Turn in your Bibles to John chapter 17. We have been studying the gospel of John for a long time and we find ourselves in 17, at this point, which is, of course, a very beautiful chapter. We began our study of the first five verses last week. And we are studying, when we study chapter 17, the most wonderful prayer that's been recorded anywhere. Perhaps this is the most unique chapter in the entire revelation of God. Because in this magnificent prayer which Jesus prays just after His final address to His disciples, we are kind of ushered into the Holy of Holies. This is a prayer from the Father to the Son. This is kind of an interpersonal prayer between members of the trinity. We feel like we're on holy ground as we listen and really share in the significance of the words of John 17.
Now, you'll remember that in chapter 16 verse 33, as we saw last week, Jesus had announced His victory at the cross. He said, "I have overcome the world." And naturally that statement implies the victory at the cross. And again, as I said last week, it's characteristic of the Greek idiom that whenever a speaker wants to say something that hasn't happened but is absolutely inevitable, he says it in the past tense. And so, Jesus actually says I have overcome the world though He is yet to experience the cross.
Now, He is aware, also, of the fact that in order to overcome the world, in order to fulfill all of the promises that He has made in chapter 14, 15 and 16, He must have the Father's will and power to do it. Because, you see, in Christ's humiliation, when He came to earth, He subjected Himself, didn't He, to the Father and said Mine meet is to do the will of Him that sent Me. That's what His humiliation was all about. And so, in His humiliation, He makes these wonderful promises and then realizes in order for them to happen He must rely on God's will and God's power.
So, having stated the promises in chapter 14, 15 and 16, He then, in chapter 17, prays, Father, let it be. Father, let it happen. So the first five verses of chapter 17 are verses in which Jesus prays that those things that He promised will happen. And particularly in these five verses as regards Himself.
Now, if we were to break chapter 17 into three parts, we would see that verses 1 to 5, Jesus prays for Himself; verses 6 to 19, He prays for His Apostles; verses 20 to 26, He prays for the entire church, all believers throughout all the church age. This has been called, and indeed it is, the High Priestly Prayer of Our Lord, revolving around Himself, His Apostles, the eleven, and all believers. It is a great chapter, not only because it ushers us into the communication of the trinity, but it is a great chapter because it is a key transition. In this chapter, the old work of Christ on earth is drawing to an end. He is about to die and end His earthly ministry and He is about to open up His intercessory ministry. And you know, the Bible tells us that even now Christ is at the right hand of the Father, doing ... what? ... interceding for us. And we see the beginning of His mediator's work, His intercessory ministry, right here in chapter 17. So, it's a transition, as we see the passing of the old and the beginning of the new.
In this chapter, then, Jesus prays to the Father to activate by the Father's will and power all the promises of chapter 14, 15 and 16. Particularly the promise, "I will overcome the world", which could only happen in the victory of the cross.
Now, we began to look at this particular chapter by seeing verse 1 as an introductory statement. Let's look at it, and just a couple of comments because it's review. "These words spoke Jesus," that is the words of 14, 15 and 16, those chapters, "and lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee."
Jesus says - It's over now; the hour is come for glory. And the key statement of the verse, really two key statements, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son. Whatever hour it is, it is the hour of glory. Right? The glory hour has come. And here Jesus Christ is recognizing the power of the Father. He knows this is the design of God. He knows this is what God promised. He told the disciples and us this would happen and yet in His humiliation He says - Father, it will only happen as You make it happen. And so, He trusts in the power of God to bring about the glory hour.
Now, when He says - the hour is come - it's a momentous statement. When He says - glorify Thy Son - it's equally momentous, for the two go together. The hour when the Son is glorified is here, Father, let it happen. The moment in God authored history has come, this is it. The hour which was to be the crux of redemptive history was there ... the event of the ages ... the crossroads of two eternities would meet on Calvary's hill ... the Son of man, the Son of God would end His labors rendering the only atoning sacrifice for sin ... the hour had come ... the hour of fulfilling prophecy ... the hour of triumphing over the prince of the world ... the hour of dismissing the old dispensation and ushering in the new Holy Spirit age in which Jesus was a mediator between God and men, interceding for them ... the hour for which He was born had come and the glory hour was the cross. The cross, my friends, stands for all time, memorialized as the event of the ages.
