Lesson 92: Blessings Now Plus Heaven Ahead! (John 17:24-26)Related Media
May 17, 2015
With all of the wonderful blessings we enjoy as Christians, I often wonder why people aren’t beating down the doors of every evangelical church to beg, “What must I do to be saved?” Even when we face difficult trials, we have Christ’s presence in the flames to comfort us, as He was with the three men in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3). He is there to comfort us when we lose loved ones. He is there to sustain us when we face death. And when we leave this life, we are with Him in glory forever, with eternal happiness. What is there about the Christian life not to love! The fact that unbelievers are not actively seeking to know God only confirms their spiritual blindness and hardness of heart, as the Bible declares.
As our Lord wraps up His high priestly prayer, which we are privileged to listen in on, He reveals the blessings that all who believe in Him enjoy in this life, plus the incomparable blessing of being with Him in heaven forever. He’s saying …
If you have come to Christ as Savior and Lord, you have wonderful blessings now plus the certainty of being with Him in heaven to see His glory.
Although Jesus mentions heaven in verse 24 followed by our present blessings in verses 25 & 26, I’m going to look first at the blessings we enjoy now and then look at the promise of heaven.
1. If you have come to Christ as Savior and Lord, you have wonderful blessings now.
Jesus enumerates two main blessings here:
A. If you have come to Christ, you know the righteous Father through Him (17:25-26a).
John 17:25-26a: “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known ….”
If you’ve never read J. I. Packer’s, Knowing God [IVP], you should put it on your spiritual “bucket list.” He begins that book (pp. 13-14) by quoting at length the first sermon that the 20-year-old C. H. Spurgeon preached at the New Park Street Chapel in London on January 7, 1855. The young preacher began:
It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with … and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth … we turn away with the thoughts that vain man would be wise … with the solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God….
But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe…. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.
And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound, in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief, and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul, so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.
I can’t begin to compare with Spurgeon’s eloquence, but the topic that our Lord here addresses is that of knowing God. At the beginning of His prayer, Jesus said (John 17:3), “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ is the very definition of eternal life! So here, Jesus draws a distinction between the world, which has not known the Father, and those who know the Father through faith in Jesus.
It is important to understand that we cannot know God through philosophy. Philosophers may speculate, “I think God is like this,” but they don’t know anything about God. The natural man, who has not been born of the Spirit, cannot know God, whether by studying philosophy or even theology. His natural mind is darkened so that he cannot understand spiritual truth (Rom. 1:21; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:18).
We can know God only through revelation, not speculation. In Luke 10:22, Jesus claimed, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” In the same vein, earlier in this prayer Jesus said (John 17:6), “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; …” Here He repeats (John 17:26), “I have made Your name known to them ….” The only way that we can know God is through Jesus Christ, who was sent to this earth to manifest God’s name. Through faith in Christ we receive the Holy Spirit, who gives us understanding into the things of God. We know something of God’s name.
God’s name refers to His attributes and character. Here, Jesus addresses Him as “Righteous Father,” which is unique in all of Scripture. Unless you had a stern, rules-oriented Dad, you probably wouldn’t connect righteous and father in the same breath. When I think of God as my Father, I think of Psalm 103:13, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” It makes me want to draw near to feel His love. But when I think of righteous, it causes me to draw back, because I instantly recognize that I am not righteous. Like Isaiah when he saw the Lord and heard the angels proclaiming (Isa. 6:3), “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,” I want to cry out (Isa. 6:5), “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”
But here Jesus brings together righteous Father. He is not unrighteous when He withholds the revelation of His name from the sinful world that rejected His Son. Their punishment is just. And He can righteously impute the very righteousness of His Son on all who believe in Him, because He bore their just punishment on the cross (Rom. 3:21-26). To them alone He is the righteous Father. To cite Dr. Packer again (Knowing God ([IVP], p. 182),
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.
Knowing God as the righteous Father, along with all of His other attributes, begins at salvation, but it continues as a lifelong quest. Jesus adds (John 17:26) that He “will continue to make it [God’s name] known.” This began with His love that would be supremely demonstrated on the cross the next day and extends to the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit, who pours out the love of God in our hearts as we grow to know Him more deeply (John 16:12-15; Rom. 5:5; Gal. 2:20). As John exclaims (1 John 3:1), “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” The prophet Hosea (6:3) exhorted, “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.” About 25 years after coming to know Christ, Paul stated as his constant goal that he kept pressing toward (Phil. 3:10), “that I may know Him.”
If you know someone who is famous or important in the world, you would count it as a great privilege and you would take advantage of every opportunity to spend time with him so that you could know him better. As believers, we know the living and true God, creator of heaven and earth. We should spend time in His Word every day seeking to know Him better. Knowing God is the very essence of eternal life. Related to this:
B. If you have come to Christ, you enjoy the infinite love of God and the indwelling presence of Christ.
Jesus says (John 17:26), “I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” As we saw (John 17:23), Jesus says that the Father loves us even as He loves His own Son! What a staggering, life-changing truth! Paul prays (Eph. 3:17-19), “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
So as Christ dwells in our hearts, we enjoy both His presence and the ever-deepening experience of God’s love. On the heart level, not just intellectually, we ought to know, “Christ lives in me and through Him I am growing to experience the unfathomable love of God more and more!”
