It is reassuring to believers that the Bible starts with a simple assertion, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". All understanding of reality hangs on this statement. It leads on to another great truth: all life of any kind owes its existence to God.
The Genesis story continues to detail divine activity in the beginning by a reference, first, to God speaking, as Psalm 33.9 puts it, "He spake, and it was done: he commanded, and it stood fast". These commands of God brought the beginning of plant life, followed by animal life. The creation of human life, being of a higher order, is described in greater detail and involves a decision by God to make a human being in His image, after His likeness. The uniqueness of mankind is signalled by the statement that "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" (Gen 2.7). A man had been formed, then life was imparted to him in what we may call a face-to-face contact with his Creator. Mankind was thus launched on a living existence with eternal significance unparalleled on this planet. We have been made for eternity, with the intention that we should know God, serve Him, and "enjoy Him for ever".
"All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (Jn 1.3)
A striking feature of the New Testament, and of Johns Gospel in particular, is that what has been stated of God in the Old Testament is now stated equally clearly of the Lord Jesus Christ. God made everything. When we read that the Divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, made everything we must understand that He is God, as indeed John 1.1 says,
"In him was life" (Jn 1.4)
God is eternal, unoriginated. He is the living God, and He is the source of all life in whatever form or aspect we view it. John 5 gives us a startling exposition of how Father and Son relate to each other in this matter: "As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself" (v.26). This is a claim by Christ to the possession of life in His own right as the eternal Son. When John on the Isle of Patmos saw the glorified Son of God he was stricken prostrate and senseless at His feet and had to be restored and reassured by the words, "Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (Rev 1.17-18, RV). Christ is the Living one, uncreated, eternal, unoriginated. In virtue of this fact He was able to create everything and give life to all that has life.
"That he should give eternal life" (Jn 17.2)
In His prayer in John 17 the Lord Jesus refers to the authority which the Father has given Him: "Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee: even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever thou hast given him, to them he should give eternal life" (Jn 17.2, RV). Even as He had authority in giving life to all living creatures at creation, so in the matter of salvation He has the authority to give eternal life. His explanation of this to Nicodemus in ch.3 of this same gospel rests on His authority. Eternal life is communicated through the Spirit, on the authority of the Son, to every repentant, believing soul. It is reassuring to see the emphasis on His authority to bless and save. Again, in John 5, He states His authority to impart eternal life: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (v.25). Here again He brings together the authority of His voice and the faith of the needy one who responds to His call.
"I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (Jn 6.35)
In many passages where God is confessed as Creator there is also an insistence on His faithfulness as Provider for those whom He has created, whether they be people or beasts. Passages which spring to mind include Psalms 104 and 145. In John 6 the Lord Jesus has fed the people when they were hungry. His power to do this is closely linked with His creatorial power, as was His power to provide wine directly from water in John 2. One lesson which he was teaching in John 6 was that He had the power and authority to sustain those who put their trust in Him.
In John 10 He says that He gives His sheep eternal life and they shall never perish (v.28). He also says that those who enter in through Him into the fold "shall go in and out, and find pasture" (v.9). He sustains from day to day those whose eternal security He has undertaken. He promises that those who trust Him, and enter on a path of difficulty and suffering as a result of their faith, can lay hold of His assurance, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Cor 12.9).
"All that are in the graves shall hear his voice" (Jn 5.28)
In John 5 the Lord Jesus moves beyond the impartation of eternal life and the maintenance of the spiritual life of the believer. He states that the resurrection of believers when He returns will be in response to His voice, His commanding word. The phrase "with a shout" in 1 Thessalonians 4.16 appears to be a similar idea. He who undertook our salvation will be in complete control when the time comes to impart resurrection life to His own who have passed away. If we die, it is not the end of our story. That we go to be with Him when we die, that is not the end of the story. We await the day when His commanding word will bring back from deaths hold the bodies of those who have died in Christ, "and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (1 Thess 4.17).
It is not surprising that in Johns Gospel, where eternal life is a central theme, we find that the climax of the miracles before the cross is the resurrection of Lazarus by the commanding voice of Him who has life in Himself and can impart life by His own authority. In that context He declared, "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn 11.25).
This truth is surely the background to His word to John in Revelation 1.17-18: "I am the Living one; and I was (literally "became") dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades" (RV). He holds total authority in the matter of death and resurrection. Not only is our eternal wellbeing in His hand, but in the redemption of our bodies He will complete what He began when He first forgave our sins.
We should not forget the impact this meeting with the glorified Lord would have on John. He was in Patmos, in punitive exile, his future uncertain, as men might think, but he was assured by this meeting with the Lord that He was in control, whether John lived or died: He held the keys. The Living One had become dead and was alive for evermore.
This is a vital truth for our day. Great numbers, probably more than ever before, of the believers on earth live under daily threat of imminent death for their testimony. They need to rely on Him who has life in Himself, who became dead, whom death could not hold, who rose triumphant from the dead, who knows all about the suffering of His own servants, and who will bring them finally to Himself. He said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev 2.10).
"And hath given him authority to execute judgement also" (Jn 5.27)
Solemnly, we need to remember that the Living One also has authority to judge the unrepentant. This becomes clear in John 5.29, where there is a contrast between those raised "unto life" and those raised "unto judgment". The saved will be taken to the culmination of their blessings in Christ. Sadly, the unsaved will also be raised, but to experience the culmination of the experience of what it means to be lost.