Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Correctly dividing John 5:24

Erroneous exposition
Some believers use John 5:24 to justify their stance that, once saved is always saved, or that there is nothing to overcome anymore, once you have entered into salvation.  In fact, such phrase as “enter into salvation” has no place in their vocabulary, for to them it is either one is saved or one is NOT saved; to them there is no such thing as, to have entered into salvation and NOT saved at any point in time, regardless.  We will see what John 5:24 says:

John 5:24- "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

It is over-simplistic to take the verse to mean “when you heard the Lord’s word, and you believe the Father God sent Him (Jesus), you have eternal life that cannot be taken from you ever again and you will NOT ever be condemned anymore; you will never go into death (NOT 1st death, but 2nd death), ever again”.

Such simplicity is in the like of saying the phrase, in Acts 2:21, of “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”, is meaning that anyone, really anyone, who calls out, “Lord, Lord”, the Lord must save him?!  Of course NOT.   It was NOT and is NOT simply saying anyone who calls out, “Lord, Lord”, he will be delivered now or forever saved (eternally saved).  We must understand the intent of the phrase (of Acts 2:21) was to say there was no distinction as to Gentiles or Jews when it came to salvation.  When we take this phrase as describing what is needed for salvation, you get the wrong belief system.  You get, “Yah-what, it said there, just call out to the Lord and the Lord must save you”; which is wrong.  No need to believe that the Lord died for you, and was sent by the Father God!  Cannot be, right?!

Context and intent
Firstly, contextually, the verse of John 5:24 was given to emphasise this: “to be in eternal life, one has to believe it was the Father God’s plan for salvation”.  The context was given us, in the verses preceding the verse, starting from v16.  The “mechanics” of salvation was given very simply, without elaboration. Instead of catching the intent that Jesus was stressing, the false teachers focussed on the mechanics (which was simply stated), and said that Jesus meant the mechanics of salvation was like that – once saved, always saved.

About the mechanics
The mechanics of salvation is this: let’s say, presently, we have a person, how does he get into salvation (I wouldn’t even want to use here, “how does he get saved?)?  He needs to hear the gospel (the “my word” there in the verse, for Jesus was talking about salvation, epitomized by His first sermon – “The Kingdom of God is near or at hand”).  It is really simply simplistic to imply that Jesus was saying all one needs in this regard, is just to have heard the gospel, like one heard the phone ringing.  The “hear” here, is definitely NOT hear as in “she hears the phone ringing, or hears a sound”.  From the overall counsel of the Word, the “hear” here, although here, being New Testament, was in Greek, the equivalent Hebrew word is “shema”. 

Shema can be having meaning along the full spectrum, from hear, as in, hear a sound or door bell, to listen, to listen to comply, to listen to grant.  And so, God may NOT listen to you, but He hears you; in both instances, shema may have been used.  Here, in our verse, hear is “hear with due consideration and understanding”, the furthest end of the range of meanings of the Greek word used.  I would say that perhaps, it was still short; it is closer to “hear, understand and agree with” the gospel.  When one agrees with the gospel, it would include agreeing that it was and is the plan of the Father God unto salvation (John 3:16); in other words, the person needs to believe the Father God sent Jesus.

Mere hearing is enough; cannot be!
People who insist, John 5:24 gives the full mechanics of salvation, would then argue it is wrong to get people to say the Sinner’s Prayer or to get them to put their hands up, or to come down to the sanctuary front, and say that he/she wants to accept Jesus as his/her personal Lord and Savior, for the simple reason that all it said of the person is to hear the gospel, and believe the Father God sent Jesus.  I ask a simple question: Does one really believe an old hanging bridge will hold, if he will NOT walk across?  So, one believes, and he will NOT put his hands up, or speak it out, or confess it to another?  Jesus did NOT say any of these, because He was NOT focussing on the mechanics of salvation; He was emphasizing it was the Father God, the God whom the people purportedly believed (the Father God was the God the Jews then knew), who has sent Him, and so He, Jesus, was there, doing those things, including miracles, that the Pharisees were angry about.

So, now, this person whom we are having here, hears the gospel, understands it, and agrees with it, and believes God (the Father) had sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us (John 3:16), and he shows it or affirms it or confesses it, he crosses over from death to life.  We will look in a little while, in more detail, what is meant by “he crosses over from death to life”?  I want to say a little more on what it takes to be saved.

Following Jesus is necessary
In Jesus’ own words (John 10:27-29): 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

We can see Jesus gave us a few conditions to stay saved.  We are saved at the point of entry into salvation; thereafter until we die (physically), we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).  I will list the conditions (contained in v27) below:

1.      We got to listen to His voice:  “My sheep listen to my voice”, said Jesus.  Do you listen (NOT just hear, but listen) to His Word, and the Holy Spirit, who is His Spirit?

