But now he says, the mystery, something not yet revealed, is that if we are alive when He returns, he says, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” In other words, in the fastest increment of time, we will be changed, and 1st Thessalonians 4:13 unpacks that, as well, when he says, “I do not want you to be uninformed about those who are asleep,” which is euphemism of death, “so you will not grieve as the rest who have no hope.” By the way, I don’t think it is right to say we don’t grieve. We do grieve.
But, we grieve as those who have hope. There is the difference. The worst funeral I ever went to was for my next door neighbor. He was an atheist and it was an incredibly depressing funeral. It was utterly full of hopelessness and actually embarrassing to those people because death was an outrage to them and they didn’t have any way of dealing with it. Some of them wrote silly poems and it was simply awful, and painful for everybody. What I am saying is that I have to funerals where they have been celebrations of homecoming, and I have also been to funerals where they have been morbid and morose, and the difference is the issue of where they are going.
So, we grieve, sure, because we are going to miss them, but that is only a temporary separation. We will be coming back with one another, and that is a great joy and comfort to me to know that. If you look with me at John 7, he will even anticipate that. He says, in verse 38, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water’.” That is like an artesian well, it has no limit. “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” It is necessary for Him to be glorified before the Spirit can be given.
The Scripture predicts this. His glorification included His death, His crucifixion, as well as His resurrection and ascension to the Father; then, ten days after the ascension, the coming of the power on high, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, He is saying that also here in John 7, that there is that radical difference. Going back to 1st Thessalonians 4, Paul speaks about this, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” What he is saying is that all those who have gone before us, Jesus is going to bring them back with Him. “For this we say to you, by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” The image of rising is for your spirit and soul to be joined to a new body.
The dead in Christ will receive a resurrected and glorified body, “Then we who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore,” he says, “Comfort one another with these words.” It is, indeed, a great source of comfort, and we can see that death is not the end, it is the door to the new life. It is an opening door, and so we see that this is not a finality. I don’t know about you, but as I get older, it would be more and more difficult for me to cope in life, realizing that this is all there is. I am not a person who can avoid thinking about these things. Many, many people have the ability to go for decades without ever thinking about that reality. They act as if they are going to live forever.
So, they embrace entertainment, distraction, and indifference and that characterizes their lives. For me, none of those would work. I would need heavy medication. My point is that I can’t not think about these things.
So, if I live with this understanding of hope, then, again, to use this analogy I use often, life on this earth without the hope of a resurrection is like, “A bird who flies through the window of a banquet hall and then flies right out the other window.” Your life is comparable to those few seconds, and then you’re right back in the inky darkness. You see the point? Your life, without Christ, is a little episode, a little blip, between two eternities. You’re here, and you’re gone. In fact, the whole nation is that way, a blip on the scale of history. Look at the Romans, look at the Greeks before them, look at the Persians before them, look at the Babylonians before them, look at the Assyrians before them, they all have ruled and they are all gone. They are all, literally, history. Not one is with us. All we see is the wreck of those civilizations.
Now, whole civilizations are like that and given enough time the whole human race will be that way. Friends, the universe will not live forever. Ultimately, left to itself, the universe would not be able to sustain life at its simplest level. The point is, regardless of what your scale is, this is all temporary. Nobody will be left to hear our music and our poetry. It will be all gone. When I read The Time Machine, when he goes into the future, he then decided to set the time machine as far ahead as he can. He sets it for three million years into the future, and he arrives, and what does he see?
Not a thing that is alive except for some moss, and there is no sound except for the surf. Apart from that, everything else was gone. You do understand that 99.99 percent of the species on the planet are now extinct? Of all the species that have ever lived, 99.99 percent are gone. There is no way to replace them because there are no new genes. People estimate that about 2,000 species a year are gone to extinction. How wonderful and marvelous they were, but they will never come back. HMMM…wait you mean to say that scientists have proven that evolution is wrong? Imagine that!
But, let’s return to the text. The fifth point here is that we can enjoy the assurance of the Father’s love. This is a remarkable truth. We have the assurance of the Father’s love. I have often spoken to you about this. Many of us have never experienced love from our fathers, I know I’m one of them. We experienced conditional love, or rejection, or distance, and therefore it is hard for such people to transition to the real Father. They keep projecting that horrible image upon God. That is a complete distortion of the image. The best father on the planet, by contrast, is only a feeble reflection on the Fatherhood of God, who is the best Father.
