25-02-2019 SIGNPOSTS TO GOD
SAVING THE WORLD - Part One
By John Aldworth
John 20:30-31: Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, you may have life in his name.
There is only one message in the Bible which says it was specifically written to cause those who read it to believe on Christ and have life in his name. That message is the gospel or book of John. In our time it is still one of God’s appointed means of drawing inquirers to true faith in Him, to deeper knowledge of the one true God, Creator of heaven and earth and Saviour and Redeemer of all who turn to Him.
Of course, God has also put witness of Himself into the heart of every person alive, in that He Himself ‘gives life and breath to all’ as the Apostle Paul said in Acts 17:25. He has also quickened all of us when we were ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God). Importantly, it is by being quickened (that is made spiritually alive to believe) ‘together with Christ’ that we are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:5).
Truly, in the Gospel of John, God Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is both the Yahweh (Jehovah) of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New, is set forth in all his glory as the God who became man to save us from sin by his suffering and death.
Yet, there is even more to this wonderful message than that. As is clear from John 20:30-31 John’s Gospel is a Book of Signs. But signs of what? Certainly of his power and majesty as God, of his condescension and love for sinful man (see John 3:16), certainly of who He is as a person. But beyond that they are signs to what the Lord has done and will yet do as the ‘Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). They are also signs that point to his soon coming kingdom when he rule the world from heaven, because it is through that kingdom He will save the world.
You see, it’s one thing to have personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, to be forgiven of one’s sins and to receive the hope of eternal life as an individual; it’s quite another to believe that the Lord will take away the sin of the whole world (John 1:29, 6:51) and bring humanity as a whole into a blessed state of obedience to God. Yet this is what the Apostle John declares in his gospel.
God so loved the world
And John is the only gospel writer to do so. Matthew, Mark and Luke do not speak of Christ taking away the sin of the world, still less of ‘saving’ the world, but John does. Here are some of the verses in which the ‘beloved’ apostle writes of Christ’s love for the world and sets out his promise to save it:
- John 3:16-17: For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.
- John 4:42: (The Samaritans said) … we have heard Him ourselves and know that this indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Later in 1 John 4:14, the apostle writes: ‘And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world’.
- John 12:46-47: … I am come a Light into the world that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness … I came not to judge the world but to save the world’.
These verses make abundantly clear that Christ’s mission is not just to save the few that individually believe on Him but ultimately to save the whole world. And the means by which He will do so is set out clearly as the kingdom of God. This will come into being when, after the thousands of years in which man has been his own god and government, the Lord will exert his authority instead and intervene to take over the government of the world and rule over earth from heaven (Luke 23:42, Matthew 19:28, 2 Timothy 4:1).
But just how will Christ save the world? I suggest the key lies in the seven miracles performed by Jesus that John selected and designated as signs in his gospel. These kindly, supernatural acts of the Lord set out by way of preview the means by which He will bring salvation to all mankind.
But before looking at what each one signifies, it is important to ask just when will such global wonders take place? The answer according to John is ‘at the last day’, which is a phrase Jesus uses to describe the new eon (a long and very different age brought about by God).
Jesus also called this wonderful time of blessing ‘the world to come’ and the ‘regeneration’ (restoring back to their original Creation order) of all things (Matthew 19:28). In Matthew and Mark this future golden age is called the ‘kingdom of heaven’ or the ‘kingdom of God’. The Apostle Paul called it the ‘Day of Christ’, seven times in his epistles.
Spoken by all the prophets
The nearness of the Kingdom of God at that time was the subject of Jesus’s gospel and that of his apostles and disciples. Indeed the glorious manifestation of this kingdom is actually the theme of the whole Bible since, according to the ‘sure word’ of the Apostle Peter in Acts 3:20-21, this yet-to-come era of ‘refreshing’ and the ‘restitution of all things’ was spoken of by God ‘through the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began’.
Thrice in John’s gospel Jesus refers to the kingdom of God directly (John 3:3-5 and 18:36). In John 3:3 He tells Nicodemus that to ‘see’ the kingdom of God he must be ‘born again’, that is he must ‘generated from above’. There is no Greek for ‘again’ but there is for ‘above’. The meaning then is that unless empowered and enabled by God to do so no man can ‘see’, that is understand and believe in, the kingdom of God.
However, Nicodemus and his fellow Pharisees had already ‘seen’ that the Lord was a teacher sent from God, for He did miracles no man could do unless God was with him. So Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he and his fellows has already been empowered by God to believe.
Christ went on to say that except a man be born (i.e. generated) of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. There is then a big difference between ‘seeing’ and ‘entering’. The Pharisees saw the Lord’s miracles and saw He was sent by God because faith to so see was generated in them by God. But as a group they did not go on to believe in Him - that is to trust Him, receive the words that He spoke and by them and his Spirit be further generated and thus prepared for entry into the kingdom. Later, examined by Pontius Pilate the Lord declares his kingdom is ‘not of this world’ meaning, that it is not of this ‘present evil world’ (Galatians 1:4) but of the world to come, which He called ‘that world’ (John 18:36, Luke 20:35).
Raised up at the last day
Elsewhere, as already briefly mentioned, Jesus uses the phrase ‘at the last day’ to describe the kingdom. In John 6: 39, 40 and 44, the Lord three times declares that ‘at the last day’ He will ‘raise up’ those the Father has previously drawn to believe on Him and in verse 54 makes the same promise regarding those who ‘eat his flesh and drink his blood’ that is, become partakers of his divine spiritual nature.
Evidently his message got through to many for in John 11:24 Martha testifies that she knows her brother Lazarus will ‘rise again in the resurrection at the last day’. And in 12:48 the Lord warns those who reject Him and receive not his words that ‘word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day’.
So, it is clear the ‘last day’ and ‘resurrection’ are synonymous with the ‘kingdom’ and that all three refer to that glorious new eon that Lord will usher in when He takes over government of the world. Belief on Him and partaking of the divine nature through Him are the entry ticket to resurrection into this wonderfully better world the Lord will bring into being.
As to why it is the ‘last day’, I am indebted to the late Bible teacher Otis Q. Sellers for light on this. He points out that it will be the ‘last day’ for Israel because when the kingdom is restored to the chosen nation under the Lord’s rule from heaven it will never be taken away. It will be an everlasting day with no night and thus the ‘last day’. As the Bible says Messiah’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
Sorry for the long preamble but it was necessary to lay a foundation of truth about the coming kingdom before proceeding to study in depth the signs of it, which we will do in the next study in this series.