He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
This verse can be the source of false piety, as even the Christless can be disenfranchised and hate this life. Some pretenders can know this verse and sincerely hate their life in this world, but only because key events are not working in their favor.
We must be careful how we listen to John 12:25. Hating our lives in this world is not because we are hateful, and not because some events in our life take a turn for the worse, or because some of our best plans are failing, but because Jesus is not glorified. Hating our lives in this world is not because of entropy, decay and flawed successes, or because life disappoints, or illness strikes, or crimes are rampant, or injustice is unchecked, or because we lose cherished friends and family, but because Jesus is not cherished. Christ not glorified is a source of emotion for the Christian, and it gives meaning to John 12:25.
This verse does not tell us to wish for an improved version of the present world. Anyone can be dissatisfied with the present world order. Anyone can be distressed by criminality, murder, war, disease, illness, suffering, extended sorrow, injustice, or even lesser things such as failures, flawed seasons, disappointments, and missed opportunities.
I could imagine a woman baking a cake, and it falls or is ruined, and she thinks, “Oh, John 12:25 is right! I hate my life in this world.”
John 12:25 does not leverage the feelings that come from these distressing things
(even if they are far more serious than a fallen cake), for anyone can wish for an improved world. Rather, John 12:25 is about Christ and his glory. It is a great cosmic calamity that Jesus is not praised and honored as he should be. That is the world we live in. We live in a world where Christ is lightly regarded, where his name is attacked, and where we conspired to kill him (and would kill him again if such were possible). This world is the arena of antichrist, not just sick children and fallen cakes.
Life is not relatively good when all things are well, and sickness is abated, and some measure of prosperity is being experienced (the lights are on, food is in the cupboards, medicine is in the cabinet, two mostly-running cars are in the driveway, gas is in the tank, most of the important bills are paid, the toilets flush and the showers work, etc.), for life in this world is not to be measured by these things. Life in this world is not relatively good at all, for the measurement of all things is Christ. Faith sees Christ, and it turns to see that Christ is not worshiped; every sin is an expression of antichrist passions, of which this world is filled up.
1 John 2:15
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
I think it is possible to hear this, then misuse the verse. That is, some people may simply hope for the resurrection because the life that they like (this one!) is fragile. That is, they don’t long for the glory of Christ (though they would not say so), rather, they long for a secure version of the life they now have or which they wish this one was. Longing for a lasting and a secure version of the best parts of this life is supposed to be a clue that we have exchanged this life for Christ.
Christ does not merely compete with the most overtly evil of men, but evil of every sort is a move against him. Warm feelings of love (1 John 2:15) rise up to block passion for Christ. Love itself–the familial impulses in the human heart–sets itself against Christ. The love of the things of this world include the seemingly pure love of the happy conditions of normalcy, justice, simplicity, health and family. Here is where Christ is subtly opposed (and perhaps most commonly opposed).
Did we think that temptation to move away from Christ would come like a horned devil? Will it not rather come like a mother’s love for her family, or a father’s love of duty? Affection for Christ will not only be replaced by overtly evil things, but by the simple, the pure, the gentle and soft. The breath of a baby can reveal a mother’s true affections for this world.
It is possible that it is a love for this world (and seeing that it is not working well), that the pretenders will hope for the resurrection. This kind of resurrection hope is a misresurrection hope, where the future dream is not a strong desire for the glory of Christ, but it is nostalgia in reverse.
You adulterers and adulteresses, know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
Hearing this verse, some people are able to agree with it, then give it a strong misapplication. That is, they can put in their mind a future resurrected world like this one, and then say they are not friends to the present. It is possible to look forward to a world that is better than this one, but just the same as this one. In reality, there are some who don’t hope for the resurrection as life before God where Christ is globally precious. Some hope for the life they like now, only longer, better, safer, healthier and hassle free. This is just friendship with the world projected into the future.
The message of James 4:4 and John 12:25 is not one that can be believed according to the flesh, but is by the Spirit. And God, by his Spirit, is kind to help us assimilate that message. And he uses suffering (Rom 5:3-5; James 1:2-4). Suffering is a means whereby God perfects the Christ-centered resurrection-vision of his people. However, this too can be perverted by Satan. Some will suffer, only to interpret suffering as a sign of the fragility of this age. That is, it does not deepen their longing for Christ to be glorified, but it makes them think about a better world.
Suffering in this age isn’t supposed to show how fragile life in this age is, but it makes the Christian long for Christ himself. Suffering is not supposed to be the contrast of that which is fragile to that which is secure (where suffering reminds us of the temporary nature of this age), but to fuel faith and cause the enjoyment of Christ.
Two ways are before us. We can long for this life, or we can long for Christ, but we cannot long for both. The resurrection is not a higher form of longing for this life. If the Resurrection is to you the ultimate act that affirms this life, then for you, the Resurrection is merely that which stabilizes your version of life. That is why the warnings to hate our life in the world are to reshape even what it is we think of the resurrection.
