Do you believe in resurrection? It is a question on the mind of many. Can we really believe that when we die that there is going to be another life? Can it be possible that we will live on? Jesus teaches the audience in this section of John’s gospel that not only is there a resurrection, but there are two resurrections. One resurrection is voluntary and the other resurrection is involuntary. In the previous section Jesus declared his power over life and judgment. All judgment has been given to the Son (5:22). The Son gives life to whom he will (5:21). Jesus is the power in these resurrections for he is the giver of life and the decreer of judgment. By way of a side note, it is my plan to commence a study of the resurrection after we complete our study of Luke’s gospel next spring. So this is something to watch for as we approach 2013.
Resurrection #1 (5:25-27)
Jesus begins with another, “Truly, truly” which declares the certainty of the events he is about to describe. Jesus gives the time frame as “An hour is coming and is now here.” We saw Jesus use this time marker with the Samaritan woman in John 4:23. The time is now, but the reality of this truth will become more obvious shortly. When Jesus said in John 4:23, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” the time was now as Jesus was speaking. But that truth would become more clear after Jesus dies, after Jesus raises from the dead, and after the arrival of God’s kingdom on Pentecost. God was seeking those worshipers immediately but this truth would be clearer later. In the same way, Jesus now says that the hour is coming and now is here means that what Jesus is saying is true right now, while Jesus is speaking, but would become clearer later, particularly after his death and resurrection and kingdom arrival on Pentecost.
What is the hour that is now here that will become more obvious shortly? “The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Our context has been spiritual life and eternal life. Go back to verse 24.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)
Jesus said that those who hear his word and believes him who sent him has eternal life. Those who do such have passed from death to life. Jesus says here in verse 25 that the time for this resurrection to life is now. Dead people are hearing the words of God. This is an amazing work that Jesus must do while he is on the earth. He has to go around telling people that they are dead. We do not think we are dead. We think we are alive, vibrant, and full of life. In chapter 3 Jesus has described this truth to us. We are the condemned. We are perishing from our sins. We are dead. It is a term that the apostle Paul repeatedly used as well to open our eyes to our spiritual condition (Romans 6:13; Ephesians 2:1; 5:14; Colossians 2:13).
However, the people should have known that they were dead. They should have known that there was no life within them. Turn to Ezekiel 37 (page 724) and look at the vision the prophet Ezekiel receives. Ezekiel sees a valley and the valley was full of bones. Verse 11 tells us that these bones represent the whole house of Israel. The people are dead. They look like a pile of bones lying on the valley floor. Listen to what God says would happen. “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.” (Ezekiel 37:12-13). The people are dead. The image is clear. We are dead in our sins. We are dead bones. But God made a promise that a day would come when he would open the graves, raise the people from the graves, and give the people life. Jesus reminds the people that they are dead. But he says that the hour has come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. The voice of the Lord is going to go out over the valley of dry bones. The bones that hear the voice of the Son of God will live! Is it any wonder that Jesus would call those who have ears to hear to let them hear? The life giving voice of the Son of God is speaking. Listen to what he is saying that you may have life.
Are we listening to the life-giving voice of the Son of God? His words give life. Nothing else can give life. No one else can give life. How much time, if any, are you devoting to listening to the voice of Jesus and heeding what he says? It is the voice of Jesus that makes our dead bones live. It is amazing how quickly we return to become dead bones when we stop listening to the life-giving voice of the Son of God. The moment we stop listening to Jesus and stop pursuing him, death starts setting in again. Have you ever asked why we try to have so many bible studies going on, either personally, or through community groups, or at the building? The reason is because if we are not hearing the voice of Jesus and encouraging one another to obey that voice, we quickly become dead again. We fall back to becoming dead, dry bones in the valley with no life at all. Oh how we think we are alive without Jesus when in fact we are as dead as we could be, unable to see our condition.
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14 ESV)
This is the voluntary resurrection. The voice of the life-giving Son is speaking. Are you willing to listen so that you can arise from death to life?
Resurrection #2 (5:28-29)
Now you can imagine the audience with their jaws open hearing the news that they are dead and that Jesus is God, the giver of life to those who hear his voice. The people should have known they were dead, but Jesus is teaching them as he has to teach us that we are dead in our sins and need the life that can only be found in Jesus. In verse 28 Jesus says that we must not be astounded by this. Here is why we must not be amazed. There is an hour that is coming. Notice this time that Jesus does not say that the hour is coming and is now here. No, Jesus is looking forward to a coming hour. This is not an event that is already occurring because Jesus is here. Rather, it is an event that will occur in the future.
There is an hour coming when all who are in the grave will hear his voice and come out. There is a time coming when all the people in the tombs are going to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus and they will come out. I would like for you to go yell at a tomb and see if any dead person listens! We are being told how powerful the words of Jesus are. The voice of Jesus is able to give life to our spiritual dead souls and is able to give raise our bodies from the grave. Notice how verse 27 performs a bridge to this thought. In verse 26 we see that the Son has life in himself. He gives life to whom he wills and he gives life to those who hear his voice. We are spiritually dead but the words of Jesus will bring us life. Jesus also has the authority to execute judgment. The hour is coming when every person will hear the voice of the Lord from the grave and will come out to judgment. This is the involuntary resurrection. No matter what you do, you are going to be called from your grave. Everyone who has ever died will be raised. People throughout all of history are going to be raised from the dead.
One of the questions for the world for all time is what happens after death. What will happen when we die? Is it the end of our existence? Is there a reason to live a particular way because there is something that happens once we take our last breath? Here is what will happen. There is a coming hour when the Lord Jesus is going to say the word and everyone will raise from the grave. Verse 29 tells us what will happen when we are raised. Those who have done good will be raised to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil will be raised to the resurrection of judgment. The basis for Jesus’ judgment over us is according to what we have done. Our good works function as the evidence that we have truly heard the voice of Jesus and believed in him. Saving faith will not leave us dead. Saving faith will not leave us doing the same thing in life what we have always done. There will be life change and we will not go on in our sins any longer. The spiritually dead, those who have not heard and responded to the voice of Jesus, will be raised to judgment.
For your involuntary resurrection to be a favorable, enjoyable one where we are raised to eternal life and not eternal punishment, then we must experience a voluntary resurrection of our souls now.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11–14 ESV)
Paul uses similar imagery for this voluntary resurrection. The body of the sins of the flesh are cut off when we are buried with Christ in baptism and we are raised from that water to be made alive through faith in the powerful working of God. When this was done through faith, Paul says in verse 13 that we were dead in our sins but were made alive with him. This is your voluntary resurrection pictured in the submissive action of baptism. We are listening to the voice of the Lord and submitting to his command. We are putting sin to death when we are buried with Christ and we are raised to walk in a new way of life (cf. Romans 6:4). But this is not the end of the story. Now we must continue to listen to the voice of the life-giving Son or we will fall back into death. Listen to what Paul says a few verses later to the Colossians.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1–3 ESV)
If you have be raised with him to life from spiritual death, then seek spiritual things, set your mind on spiritual things, and find your life in Jesus, not in yourself. Then when the great and final day comes and we are called from the grave, we will be raised to life eternal with the Lord.