2.      Jesus knows you:  “I know them”, said Jesus. It is NOT we know Jesus (“know” here is NOT “know about” {like you know about the President, but you don’t know him}, but know, as in I know him, for we grew up together and have been close), but that Jesus knows us.  Actually, we cannot know another, if the other does NOT know us!  In Scripture, at Matt 7:21-23, we also read that Jesus said that NOT all who call Him “Lord, Lord”, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven; in verse 23 (of Matt 7), Jesus said, “'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”  You have to ask yourself, if Jesus knows you (NOT about you, but knows you)?

3.      We know Jesus:  I just said, “knowing” is a two party-thing.  Jesus knows you, and you also need to know Jesus.  How have you get to know Him?  Have you spent time in His presence?  Have you spent time studying His Word?  Have you spent time being led by His Spirit (the Holy Spirit)?  Have you spent time walking and working Him (following and serving Him)?

4.      We need to follow Jesus: “They follow me”, said Jesus (in John 10:27).  In the Matt 7:21-23 text (mentioned in point 2), Jesus added that it is ONLY those who do the will of the Father God who will be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Luke 6:46, Jesus said: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Doing the will of the Father God and doing the will of Jesus, is of course the same, for Jesus only does the Father’s will.  And it is we have to do the will of God in our lives, if we want to go to be with Him in Heaven, when we have passed on.  Now, what does it mean to “follow” someone?  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  It simply means we have to obey Jesus and do as He wants us to.  The Lord tells us what He wants us to do, in His Word, so, do you obey His Word?  The Lord tells us what He wants us to do, by His Spirit (the Holy Spirit), so, do you obey the Spirit and be led by the Spirit?  Are you following Jesus, or are you only having said He is your Saviour?  Is salvation without the Lordship of Christ Jesus?  Fat hope, if you think you can have salvation without having to hold Jesus Christ as your Lord!

It is after Jesus has mentioned the above (in John 10:27), that in the verse following (v28), He said “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…”

Brother Anthony, how about, it was said in the John 10 text, that Jesus said, no one could snatch us from His hand or the Father’s hand?  Yes, repetition (cannot be snatched from His hand and the Father’s hand) is an emphasis.  My answer is simple:  If you listen to Jesus, if Jesus knows you and you know Jesus, and you follow Him, yah, no one can snatch you from God’s hand; but if NOT, well, it depends! One thing that people tend to forget is that we are still with volition, if you will it, to follow another or evil, that’s NOT snatching!

What is “crosses over from death to life”?
What does it mean, “he crosses over from death to life”?  Death here cannot be referring to physical death, or the life, physical life, for a physically dead person cannot hear, can he, he cannot understand, can he, and he cannot agree, can he, at least NOT in the same way, we who are alive, can!  So what does it mean?  Actually, the verse did leave us a clue; it has this in it: “he will NOT be condemned”.  The “condemned” here, in the verse is NOT just a general condemnation with a wide meaning; it is having the meaning of damnation, and damnation in religious understanding is “condemned to Hell”.  But of course, it has NOT happened yet, being in Hell, I mean, when one is damned; it is to take place in the future. 

The Biblical understanding is that, until one comes into salvation, he is already damned; only that he is NOT yet in there, Hell, that is.  Death, Bible tells, can be referring to the 1st death which is the physical death or the 2nd death which is “be thrown into Hell (or lake of fire of Hell), and remain there (be tormented there))”.  So, one common way of putting it, until one enters into salvation, he is “legally” dead; it is only a matter of time, before he will be thrown into Hell and remains there forever. 

Practically, it is only the 1st death that is separating one (non-believer, for example) from the 2nd death.  The non-believer is NOT in Hell solely because he has NOT yet died (there may still be a time lag after 1st death before he goes there – Hell).   So, when he has heard the gospel, understood it, and agreed with it, and (so), believed that it was the Father God’s salvation plan, and wanted it, his “legal” penalty of death is squashed (squashed because Jesus paid for it).  So, in the last bit of the verse, we read that the person has crossed over from death (damnation) to life.  He is no longer bound for Hell or 2nd death, and so, he is back on the life track. 

From damned previously to NOT damned, NOT can never be damned!
Because the death is not the physical or mortal death, the life referred to, is NOT the mortal life or earthly life, which the person is always having; otherwise he can’t hear, can he, can’t believe, can he (at least, NOT in the same way as we who are having earthly life, do).  So, you see, it is the damnation that has been removed, and so, it said there, that he will NOT be condemned.  It is NOT he will NOT ever be condemned again, but it is he has crossed over from death to life, and so, he will NOT be condemned or he is no longer condemned, from he was condemned previously.

From bound for Hell (eternal death) to bound for Heaven (eternal life)
We saw it already, Jesus said that the person crossed over from death to life; and that life is NOT the earthly mortal life that is being referred to.  So, what is it referring to?  The death in Hell or 2nd death is one where one gets thrown into Hell and remains there and be tormented there forever.  Remember, Jesus talked about crossing, so, on the one side is the everlasting torment in Hell (called death {2nd death}), the other side is the opposite – everlasting joy in Heaven (called life {eternal life}). 