And it's interesting to me because many people don't really assume that God planned it that way. There are many people who disparage the fact that God planned the cross. Some people think it was an accident that Jesus got Himself into a mess and couldn't get Him out of ... that He couldn't get Himself out of. The book THE PASSOVER PLOT advocates this particular theory; SUPERSTAR, the same theory. Men have questioned it. They say - you mean God planned His own Son's execution? Ridiculous. You mean He planned that men would spit on Him, mock Him, nail Him to wooden beams, and let Him hang naked before the gaze of the world? God planned that? They say - No, the plans of Jesus went askew, somebody goofed, something went wrong.
The Bible says not so. Nothing went wrong. In I Peter, chapter 1 verse 18, you listen as I read: "For as much as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver and gold, from your vain manner of life, received by tradition from your fathers, but you were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." Listen to this. "Who," that is Christ, "verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world." It was no accident when Jesus died, my friend, it was the fulfillment of a God-authored prophecy before the world began. It was God's design.
In Acts chapter 2 as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he makes the same statement, because he says in chapter 2, verse 22: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you as you ... as ye yourselves also know," listen, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." That verse is a strange verse. That verse says - ye men of Israel, you took and slew the Son of God, but by the determined will of God.
In other words, God planned into His master plan, the death of Jesus Christ who atoned for the sins of the world. That makes the men who did it no less responsible for their own guilt and their own hate and their own unbelief. But God had designed the death of Christ as a part of His plan. He was born to die.
Why, you readIsaiah 53 and you'll read the details of His death. You read Psalm 22; centuries before He was ever born, and it gives explicit instruction about what He's going to say when He's hanging on the cross, the very words are there. It was no accident when Jesus went to the cross, no accident at all. The cross and all theevents ignited by the cross, the resurrection, the ascension and the coronation of Christ and His second coming even, all of those events ignited by the cross were planned by God before the world began, it was no accident. The sovereign God of history said it would happen, prophesied throughout the entire Old Testament that it would happen and it happened. The cross was no accident. Jesus Christ was not just a self-styled martyr dying as an example of a guy who thought something was right and willing to give His life for it. He died as one foreordained before the world began to bear the sins of the world.
And so, the cross, then, is the glory hour. With all of its pain and all of its anguish and all of its suffering and all that which seems incongruous, it was still the glory hour and Jesus says let's get at it, Father, let it be. Jesus had said earlier, "For this cause came I into the world." And He says, "Glorify Thy Son." You see, the cross was what displayed the glories of Jesus Christ and so He says - let's get at it.
Now, we saw in our outline, briefly and we'll pick it up from where we left off, the cross was glory for three reasons. First of all, we saw last week, it was glory by providing eternal life. You'd look at the cross and you'd say - How could there be any glory in the cross? What a horrible, sick thing it is. How could there be any glory?' And yet it was glory, number one, because it provided eternal life. Do you glory in the cross as a Christian? Boy, I do. And I'm not morbid but I glory in the cross.
You say - Why? The Bible says, "The wages of sin is death," doesn't it? The soul that sinneth, Ezekiel said, it shall ... what? ... die. If God's going to give me life, then somebody's going to take my death because death is what is deserved for sin. And so, Jesus came to bear our death, to die for us in order that He might give us life. In order for you and I to receive life, death had to be taken care of, right? Because the Bible says, "It is," Hebrews, "appointed unto men once ... what? ... to die." To die ... every man dies.
You say - you mean every man has to die? Yes, everybody may not die physically in the sense that Christ may come, but every man dies to sin spiritually. You either pay your penalty for sin by dying an eternal death in hell or Christ dies in your stead ... you die in Christ in the sense that He's crucified on your behalf.
