Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Eternity Begins Now
Pastor Steve Schell
John 3:31-36
Many of the truths Jesus taught can be found in the Old Testament. He explained and applied them brilliantly, but when He taught those truths He wasn’t revealing anything new, just showing us what Moses and the prophets really meant. But there were a few select truths which He taught that were absolutely fresh revelations. They were, in fact, truths that He brought with Him from heaven. Of course there are glimpses of these truths all through the Old Testament so that if a reader truly understood what they were reading they would discover many prophecies that point directly to Jesus. That’s why after Jesus came to earth and did all that He did we can look back, and without stretching or forcing anything, see one passage after another that was trying to tell us about Jesus. Yet until He came they remained hidden from the human mind, shrouded in mystery (1Pe 1:10-12). And these few select truths that Jesus brought with Him from heaven had to do with Jesus Himself: who He is and why He came. These were the central truths that He spoke clearly and often, and they were the statements that got Him in trouble. Jesus wasn’t like other rabbis who were teaching people how to obey the Law of Moses. Nor did He try to introduce a new set of religious laws. He asked people to believe what He said about Himself, and those words form the foundation stones of true Christianity. They are truths we must believe.

John the Baptist explains Jesus (Jn 3:31-35)
• DBS (Sun-Sat)

Five truths we must believe
What were these truths that were so new and so controversial? As we listen to John the Baptist and Jesus, we can count at least five:
1) The Messiah is more than a human descendant from the family of David. He is exceptional because His spirit is the divine Son of God. That means He existed in spirit in heaven before becoming a man.
2) God ordained that this miraculous Messiah must first come to earth to suffer and die as a substitute to atone for the sins of all humans, before coming in power to bring the promised blessings of God’s kingdom.
3) His body would be dead for three days and then God would raise Him back to life.
“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Mt 16:21).
4) After He had conquered death and sin, God the Father would give the Messiah all authority to rule over His creation and to set up a righteous government on earth.
5) The promised outpouring and indwelling of the Holy Spirit would come to humans through the resurrected Messiah. His sacrifice on the cross would make it possible for the Holy Spirit to dwell inside the human body.

Truth from heaven
In explaining to his disciples why they must rejoice that people were believing in Jesus, John the Baptist told them an amazing fact. He said that Jesus lived in heaven before He was born and that He brought with Him truths which no human had ever fully understood. They were revelations about Jesus Himself which He had heard and seen in heaven and then taught to us. He literally said Jesus “witnessed” to these truths and then added that no one believed Him. No one, that is, except John himself, and he said he did receive the truth that Jesus “witnessed” and had said so publicly. In particular it must have been a huge step of faith for John to confess that Jesus, who by that time he knew for certain was the Messiah, would die. But that’s what he meant when he called Him the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29, 36). Let’s try to summarize these verses, so we can understand what John told his disciples:
v31: Jesus came from heaven, so His teaching is superior to all other human teachers.
v32: His testimony about Himself contains revelations He brought with Him from heaven.
v33: John the Baptist heard Jesus’ testimony and was the only one who believed Him. John reminded his disciples that he publicly declared his faith in Jesus.
v34: John said he knew Jesus was the Messiah when he saw the Holy Spirit come upon Him (Jn 1:31-32), and the Scriptures said the Messiah would baptize God’s people with the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11).
v35: When he baptized Jesus, John audibly heard the Father’s voice say that Jesus was His beloved Son, and I think John almost certainly knew about the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ miraculous birth. And he knew that it had been prophesied that the Father would give to His Son authority over all the earth (Ps 2:1-12; Isa 9:6-7).

John’s challenge (v36)
After declaring these truths John challenged his own disciples that they too must believe because whenever the testimony about Jesus is given people’s hearts are tested. Those who believe in Jesus with the kind of faith that submits to Him and chooses to obey His commands are immediately placed into a life-giving relationship with God. Those that refuse to become His disciples prove that they are already separated from God, and if they don’t repent, life here on earth is a foretaste of the loneliness and misery they will experience after they die.

Eternal life
With this one statement John declared salvation by grace as clearly as Paul. He said, “The one who believes in (into) the Son has life eternal” (literal). Notice John didn’t say the one who believes will have eternal life; he said that person has it now. The moment a person believes in Jesus, eternal life begins because eternal life results from being re-connected to God, not living in a place called heaven. Yes, we have a glorious future waiting for us, but those joys aren’t the essence of eternal life. That life is the life that constantly flows from God. It’s the life that we were designed at creation to survive on. Once the barrier of sin is taken away our spirit is able to freely fellowship again with God. When we die, our body with all its limitations, passions and weaknesses will fall away and our spirit will enjoy uninterrupted fellowship with God, but the intimacy of that fellowship doesn’t need to wait until we step across. John says it begins now.

Saving faith
John’s statement doesn’t stop with believers receiving eternal life, he continues on with a warning to those who choose to reject Jesus. He said, “But the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” It’s significant that John changed a key word in the second half of this statement. He didn’t warn those who do not believe in Jesus, but those who do not obey Him. Unbelief can be the result of ignorance, but disobedience is an informed choice (A. Plummer, John, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1893, p.112). This careful choice of words indicates that he is not talking here about people who have never heard of Jesus; he’s talking about those who have encountered Him in one way or another, those who understood who He is but then refuse to follow Him as His disciple. This means that the kind of faith that brings eternal life is not merely an intellectual assent to a particular doctrine about Jesus but a deep decision to believe in Jesus and obey His commands.

The wrath of God
John says that the person who does not “obey the Son” will not “see life” which means they will not gain that restored relationship with God which produces eternal life. In fact that person will not even understand eternal life when they see it at work in others. Again, we must keep in mind that he was talking about those who willfully reject the Son, not those who are ignorant of who He is or the salvation He brought to us. Just as those who believe in Jesus immediately begin to experience eternal life, those who reject Him are already experiencing what it means to be separated from God in their hearts. It’s impossible, and always will be, to live anywhere apart from God’s presence, because His Spirit fills the entire universe. But it is possible to be immersed in His Spirit and yet remain alone, isolated from Him in our hearts. John’s words were meant to warn us that this possibility exists. God in His justice will allow us to separate ourselves from Him, if we choose to. He calls it the “wrath of God” because it’s horrible. In His perfect justice God will allow humans to live forever separated from Him, alone with the person we’ve become. God doesn’t hate people, not anyone, not even the worst sinner in history, but He does hate the evil they do, and He won’t let them keep doing it forever. Nor will He let them trouble those He loves beyond the grave. He will put a barrier between them.

Our spiritual future
John says our spiritual future is already becoming evident. We are either drawing closer to God or pulling away. We are either growing softer to Him or harder, more obedient or more rebellious. In both wonderful and terrible ways eternity has already begun for those who’ve met Jesus. The future judgment will only announce these realities depending on which was true at the moment of our death. While we’re alive these things can change. Believers can stop believing, and unbelievers can start believing. But once we cross over, the decisions of this life become permanent. If we’re joined to God here, we’ll be joined to God there; if we’re separated from Him here, we’ll be separated from Him there… forever. That’s why what we believe about Jesus matters, and that’s why God sent Him to save us.

1) Some truths about Jesus are beyond our human understanding. We have to believe them humbly, by faith. Name a truth about Jesus you believe but don’t understand as much as you’d like to.
2) Did you notice a change in yourself after you believed in Jesus? What was it? Did others also observe a change in you?
3) John said Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to us “without measure.” How can you tell when the Spirit’s power is on you? 

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