If you have had that experience, then, it is needful for us to revisit and renew our minds and realize that there is One who wishes to hold us, and embrace us, and give us the blessing of His love and presence. That is powerful stuff because we need that love and He has wired us for that love. When I look at verse 19, and He says, “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.” See how this balances His earlier comment, that He is “Going off to a place in which you can not go, but will come later”?
His life is the basis for our life. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” To be honest with you, nobody understands that verse. What does that mean? You see, it is a mutual co-inherence. The best I can do is to say ‘you in me’, that is to say, ‘me in Christ’, is my position and ‘Christ in me’ is my practice. You see the idea? But, to be honest with you, we can only scratch that surface. It is going to very profound, all I will add is no we don’t become gods.
Can there be a greater intimacy than for you to be in Him and Him in you? I can’t think of anything like that. It is very powerful and may I say, by the way, that is even more powerful, by far than the greatest sexual experience of union, which is only a far, distant shadow of what God has in store for us. He goes on to say, “He who has My commandments, and keeps them, is the one who loves Me.” In other words, if you love Me, you will keep My commandments. “He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and disclose Myself to him.”
That is a very strong verse where, in effect, He says, it is important to realize that if you love Me, you will do as I ask you to do. If you know Me, you will know that what I ask you to do is in your best interests. When you do what you want to do instead of what He wants you to do, it always turns out bad. At least in my experience, it does. I have never regretted any time of obedience to Jesus, but I have sure regretted it every time I disobeyed Him, ever been spanked by God? I have, not fun.
So, “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world’? Jesus answered and said, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me’.”
So, it is the second time, in verse 23, like in verse 21, “If he keeps My word, My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our abode with him.” Do you see what He is saying? Who is the ‘We’? It is Jesus and the Father. You understand what that means? In addition to what He has just said about the Holy Spirit, who is going to in-dwell us, He is saying that the Father in-dwells us, as well as the Son. You are indwelled by the Triune God. That is a deep and profound mystery. It can not be made up. Who would have dreamed it? It goes beyond what anyone can imagine. Let me now close with the sixth assurance. In verses 25 to 31, you also have the assurance of God’s peace in this world.
We well need that peace, do we not? Let’s look closely, now, at verses 25 through 31. “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you,” which is a promise about the inscripturation, or of being preserved. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” I read recently a wonderful definition of sin. It is a ‘culpable disturbance of shalom’. Again, sin is a ‘culpable disturbance of shalom’. I define shalom as ‘wholeness, completeness, health, and security’. When sin is described in that way, it means this: that it is an alienating dimension that takes what should have been whole and divides it because of selfishness.
So, sin is really proof of alienation. Shalom is the opposite of alienation. It is wholeness and union. You see the idea? Relationships, then, need to thrive on other-centeredness. Frankly, the world bases its peace on its resources, like already having the funds to pay all the bills and a Lexus parked in the garage. God’s peace depends upon relationships. Catch the difference? We think we can be peaceful if we have a lot of resources. God says you will never be peaceful until you have relationships. See the difference? The world depends upon your personal ability, how big your house is and keeping up with the Jones’s. The follower of Jesus, however, depends upon the spiritual adequacy in Christ.
Now you are confident. He has given you the confidence you need through, and in, Him. To accomplish something that will be pleasing to Him will last forever. Unbelievers enjoy peace only when there is an absence of trouble. Followers of Jesus, however, enjoy peace in spite of trials, because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. One is merely the absence of trouble, the other is the presence of a person. That is an important distinction. People of the world walk by sight and depend on the externals; believers walk by faith and depend on the internals and the eternals. There is a big difference between them.
So, the Spirit uses the word of God to give us His peace, His love, and His joy. Notice what Jesus is talking about in all these chapters. He is talking about love, joy, and peace. What is going to happen to Him in a matter of a few hours? Does He know this, that He is going to be betrayed and killed? Very clearly He does, for “this is the very purpose for which I came.” What more can He give them than minister on love, on joy, and on peace? He understands there is a purpose for His being here and it will overwhelm the stronghold of sin, and of ugliness, and of death and of alienation.