So you see, Christ had to die because death was the penalty. Once He had died and paid the penalty, we were free to live, weren't we? And I'll explain what that means in a few moments. So, the death of Christ, as horrible as it was, provided life for us because He bore our punishment, died our death. And this is what He talks about in verses 2 and 3. So, the cross is glory, first of all, because it provides eternal life. Look at verse 2: "As Thou hast given Him," this is still review, "power over all flesh," we saw that, didn't we, in John 5, Christ has been given all judgment, Matthew 28:18, He says "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and earth." Christ has all power, He is all powerful. Ephesians tells us everything is put under His feet, principalities, powers and everything. Philippians 2 tells us the same thing, every knee bows to Him. Christ has authority over the entire universe, over all flesh in it. But also, "... that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." To all that the Father gives to Christ, and every believer, you know, every Christian is a love gift from the Father to Christ. Jesus said, "No man comes unto Me except the Father does... what ... draws him." See. Every believer is a love gift from the Father to the Son ... beautiful thought, isn't it? That's your security as a believer ... God doesn't take back the gifts of love that He gives to His Son. So every believer's a love gift to the Son, and to all those gifts given to Him by the Father, all those individuals the Father gives Him, Christ grants ... what? ... eternal life ... eternal life. He says - Father, let's get at it, let's get to the cross so that I can provide eternal life. And that is the first glory of the cross. Jesus gives life because of the cross, because He died we live.
When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, and accept His death in your behalf, you're free to live. This is John's theme. I told you last week, and I repeat again, that John tells us what his theme for his whole book is in chapter 20 verse 31, he says this: "But these are written," this whole epistle, "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, that believing you might have ... what? ... life through His name." The whole thing's written that you might have life. And you need life. Did you know that? You need life becauseyou're dead. The Bible says you're dead in trespasses and sins, insensitive to God, incapable of spiritual life, doomed to die in your own sin and die for your own sin. And Jesus comes along and dies in your place and says - Now I give you eternal life.
Now, this is the promise that comes from the cross, that we can live eternally. Because of His death, we live.
Now you say - what is eternal life? And I want to spend a few minutes on this ... because we didn't get to it last time. Here I want to give you a definition of eternal life that I think is really exciting. What is eternal life?
First of all, I want you to see a verse that opens it up. First John 5:20, 1 John 5:20, you don't need to turn to it if you don't want to because I'm just going to spend a moment there, but I John 5:20 says this, and listen very carefully, "And we know that the Son of God is come and hath given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true." All right, we can know God through Christ, that's what he's saying. "... and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ." Now, the last words of that sentence are Jesus Christ. Now listen to the sentence that modifies it. "This," that is Jesus Christ, "is the true God."
People say - Oh, Jesus Christ isn't God. 0h yes He is God! "This is the true God." You don't get any simpler than that, do you? "... and eternal life." Now listen to this, friends. Eternal life is, first of all, a person. Did you get that? Eternal life is a person. Eternal life isn't just going on in existence without end. No...no...no. That wouldn't mean anything. Just to go on in existence without an end would be meaningless. I mean, let's face it, an existence that went on forever doesn't necessarily mean it's good ... hell is also forever, isn't it? And you know, just the thought of eternally existing could get a little bit tedious. My seven-year-old Matthew said to me the other day, he said: "Dad, would we get very bored in heaven?" And I said, "Well," I said, "I don't think we will." He says, "But I mean, after we've served God a lot ... then what will we do?" I said - "Well, we'll look around ..." But he said, you know, we'll see all that. "Dad, will I be able to fly long ways away so I can see lots of other things?" I said, "Fly, you know ... just fly anywhere you want to fly. When you get there just have a terrific time, don't even have to report in with Mom, just..."
But the thought in his little mind, you see, that he had to grapple with was the problem of the static idea of eternal life, that it's just existence prolonged into infinity ... which doesn't appeal to me either. I mean, I can only play a harp so long, right? And I've got to try something else; I can't sit still for five minutes anyway. This ... this is not the idea of eternal life, it's not just prolonged activity ... or we'll miss that ... watch it, eternal life is a person, first of all. Ohhh, this is going to get good now. Eternal life is a person. Now watch this, it is not only a person but it is something which that person can give. For example, I have given life to three children, to this point. Who knows? Anyway, I have at this point given three ... three individual's life. I am able to give life. I am ... I represent life. I am life. Now, I ... you can't go down to the store and buy a can of life, you can't. You can't say - Look, here's two weeks supply of life; I'll be back in ten days to give you the next two weeks. You can't buy life; you have to be life to give life. Do you see? And there's no distinction. Watch this one; it is a characteristic of a living thing that it reproduces itself. Did you get that? There is no such thing as something that is not alive that doesn't reproduce.
You say - Well, I've never had any children. Yes, do you realize that in your own body, every seven years, every single cell is reconstructed? You can't be alive without reproducing. Life is the reproduction of itself. That's what it is. There's no such thing as a living thing not reproducing. If you're alive at all, you're reproducing something ... some form of that life.
