Tag Archives: Gospel of John

Entering the Kingdom of God

Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park

Loch Vale, Rocky Mountain National Park

Hiking in the mountains is one of my favorite things to do. I love the fresh air, the great views, and the challenges of the hikes. I’m not enough of a thrill-seeker to want to hike Mount Everest though, and besides, I wouldn’t have the free time for it. When people hike to the top of very tall mountains, they can’t just show up one day and hike to the top the next. Their bodies need multiple weeks to adjust to the high altitude first. If they were dropped at the base camp and immediately started hiking, their bodies wouldn’t be able to cope and they would break down and put their lives at risk. A majestic mountain range is an amazing environment, but only for those who are prepared to enjoy it.

The kingdom of God is good news (gospel) for our world, but we shouldn’t assume that we can enjoy God’s kingdom in our default human condition. There was a religious teacher named Nicodemus who made that assumption, but Jesus quickly set him straight. In John 3:3-8, Jesus identifies what is necessary for entering the kingdom of God. And in John 3:14-17, Jesus promises that he himself would make it possible for Nicodemus and others to enter the kingdom of God.

The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus picks up steam quickly. Not one for small talk, Jesus immediately challenges Nicodemus with truth about the kingdom of God. Jesus states that no one can see (verse 3) or enter (verse 5) the kingdom of God without being born again by God’s Spirit. Kings judge their enemies, and apart from a new birth Nicodemus was an enemy of God. All humans have sinned and rebelled against God and his kingly reign. Apart from a dramatic transformation, we would be judged by God as enemies of his kingdom. But we can enter God’s kingdom if we experience a new birth by God’s Spirit and receive forgiveness for our sins. The Holy Spirit, who is the giver of life throughout the Scriptures, creates this new birth and new life within us.

It is significant that Jesus chides Nicodemus for not understanding these truths (John 3:10). Jesus expected Nicodemus to know about the need for a spiritual rebirth already. Jesus was not claiming to be an innovator in this teaching. He probably had in mind the Old Testament passages that spoke about the need for circumcised hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6), hearts that were forgiven and genuinely responsive to God’s commands (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and hearts that were cleansed and enlivened by the Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-28). Nicodemus and his contemporaries thought that they could enter God’s kingdom in their current condition, without any dramatic change of heart. But Jesus knew the evidence from the Old Testament that suggested otherwise.

Jesus tells Nicodemus that this new birth and forgiveness will be made possible by his sacrificial work on the cross. As usual, Jesus uses the royal designation “Son of Man” to refer to himself, in verse 14. But in a shocking statement, Jesus hints that this royal Son of Man will be lifted up (on a cross) as a sacrifice for the people of the world, all of whom are enemies of God’s kingdom. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, however, those who believe in him will not be judged as enemies but given eternal life in the kingdom of God.

Mountaineers cannot enjoy or even survive a climb to Everest unless their bodies are ready for the hike. People cannot enjoy or even survive the coming of God’s kingdom apart from the new birth we experience when we trust in the Son of Man and receive his sacrifice for our sins. When we read this passage we encounter the stunning reality that we can experience eternal life in the kingdom of God because the King has died for our sins.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Gospels, New Testament, Old Testament

Son of Man – Judge of the World

Indiana Supreme Court

One of the “divine prerogatives” (divine rights) that Jesus receives from the Father is the right to judge the world. This is made clear in John 5:19-30, where Jesus states that he has the power both to give life and to judge:

“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22, ESV). “And he (the Father) has given him (the Son) authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27).

Here are two interesting observations to be drawn from this passage:

1) The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 1:36), is the same one who judges – Jesus. This fits into the two advent ministry of Jesus found elsewhere in the New Testament (especially 1 Thess 4:14-5:11 and Heb 9:27-28), in which Jesus comes to the world a first time as sacrificial Savior and a second time (in the future) as conquering King.

2) Jesus explains that the reason he has the authority to execute judgment is because of his identity as the Son of Man (John 5:27). This directs us to Daniel 7:13-14:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

The parallels between John 5 and Daniel 7 are intriguing. Jesus talks about the Father giving all judgment to the Son (John 5:22; 5:27). The same picture emerges in Daniel 7, where the Son of Man is presented with a kingdom by the Ancient of Days. In both cases, all people in the world answer to the Son of Man and his authority. The kingdom given to the Son of Man in Daniel 7 involves dominion over “all peoples, nations, and languages.” Jesus is given “all judgment,” so that “all may honor the Son,” according to John 5:22-23.

What are the implications of Jesus’ right to judge?

1. When we think of the kingdom of God – the kingdom given to the Son of Man in Daniel 7 and the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus in his earthly ministry, we should think of a kingdom that in the end will be displayed in all power and authority. As part of the worldwide recognition of Jesus as King, other kingdoms and powers will be crushed (as in the greater context of Daniel), and allies of those kingdoms will be judged.

2. According to John 3:16-17, Jesus came to the world the first time not to condemn but to offer himself as a sacrifice for his enemies. This offer of peace with the rightful ruler of the world is a demonstration of God’s great love for the world. Now is the season for declaring allegiance to Christ, now is the time to have sins forgiven through his sacrificial death. The one who will judge is providing the gift and opportunity of resurrection to life rather than resurrection to judgment (John 5:29; Daniel 12:2).

Jesus understood his ministry according to Old Testament categories. There is so much to be gleaned from a careful study of Jesus against this Old Testament context. And there is so much to be gained from trusting in Jesus as the Son of Man, who both offered his life for us and is coming again in glory.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, New Testament, Old Testament