John 5:24-29 – Jesus, Faith, Works, and the Judgment

John 5:24 is used as a standalone verse in evangelism programs. It reads:

Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes in him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

It’s a great verse for the “once saved, always saved” doctrine that pervades the common evangelical habit of preaching the atonement as though it were the Gospel (see my book, The Apostles’ Gospel; it costs next to nothing on Kindle). However, this is hardly the only thing this passage says.

The next few verses are much more comprehensive than most of us realize. I had to have someone explain them to me, but once they did, the meaning was obvious, though profound.

The Voice of the Son of God … Now

Most certainly, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God’s voice; and those who hear will live. (John 5:25)

Because Jesus uses the word “dead,” it’s easy to assume that he’s talking about people in their graves. He’s not. He will talk about people in their graves in verse 28.

In verse 25, he is talking about now, and he is talking about us, the walking dead. Ephesians 2:1-3 tells us that we were all dead in our trespasses before coming to Christ, servants to the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience. The time is coming, AND NOW IS, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

I’ve written on the saving power of Jesus’ voice, of the Word of God, numerous times, and I have never felt that I’ve done a good job. I hope, however, the link I just gave you will be clear enough to help you get a revelation that is immensely freeing.

The Gospel is not teaching people the atonement. The Gospel is the proclamation of the good news of King Jesus. We proclaim him to the dead until they can hear his voice and come to life.

The Voice of the Son of God … Then

Don’t Marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

Notice that here Jesus does not say, “… the hour comes, and now is …” Here he just leaves it as “the hour comes.”

The ones who hear this time are not just “the dead,” but those who are “in the tombs.” They will come forth either to the resurrection of life or to judgment.

The Voice of the Son of God … Now or Then

We will all hear the voice of the Son of God, if not now, then when we are in our graves. In both cases it gives life. One restores physical life for the judgment. The other restores spiritual life so that we can avoid condemnation.

I’m not a Greek scholar. I know a little Greek, and if I make an assertion concerning Greek, as I do now and then, I have researched real Greek scholars to make sure I’m telling you the truth. I never depend on my own knowledge of Greek, but it is minimal.

However, any of us can read Scripture and compare. Some Bible translations translate κρισισ as “judgment” and some as “condemnation.” Some, like the KJV, occasionally translate it either way. How do we choose what is meant?

We have to interpret the Scripture so it does not contradict itself. Jesus talks about judgment all over the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 12:36; 25:31-46; Mark 12:42; Luke 10:14; Jn. 5:22; 9:39). Paul says we shall all appear before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). Peter tells Christians that because we’ll be judged by our works, we should fear (1 Pet. 1:17).

Condemnation, however, we can avoid. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to preserve you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceptional joy, to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever” (Jude 24-25).

There is no way to avoid the judgment. We must all appear before the judgment seat of the King, there to receive the works done in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). However, we can avoid condemnation.

The way to do that is to hear his voice now. You may be dead in your trespasses and sins, but when you hear the voice of the Son of God, in this time that now is, you will live. You will rise from spiritual death into spiritual life; old things will pass away; all things will become new; you will become his workmanship, created in King Jesus to do good works, just the ones that God has prepared in advance for you to do.

No wonder the writer of Hebrews spoke of a new covenant “based on better promises” (Heb. 8:6), or that Peter referred to “great and precious promises” through which we escape the corruptions of this world (2 Pet. 1:3-4).

If we fail to hear his voice now, or even if we claim that there is no such voice now, we shall hear it eventually, after we are in our graves. It is terrible to be dead spiritually now, but it is worse to remain that way until you are dead physically.

Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Heb. 3:7-8)

About paulfpavao

I am a church historian and pastor, but I do occasionally play APBA baseball for fun.
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