The Resurrection does not come to put its stamp of assurance upon our lives (promising a secure form of the dreams we wish we had in this age), but on Christ. Alas, it is possible to be taught about the Resurrection, and then to wish it would delay. It is possible to not long for the coning Resurrection because the enjoyment of this world is still impressive to you. In that case, you have not been properly taught about the Resurrection, or else you have not learned it. If you are properly taught, yet remain untaught, you will wish for the coming Resurrection to delay.
Your ability to sin is powerful, for you can take your sin even into the “resurrection.” That is, you can love your life in this age, and then recast your notion of resurrection to fit. These are antichrist notions, for they take the resurrection itself, and turn it into the preservation of Christless affections.
But it need not be so. We can have a right vision of the resurrection so that we ourselves come to agree with the Spirit:
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let him that hear say, “Come.”
Not being able to agree, but wishing for Christ to delay (because you are eager to tend to the things of this age), is to not be able to hear.
Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I come quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The exaltation of Christ is life. Whatever it is we enjoy about this life is only to be a marker to indicate that joy exists and that Christ is to be our Joy. Alas, the enjoyment of life in this world is subverted by a subversive heart, and it can blind any of us to a right view of Christ. Without the Spirit, this is exactly what joy in this age produces. If joy does not find its meaning in Christ alone, it functions subversively (against Christ). Joy itself can be a strange threat.
This threatening-joy comes from people, friends and even family members (who may not even be asking you to take your vision off of Christ). People are more prone to finding joy in joy. Knowing that, I would do some people no good at all by helping them to enjoy this life more. My life is not to be handed over to them for their enjoyment of this age. Even friendship can draw affections away from Christ. What turns out to be fragile is faith (a right view of Christ), as it is threatened by the lawful joys of this world.
If I exist in someone’s mind as another feature that improves their life — as if they can add me to the bits of things that they like about this world — then I would be as a tool. And if I am the willing tool, then I would willfully rob people of the glory of Christ as if I should be the enjoyment they seek. Relationships in this age are not even safe.
The hope of the return of Christ, and the prayer for his return is not a rejection of material matter or life, or joy, or relationships, but it is a prayer for the God-Man (who has a material body, and who is life) to come, and it is offered in Joy. Praying for the speedy return of Christ is the prayer of delight rooted in Joy (the Joy that is Christ). For a Christian to wish for the return of Christ is as natural as eating.
The desire fro Christ to return is not the desire for “a return”, as if Christian are people who especially love the idea of returning. But is a desire for Christ himself (his presence, bodily, Resurrected). The prayer is fueled by suffering which reveals that he is not rightly enjoyed or worshiped. This world is the place where he is not properly loved (according to extent or quality). That someone would not enjoy and love Christ, makes this world the wrong kind of world, and so we pray for his return even according to the lack of love of Christ we see around us:
1 Corinthians 16:22
If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!
How can this be? Rather, how can it be that some might not long for the return of Christ?
Given all that has been said so far, how is it that someone who claims to have affections for Christ can beg off his return, and wish for more time without it?
I will only suggest two things in answer to this. First of all, they think of Christ poorly (perhaps imagining that life in the resurrection is worse than life in this age — maybe thinking of it as sitting on clouds, or who knows what). That is, there is the teaching of another Jesus that people can accept which easily affects their understanding of the future bodily resurrection:
2 Corinthians 11:4
For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him.
To have a misconception of Jesus will lead to a misconception of what it means for him to return. Or a misconception of what it means for him to return may be limiting us (moving us away from that event that should evoke worship).
Or, secondly, they may not rightly enjoy Christ. Oh, they would never say it! In fact, they enjoy much about him, perhaps, and Christ may even have a central place in how they view this world. The fact is, they really do enjoy life in this world, and they think that this world is the point (even if they love the fact that Christ is lord over it). Life, friends, family, youth, food, pleasures, order, beauty, creativity, exercise, opportunities, technologies, vacations, projects, weddings, shopping, decorating, cooking, graduations, passions, bargains, candles, aromas, fresh air, blue skies, snow, trees, work, jobs, possibilities, adventures, cars, homes, couches, blenders, crafts, art, and all the rest have persuaded them of the relative goodness and glory of this world (even if it has flaws). They have failed to see what this world is and why they are here, and the thing which is passing has become the thing itself (and Christ himself, who is eternal, is of slowly fading interest). This life (even if they have many strong doctrinal convictions about Jesus, and a strong belief in him), is their life. They may hope in Jesus, but loving this present world, their hope is miserable.
1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
Please, dear Christian, figure out the grandeur of the resurrection of Christ (maybe this list will help). I plead with you, set it in your mind why God is so excellent to return and live among us (rather, for us to live with him!), in the kingdom of the resurrected Son and his resurrected people. Eagerly desire his return (the coming resurrection), and desire it as a matter of the first order. Seek out what it means to enjoy Christ in the resurrection.