“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:25–29, ESV)
We finished our last look at Jesus’ response to the Jews with the words recorded by John, “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.” Here Jesus continued to clearly draw the line concerning eternal consequences. While some have tried to read various things into this passage which do not fit the context or are not consistent with the entirety of Scripture, Jesus here is demonstrating the continuity of the Son (Himself) coming with the eternal plan of the Father. God has a history which the Jews knew. He had revealed and proven Himself to them, and those who believed in Him were saved by faith under the hope of His promise.
This has been the case up until Jesus’ coming. Man believed and it was counted to Him by God as righteousness. We read about this, for instance, in Hebrews chapter 11 which speaks of the many who had come before who were counted as righteous because of their belief evidenced by their lives of faith. We read that by faith Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice. We read of Enoch, who showed his faith by living a life pleasing to God, even being taken up by God such that he would not even see death. We read of Noah who by faith followed God’s instructions by building and entering the ark and became an heir of righteousness by faith. By faith Abram obeyed. By faith received the power to conceive and bear the son of promise through whom would come the Christ. The chapter goes on to declare one after another of people who by faith believed God and evidenced their belief by their life. Not one of them do we read of any action saving them except by the faith that moved them to respond.
Verse 13 of Hebrews 11 points to the hope that they had to believe in a promise that they had not yet received and could only trust that God would do what He had promised. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13, ESV) Jesus, Himself, spoke of this side of their hope when He said in John 5:17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17, ESV) Jesus had come into the world, and in Him the hope that those who had gone before was being realized. As He spoke to the Jews He spoke to them as the One who had come, but had not yet gone to the cross. Those of faith were in that period of drastic change. Their hope of a Savior who would give life to those who believe was to be fully realized in Jesus who is the Christ and who would soon shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of salvation by faith.
So He said to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” When Jesus conquers death through the resurrection He will have finished the work of bringing about all that was required to give eternal life to man. The hour is coming because He had not yet completed this. The hour is now here because after thousands of years of looking forward the Christ had been born as a man and was preparing Himself to complete that which the Father had promised.
Jesus had already demonstrated His power to restore life to the gravely ill and to give healing to those in need. At the moment He was standing before His accusers and telling them that the Father had not only given Him the power to do those things, but He had been given authority over life itself and the ability to restore life eternally to those who were lost. Along with that He also stood before them and told them that He had full authority as the righteous Judge over those who remained in unbelief and rebellion. To those who believed He would give them the assurance of eternal life and those who did not would remain in judgment.
He did not come to remove physical death, but He did come to give life to some and also to judge others. In the process of this unfolding men have continued to die and consequently will all be resurrected to receive the result of their belief or their unbelief. For those who believe they receive eternal life and for those who do not the result is eternal judgment. One is of unimaginable glory and the other of unimaginable torment, not to be desired by anyone. For those saved by faith they have a great hope that does not perish at death, but rather provides their entrance into His presence forever.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12–15, ESV)
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–5, ESV)
“He who prepared us for this very thing is God!” The work that God began in creation will be completed and those who place their trust in Him and are saved have been given His guarantee found in His Word and His Spirit given to all believers. There is no middle ground. There is no balancing of the scales because there is absolutely no good that man can do enough of that will offset the smallest amount of sin compared to our infinitely perfect God. Jesus is the perfect One who was sent to pay that price and to fully satisfy the Father.
He pulled no punches in telling this to the Jews, and His Word pulls no punches in declaring this to any who will hear. Because of His great love He sent His Son to save man. Man was not created for judgment, but for relationship and God has made this possible through His Son.