That Which Prevails Over Death

by Mike Ratliff

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. 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. 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.” 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.

“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.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 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. Do not labor 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.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 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. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 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. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:25-36 ESV)

Jesus know 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 not long 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.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 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. 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 give 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.

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 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’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 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– not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 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. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as 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?

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

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 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. 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. 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.” 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 “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 “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 “petra” 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 will never prevail over “this rock.” What is the gates of hell. The Greek word used here for “hell” is “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. I saw a video yesterday about Easter services at some “relevant” churches. They proclaim that church has changed. There is now 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.

SDG

9 thoughts on “That Which Prevails Over Death

  1. Its so good to read your posts. Truth is hard to find anymore. They all seem to interpret the Word wrongly. I am referring to the small stone and the Rock. None of us have it all but you are doing a good job!! May the Holy Spirit keep guiding you Mike. I remember telling this man who said he didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God. I told him if he’s right then I guess we don’t have anything to worry about, but if I’m right, you are in ALOT of trouble……and for eternity, so think on that one.

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  2. Thanks Paul and Luann! You know, our job is not to make the Gospel appealing to people. We are simply to proclaim it. Those who hear it will either believe or not. Those who believe are those the Father gave to the Son. The rest are not. Never stop praying for the lost and giving them the truth.

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  3. Hello Mike
    It’s a mystery as to why God chooses to regenerate some and not others. We have to, I believe accept his sovereignty here.
    It does explain to me why so many christians who are ‘hard hearted’ (particularly toward the poor and marginalised) and who refuse to lay down their lives and rights for God and their brother act the way they do, do ,do. I watch them wearing themselves out by ‘doing’ and when I try to challenge them that all they need to do is simply ‘be’ it creates such tension. Yes we should be ‘doing’ but only as a natural outpouring of our hearts and lives, not as some burden which wears us out and burns us out.
    His yoke is easy and his burden is light. But on saying that if you’re trying to do it all in your own strength the yoke will be difficult and heavy.
    I’ve had conversations with christians who have openly admitted they don’t find it easy to believe and they don’t have faith and they’re not sure if they will go to heaven. Some of these conversations have been with leaders in the church.
    I’ve challenged them to ‘stop’ doing and simply pray and’be still’ but they can’t physically stop.
    In my experience a lot of people who profess to be christians are lost and struggling and don’t have that God given faith and assurance. The problem is even if someone in this state ‘admits’ their condition – what can they do about it?
    I’ve seen someone recently after 10 years in christian leadership admit to being ‘religious’ having a hard heart and not really believing or having any faith. The problem was that in admitting this they were left with ‘nothing’. I hoped and prayed God would regenerate them and bring them into a real faith – but he didn’t. Now this person has returned to ‘religion’ even stronger and won’t even look me in the eye or have any dialogue with me. I’m afraid it angers me!! that there are folk like this leading our churches and leading people astray.
    I thank God for sites like this where the truth is expounded.

    Amen to this post!

    Julie

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  4. Julie,

    Thanks for the encouragement and your insightful comment. For people who are “religious” with no faith, they should be counseled and led to prayer to plead with God for their Souls. If they are willing to do that then I believe that God is drawing them to surrender and die to self. On the other hand, if they are not willing then what can we say?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  5. Let us not forget that St. Thomas Aquinas also said that Jesus was not the only path, just the best one. One can reach salvation through deductive reasoning, it just takes longer, and there are more opportunities to stray from the path. Ergo, there are more ways than one to conquer death. Christ is not the only way, just the best way.

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  6. kesela,

    This statement by you attributed to Thomas Aquinas makes Jesus Christ out to be a liar for Jesus said that He is the only way. The Bible very clearly teaches that unregenerate man is totally incapable of what you are describing. Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God.

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  7. I agree with the comment that the truth is hard to find anymore. Hades is a real place and God’s wrath is real. It reminds me of a clip we showed two weeks ago (in setting up a Romans 3 message) from the TV show ER.

    In this intense clip, a dying man’s guilty heart and the intense yearning for forgiveness is amazingly and powerfully exposed in this clip from the NBC hit show, ER (so unusual for a network show – way to go NBC). The story unfolds as a dying man seeks forgiveness due to the weight of his sin — murder. He knows he will be judged after his death. Not like the many new UPS recruits you see each week — this guys know that truth is an important concept to him NOW

    As he lay in his hospital bed, this man seeks the truth from a squishy, new age hospital chaplain that cannot give him the truth because she does not know the truth herself. The man asked her how he can find forgiveness, and told her that her new age religion was not helping. She kept saying that she just wanted to comfort him, to which his response was that he didn’t want comfort, he wanted the truth. He wanted to real chaplain who believed in forgiveness and hell…because he needed to know and hear it. He needed answers and wanted someone to look him in the eye and tell him how to find forgiveness.

    You can check out the clip here

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