What is it that prevails over death?

by Mike Ratliff

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 ESV)

Genuine Christians, God’s heirs, are those who have believed.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

Carefully read this very familiar passage from John Chapter 3. Who is it that does not perish, but has eternal life? It is whoever believes in the Son. Not everyone who attempts to “follow” Jesus believes.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat. ’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:25-36 ESV)

Jesus knows those who are His. He knows those who seek to “follow” Him, but don’t know Him or believe Him. They do not have saving faith. They seek things “to do” in order to be justified. They refuse to simply “believe” in Jesus without a sign. They are in unbelief. Unbelief does not trust God. Those in it attempt to be “Christians” by doing. Jesus plainly tells these people that whoever believes in Him shall “never thirst.” This is an analogy of having the Holy Spirit, to be filled by Him. These people witnessed miracles by Jesus, yet they do not believe. This reminds me of a debate I had with an atheist several years ago who told me that all God had to do was reveal Himself to Him then he would believe. This is the same unbelief that these people had.

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40 ESV)

So who is it that believes? All that the Father gives to the Son come to Him and He will never cast them out. All whom the Father gives to Jesus Christ to be His are His forever. These same people believe in Him and thereby are given eternal life. Then Jesus totally verifies that this is what He is talking about by saying that all who come to Him and believe will be raised up on the last day. This is the Church.

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God. ’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58 ESV)

Whoever believes has eternal life. Whoever feeds on Jesus flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life. This is covenant language. All who believe are saved and enter into a blood covenant with God. This covenant is guaranteed in Christ’s blood and broken body. What is the believer’s part of the covenant?

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul. (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

Believing in Jesus is not just intellectual assent. No, it is much more than that. Those who truly believe are drawn to the Son by the Father. They are touched by God’s grace which accords with their faith. This brings their faith alive. (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4) This regenerated faith believes God and trusts Him. These New Creations come to Christ in self-denial as they die to self. They take up their own cross and follow Jesus. No one can come to Jesus without this. Those who want Jesus, but refuse to deny self are trying to save their lives for themselves. As a result, they lose their lives. However, all who lose their lives for Jesus sake find that they have eternal life.

Saving faith is supernatural.

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar- Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20 ESV)

Jesus asked His disciples who the people thought He was. Some thought He was John the Baptist while others thought He was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them who they say He is. Simon Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. What did Jesus do then? Did he rebuke him or deny this? No! He confirmed that this is true. Then He tells us the nature of saving faith. How did Simon Peter know this to be true? Jesus tells us that flesh and blood did not reveal this to him, but it was by the Father who is in heaven that this came to be known in Peter’s heart. Then Jesus calls Simon by his nickname “Peter, which is the Greek word Πέτρος or Petros. This word means a small stone. Then he tells us that the source of Peter’s revelation is the “Rock” upon which He will build His Church. The Greek word for “Rock” here is πέτρᾳ or petra. This refers to foundation boulder or bedrock. He is not telling us that Peter is the foundation since the Bible is very clear that Christ is both the foundation and the head of the church. (Acts 4:11,12; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 5:23) No, the πέτρᾳ or “rock” upon which Christ is building His church is the faith whereby Peter has confessed and acknowledged to Jesus. This faith is grounded upon an infallible truth.

Those who possess this faith are given a promise here. Jesus says that the “gates of hell”, πύλαι ᾅδου, will never prevail over “this rock.” What are the “gates of hell.” The Greek word used here for “hell” is ᾅδου or “Hades.” This is the abode of the dead. The “gates of hell,” then, is death. It is by dying that people are taken to hell. Therefore, saving faith, the faith that is given to us by God the Father by His grace will always prevail over death. Of course, this death is spiritual death not physical death.

Many are still trying to “follow” Jesus, but on their own terms. Every Easter season we see “relevant” churches do everything they can to proclaim their message is different or that church has changed. They make no attempt to make anyone feel guilty about their sin. Everything is done there in a way that will make non-believers as comfortable as possible. Where is the blood of Christ? Where is the covenant of Christ’s broken body and His blood shed to pay the penalty for the sins of His people? How can we preach about the Resurrection without His crucifixion? What sort of “belief” are these folks going to become part of if it isn’t a trusting in the promises of God for forgiveness of sins and receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour? Whatever it is, it isn’t that which prevails over death.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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