John 7:30-36: So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many of the people believed in him. They said, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?”
That many of the people believed in Him is not necessarily a statement that they believed salvifically, but that they had that momentary belief which is not ongoing. As we have stated many times in this study, John uses the various tenses for belief in a manner that is generally quite consistent. The tense used here is of that faith that believes due to things seen at one point in the past (noting that such a past point of time can be indicated by a present exercise of temporary faith). Like the faith expressed in the crowd of five thousand that went away from our Lord when He spoke of His being the true bread from God, and that those who ate His flesh and drank His blood would be partakers of eternal life (John 6:54), these people are exercising that faith that follows as far as it can see, but will not follow to the cross to die, and be raised in newness of life. Looking for the signs of the Savior, they miss the fact of His work to secure the salvation of His people, and so fail at the point where that which He speaks becomes offensive to either their sensibilities or their temporal practice of religion according to that system which He abolishes in His body being broken (Hebrews 10:1-10).
Such temporary faith is conditioned, in some cases, on the carnal provisions (the eating of the bread and fish in chapter 6), or because of the miracles (as in our present case) without understanding that miracles are always revelatory, and point to the purpose of God by which He intends to communicate His glory. The verb tense of the word appears in our text speaks of that which will happen at some point, and can be used to refer to mere possibility; here, since the Jews believed Messiah would come, we take the former sense, but this also tells us that they are holding that He who is before them is not Messiah. They are believing He is a prophet, at most, holding forth truths of God, without understanding that He IS the truth of God, and the only way to eternally enter the kingdom of the Father (John 14:6) by those things that they should have seen in His doctrine, for the purpose of the miracles is, as we said, to revelational. Basically, we may say that the miracles our Lord wrought, in their primary function, were to act as signs to point to His person as that Messiah they awaited, and open their ears to those great, glorious, gracious and merciful truths He spoke.
However, when men fail to see their salvation in the grace, love and mercy of God, there remains revelational truth of the most dire kind. In this case, it is that where our Lord is going – He who is the firstfruits of those who are to be raised after and in the likeness of His resurrection to glory (1 Corinthians 15:22-23) – these others cannot come, for they lack such ears to hear and eyes to see, given only by that mercy and grace of God. The wrath of God is the flip side of the coin of redemptive revelation, which man, without the working of the Spirit of God to give him the new birth, remains under (John 3:16-21 shows us both sides of this dual purpose of revelational truth, as well as other portions of this gospel, which we will get to in their time).God displays His glory in both instances – the giving of that renewal of the inward man which results in salvation to those who believe, and the damnation of those who do not believe. This is not to equate these as equal acts (fallacy of equal ultimacy), for God, though He hardens those who do not believe, merely confirms them in their unbelief, while the gracious power which raises from spiritual death those who have believed is far more glorious, being equated to the raising of our Lord from the grave to His present session in glory (Ephesians 1:18-23, esp. vv. 18-20).
Soli Deo Gloria – Bill