And so, when I say that Jesus Christ is life, that ... that life is a person, it is also an ability to reproduce that ... that same life. Very important. Now, you see, I can give to my children physical life. But you know, I can't reproduce spiritual life. Did you know that? I can't do that. You say - you mean, if you take a Christian mom and a Christian dad, you don't get a Christian baby? No. You mean, you can't impart spiritual life? I'm sorry, you can't do it. Do you know that as a pastor, I can't give anybody spiritual life? Spiritual life comes from one person. Who's that person? Jesus Christ. He said ... He didn't say - I am one of the lifes. He said, - I am the way ... I am the truth ... I am ... what? ... the life. There's no life in any other, Peter said - neither is there salvation in any other name.
You see, then, first of all, eternal life is a person who can reproduce the same that he is in somebody else. Ohhh, terrific ... you say - I'd like to get that life produced in me. That's good ... that's good ... you need to get that reproduced in you. And I'll show you how you can, are you ready for this? Verse 3, here is a definition of eternal life as it applies to you. "And this is lifeeternal," pretty simple, right? Here it comes, "That they might know Thee." Who are they? Those that the Father gives, believers, "... that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou sent."
Now, you know how it is that you have eternal life? You know how it is that it is transmitted from God through Christ to you? By a knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do you see it there? We know Christ and we know God and thus we have eternal life.
Now, let me tie this together for a minute. Eternal life is not a length of time. Time won't even exist. Do you know that? There will be no yesterday. There will be no tomorrow. They'll be no today. No. The time as a concept won't exist. What will exist is a new kind of life. What does exist, beloved, in you right now is life eternal. People say - Well, I'm waiting to inherit eternal life. No they're not. "He that hath the Son ... what? ... you have it right now." You have eternal life right now. You say - what is it? Now watch this. Whatever it is Christ had it and gave it, right? It is His life in the soul of a man. That's exactly what it is. A little definition of eternal life ... the life of God in the soul of man. It's God life in me. Oh, that's fantastic. And I'm living it right now. I'm ... I'm living eternal life right now.
You say - what about when youdie? When I die, that is no big thing. Physical death is nothing. Do you know something? If you're a Christian, physical death is less of an event in your life than your salvation was. You say -- what do you mean? Well, you already got changed from darkness to light, you were already dead and you came to life, when the old body dies, you just keep going on in eternal life anyway. You've already begun eternal life so whatever happens when you die is just kind of incidental ... just the old body just kind of fades, and you get full expression of your eternal life. Death, for you, won't be as big a change as salvation was. It will just make your eternal life that much richer because you'll lose the infirmity of the flesh. All right.
So, here it is. Eternal life, then, belongs to a person. It is Christ's kind of life, it is God life, it is an existence and an essence of living that belongs to deity. But it is not only Christ's to possess, by very definition, eternal life must be reproductive, He must be able to give it out. And that's why the Bible says to be saved, Johnchapter 3, is to be born ... what? ... again. You see, it's anew kind of living. Eternal life is a new existence with the life of God in the soul of man.
That's a fantastic concept. All of a sudden I use to be dead toward the things of God, now I'm alive.
Now, there are two words for life in the Greek. One is bios and the word biosis the word from which we get biology, it means alive as opposed to dead. It's strictly a technical term to designate something as being non-dead. It doesn't have anything to do with any kind of circumstances, it's just ... it's a breathing thing, that's it ... or it's an existing thing as opposed to being non-existing. That's not the word here. He's not just saying You have eternal bluk, you know. That's hmmm, you're there, but ump, you know.
But, the word that is used here is the word zōē, you see.
And zōēmeans all the events and attitudes and characteristics of life that make living really living, see. When you ... you don't have eternal bios, ummm, just existing, youhave eternal um-um, see, eternal, exciting abundant, thrilling life, that's the word zōē.
And so, we have a new kind of existence. Eternal life has nothing to do with time, don't even think of it in a time idea, it's not even related to time. Even think of God ... God is eternal. Did you know that God always was? Oh, that's a terrible thought, isn't it? God is eternal. You know, God's been around ... He's been around. He's always been around. There's never been a time; there is no concept of time, God who always was. Do you think God say ... would ever say - I'm sure tired of just being? God doesn't get tired of His eternal life. That's His nature ... neither will you. There will be no boredom to eternal life because it's not a length of life, it's a quality of existence that's exciting and thrilling and fulfilling and there's no way that you'll ever get bored with it, anymore than God would be bored with His own nature ... and His own perfections.
