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The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here's a brief explanation why.

John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled “The Dead Will Hear Christ,” the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.

Open your Bible to the fifth chapter of the gospel of John, John chapter 5 verses 25 to 29.  We have been looking at really one of the great messages or discourses or sermons that our Lord ever gave, this lengthy presentation of His deity that began in verse 17 and runs all the way to verse 47.  And we’ve made it down to verse 25 at this point, and we don’t want to move too rapidly through this because of its profound richness.  But let me read verses 25 to 29 as a setting for our message.

“Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.  And He gave Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this for an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth, those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, and those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

Every person who has or will live on this earth will experience resurrection.  I know that we as believers understand the Christian resurrection that God has planned for His people, but you need to understand also that every human being who has ever lived will be raised from the dead and there will be a literal, physical resurrection of the ungodly just as there will be of the godly. There will be a physical resurrection unto judgment or damnation just as there will be a physical resurrection unto life.  All men who ever live on this earth will be raised from the dead.  When the body goes into the ground, that is not the last appearance of that person in visible form.  Eternity is not just a place for spirits, it is a place for resurrected bodies containing spirits.  The resurrection is the subject of this passage as you could easily see.  And it is in this passage that our Lord makes the astounding claim that He is the one who raises the dead and then judges all of them.

I remember the scenario here.  Jesus is talking to Jewish leaders in Israel.  He is, as far as they are concerned, a false teacher, a pretender to be a representative of God and even though they know He does miracles, they have explained them as power coming from hell.  They reject Him.  They look at Him as the ultimate blasphemer without comparison, without parallel, without equal because He claims to do the very things that God alone does in the very way that God does them.  In fact, as we remember from verse 18, He makes Himself equal with God and that’s their assessment, their accurate assessment of exactly what He was saying.

But how does it come down to the subject then of resurrection, this claim to deity?  Well, it gets to this point because in our Lord claiming to be God back in verses 21 and 22, He says that He raises the dead and He judges as God raises the dead and gives life and judges. So He’s the one who introduced the subject of resurrection and judgment.  So it’s all a part of this message that Jesus is giving, this monologue that He is giving about His identity to these Jewish leaders.

They reject Him as a blasphemer.  Back in verse 16 they were persecuting Jesus, first of all because He was violating their traditional Sabbath rules.  Even worse, as I noted in verse 18, He was calling God His Father which is to say He has the same essence of God, making Himself equal with God. that was the ultimate blasphemy.  Condemned for healing on the Sabbath as some kind of violation of their tradition, and then condemned for being the ultimate blasphemer.

Jesus responds to these condemnations by elevating His claims, not by backing off, not by trying to mitigate, not by trying to explain anything away, not by trying to soften the blow but rather elevating it.  And we saw in verses 17 to 24 just two weeks ago, that He claims to be equal with God in person, equal to God in works, equal to God in power, equal to God in judgment or authority, equal to God in honor, and in verse 24, equal to God in truth.  What He says is as true as what God says and as God is to be heard and believed, so He is to be heard and believed.

So in verses 17 to 24, He makes these amazing, astonishing claims of equality with God, and in the middle of it, verses 21 and 22, are these two claims that essentially are the most elevated of all claims, He has the power to give life and the power to judge. That is to say, He brings people into existence and then determines the nature of their eternal existence.  He is God a very God, it is unmistakable.

Now they’re obviously going to be shocked, traumatized by this astonishing kind of claim from this Galilean carpenter standing in front of them, that He is the one who gives life to all and determines everyone’s eternal destiny.  He doesn’t back off.  In verses 25 to 29, as I just read, He demonstrates that He has the power to give life and the power and authority to judge.  He has the power, He will use it. So He discusses in verses 25 to 29 two types of resurrection—two times of resurrection.  And that’s just going to be a simple outline for us this morning. There is, of course, a physical resurrection, we understand that.  There is also a spiritual resurrection.  Along the same line, there are two resurrections that are eternal. There is a resurrection to eternal life, and there is a resurrection to eternal damnation.  All this is folded in in these brief verses.

Let’s look, first of all, at verses 25 and 26 and take a look at the truth of spiritual resurrection…spiritual resurrection. That’s the subject.  “Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is…and ‘now is’ is the key there…if something now is, then He is saying it is happening now.” That means it can’t be the future physical resurrection. The resurrection that was then already happening was a spiritual resurrection. So He says to you, “I say to you, an hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live, for just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son to have life in Himself.”  Those two verses point to the spiritual resurrection.  This is an emphatic, authoritative, absolute statement and that is why again we see “Truly, truly.”  We saw it in verse 24. We saw it earlier in Jesus’ discussions with Nicodemus.  It was used by Jesus in speaking to Nicodemus several times. 

