This section of Scripture focuses on the delegation of judgment to the second person of the trinity, as well as the two different kinds of resurrection (spiritual and physical).
5:24 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.
- Who is it that hears His word? Does everyone hear? Certainly many hear it outwardly. But who has eternal life? Those who believe the word. Those who the Holy Spirit inwardly calls and gives faith to.
- James Boice says this, “The first point of these verses, then, is that the possession of divine life begins with God’s action rather than man’s. In other words, life is not a reward for believing. It is the other was around. Life comes first; a person believes afterward. He believe because God has first placed His life within him.”
- We hear something similar from Jesus in His high priestly prayer. Kate and I were reading this before bed the other night because it is so comforting to hear the Son of God praying for us, His sheep. Here’s what He says, “…I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (John 17:8).
- This is the good news – this is the gospel. There is an opportunity for life and it is found in Christ’s actions toward us. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
- What a relief it is that as Christians we aren’t responsible to the quickening of other men’s souls. We are simply called to preach the word (the gospel) and let the Holy Spirit do the amazing work of spiritual regeneration. This frees our minds and hearts to share the gospel with everyone, from every tribe and tongue and nation, and let the increase of this work be in God’s hands to His glory – this is what He wants. He doesn’t allow us to have control of the regenerating process. He doesn’t allow us to know the secrets of the mystery of salvation because He knows that if it were up to us alone to save mankind, that we would certainly boast (Eph. 2:9).
5:25 “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.
- In this passage Jesus makes the differentiation between spiritual death and physical death, and here He touches on spiritual resurrection and physical resurrection. We know He is talking specifically about spiritual resurrection here because He says the hour of this “is now here.” This is part of the tension of Christian eschatology as Carson points out, and is a really good point to remember.
- Last Thursday night, I hit on the fact that David and Saul are Old Testament pictures of New Testament eschatology. David’s anointing as king didn’t change the fact that Saul continued to reign. He was promised and anointed, but the full consummation had not yet arrived. In the negative, Saul had been “stripped” of the kingdom, but yet he had not fully lost the kingdom outwardly. Likewise, here we see Christ talk about a spiritual resurrection (that’s the “already”) and a physical resurrection (the “not yet”). Christ came to inaugurate the new age and usher in the Kingdom of God; though that kingdom has not yet been fully consummated and will not be so until Jesus Christ returns (vs. 28-29).
- So how does Jesus say that He will raise people from spiritual death? By what means? By His voice – He says the dead will hear the “voice of the Son of God.” As a side note, its worth thinking about how many times the voice of God is used in giving life (think Gen.1). So this voice of the Son of God is what dead men’s souls respond to. Now in theology we call this the “call” of God (Romans. 8:28-30).
- But is Jesus calling merely outwardly for our ears to hear? Or is this an inward call of the Holy Spirit to our souls? It is both. The preaching of the Gospel is what we call the “outward call” and the quickening of the Holy Spirit is what we term the “inward call.” Christ’s voice rings out to the dead soul’s men in the power of the Holy Spirit and brings them alive from the dead (Eph. 2:1).
- My favorite Old Testament example of this is in Ezekiel 37:1-6 when the Lord tells Ezekiel to preach to the dead dry bones of Israel. The preaching brings them alive by the power of the Lord.
- We ought to also note, as Carson does, that “the one who belongs to God hears what God says (John 8:47). Hearing Jesus’ word is identical to hearing God’s word, since the Son speaks only what the Father given him to say. Hearing in this context, as often elsewhere, includes belief and obedience.”
- Carson is citing John 8:47, which says, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
- (See verse 21) As Ryle says, “Dead bodies and dead souls are both alike under His dominion. He has the keys of death and hell. In Him is life. He is the life. (John 1:4; Rev. 1:18). Having the keys of death and hell means having the keys of both physical death, and spiritual death (hell).
- I also like what John says in his first epistle, “and this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:11-13).
5:27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
- (See verse 22) Note that in verse 22 Jesus is referring to His title of “Son” as in the Son of the Father (God). Here He uses the title “Son of Man” to mean the equivalent. That means that Jesus is giving a logical equation for us – namely, that the ‘Son of God’ and the ‘Son of Man’ are one in the same person (Jesus).
- For many commentators there is a definite connection between Jesus’ being delegated judgment, and His humiliation on earth (see Philippians). Here it seems to strengthen that argument by using the word “because” as a connector between His role as God in flesh, and His being given all judgment.
5:28 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.
- This is a physical resurrection – compared to a spiritual resurrection mentioned earlier in verse 25. I love the Daniel reference that the ESV gives as well. In Daniel 12:2 it says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
- Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28:  But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.  When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.