Maybe you’re thinking, “If God loves me that much, why am I having so many difficult trials?” But remember, God loves His own Son with eternal, infinite love, and yet He sent Him to earth to bear the reproach of sinners and to die a horrible death on the cross. God’s great love does not mean that you will be spared from difficult trials or that He will bless you with health and wealth, as many false prophets in our day promise. We may face tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and even martyrdom for Christ’s sake. But none of these things can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).
In fact, it is especially when you’re going through trials that you can experience the comforting presence of Christ. It was when the disciples were in the storm that Christ came walking to them on the water. Late in his life, the pioneer missionary to Africa, David Livingstone, received an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University. As he rose to speak, he was gaunt and haggard as a result of the hardships he had gone through in Africa. His left arm, crushed by a lion, hung helplessly at his side as he announced his glad resolve to return to Africa. He added, “Would you like me to tell you what supported me through all the years of exile among a people whose language I could not understand, and whose attitude toward me was often uncertain and often hostile? It was this: ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.’ On these words I staked everything, and they never failed!” (“Our Daily Bread,” Fall, 1984.)
You may be thinking, “I know that God loves me and that Christ is always with me, but I don’t experience His loving presence very often. Is there anything that I can do?” The Puritan, Thomas Manton, has some practical advice (in J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 4:207):
If an earthly king lie but one night in a house, what care there is taken that nothing be offensive to him and that all be neat and sweet and clean. How much more careful ought you to be to keep your hearts clean, to perform service acceptable to Him, to be in the exercise of faith, love, and other graces so that you may entertain, as you ought, your heavenly King, who comes to take up His continual abode in your hearts.
If your heart is cold and you feel distant from the Lord, I always find encouragement in the invitation of Isaiah 55:6-7:
Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
Knowing the righteous Father and enjoying His infinite love, along with the indwelling presence of Christ, are just some of the innumerable blessings that we enjoy in this life. But, as the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” The best is yet to come!
2. If you have come to Christ, you have the certainty of being with Him in heaven to see His glory.
Here we move back to John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Note three things:
A. Heaven is a certainty for all whom the Father has given to His Son.
When Jesus says, “Father, I desire …” He uses the Greek verb meaning, “I will.” In the garden, Jesus prayed (Luke 22:42), “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” But here, Jesus expresses His will, namely, that all whom the Father has given Him be with him in heaven to see His glory. Of course, Jesus’ will and the Father’s will are in complete agreement. In John 6:37-40, Jesus said,
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
How can you know if you’re one whom the Father gave to His Son? Jesus says that all whom the Father has given to Him will come to Him. Have you come to Jesus? If you’ve come to Jesus and put your trust in Him as your Savior, you’re one of those whom the Father gave to His Son. And this means that you can be certain that you will be with Christ in heaven!
B. The best thing about heaven will be to be with Jesus and to see His glory.
The best part about heaven will not be golden streets or being with your loved ones or meeting all of the great saints from the past or even having a new resurrection body, as wonderful as all those things will be. The best part of being in heaven will be to be with Jesus forever and to see His glory. This wonderful truth is repeated often in the New Testament:
Luke 23:43: “And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’”
John 14:3: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Philippians 1:23: I have “the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better ….”
2 Corinthians 5:8: “We … prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 4:17: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
Revelation 22:3-4a: “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face ….”
The well-known evangelist D. L. Moody said that when he got to heaven, he wanted to sit with Jesus for 1,000 years and then he would ask, “Where is Paul?” He meant, the greatest thing about heaven will be to be with Jesus.
Do you long to be with Jesus and see His glory? If you don’t enjoy spending time with Christ in His Word now, you probably aren’t real excited about being with Him in eternity. I can’t answer how billions of saints will be able all to be with Jesus in a personal way, but somehow the Lord is able to deal with that conundrum. But however it happens, it will be the ultimate experience of all experiences! The old hymn (by Carrie Breck) puts it,
Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be—
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?
C. Another joy of heaven is that it will be a place where we see and experience fully the Father’s infinite love.
Jesus says that the glory which the Father gave Him stems from the fact that He loved Him before the foundation of the world. Here we are peering into the mystery of the Trinity and their eternal relationships. While I cannot plumb those depths, for our purposes note that heaven will be a place permeated by love. We will see the love that the Father has eternally for the Son and the Son for the Father. That love will be perfected in all of the saints. Jonathan Edwards has a wonderful sermon (www.biblebb.com/ files/edwards/charity16.htm) where he explores in depth what it will be like to be in that world of love. The Upper Room scene began with John 13:1, “having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” It ends (John 17:24, 26) with Jesus’ mentioning the Father’s eternal love for Him and with His prayer that, “the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
The Heidelberg Catechism begins: Question: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
As those whom the Father gave to His Son, we enjoy the blessings of salvation now and the joys of heaven ahead! What more could we ask for!
- What are some aspects of getting to know someone that apply to getting to know God? Are you pressing on to know God?
- Should we often feel Christ’s love or is it enough just to take it by faith? If feeling it is important, how can this be fostered?
- Why is it important to affirm that experiencing God’s blessing and love now does not exempt us from difficult trials?
- Does the thought of going to heaven affect your daily life? Should it? If so, how?
Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2015, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation