Death is the gate of endless joy

This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” (John 6: 40)

Jane Oren Wend, my mother-in-law, died this morning at 2 am. My son and sister-in-law had been taking the ‘until 2 am’ shift, and I had just come in for the 2 am shift, so we three were privileged to be present as she breathed her last, calm, peaceful breaths.

This is indeed the will of Jesus and the Father: to give eternal life to his followers. When my wife, Bess, came after hearing the news (along with other family), she prayed a great prayer, part of which reminded us Jane is enjoying a reunion with Jared, her husband and best beloved for many years, with her son Bobby, and with others from who she has been separated. And someday we, too, who have “seen the Son and believe in him,” will be reunited.

Why should we start, and fear to die
What timorous worms we mortals are!
Death is the gate of endless joy,
And yet we dread to enter there.

The pains, the groans, and dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
Still we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay.

O! if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul should stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through death’s iron gate,
Nor feel the terrors as she passed.

Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are,
While on his breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.

Isaac Watts, Hymn 31, in Psalms and Hymns.

John 6:40 Seeing Jesus

“This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
(John 6: 40)

Seeing Jesus

Is this scripture only limited to the people who were alive on the Earth when He walked
Around with them? Is it still God’s will for us to see Jesus?

I attended a Christian charismatic healing conference a few years ago, and one of the primary teachers asked, “How many of you have seen Jesus?” To my surprise, a large number of people raised their hands. I wasn’t sure if I had seen Jesus at that point, but I was open to the experience.

Prior to the ascension of Jesus into Heaven, many people saw Him in the flesh. This is clear from scripture. We also know that Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. He saw Him as a great blinding light. Many people since then have claimed to see Jesus in prophetic visions or in dreams, while reading the Bible, and during deep times of prayer and fasting. I too have seen and heard Jesus in some of these ways.

In the beginning I questioned it and wondered if it was just my imagination. But, I eventually came to understand that there is a clear and discernable difference between imagining Jesus and having an actual perception of Him. There are three primary Questions I ask when trying to determine whether I have had a true experience with Jesus or have slipped into a fantasy world.

1. Have I been changed by my encounter with Jesus?

2. Has that change become a permanent part of my life?

3. Has that change brought me into a closer relationship with God?

If I cannot answer “yes” to each of these three questions, then I cannot assume that I saw Jesus. It is very important to thoroughly examine each of these questions whenever a person believes that he or she has had an encounter with Jesus. The reason for scrutiny is that Satan loves to impersonate Jesus. He always does a poor job at it, but nevertheless he does not give up trying. His imitations never stand up to close examination.

1. Have I been changed by my experience with Jesus? There is no such thing as a casual encounter with God. A person does not perceive God’s presence without being changed. We can deny the change, but when a person is touched by God, His finger prints are permanent. For example, if I, during deep prayer concerning a painful event in my life, receive God’s truth (in the form of His choosing) my situation will be altered. If I am shown that my beliefs about myself are incorrect and He replaces the lies I believe with His truth, then I will be changed. My pain may lift, and the situations in my life that caused that pain to arise in me will no longer trigger it. I had considerable childhood trauma (like many people have had), and when in the context of prayer about these matters, Jesus has on many occasions made an appearance, which has set me free from bondage to the past.

2. Has the change become a permanent part of my life? Back in my New Age days, before becoming a Christian, I did all kinds of guided imagery work. I used my mind to imagine all kinds of situations that were supposed to help calm my anxiety and heal my pain. They definitely eased my anxiety in the moment, but I did not experience permanent healing. I had to go through the same sequence again and again to obtain the result I was seeking. Eventually these so called spiritual exercises failed to produce any results at all. This, however, is very different from having a true encounter with Jesus.

What are some characteristics of a true encounter with Jesus? First, I must be in a state of submission to God’s will. I must want the truth of God, and must be willing to wait for it. Second, I never tell Jesus what to do or say. Jesus is God! He does what He wants and does it in a way that serves our Father in Heaven. Third, Jesus never says or does anything that is contrary to scripture. Satan will act in ways that mislead, confuse, distract, and encourage us to rebel against God.

3. Has that change brought me into a closer relationship with God? The truth that Jesus speaks always brings us closer to God. He repairs broken relationships with the Father. This does not mean that Jesus only quotes the Bible when speaking; He is God and can say whatever He wishes, but whatever He says will always glorify our Father. Satan may quote the Bible, but he will do so to mislead. If Jesus quotes scripture, then it will lead to the restoration of a relationship with our Father. If Satan quotes the scripture; it will lead us away from restoration.

In addition to using these three questions, to help assess whether or not a person has seen Jesus, there is a spiritual gift that God develops in some Christians, which is connected to the discerning of spirits. It is always wise to seek counsel with such people when examining encounters with God. It is very unwise to say, “WOW that was powerful — it must have been Jesus!” Satan can produce powerful experiences that can cause us to feel that we just touched God, but those experiences will fade rapidly, will not stand the scrutiny I have suggested, and will crumble before a saint who has the gift of discernment.

Lord Jesus, seeing you is a life transforming event. I pray that you will raise up many more people who are gifted with spiritual discernment. I pray that men and women gifted with discernment will courageously use that gift to identify the deceptions of Satan and that his attacks against every church will be decisively exposed. I pray that the activity of your Holy Spirit will set God’s people free.