“Most assuredly, I say unto you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)
I was a senior in college and it had only been a few months since I had heard about the grace of God and placed my trust wholly upon Jesus Christ to save me. It was night and I was watching Billy Graham on TV. I was shocked when he said, “I know for certain that I am going to heaven.” I deeply wanted to be able to say that, but I didn’t think that anybody could know that for certain.
It was more than a year later when I discovered the blessed truth that all believers have eternal life as a present possession. I had thought that eternal life started when we died. However, one day I was reading a Bible study guide and I discovered that eternal life was an eternal relationship with God which begins at the point of faith. Death is not the beginning of that life and that relationship.
One passage that stands out as clearly and irrefutably teaching this is John 5:24.
Jesus said that all believers have already passed from death to life. That is, before faith people are spiritually dead. They lack the life of God, eternal life. However, at the moment of faith, at that very moment, one who believes in Jesus Christ gains eternal life and ceases to be spiritually dead.
Jesus also indicated in this verse that believers will not come into judgment. That is, once we believe our eternal destiny is sealed and there will be no future judgment which will determine where we go. [While all believers will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Matt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10), that will not be to determine our eternal destiny.] Jesus made this same point earlier in John’s Gospel in John 3:18 when He said that he who believes is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already. In other words, based on John 3:18 and 5:24 anyone on earth who accepts the authority of Scripture ought to be able to say with certainty where they will spend eternity based on whether or not they have come to trust in Christ alone as their only hope of heaven.
I was struck by something one of my professors in seminary, Dr. Charles Ryrie, said on several occasions in class. He said: “Eternal life wouldn’t be eternal if you could lose it” What we gain at the point of faith is ETERNAL life.
I shared this verse with someone recently and they asked, “Why does Jesus say that he who believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life’ instead of ‘he who believes in Me has everlasting life’? Don’t we have to believe in Jesus, not the Father, to be saved?” The answer is that in order to believe in the Father one must believe in Jesus Christ since the Father sent Jesus that people might believe in Him. Jesus said, “He who hears My words and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life.” To believe in the Father one must hear and believe Jesus’ words (i.e., about His substitutionary death). The preceding verse, John 5:23, says: “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” To a Jewish audience this would have been an especially powerful statement. By rejecting Jesus Christ one was ultimately rejecting the God of Israel since Jesus and the Father are one in essence (cf. John 5:18; 10:10) and since the Father speaks to us through His Son (Heb. 1:2).
There is a strange teaching about today which says that no one can know for sure that he believes in Christ. This teaching effectively cuts the heart out of verses like John 5:24. Many today act like Jesus said something as incomprehensible as “He who frumpigollips bormocidal has eternal life and has passed from death to life.” Assurance is annihilated if I can’t know whether I have done what it takes to pass from death to life.
The Scriptures are clear that we can know that we believe in Christ from the moment we trust in Him. John 3:16, 5:24, and 8:24, to name but a few verses in John’s Gospel, all are meaningless unless a person can know if he believes in Jesus or not.
In John 9:35-38 Jesus asked the formerly blind man to whom He had restored sight, “Do you believe in the Son of God?” The man responded, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” When Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God the man didn’t say, “Lord, I think I believe.” He said, “Lord, I believe!” He knew he believed. It is interesting to note that Jesus does not rebuke him for saying that. Indeed, it is clear in context that Jesus was pleased by his statement and that He found nothing wrong in someone knowing that they believed in Him.
Likewise, Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed.” He didn’t wonder whether or not he believed in Christ. He knew. So did Peter and the other apostles, Cornelius and his household, and many others (Acts 11:17).
Any person who is conscious knows whether or not he is trusting in Jesus Christ alone as his only hope of heaven. That’s why we can ask people what they would say if they appeared before God and He said, “Why should I let you into My heaven?”
I praise God that He has told us clearly in His Word that whoever believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life. I know with absolute certainty that I’m saved. I have come to see that God has given the last word on the subject and to doubt my salvation is to doubt God. My life isn’t what I would like it to be (i.e., perfect); however, I know that I have passed from death to life and that really encourages me and motivates me to live for God.