting upon him in this humble bowed frame of spirit, the word of life arose in me again, and opened my heart, and sealed to me "That I might go." Then I arose with boldness, and went with speed, until I came at the worship-house. The priest was preaching again in the afternoon, so I went in and stood before him, until he was finished; and then was my heart filled with peace, and I resolved in the name of the Lord not to spare, but to speak the word of the Lord faithfully, whatever I might suffer for it; for in comparison thereof, I valued neither life nor liberty. So when he was finished, I spoke unto him, what the Lord put in my mouth; he immediately got away and gave me no answer, but I followed him so quickly, and cried out after him, that he turned again to me in the graveyard; and then I cleared my conscience to him, and a great dispute we had, for I did not spare him; at last he went away, and would stay no longer. Then I spoke to the people, and cleared my conscience among them; after which I came away in peace, and my heart was filled with unspeakable joy, and my soul with gladness. Then I saw it was good to be faithful to the Lord, and to trust in him, and to obey his voice;
To believe in Jesus that assures eternal life, is to be in union with Jesus, (living in Him), and then believe that He always knows best, that He does not make mistakes, that He is perfect; and therefore, you should obey his every command completely and at that moment or as soon as possible. This is the true meaning of "to believe in Jesus." It is easy to think, "Oh I could always believe in Jesus enough to obey Him, especially if I were already living in Him; I would know He never makes mistakes;" but until you are sent to reprove a judge, or sent to cause a false prophet minister to flee from his congregation, which might lead to getting beaten or even sent to jail, you can't be sure of your courage being sufficient to always obey what He tells you to do at that instant. Plus, when you realize that Jesus is always going to be ordering increasingly challenging tasks, so that you can grow; then perhaps you can see that even while living in Jesus, we will often be deliberately stretched or pushed to our limits of courage and faith, which limit He knows better than we do.
This verse is totally compatible with the other qualifier, (John 6:40), of when believing in Jesus results in eternal life: And this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in [depends on, trusts, and obeys] him, may have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:40. So your belief must lead to you seeing Jesus, the face of God. When your belief results in you persistently waiting on God, in humble silence, to hear Him, and to obey Him — His words that you hear Him speak to you impart the life of God; until finally you are pure and you see the face of God in your heart: Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, Mat 5:8. And every man who has this hope in him, purifies himself even as He [Jesus] is pure. 1 John 3:3.