by Mike Ratliff
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν ὅτε οἱ νεκροὶ ἀκούσουσιν τῆς φωνῆς τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀκούσαντες ζήσουσιν. (John 5:25 NA27)
Amen, amen I say to you that an hour is coming an now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those having heard will live. (a personal translation of John 5:25 from the NA27 Greek text)
The misunderstanding or false teaching about two truths pertaining to our Lord Jesus Christ and man are at the center of much of the false teaching that passes for “Christian theology.” It has always been so. The first truth refers to the deity of Christ and His sovereign authority as Lord and God. The second truth pertains to the original sin of Adam and fact that all people are born dead in trespasses and sins, no exceptions. That spiritual death is without any ability to please God in any way. If we get either of these truths wrong then we will get the Gospel wrong and that means all our theology is wrong as well.
In John 5:18-29 Jesus makes clear His deity and what that means as far as His authority in the Kingdom of God. He also makes it clear that those He came to save are spiritually dead just like all men, but there is a difference. They hear His voice, believe the Gospel, and are saved while the rest of humanity remain in their sins and go into judgment.
διὰ τοῦτο οὖν μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι, ὅτι οὐ μόνον ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεὸν ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ. (John 5:18 NA27)
Because of this therefore the Jews were all the more seeking to kill Him because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was also saying God was His Father, making Himself equal to God. (a personal translation of John 5:18 from the NA27 Greek text)
All genuine Christians can and should claim God to be their Father, but this is not what Jesus was doing. He was claiming to be equal to God in His nature and in every way, yet who related to God in a Father-Son relationship. If Jesus was not God then this was indeed blasphemy. Those who claim Jesus never claimed to be God are ignoring passages like this one.
Ἀπεκρίνατο οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲν ἐὰν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα· ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ, ταῦτα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ὁμοίως ποιεῖ. ὁ γὰρ πατὴρ φιλεῖ τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πάντα δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ ἃ αὐτὸς ποιεῖ, καὶ μείζονα τούτων δείξει αὐτῷ ἔργα, ἵνα ὑμεῖς θαυμάζητε. ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἐγείρει τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ ζῳοποιεῖ, οὕτως καὶ ὁ υἱὸς οὓς θέλει ζῳοποιεῖ. οὐδὲ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ κρίνει οὐδένα, ἀλλὰ τὴν κρίσιν πᾶσαν δέδωκεν τῷ υἱῷ, ἵνα πάντες τιμῶσι τὸν υἱὸν καθὼς τιμῶσι τὸν πατέρα. ὁ μὴ τιμῶν τὸν υἱὸν οὐ τιμᾷ τὸν πατέρα τὸν πέμψαντα αὐτόν. Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὁ τὸν λόγον μου ἀκούων καὶ πιστεύων τῷ πέμψαντί με ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον καὶ εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται, ἀλλὰ μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν. (John 5:19-24 NA27)
Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, the Son is not able to do anything from Himself except what He sees the Father doing. For whatever He is doing these things the Son likewise does. For the Father loves the Son and He shows Him all He does, and greater works than these He will show Him that you my marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, so also the Son whom He wills makes alive. For not even the Father judges anyone, but all judgment He has given to the Son that all men may honor the son as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who has sent Him. Amen, amen I say to you that whoever hears my word and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and does not come into judgment, but has been transferred out of death into life.” (a personal translation of John 5:19-24 from the NA27 Greek text)
Who are the dead who are raised from the dead here in this passage? They are the ones who are lost in trespasses and sins, but Jesus says that He gives life to whom He will. This is because He is God. He is Sovereign. Only God can raise the dead and give life. This is not talking about raising up people from physical death to physical life. That is beyond the context of this passage. No, this is talking about eternal life. This eternal life is both the new life now given to believers (John 5:24; 11:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:17) and the resurrection of the body at Christ’s second coming (1 Corinthians 15:42-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). What about this judgment stuff? This is another claim to our Lord’s deity. The Father has delegated this to the Son. In v23, our Lord makes it clear that anyone who does not honor Him does not honor the Father, therefore, those religions who claim to be Abrahamic in origin, who consider Jesus to be merely a prophet, are proven false right here because they fail to worship and honor Jesus. In v24, our Lord makes a very striking statement about our salvation. Those truly in Christ possess eternal life right now. It begins immediately, in a partially realized, but significant way, when we believe in Jesus. Therefore, no matter how rough things get as we approach the end of this age, we can face the last judgment with confidence.
ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν ὅτε οἱ νεκροὶ ἀκούσουσιν τῆς φωνῆς τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ οἱ ἀκούσαντες ζήσουσιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἔχει ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, οὕτως καὶ τῷ υἱῷ ἔδωκεν ζωὴν ἔχειν ἐν ἑαυτῷ. καὶ ἐξουσίαν ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ κρίσιν ποιεῖν, ὅτι υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν. μὴ θαυμάζετε τοῦτο, ὅτι ἔρχεται ὥρα ἐν ᾗ πάντες οἱ ἐν τοῖς μνημείοις ἀκούσουσιν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐκπορεύσονται οἱ τὰ ἀγαθὰ ποιήσαντες εἰς ἀνάστασιν ζωῆς, οἱ δὲ τὰ φαῦλα πράξαντες εἰς ἀνάστασιν κρίσεως. (John 5:25-29 NA27)
“Amen, amen I say to you that an hour is coming an now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those having heard will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave the Son life to have in Himself, and He gave authority to Him to make judgment because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this for an hour is coming in which all those in the graves will hear His voice and will come out. The ones having done good things to a resurrection of life, but the one having practiced evil things to a resurrection of judgment.” (a personal translation of John 5:25-29 from the NA27 Greek text)
In v25, our Lord is still emphasizing the present reality and experience of eternal life not the final resurrection. He is explaining exactly what happens when one who is called by God to believe the Gospel, hears and believes. They hear our Lord’s voice, are quickened unto life, regenerated, see their lost condition, understand their need of a Saviour, hear the good news, and believe the Gospel. This is salvation by grace through faith as a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). All who hear this effectual call will live because they hear and believe the Gospel by the grace of God through faith. They are justified by faith by God. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to their account.
In v26, we are told precisely why the voice of Jesus is able to speak to the spiritually dead and grant them life. Why is it true? The Father has life in Himself and has given or granted this to the Son so that He can impart that life to others. The Son, Jesus Christ, has life in Himself and is able to call the dead to life. Some try to make this verse say that the Father created the Son, but, as you can clearly see in my translation, that is not what this is talking about. This is talking about authority.
In v27 we read of the Father giving our Lord the authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man. This is reference to Daniel 7:13-14, and John 1:51. The Lord Jesus Christ has been given the authority to carry out the final judgment on every human being.
In vv28-29 our Lord reaffirms the resurrection on the last day. It is a mistake to imply that the criterion here is based on people’s deeds. Remember context is the rule. That interpretation runs counter to everything we have looked at so far in this passage. What are the criteria for eternal life? It is belief by those who hear the voice of the Son who calls them. We are justified by faith not works. These works our Lord was referring to here function as evidence of true faith. All those who truly believe will be brought “from death to life” and consequently will do good and will enjoy the resurrection life. Also, genuine believers still sin, but are not slaves to sin. Sin is the exception in their life, not the rule. On the other hand, the unregenerate are still in their sins and are enslaved to their flesh and those sins.
Soli Deo Gloria!