All right, so then eternal life is the life of God in the soul of a man. It is not a time issue at all, it is a quality of living, it is an existence that has a certain characteristic that is divine.
Now, I want to add a couple of thoughts that are important here. The Word says also that it is eternal. It will go on forever. The character of it and the essence of it doesn't have to majored on the idea of its permanency. It is a quality of life that you have right now ... right now ... but it will go on forever.
Now, the word aiōnand aiōnios translated forever in the New Testament, are common Greek words to mean that. And they're translated even in extra biblical writings to mean forever. But some people have come along and tried to, you know, challenge that and say - Well, no, it doesn't really mean forever, it only means to the end of the age. I don't know if you've heard that. That's a very common line of Jehovah Witnesses and many other groups. It's not really forever; it's to the end of the age. But the word always means forever. Or, they say it means for a little period of duration. That cannot be. That can't be. This eternal kind of thing goes on forever and the reason I believe that is ... let me give you a couple of thoughts.
First, and I'm going to abbreviate this cause we're really limited time wise. All right, in the first place, God is forever. Would you buy that? Okay. The Bible says, uses the very same word aiōn, aioniōsin reference to the nature of God ... the eternal God ... the God ... the everlasting Father, see. This is a common term for God. Now you don't meanto tell me that you're going to say that that doesn't mean forever with God, that God is the all wise, omnipotent God for a little while. That's ridiculous. That God's nature just goes on to the end of the age and then who's God after that? Don't tell me that God's nature has an end. Don't tell me that God's etern ... eternity doesn't mean that, He's just God for a little slop of time in there and somebody else slips in later on, ridiculous. So, when you use the word in the New Testament to refer to the nature of God, it has to mean forever.
The word is ... and that's, incidentally, Romans 1:25, Romans 11:36, II Corinthians 11:31, it's everywhere; it's several places beyond that in all kinds of contexts. Also, the New Testament says this - Christ's reign will be forever, Christ's glory will be forever, Christ's resurrection life will be forever. Now you mean to tell me that doesn't mean forever? That Christ's glory will be for a little while and then it's over? Christ's reign will be for a little while then it's over. Christ's post-resurrection life will be a little while and then He'll die? Don't tell me that. Jesus Christ's nature is forever as is God's. And then the Holy Spirit says - and I give you eternal life. Uses the very same word and some guy says - Well, it doesn't mean forever, it means for a little while, see. That's ridiculous.
You say -- well, where do people get ideas like that? That cones out of a sentimentalism that's attached to the idea of the word aiōniosin relation to hell. You see, people don't want to acknowledge the fact that hell is forever, so they've got to get rid of the forever in hell and when they get rid of the same word there,they've got to mess it up everywhere else. And they finally wind up messing up the nature of God by messing up the word. The life of God is eternal therefore the life of God in Christ is eternal, therefore the life of God in Christ in me is ... what? ... eternal. You can't foul it up at any point. And you can ... I found 48 places in the New Testament where it promises to give us eternal life. Now if the Holy Spirit didn't know what He was talking about, He certainly repeated Himself needlessly.
Eternal life, then, is a kind of existence which knows God, which is the life of God in the soul of man and it has no end, that even death doesn't violate it.
Now, I want to give you an illustration of this. When you and I possess eternal life, we possess, essentially, what God possesses. Boy, that is really exciting ... that's really exciting. I mean, you realize, of course, don't you, that people without Christ are dead right? And that means spiritually dead, insensitive to God. You know, an illustration I always use, if you take a pin and stick a dead body, you don't get a reaction, hopefully. You stick a dead body and nothing happens. Why? Because physical death is an inability to respond to a physical stimulus, right? Spiritual death is the same thing. You get poked with the truths of God - nothing. No sensitivity to the life of God at all, complete spiritual death. All of a sudden you receive Christ and, boy, like the dawning ... and you can't explain it. All of a sudden God becomes real. Christ becomes real. Spiritual life becomes real. Sensitivity to things divine, the Word of God means something. This is eternal life. This is eternal life. Mark it, there's no difference between eternal life and spiritual life, none at all, none at all. Spiritual life is ... what? ... eternal. It's a kind of life.