And the reason we see this so frequently is because this is brand new information. This is contrary to everything they’ve ever known and believed and affirmed and taught.  And it is also the most solemn way to introduce a thought, “Truly, truly,” to emphasize the urgency of this.

All right, “An hour is coming and now is,” an hour is coming and now is.  Something has arrived already and yet has a future aspect.  Something has arrived in the present but has a future aspect.  What could that be?

Well obviously spiritual resurrection. The New Testament era began when our Lord began His ministry.  It will not be completed, the ministry of the Lord begun when He arrived, the ministry of redemption, the ministry of salvation, the ministry of sanctification, it will not end until the work of redemption is finally complete.  This is just our Lord’s way of saying redemption has begun, regeneration has begun. When He said to Nicodemus He said, “You must be born from above, you must be born again,” that is both now, Jesus says, and to come.  This is an ongoing ministry, the saving work of the Lord Jesus is already beginning to make people alive.  As Jesus spoke to the Jews that day, He had the power in that very hour to give people life.

Back up to verse 24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me,” those are present tense, “now who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.”  That’s present tense, that’s all present tense.  And so that is the “now is” of verse 25.  An hour is coming, yes…and now is, when the dead, the spiritually dead, will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  Jesus is simply saying that that has begun.  The ministry of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ has begun.  Even before the cross, He gave life. Even before His own resurrection, He was giving life to people. 

At the end of chapter 3 when Jesus closes out His message to the disciples, He says this, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.”  He who believes in the Son has eternal life.  You remember in chapter 4, the next chapter, and verse 42, they were saying to the Samaritan woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is indeed the Savior of the world.”  They were believing.  In fact, in verse 39, they believed in Him because of the Word the woman gave.  And then in verse 40, they were asking Him to stay with them and He stayed there two days and many more believed because of His Word. and go back to verse 24 and chapter 5, “Who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life.”  So they were believing and they were being given eternal life.

I want to make that clear because I think there can be confusion between say the Old Testament and the resurrection of Jesus Christ when the fullness of the cross and the resurrection which are at the heart of the gospel are clear and accomplished.  In the period between the arrival of Christ and His own death, He was still giving spiritual life to those who believe. What did they believe?  They believed in the true and living God. They believed that He was holy and righteous. They believed that they had offended Him. They believed that they were sinful. They believed they needed mercy and grace. They believed that He had sent His Son to be their Savior, the Savior of the world as the Samaritan from Sychar put it.  They believed all that had been revealed to that point, even though they could not yet believe in the work of Calvary in the open tomb, just believing in the Son of God was all that they had to believe because that was all that God had up to that point revealed.  He had begun to give life.  And that’s why He says, “It now is.”

But at the same time, an hour is coming. When He uses the term “hour,” He’s not talking about one hour, He’s talking about an era…an era, a period of time.  We also know from back in chapter 1 and verse 12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”  And there again the same idea.  If they believed in who He was, John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him…” it doesn’t say anything about the cross or the resurrection yet, but it is about believing in Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world.  That would incorporate, obviously, the belief that God was holy and they were sinful, and they needed salvation and that salvation would be in Him though they didn’t know yet exactly how it would work out.  The Holy Spirit hadn’t come yet in the full sense of convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.  Pentecost hadn’t happened yet and therefore the Holy Spirit hadn’t come and filled the church and taken up residence in the believers to cause them to have the power to give the witness to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world, that their promise in Acts 1:8.  So those things hadn’t happened. That’s the hour that is coming.  So when we look at that little phrase, “An hour is coming,” we could say about that hour that’s the fullness of the revelation of the cross and the tomb and the arrival of the Holy Spirit and the work of the spirit through the church in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. That hour is coming in its fullness, but there’s a sense in which it now is.

