On the night of His betrayal, Christ made a very interesting statement, recorded in Luke 22:37: “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH THE TRANSGRESSORS.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” [Emphasis supplied.]
Christ was quoting from Isaiah 53, a chapter that so faithfully and clearly describes Himself as the Messiah that Jewish parents refuse to discuss the chapter with their children. Thankfully, we are not so blind to the mercies of God that we refuse to recognize His prophetic voice speaking in the message He gave Isaiah centuries ago.
What are the things concerning Christ that “have an end” that He was referring to in Luke 22:37? A careful reading of Isaiah 53 will answer that question. Much of what Isaiah described about Christ ended at the cross—being “numbered with the transgressors”—but the entirety of the assertion He made in Luke has yet to come fully to pass. Christ continues to experience the sinfulness of sin as He pleads His blood before the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary. And that ordeal will not end until the sanctuary is cleansed and He returns to this earth with the host of heaven to gather His saints.
Thus, we ponder if Christ’s statement that “the things concerning Me have an end” has a broader application. Indeed, many things concerning Him did have an end when He was crucified. But there is, in my opinion, another end yet to come, and that will occur when Christ returns to gather His saints and ends the misery that sin has brought upon this earth.
What must we do to cope with the trials of life until that glorious event occurs? Remember that Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:19 KJV, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Our hope lies not in this life, but in the life to come. Christ referred to that eternal life time and time again when He was on earth, though at the time few comprehended what He meant. The most famous reference, perhaps, is in John 3:16, a text that most professors of Christ learned at their parent’s knee.
The promise of eternal life, though, occurs over and over again in the record of Christ’s life as recorded in the gospels, and that promise is always based on the same condition—obedience—sometimes clearly stated and sometimes implied by the context of the statement.
In Matthew 19, we have this record: “Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments’ ” (Matthew 19:16, 17).
This is a rather amazing statement for a reason that might be easily overlooked. Clearly Christ is mindful here of His human nature and recognizes the inherent capacity for sin in the natural heart, which He assumed when He came to this earth to rescue man from the wages of sin. Mindful of this, of the potential sinfulness of humanity, He refused to accept the accolade offered by this rich young ruler: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” After that assertion, Christ clearly states the one and only condition for eternal life: “keep the commandments.”
The gospel writer who wrote most frequently of the reward of eternal life was the apostle John, usually in his record of Christ’s interactions with non-believers or in response to questions from His erstwhile followers.
John records an interesting exchange in the sixth chapter of his gospel narrative, where there is a comprehensive record of the feeding of the five thousand and the events that followed.
Perceiving the intent of the masses to “take Him by force to make Him king” (John 6:15), Jesus absented Himself from the scene and sought solitude. After reuniting with His disciples in a rather startling manner (verses 19, 20), He engaged in an extended conversation with the people about Himself as the bread of life.
“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ ” (verse 35). A bit later, Christ made a less symbolic, more direct statement regarding eternal realities: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (verse 47). Unfortunately, there were not many who were willing to carry their belief in Him to complete fulfillment, as we see as this crisis in Galilee was building.
Christ’s statements that followed were unacceptable to the masses, for they failed to understand the symbolism in his assertion that “… unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (verse 53).
Christ clearly stated in no vague language, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (verse 63), “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (verse 66).
In the following chapter, John records a conversation that again was so full of symbolism that few truly understood His meaning.
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’ ” (John 7:37, 38).
The meaning of this statement that so puzzled His hearers is made clear in the Spirit of Prophecy:
“The flowing of the water from the rock in the desert was celebrated by the Israelites, after their establishment in Canaan, with demonstrations of great rejoicing. In the time of Christ this celebration had become a most impressive ceremony. It took place on the occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the people from all the land were assembled at Jerusalem. On each of the seven days of the feast the priests went out with music and the choir of Levites to draw water in a golden vessel from the spring of Siloam. They were followed by multitudes of the worshipers, as many as could get near the stream drinking of it, while the jubilant strains arose, ‘With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). Then the water drawn by the priests was borne to the temple amid the sounding of trumpets and the solemn chant, ‘Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem’ (Psalm 122:2). The water was poured out upon the altar of burnt offering, while songs of praise rang out, the multitudes joining in triumphant chorus with musical instruments and deep-toned trumpets.