Now, you say - you mean I actually possess what God possesses? Why sure you do ... sure you do. I'll illustrate it to you ... just ri ... there's many of them, but I'll give you a couple of quickies here in John 14:27. Here's a good illustration of it. "Jesus says," John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you." That's good, isn't it? And you say - Where did you get the peace? I mean, you know, what kind is it? Listen. "My ... what? ... peace." Whose peace was it? Christ's peace. That was the peace of God, wasn't it? Doesn't Paul say the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds? Whose peace is it? God's peace. You see, if God possesses it in His life and gives us His life, then we possess His peace. Now watch this. In chapter 15, same thing, verse 10: "If you keep My commandments, ye shall abide in ... watch this ... My ... what? ... love." He goes, "I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." Whose love is in us? Romans 5:5, "For the love of Christ is shed abroad ... where? ... in our hearts." Whose love? His love.
Watch this one. Verse 11, chapter 15: "These things have I spoken unto you that ... what? ... My joy might remain in you." Terrific. Lookat chapter 16, verse 15: "All things that the Father hath are Mine." In other words, all of the Father's life, all that which makes up God's life is Mine, Jesus said, therefore the Holy Spirit will take of Mine and show it to you. Do you see? The Spirit's ministry is to dispense the characteristics ofthe life of God to the believer. And eternal life is the life of God in the soul of man, that's what it is. I could put it simply: if you're a Christian, where does Christ dwell? Huh? In you. Is He life? Is He God's life? So, what's in you? God's life. So, if you have peace, whose peace is it? It's God's. If you have joy, whose joy is it? It's God's. If you have love, whose love is it? God's. You see, all the way down the line eternal life, friends, is simply experiencing the life that God lives within your own body. I mean, that's a fantastic realization. I mean, this is not a peanut operation. All that God's life was to Christ it can be to us. And Jesus says ... you say - Oh, we're certainly not the same as Christ. Listen. The Bible says we are joint heirs with Christ. Jesus said He's not ashamed to call us ... what ... brothers, brothers, brothers. We possess the life of God.
And you know something? You say - well, boy, I'm not like Christ. Yeah, but do you know someday you will be? First John 3 says - we don't yet appear what we shall be whenever we shall see Him, we shall ... what? ... be like Him. Why? Because we will have the life of God within us. We have it even now only then in the full glory. And yet I still believe there will be a distinction between us and Christ. But in terms of life, we will possess eternal life in its fullest sense. We possess it even now. Boy, it's an exciting thing to see then what eternal life is. It's a quality of existence that knows God.
Now, let me comment on the word know. You say - Oh, I know God. ThenI must have eternal life. I know God; He's the one that made the world, right? That's the One?
That's the One. But that's not what it's talking about, not intellectual knowledge. You can know a lot of things and not really know in the sense of this word. Now, I've shared many times with you, I'll share it quickly again, the word know, far from just meaning intellectual knowledge, often in Scripture implies a deep intimate love relationship, right? It is the word used very frequently to express the relationship between a husband and a wife in sexual relationships. The Bible talks about a man knowing his wife, and it doesn't mean he knows who she was, obviously. It means intimacy. Joseph was really shook up because Mary was pregnant and the Bible said Joseph had not ... what? ... known her. You see, it implies intimacy. God said of Israel - Israel only have I known. Now it didn't mean the only people God had any idea about were the Israelites. He knew about everybody. It wasn't intellectual; it was with a love relationship. He says - Israel only have I had an intimate deep love relationship with.
Jesus says for example in John 10, "My sheep hear My voice and I ... what? ... I know them." Again, that love, that intimacy. That's what it's saying here. Watch this one. "And this is eternal life that they might deeply love Thee the only true God." Jesus is the true God. "And Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." And so it is that we must love God and Christ with a deep, deep love. That brings to us the life of God. Isn't that a fantastic thing? And though in a sense it's not a ... a birth as we know it, it's an adoption, that's what the Bible calls it. And God gives us His life. This is eternal life: a new living, loving relationship with God, and it goes on forever.
You say - Well, what about when the body dies? Well, that's all the better. As I said, that's promotion. Why the Bible says - "Absent from the body," II Corinthians 5:8, what's the next line? - "present with the Lord." Somebody comes along and says - No, no, soul sleep is where it's at. Well, this is, you know, Seventh Day Adventistism and Jehovah Witnesses and many other groups teach soul sleep. When you die your body goes to sleep, no consciousness, no knowledge, no activity and you sleep until the resurrection. My Bible doesn't say that. My Bible says - absent from the body, present with the Lord. And the Apostle Paul was really messed up if that wasn't true because in Philippians 1:23, he says: "I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ." You see. Don't let anybody tell you that when you die you just go out of existence. Or, you go to sleep. Some kind of hope that would be for the believer. That violates the meaning of eternal, violates the meaning of life which is active felt life, violates the meaning of the word know which is a constant conscious-loving intimacy, it violates everything and makes a lie out of II Corinthians 5:8 and makes a liar out of the Apostle Paul.
And may I hasten to add that the same groups who. tend to do these kind of things are those that advocate annihilation and they say that what happens when a person dies is he's tormented for a little while, they take forever for a little while, and then he's annihilated. Well, they'll not find that in the Bible. You'll not find that at all. And that only comes not out of a theological look at the Scriptures, but it comes out of a sentimental imagination. Hell is forever, friends. Mark it, it is forever.
The same word in reference to hell, aiōnios, is right there in the Word of God. And you can't violate that word at any point. It is a forever conscious existence for those who refuse and reject Jesus Christ and live in a state of spiritual death and separation from God.
And may I say this? Death doesn't change even that. If you're dead all through life, when you die physically, you'll just keep on being dead spiritually forever. Death doesn't change things. Death just petrifies what was going on when you were alive. And so, the Bible says that hell is forever. It calls it everlasting fire. It says it's a place where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched. It calls it a lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone, a bottomless pit, outer darkness, fire unquenchinat ... unquenchable where there is weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, a furnace of fire, blackness of darkness, it says the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. It never changes, it's eternal.
And so the offer that Jesus Christ makes to a man as between eternal life or forever death and separation. And so, as Jesus looked at His cross, first of all, He saw the glory of the cross because in it He would provide eternal life.
Now, I'm just going to show you the other two points, we won't even preach them at you because they're real simple.
Secondly, the crosswas glory because in it was perfect obedience. We must glorify Christ and exalt His name because of His obedience. Look at verse 4. "I have glorified Thee and the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do." Jesus says - Father, I've glorified You. And that's what He wanted to do is give glory to God. How did You do it? Because I finished what You gave Me to do.
Aren't you glad He did? Aren't you glad He didn't get so upset in the garden when He was sweating great drops of blood that He ran and hid and never went to the cross? You know what it would have meant if Jesus had come and did everything He did and not gone to the cross? It wouldn't have meant anything ... it wouldn't have meant anything. No, Jesus said - I finished the work which You gave Me to do. You see, here we go again. You see, it is in the past tense, I have finished. Again, that's the Greek idiom for something that's yet to happen but so inevitable it can't be changed. It was a few hours later that He stood on the cross and said - It is ... what? ... finished. What's finished? The work the Father gave Me to do. Perfect obedience, He humbled Himself, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, Philippians 2, but humbled Himself, took upon Him the form of a man. He was obedient even to the death of the cross. And Jesus says - Father, when it's all over, glorify Me, I was obedient.
Ah, this is beautiful from two aspects. Number one, it's beautiful because the cross was glory, because it was a task completed. You know, if Jesus had stopped short of the cross, everything would have been meaningless. You see, Jesus came ... watch this one ... from many angles we could say, let me just give you one of the points that I had that I wanted to share, I'll just give you one. Jesus wanted to show us God's love, right? Sure He did. He could have come and said - God loves you, everybody, yes He does. And He could have healed some people who were sick and so forth. They said - See, here's an expression of God's love. He could have been kind to little children and He could have loved people. They would have said - Boy, yeah, well blah, blah, maybe God really loves us.
But listen to this. It wouldn't have made it, man; it wouldn't have made it if He had stopped short of the cross. You know why? Because that would have been saying there are some lengths to which the love of God just won't go, right? If He hadn't been willing to die, it would have been saying - God loves you up to a point ... right? Not enough to die for you. But by going to the cross, Jesus made possible these words - "But God proved His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners ... what happened? ... Christ died for us." You see, that had to be the great proof, didn't it? Anything short of the cross and the love of God doesn't make it ... because it was in the death of the cross that He showed His love. Jesus said: "For greater love hath no man than this, then that a man lay down his life for his friends." Right? That proved His love.
It also proved His love because it purchased our salvation in the fullest sense.
All right, so first of all, the cross was glory because it was a completed task as it revealed God's love. Secondly, it was glory at this point in ... in His obedience because just plain obedience glorifies God. God is a God of moral design. God is a God who sets rules ... who establishes patterns and when we obey them we bring Him glory. And Jesus was obedient to God's will ... and thus God was glorified.
When a child obeys the parents, it not only glorifies the child it dignifies and glorifies the parents, doesn't it? Have you ever gone and seen a parent with an unruly kid? You know, in the market or the store? You know and she just yells at him and the kid is just a mean kid. Have you ever seen a kid hit his parents? You know who really loses esteem in your eyes? Not the kid, right? But the parent. And then when you see a really polished and obedient, genteel child, immediately your thought says - Boy, parents ... umm, sharp. That's true in everything and even true in Jesus Christ. The Father receives glory from the wonderful obedience of the Son. A citizen, for example, brings honor to his country when he obeys its laws. A scholar brings honor to his teacher when he follows his precepts. And Jesus brings glory to His Father when He obeys Him completely.
Jesus loved the Father perfectly and obeyed Him perfectly. And, my friends, perfect love is made visible by perfect obedience. You say you love God, how can you prove it? Obey Him. If you love Me, John 15, you will ... what? ... keep My commandments. And so, the cross is dignity. The cross is honor. The cross is glory because it shows us perfect obedience.
What a pattern Jesus is for us to obey, isn't He?
Third and last, the cross is glory as seen by Christ personally returning to the Father. The cross was a glory because when it was all over, Jesus was lifted to glory as the Father approved what He did. After Jesus had thought about the cross and anticipated it, the thing that was most on His mind was returning to the presence of the Father and so in verse 5 He says this: "And now, 0 Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with a glory which I had (here it comes) with Thee before the world was." He had been separated from Him for thirty-three years. He says - Father, in effect, Father, do you approve, if You do approve, if I've done what You want Me to do, bring Me back to the glory I had before the humiliation began. He yearns to go to the Father. He longed to be with the Father.
Did the Father approve? Did He? Sure did. The cross was glory and the Father approved by two things. What was the first great sign of the Father's approval? Three days later? The resurrection. That was God saying - I approve. God raised Him from the dead. The book of Acts says all the way through from chapter 2...2...to chapter 17, the Bible repeats that the Father raised the Son, the Father raised the Son, the Father raised the Son. That became the message of the Apostles because that was God's approval of the work of Jesus.
There was a second way that God approved and that was not only His resurrection but His exaltation, right? After His humiliation, Philippians 2 says - "And wherefore God hath highly...what? ... exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." And so we see God exalted Him in His resurrection and then He exalted Him in His coronation as He lifted Him to His right hand.
Listen, when Jesus said the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, He meant the cross because the cross was the glory hour. It was the glory hour because in it He provided eternal life, because in it He exhibited perfect obedience and because as a result of it He would personally return to the glories that He had with the Father before the world began. No wonder Jesus looked for the cross. No wonder He said - Father, let it happen.
Let me say this in closing. It doesn't matter one bit whether Jesus died if you aren't willing to receive the gift of eternal life that He gives to you. It's all a waste in your life if you're not willing to open your heart and receive Christ. It means absolutely nothing to you. But if on the other hand, you respond to Christ and open your heart and receive the eternal life that He gives, then you find a kind of existence you never dreamed possible. May I add this at the end? You will live forever, my friend. In terms of the end of your existence there is none ... and you must choose whether it shall be in the presence of God, enjoying the life of God or whether it shall be out of the presence of God in the damnation the Bible calls hell. The choice is yours. Jesus offers you eternal life. I urge you to take it.
Lord, we thank You for such an offer. We thank You that Your great grace extends to us the gift of life. Father, we know that we have to choose life. Even as Jesus said in remorse and sorrow as He looked at Israel, - You will not come unto Me that you might have life. Father, may that not be said of anyone here. May no. one leave this place who hasn't come to cry out for life ... life eternal ... a new kind of existence--the life of God in the soul of a man. Father, thank You for such life. And may it be a realization in the ... in the heart of every person here. We pray in Christ's name. Amen.
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