What Does John 3:36 Mean?
The Lord Jesus said: “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36). Based on these two verses, many people believe that the Lord Jesus is the Son of man and has the way of eternal life, and that those who believe in the Lord Jesus can obtain eternal life and will never perish. But some brothers and sisters feel confused: Though we have accepted the Lord Jesus’ redemption and done a lot of good deeds, we still live bound by sin. Can the servants of sin like us obtain eternal life? Next, let’s fellowship about how to gain eternal life.
1. The Lord Jesus Didn’t Bestow the Way of Eternal Life Upon Man
The Lord Jesus said: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life.” “[T]he water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Undeniably, these words of the Lord are truths. If we give it careful thought, we can understand their true meaning. Actually, the Lord said these words to testify to the fact that He is God Himself and has the way of eternal life. And only those who believe in Christ can attain life and God’s salvation. God reveals the mystery that Christ is the only way to eternal life, so that we can understand that only Christ can give man the way of eternal life and then can follow Christ. This is not to say that man can receive eternal life upon accepting the Lord Jesus’ way. We can understand this through the Lord Jesus’ words and work. The Lord Jesus said: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). “For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Through these verses we can know that the Lord Jesus brought the way of repentance and did the work of redemption. At that time, the Lord Jesus taught man to confess his sins and repent, to love his enemies, to love others as himself, to forsake house, parents, brothers, and wife, to bear the cross to follow the Lord, and so forth. In addition, the Lord bestowed on man an abundance of grace, healed the sick and cast out demons, made five loaves and two fish enough to fill five thousand people, etc. Finally, He was crucified for the sake of redeeming mankind. As long as people practice according to the Lord’s words, they won’t be convicted and executed by the law, and so they are qualified to pray to God, enjoy His grace and blessings, and receive peace and joy from Him.
Although we have been forgiven through our belief in the Lord, have some good external behaviors, and can labor and sacrifice for the Lord, we still sin frequently and are unable to put the Lord’s words into practice because we are under the control of our satanic dispositions. List just a few examples: We will lie or cheat for our own face or interests; when our families act in a way that we don’t like, we’ll lose our tempers and scold them; when working together with our co-workers in service to God, we will vie with them for fame and gain, and engage in jealous disputes; our belief in God is solely for the sake of obtaining blessings and grace, and the moment unfortunate things, illness or setbacks befall us and our families, we will blame and misunderstand God, or even deny and betray God; even though we believe in the Lord, we are steeped in and influenced by the evil worldly trends and still cling to the world, wealth, fame and fortune. The list goes on. How can we, who haven’t achieved true repentance, obtain eternal life? God says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin. And the servant stays not in the house for ever: but the son stays ever” (John 8:34–35). “[Y]ou shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). God is holy, and only those who have been purified and are without filth can enter God’s kingdom. Today, we often sin and are still slaves to sin, so we aren’t qualified to enter into God’s kingdom and haven’t obtained eternal life. It can therefore be seen that in the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus only performed the work of redemption and brought the way of repentance, but did not bestow the way of eternal life on mankind. The true way of eternal life is the way of truth which allows man to live forever, which is to say, it is the way which allows man to cast off the binds and restraints of his sinful nature, change his life disposition, and allows him to thoroughly break free of Satan’s influence. It allows man to know, obey, and revere God so as to never again sin to oppose or betray God. Only that which can achieve this effect may be called the way of eternal life. Only people who gain the way to eternal life as their lives, cast off their corrupt dispositions and are purified, are those who have eternal life. That is to say, no matter how much good behavior we have, we cannot obtain eternal life just by believing in the Lord Jesus and experiencing His work.
2. How Should We Believe in the Son So That We Can Obtain Eternal Life?
At this point, perhaps some people are confused: The Lord Jesus said plainly, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life.” Is the Lord Jesus not the Son of man? Why is it that we cannot obtain eternal life just by believing in the Lord Jesus? With regards to this question, let’s look at several Bible verses. The Lord Jesus said: “Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not” (Luke 12:40). “For as the lightning, that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shines to the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in His day. But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation” (Luke 17:24–25). The Lord Jesus told us that the Son of man will come in the last days and will suffer many things and be rejected. The words “the Son of man” mean that when the Lord returns He will be incarnated in the flesh. Only the incarnate God who appears among mankind can be called the Son of man. If it were the spiritual body of the resurrected Lord Jesus appearing to mankind, He couldn’t be called the Son of man. In addition, people would feel afraid at the sight of the spiritual body and no one would dare resist Him. If so, He wouldn’t suffer many things.
The Lord Jesus said: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:12–13). “And has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man” (John 5:27). And there’s Hebrews 9:28: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation.” From these verses, we can see that when the Lord returns in the last days, He will express the truth and perform the work of judging and cleansing man with words to entirely resolve our sinful natures. In other words, when God comes back, He’ll appear among His believers as the Son of man, express all the truths needed for man to attain salvation, to enable man to be free from the bonds of sin, so that they may become people who revere God, obey God and know God, and so that they may enter the heavenly kingdom and obtain eternal life. It is clear that if we want to obtain eternal life, just undergoing the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption is still not enough. More importantly, we must accept the judgment work of casting away sins done by the returned Lord in the last days.
At this point, we can understand that the words of the Lord Jesus, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life,” don’t mean that believing in the Lord Jesus can gain us everlasting life. Rather, we should believe in the incarnate Son of man in the last days, receive His work of judgment by the word, and be purified of our corrupt disposition, and only thus can we gain eternal life. If we only believe in the Lord Jesus but do not accept His return, we are not people who truly believe in the Son and cannot obtain everlasting life, and our faith will be spoiled halfway. Only those who accept God’s return are people who follow the footsteps of the Lamb, and are qualified to receive the way of eternal life.