Summary: Consider these two options: (1) salvation, eternal life, God as your Father, resurrection in a glorified and immortal body, and rejoicing eternally with God and His angels in heaven. Or (2) the wrath of God, living this life in darkness under Satan's iron fist, then spending eternity in the fires of hell. Which should you choose? Clearly number (1), right? The option that will become yours is entirely dependent on which of two simple prepositions you choose — to be "with" or "against" Jesus Christ.
This is a clearcut, definitive statement by Jesus Christ. It leaves no middle ground, no neutral place, no room for indifference or compromise. The Lord said that there are only two kinds of people: (1) those who are WITH Him and (2) those who are AGAINST Him.
The agnostic, for example, says that he or she “doesn’t know” if there is a God. On the surface that sounds like the person is being candid and honest. But the reality of Jesus as the Son of God has been clearly revealed to this world by the Scriptures, by the very creation, by the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, and by His historical life on this earth 20 centuries ago.
Jesus did not define 3 kinds of people — with Him, against Him, or somewhere in between — but just two. He said every living person is either with Him or is against Him. Let’s look at some more biblical contrasts, each of which relates to where we are with Jesus, either “with” or “against” Him.
Jesus immediately followed His “with-or-against” definition by declaring that each of us is doing one of two things: (1) gathering with Him or (2) scattering. From His standpoint — the only one that matters — if we are not gathering with Him, we are scattering. This tells us that the Lord is not someone who is just there for us to think about now and then. No, He is expecting each living person to be an active participant in the growth and expansion of His kingdom. He expects us to live godly lives that draw people to Him. He expects us to share and to live out the Gospel for the sake of lost souls. If we do so, we will be a vessel for the Master’s use, gathering fruit and harvest into the family of God. If we do not live for Him in word and deed, then we are scattering lost souls and leaving them with no hope but eternal damnation. Choose to be one of those who “gather with” Jesus!
Some Bible scholars see verse 16 as a direct quote of Jesus. Others see it as John writing down a truth he would have learned from Jesus in the 3-1/2 years John was his disciple on earth. In either case, likewise in verse 36, we see again only two types of person that Jesus recognizes — 1) those who believe in Him and receive eternal life, and 2) those who reject Him and incur God’s eternal wrath.
There is no other option. Every living human being must make a choice. Either believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and thereby receive what the Bible calls the new birth unto eternal life. Or reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, and thereby spend eternity under God’s wrath in the fires of hell. Where are you? Are you with Jesus through faith and repentance from sin? Or are you against Him, rejecting His offer of the eternal life which comes only through Him, and thereby facing the prospect of hell’s eternal fire?
We’ve seen several contrasts: with or against Jesus … gathering with Him or scattering … eternal life from Him or the eternal wrath of God. Here’s another at a basic, all-important level. Jesus spoke of those who are saved and those who are lost. This idea is related to our previous one — eternal life from Jesus or the eternal wrath of God.
You yourself are one of these two. You are either saved and heaven bound when this life is over. Or you have never accepted salvation from Jesus and are lost, heading for an eternal hell for having rejected the only Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no in-between. For my first 25 years, although exposed to the Christian faith, I had never in a sincere, repentant, personal way come to Jesus Christ for the salvation of my soul. Then at age 25 I did receive Him as my Lord and Savior (my story is told here), and I was born again and became a child of God, destined for eternity in the Lord’s indescribably magnificent presence. The last 50 years of knowing and living for the Lord have been far, far better than those first 25 without Him.
The apostle Paul spoke of believers having God as our Father. Jesus spoke of the only other option — that is, that unbelievers belong to their “father the devil”!
Spiritually speaking, every person has a father. The believer who has come to God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ can legitimately say the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven…” By contrast, those who are not “with” Jesus are against Him and remain children of Satan. This is a consistent teaching of the New Testament. For example:
The Bible speaks extensively of the kingdom of God and of Jesus (“his dear Son”). Every believer who has been born again through “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21, KJV) becomes a citizen of the Lord’s kingdom. God the Father is our King, and Jesus is His Co-Regent.
By contrast, Jesus said that Satan too has a kingdom (Matthew 12:26 - “Satan … his kingdom”). It is what Paul (above) called the kingdom of darkness. Our great need is, as Paul stated it, to be “rescued … from the kingdom of darkness and transferred … into the kingdom of his dear Son.” That kingdom change comes in the new birth through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord said to the inquirer Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3).
So in brief, those who are “with” Jesus are in His kingdom. Those who are not with Him are “against” Him and remain subjects in Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of darkness.
The apostle Paul here lists two more contrasts applicable to those choosing to be with Jesus as opposed to rejecting Him and therefore being against Him:
The unbeliever in Jesus lives in darkness. The believer is brought by Jesus from utter darkness to light and by Christ’s presence in their lives becomes “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
Those who do not have Jesus personally as their Savior live under the horrible power of Satan. But the believer in Jesus is, as we have seen, rescued from Satan’s kingdom and power and now “belongs to God.”
In these verses Jesus speaks of His future Second Coming. All those who have ever lived on earth will be assembled before Him and categorized as either "sheep" (the saved) or "goats" (the lost).
Each category has its proper destination. The saved (“sheep”) will rejoice as Jesus tells them, “Come, you who are blessed … take your inheritance, the kingdom.” By contrast, His word to the lost (“goats”) is, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire…”
These verses specifically identify two groups who will be alive on earth at Jesus’ Second Coming — again, the saved and the lost. This verse precisely differentiates their destinies.
Those who are saved, the ones who chose to live their lives “with” Jesus, at His coming are said “to be glorified in His saints and…admired among all those who believe.” As we read in our previous verse, they are confirmed as eternally blessed residents of their “inheritance,” the kingdom of God.
On the other hand we see the terrible plight of the unsaved, those who are against Jesus and did not in their lives “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” They will see “the Lord Jesus revealed from heaven … in flaming fire taking vengeance” on all who have rejected Him. They will be “punished with everlasting destruction,” being ultimately consigned for all eternity to “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
Summary: Jesus recognized only two categories of people — those who are with Him and those who are against Him. There is no middle ground, no permissible place of neutrality. This distinct either/or teaching permeates the Scriptures. In sum, we have looked at these contrasts:
The right choice is abundantly clear! Jesus, the divine Son of God, came from heaven to earth 2,000 years ago to save us. He lived a perfect life. He preached and taught the gospel of the kingdom of God. He healed the sick and raised the dead. Eventually He was crucified and died for our sins. On the third day He rose from the grave, taught His followers further, then ascended back to heaven in their sight.
He did all this for you! Nothing you can do could ever satisfy God’s holiness and justice and the punishment due to our sins. So Jesus took that punishment for our sins upon Himself at the cross. Our duty — our joyful privilege! — is to believe in Jesus, to accept His sacrifice on the cross as sufficient to forgive our sins, to repent of our sins, and to receive Him personally and sincerely as our Lord and Savior. If you will do that today, you will be joyfully born again and will become a son or daughter of God Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18). All the terrible negatives we’ve looked at above for being “against” Jesus will be wiped out. Instead, as a born-again child of God, you will inherit all the blessings for being “with” Jesus.
If God has stirred your heart today and you wish to commit yourself to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, Jesus said that the angels in heaven will be rejoicing (Luke 15:10). Please allow the late evangelist Billy Graham to guide you in a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as Savior. Rev. Graham’s guidance is here at https://peacewithgod.net. God bless you!
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
and Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.