“The Saviour made use of this symbolic service to direct the minds of the people to the blessings that He had come to bring them. ‘In the last day, that great day of the feast,’ His voice was heard in tones that rang through the temple courts, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ ‘This,’ said John, ‘spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive’ (John 7:37–39). The refreshing water, welling up in a parched and barren land, causing the desert place to blossom, and flowing out to give life to the perishing, is an emblem of the divine grace which Christ alone can bestow, and which is as the living water, purifying, refreshing, and invigorating the soul. He in whom Christ is abiding has within him a never-failing fountain of grace and strength. Jesus cheers the life and brightens the path of all who truly seek Him. His love, received into the heart, will spring up in good works unto eternal life. And not only does it bless the soul in which it springs, but the living stream will flow out in words and deeds of righteousness, to refresh the thirsting around him.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 412.
In the eleventh chapter of John we have the record of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. After Christ and His disciples come to Bethany on the fourth day following Lazarus’ death, there is an interesting exchange between Martha and Jesus in which Martha’s understanding of the state of the dead is clearly revealed. “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day’ ” (John 11:23, 24).
In response, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? ’ ” (verses 25, 26).
Though Martha responded positively, her response indicated that she failed to fully comprehend what belief in Christ fully means.
“To the Saviour’s words, ‘Believest thou?’ Martha responded, ‘Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.’ She did not comprehend in all their significance the words spoken by Christ, but she confessed her faith in His divinity, and her confidence that He was able to perform whatever it pleased Him to do.” The Desire of Ages, 530.
There are two other passages in John’s gospel that should bring great joy to the believer. In John 16:33, Christ provides a reason for the continuing hope that His followers should have: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
There is no greater peace, in the fullest meaning of the word, that one can have than is obtained in recognizing that Christ’s victory over the enemy of souls is our victory as well. Truly, “in the world” we “will have tribulation.” We have an enemy who is determined to drag humanity down into the same miserable pit of sin and degradation that he currently occupies. Nevertheless, by fully believing in Christ, by nurturing that measure of faith that each of us has been given, we can “be of good cheer” and “overcome the world.”
The final passage in the gospel of John that expresses the eternal life available to all who have faith in Christ is given in Christ’s prayer in John 17.
John 17:20–23: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
All who understand fully what “belief” in Christ entails will indeed be unified in the bonds of Christian brotherhood that John summarized succinctly but powerfully in his first missive: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
We cannot “walk in the light” unless we have complete faith in Christ as the Redeemer of mankind and fully believe that His blood cleanses us from all sin. Then that unity that Christ prayed so fervently for in John 17 will be a reality and we will indeed have true Christian fellowship with one another.
The gospel writers were not alone in their affirmation that obedience through faith in Christ imparts righteousness to the believer—that righteousness by faith that alone provides the spotless wedding garment to the saved. Paul alluded time and time again to the inseparable union of faith, righteousness, and eternal life.
One of his strongest statements occurs in Philippians 3:8, 9: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
As Paul’s long, final imprisonment began and his itinerate ministry was drawing to a close, he continued to bear faithfully the message that God had laid upon his heart. When arraigned before Felix, he took the opportunity to preach one of his most meaningful and memorable sermons.
For two years, “a ray of light from heaven had been permitted to shine upon Felix, when Paul reasoned with him concerning righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. That was his heaven-sent opportunity to see and to forsake his sins. But he said to the messenger of God, ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.’ He had slighted his last offer of mercy. Never was he to receive another call from God.” The Acts of the Apostles, 427.
Let us not be like Felix, who had at his disposal for two years one of the greatest expositors of the gospel, who apparently conversed with him at will, but who rejected this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to know more fully the way of salvation.
“And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ” (Acts 24:24).
“The faith in Christ” … Felix rejected his opportunity to understand what that meant. Thankfully, by the grace and love of god, we have on record Paul’s explanation of what it means to be in Christ and to have faith in Christ, so that we are “without excuse” if we fail to grasp the full import of what that means.
“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21–26).
“… through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe …”
Unity through faith in Christ!
John Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. After retiring as chief financial officer for the Grand Canyon Association, Grand Canyon, Arizona, he moved to Wichita, Kansas, to join the Steps team.