You have to believe. For example, that the disciples in John 1 who came to Jesus, affirmed who He was, left following John the Baptist, followed Jesus who was identified as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, that they had found the Messiah was their own profession, their own confession, you have to believe that they were given eternal life.  You have to believe that the Samaritans were given eternal life for believing in the name of Jesus.  You would be unfair.  There would be no legitimate reason to withhold from them salvation. It would be given to them similar to those who were redeemed in the Old Testament with the addition that the Old Testament saints were looking forward to the one who would come and those early believers in the New Testament, before the cross, before the resurrection, before the arrival of the Holy Spirit, were affirming who the one who had come actually was.  It was already the hour of life, but it was only beginning…only beginning.  In fact, when that hour actually arrived in its fullness on the Day of Pentecost, three thousand were saved, and then five thousand were saved and it was explosive from there on.

So what our Lord is referring to here is not literal physical resurrection, but spiritual resurrection because that’s the only time that was happening at that present time.  People were spiritually dead…go back to verse 25…when the dead, spiritually dead.

You say, “Spiritual death, doesn’t that show up in Ephesians?  Do we have any indication that people were called spiritually dead in the gospels?”  We do in Matthew 8:22, “Let the dead bury their dead.”  Jesus early in His ministry is calling unregenerate people dead in Matthew 8:22.  Spiritual death was a reality from the fall of man.  All men are born in a state of spiritual death, and when Paul talks about people being dead in trespasses and sins, he’s not inventing a new doctrine, he’s not designing some kind of new idea, he’s simply declaring what has always been the case.  All men are born dead in trespasses and sins.  That’s how it is.  And so, God is in the business of making people alive.  All the Old Testament saints were dead in trespasses and sins and made alive, those who came to true faith in God.

Let me broaden it out a little bit.  One of the themes in the gospel of John is that Christ is in the business of making dead people live.  If you go back to chapter 1 verse 4, you read, “In Him was life…in Him was life.”  If you go to chapter 3, familiar verse, verse 15, “Whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”  Verse 16, “Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  You go to verse 36 which we read earlier, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.” Chapter 4 verse 14, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst, but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

You come to chapter 5, go down to verse 39, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life.  It is these who testify about Me and you’re unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”  Chapter 6 is the same thing, verse 27, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give to you.”  Verse 33, “For the bread of life is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”  Verse 35, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me will not hunger, he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Verse…the end of the chapter, verse 68, essentially the same thing.  “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.”  Just a few other samples because this is such an important aspect of the ministry of Christ, it’s the heart of it.  “Ten:10, the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Verse 28, “I give them eternal life and they will never perish.”  Chapter 11 verse 25, Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even if he dies.”  And then our familiar theme verse, John 20:31, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Nothing is more characteristic, nothing is more  inimitable, nothing is more essential in the ministry of Jesus than giving life…giving spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead.  This is not about a man teaching ethics, or morality, or virtue, or religious ideologies. This is one who gives life to dead people, spiritually dead.

How do they receive that life?  Go back to John chapter 5, you’re familiar with this, this is familiar to any believer.  They receive that life because they hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”  He is the only one, the only voice with the only message that gives life in a world of spiritual death and desolation.  Only those who hear His voice come alive spiritually.

You can imagine a world full of corpses lying all over, and one lone living man moving among millions of corpses, calling them to live. This is what the work of Jesus is, spiritually speaking.  They that hear shall live.

Now this is not just a general hearing, but this is an effectual hearing with the heart.  This is not just information, this is transformation.  This is…this is part of the work of the Spirit that we saw in John 3 in regeneration. This is God reaching down and giving life and then speaking with a voice that the heart hears, the soul hears.  New life pours in to the soul.  This is not a superficial hearing.

You remember that in Matthew 7, Jesus will say one day to people, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”  And who are those people that He says depart from Me I never knew you to?  They say, “Lord, Lord, we’ve done all this in Your name.  We’ve proclaimed Your name. We’ve done miracles in Your name.  We’ve cast out demons in Your name.”  He says, “Depart from Me, I don’t know you.”  This is not superficial. This is not a physical hearing. This is an effectual hearing, this is a hearing in the believing heart and the believing soul, this is based upon God’s gracious awakening of the dead soul.  There was only one voice that could penetrate spiritual death, only one voice, and that’s the voice of the Son of God.  Mark it down, verse 25, “The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”  You may be the witness, I may be the preacher, but the voice they have to hear is not our voice, the voice they have to hear is the voice of God, for He alone can give life.

Men don’t come alive on their own. Dead men don’t come alive by some religious motion, or ceremony. They don’t come alive by some ritual. They don’t come alive through the cleverness of a teacher.  They don’t come alive by self-improvement.  They come alive when the voice of Christ calls out. Ephesians 5:14 says, “Awake, you that sleep, and rise from the dead and Christ will give you life.”