There is still, the time has NOT yet come
Just as for 2nd death, unless one enters into salvation, it is only a matter of time, in the time continuum that one gets there, Hell; similarly when the person crossed over to life, he is in eternal life, but he is NOT yet there in Heaven.  Does the person have eternal life or eternal death, upon entry into salvation?  The answer is eternal life.  That is what the verse said, when one effectively entered into salvation, he has eternal life or in eternal life, even though he is NOT yet reaching there – Heaven. 

Jesus finished His race, overcoming; you and I, in it (the race), but NOT yet (finish)
The person is now “legally” alive, as opposed to previously, legally dead.  There is nothing said, that implies or suggests that the line between death and life cannot be re-crossed over again!  It does NOT say or imply “Once saved is always saved” nor that once you crossed over from death to life, you have overcome all things or the world, even as Jesus Himself had done so – overcame the world.  It is He, Jesus, has overcome, but we, IN HIM, should be able to.  Without IN HIM or THROUGH HIM, I doubt anyone is able.

Nowhere in Scripture is there a saying, without a shadow of doubt, that says, once you entered into salvation, you will 100% get there – Heaven.  People need to understand (1) what gets them to be “legally” dead, in the first place, (2) what is the meaning of redemption, and (3) there is NOT, one time of reckoning given in Scripture, but more than one.

Sin was what got us there, be legally dead.  Yes, the Original Sin did us in, so to speak; but if we go back to Adam and Eve, it was their sinning that got them and us, the Original Sin.  Scripture also said that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  So, when Adam and Eve sinned, they had to face the consequence, unbelievers when they sinned, they had to face the consequence; it cannot be right, that when we, believers, sin, it is of no consequence!  Nowhere in Scripture, it is stated that the wages of sin after entry into salvation is NOT death or of no consequence.

Redemption means to restore to the original state.  The original state was that Adam and Eve were of no sin, but if they sinned, they would have to face the consequence.  With God freely pardoning us for the Original Sin, and setting us back to the state of Adam and Eve were, and so, you and I cannot still exclaim “unfair”; at the same time, we want only the good part, but NOT the same responsibility of NOT sinning, which Adam and Eve were having?! There is no reason to think that the full works, including the responsibility NOT to sin, do NOT kick in.

If you die immediately upon entry into salvation, yes, I can agree that you probably get to Heaven.  If NOT, then there are more times of reckoning, and they included our time of death, and the end-time judgment.  The point is that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life at our entry into salvation, and we have to ensure that at our death, our names are still in.  My understanding from Scripture is that, names can be blotted out from the Lamb’s Book of Life.

If I die now, I am saved, and I go to Heaven
I say that, “If I die now, I am saved, and I go to Heaven”, yet it is NOT once saved, is always saved.  Are you confused?  The explanation is faith. 

I don’t know what I will do or will NOT do, in the future.  I can only believe what I will do or will NOT do.  My future is NOT a completed movie that will NOT change; what I will do or will NOT do, have NOT happened; and if I now can see into my future, say at 3 years from now, what I see, and what I will see from 3 months later, at the same point in the future (it will be 2 years and 9 months), it can be different.  Why can it be different?  Simply, it is I am being worked on, by the Lord, and hopefully, I grow and mature under the refining fire of God. 

Our future is NOT fixed or static.  For example, 5 years ago, assuming you could look into the future, and you saw today, you would sin, you would backstab your best friend and colleague.  Yet, today may pass without you doing that very sin of backstabbing your best friend and colleague!  How come? In the 5 years leading to present time, you could have matured to the extent you would no longer succumb to jealousy or whatever that would drive you to sin against your best friend and God. 

Of course, it can go the other way round, you did NOT see that backstabbing 5 years ago, but today, you backstab your best friend and colleague!  Because you did NOT grow in the faith, and got ensnared by evil. 

So, today if I say I will NOT backstab my best friend and colleague 5 years from now, I am going by faith, after self-examination. Scripture said in 2 Cor 13:5, that we ought to be self-examining ourselves (all the time) to see if we are still in the faith. 

“If I die now, I am saved, and I go to Heaven” is my faith statement, after self-examination.  I will go to Heaven if I die now is my belief and faith, yet still, it is God decides if I really go or NOT, to Heaven.  It is, I believe my name is still on the Lamb’s Book of Life, NOT blotted out.  In actuality, whether or NOT, my name has been blotted out or NOT, the Lord is the one who decides; I can only obey Him, follow Him, serve Him, and love Him, to the best I can.  It is, I am bound for Heaven, NOT to Hell, and I do my best according to the Word, led by the Spirit, to stay on the course, carrying myself in every way justifying my faith in believing if I die now I am saved, and I go to Heaven.  But judgment ultimately belongs to God; I make it or NOT, is based on His assessment, NOT mine. 

Those who argue that it is once saved, always saved, they are saying that once you entered into salvation, you are saved, and even God cannot stop you from entering Heaven.  It is you are saved, regardless; regardless what you think, do, or would NOT do, since entry into salvation; no amount of sinning or denying the Lord can keep you from Heaven; God can NEVER condemn you anymore!    This, God did NOT promise in Scripture. 

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
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