All scripture references are from the NASV unless otherwise noted.
In examining the true gospel and the vast subject of salvation, I feel the place to start is with a basic definition, a biblical definition of some terms that we use in Christendom, yet without meaning in many instances. One such term is "eternal life". Eternal life is not bound by its relation to time, as we think of eternal. Rather, it is not only eternal in duration, but eternal in essence and quality.
Eternal life is defined by Jesus Himself in a very important but much overlooked passage of scripture. Jesus said, "And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). Here, Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God. The essence of life, true life, the eternal quality of life offered by Jesus is to know the Father, and Jesus said in an equally important yet overlooked passage, "... no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Mat. 11:27).
The knowledge of God that is eternal life comes only by means of revelation. Multitudes of Christians have been born of God and have had many wonderful and powerful experiences with God, yet have never come into the knowledge of God that comes, not through religious or even genuine spiritual activity, but through revelation. Jesus must reveal the Father. We can know God only by revelation, and I have found multitudes of Christians who have not yet come into the knowledge of God that is eternal life.
Jesus reveals the Father to us by uncovering Himself to us, for He said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The unfolding revelation of God comes to us in steps, and these steps are found in scripture by those who have experienced them. I won't attempt to go into any depth regarding these revelations of Christ, for that would require volumes. However, I would like to list them as they have come to me and to others throughout the ages.
The starting place of the revelation of God is the revelation of His holiness. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Prov. 9:10). "Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:5). The revelation of His holiness is that which brings the fear of God that is the beginning place for the knowledge of God. Like all of the revelations of the person of Jesus Christ, the revelation of His holiness does not come through bible study, sermons, or anointed teaching. It comes through the personal experimental contact with the holiness of God. This experience then opens the scripture to the one exercised thereby. It doesn't come through bible study, but it brings the scriptures that cast light on the subject of His holiness out of the abstract and into the realm of living truth, just as all real truth is uncovered through experience, not of life, but of God. As we enter a relationship with the revealed God, we know the scripture relationally, and all true knowledge is relational knowledge.
The next revelation of God is the revelation of the cross. This, I believe, is the most necessary of all revelations, for it is truly the doorway that leads the Christian pilgrim out of the meager and poor experience of the multitudes in Christendom, and into a relationship with Jesus that brings the ever unfolding revelation of God and the ever deepening intimacy with Christ. The cross and the revelation of the cross is the beginning place of intimacy with Christ. Paul said, "For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).
This subject alone is vast enough to fill entire books. Let me only say that the revelation of the cross must be preceded by the work of the law that is our school master to bring us to Christ, and the revelation of the cross makes the one to whom it comes a bondservant or a love slave. The law is the hammer that breaks the hard rocky soil of our stone heart and makes it fertile soil in which the seed of the gospel can grow and bring forth fruit unto eternal life. To the one broken by the law, the revelation of the cross is that which wins the heart of man and secures the enduring "yes" that is the surrender to the will of God which releases God to the wonderful but often painful work of making a man or woman of God. Only the revelation of the cross can secure the surrender of the human heart that frees God to work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, and not our own. Without the revelation of the cross, there can be no further revelation of God, and without the revelation of the cross that makes a bondservant out of a babe, the babe will forever remain such, though maturing mentally and maturing through Christian experience. "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes [nēpios] in Christ" (1 Cor. 3:1 KJV).
The next revelation of God is the revelation of God as our Father; our Daddy: Abba. This revelation of God turns the bondservant into a son (Greek: hyios). "Because you are sons [hyios], God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son [hyios] into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son [hyios]; and if a son, then an heir through God" (Gal. 4:6, 7). You can begin to see how the unfolding revelation of God that is eternal life changes us into His image from glory to glory as we behold Him. We are transformed from a spiritual infant to a bondservant to a son, and on and on as He reveals more and deeper levels of His person to us.
The next revelation of God is the revelation of Christ as our friend that makes us a friend of God. Jesus said to His disciples, "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). Each of the revelations of God come to us as Jesus removes veils from our spiritual eyes and reveals the Father to us. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18). As He removes from us these veils and reveals Himself to us as a friend that sticks closer than a brother, He changes us into a friend with whom He can share the deep secrets of His heart, uncovering the deep truths of scripture hidden from the religiously wise but revealed to those of child-like quality, as well as revealing to us His plans for the future; ours, other individual's, the Kingdom's, and the world's.
The next step in the ever unfolding revelation of God that is the very definition of life eternal is that of betrothal, where our faithfulness to our beloved is tested and His faithfulness to us is revealed through the fires of testing and refining. The beautiful result of this time of pain and trial is the union with our beloved "Boaz" as He reveals Himself to us in His lowliness, making us His bride. It is in our union with the Son of man in His death on the cross that we are united with Him as our husband and we become the bride (wife) of Christ. Ruth went down to Boaz on the threshing floor, and there uncovered his feet, and as we are united with Him in the likeness of His death, He uncovers to us the lowliness of our near kinsman, who was suffered as a man like unto us.
For those who are united with Him in his death and burial, He then reveals Himself as the risen and glorified Christ, uniting us with Him in His resurrection glory and seating us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
So, we see that the steps to intimacy with Christ are the steps of the revelation of God, first as holy, creating within us the fear of God, then as merciful, as he reveals to us the cross making us a bondservant. Then He reveals Himself to us as Daddy, making us a son (see Vine's for a deeper study of the New Testament Greek words translated son, child, children, babe). Next, He reveals Himself to us as a friend that sticks closer than a brother, making us a friend of God to whom He can reveal the deep secrets of His heart. Next, he reveals Himself to us as the Son of man, showing us His lowliness as He purchased us to Him as a bride and unites us to Him in His death, burial, and resurrection, seating us with Him in heavenly places and allowing us access to the Holiest, where we can draw near in full assurance of faith and touch the scepter of His rule on behalf of others.
The knowledge of God... this is Jesus' very definition of eternal life, and by this definition, oh, how very few have ever truly found eternal life! Truly, as Jesus said, "Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it."
It has been my experience, at least up till now, that only a fortunate few have ever had even the first revelation of God (His holiness), much less the deeper more intimate revelations, and hence, the weak and poor condition of many in the church. This is life eternal: to know God, and we can only know God through revelation.The True Gospel Series