John 3:22-36 (AD 27)
The earlier part of this chapter helped us understand that ‘belief’ in a Biblical context is wrapped up in the idea of actively following, and being in a relationship with Jesus based on faith and repentance. Hot on the heels of that understanding, John the Baptist underscored the glorious promise and dire warning made in verses sixteen to eighteen:
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (v.36).
Three things to note:
- With Jesus, “believe in” is the opposite of “reject”
Those are your only two options. He’s not like you and me. People can take us or leave us and it doesn’t constitute either of those things, necessarily. We can have very amiable casual friendships where neither party wants regular contact, and there’s no rejection in that necessarily. Not being a disciple of a person doesn’t imply anything negative. But with Jesus, anything short of full discipleship – a relationship based on us following him – is a complete rejection of him.
If someone asked to marry you and you said no, but it would be great to meet up for coffee, they wouldn’t take that as a suitable alternative. It would be felt, rightly, as total rejection. So it is – to the infinite – with Jesus.
- Eternal life is the most real life
You have a body, but you are a soul. The REAL you isn’t what runs, walks, hobbles, wheels or sits around. The real you is your soul, which never changes, and will be given a new – non-decaying – body when we get to heaven. Our eternal life isn’t a separate kind of life that’s interesting and probably preferably. It’s what we were designed to be: in perfect relationship with our Father and eachother, forever.
- We are born under God’s wrath
See how the threat is that God’s wrath would ‘remain’ on people. We are all born that way. Stands to reason of course, though to look at a baby it’s not the first thing that would occur to you. Being born with naturally sinful hearts – not worse than the next person necessary, but fundamentally broken and in active rebellion against God. As such, whether we are paddling furiously downstream away from God or happily drifting in the opposite direction to him, we are doomed. God can’t overlook sin – either you will pay for it or Jesus already did. So when people talk about the nastiness of being ‘thrown into hell’, it’s more that they started off walking that way and just never stopped. We are by nature objects of God’s wrath, and without his forgiveness, so we remain.
These ideas of believing in Jesus, eternal life and the wrath to come are not stuck in a New Testament side road, being wheeled out for the sake of curiosity. These are some of the pillars of everything God has ever spoken about. And they are core to why Jesus came; who you are; what you must do, what you can have and where you will be. Take it, then, in the urgency with which it was intended.