It would be good to turn to Ephesians chapter 2, I think, because this is so well illustrated here.  “You were, with everybody else, dead in your trespasses and sins.  You walk according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit working in the sons of disobedience.”  That describes the condition of all human beings.  “You were living in the lust of your flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh, the mind.  We’re by nature children of wrath even as others, but God being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

What Paul is saying is, it’s a divine miracle.  It’s a divine miracle.  God does this through Christ.  He gives life to the dead.  He raises us from the grave.  And then throughout all the ages to come, He shows us the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness.  “We are therefore,” verse 10, “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.”  Only Christ can give life. 

Jesus is then saying to these Jewish leaders, “I am the very one who gives spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead.”  Over in verses 39 and 40, which you read earlier, just a little reprise there, He says to these Jewish leaders, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. But it is these that testify about Me, that I’m the only source of eternal life, and you’re unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

If you don’t come to Christ, you will die in your sins because He is the only one who gives life…the only one who gives life.  Verse 26, “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so, He gave to the Son to have life in Himself.”  Verse 21, “The Son gives life.”  Verse 26, “The Son has life.”  He can give life because He has life.

Chapter 1 verse 4, “He is life.”  He gives life because He has life, because He is life.”  You can’t give what you don’t have.  I can’t give you life.  There’s no mechanism that I can employ to give you life.  Only God can give you life.  Only Christ can give you life.  God is the life-giver, Christ is the life-giver, no preacher, no teacher, no religious leader, no mystic, no form of religion, no laws, no routines, no rituals, no church can give you life.  Life is the sole possession of the Trinity.  Life is the sole possession of God who is the life-giver and of Christ who is also the life giver.  That life comes only to those who hear His voice, and by that voice have their heart awakened.  And that is a divine work, not apart from our faith, and not apart from the truth concerning Christ.  For them it was the truth that He was the Son of God. For us, it’s the truth that He was not only the Son of God, but the Son of God who died and rose again and descended and sent the Holy Spirit.

“I am the way,” Jesus said, “I am the truth, and I am…what?...the life.”  As God is life, so Christ is life.  As God is the fountain of life, so Christ is the fountain of life.  As Christ is the fountain of life, so the Spirit is the fountain of life.  Each member of the Trinity has power, equal power and they share the same attributes in a marvelous mystery. 

But lest you be needlessly misinformed, let me just pick out one little interesting statement.  “As the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.”  There is an old, old heresy called Sabellianism which says that there is only one God but He shows up in three different forms.  It’s also called Modalism, sometimes He’s the Father, sometimes He’s the Son, and sometimes He’s the Spirit.  It’s very popular today, it dominates millions of people in what’s called oneness Pentecostalism  or the Jesus-only Movement.

There’s a problem with that, and even far back as Athanasius that problem was identified as being resolved in this verse.  If the Father is sometimes the Father and sometimes the Son, and sometimes the Spirit and just shows Himself in different modes, then it cannot be said that the Father gave to the Son anything because you could only give something to someone if that someone exists.  This was one of the early attacks on the Sabellian heresy.  If there’s only one person, then there is no one to give anything to.

And you might say, “Well didn’t Jesus have life?  Isn’t He the eternal life?”  Yes.  Yes in the fullness of His glory He had life but in some mystical way, He eternally proceeds from the Father, He eternally proceeds from the Father.  He is the eternally begotten Son of the Father.  Yes it’s mysterious. 

But I would even go a step beyond that and I would say that in His humiliation He willfully, personally, voluntarily restricts the use of His divine attributes so that even in His incarnation, He only does that which the Father desires Him to do.  I would say that the Father, therefore, has allowed Him even in His incarnation to give life.  He could have called ten thousand angels, right?  The Father had not given Him permission to do that.  He could have known the time of His return, but He said the Son of Man doesn’t know that.  There’s willful restriction in His humiliation of His divine prerogatives.  His nature doesn’t change, but He chooses to limit Himself to that which the Father wills. And here we find that the Father wills that Jesus even in the humiliation of His incarnation is still giving life.

We shouldn’t be surprised by that.  He created fish.  He created bread.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that, He raised people from the dead.  But here is something beyond all of that, He was even during the years of His incarnation and the ministry that He began at the age of 30, permitted by the Father to give life…to give life.  First John 5:11, “This is the record that God has given unto us, eternal life.  And this life is in His Son.”  This life is in His Son.  Jesus restricted the use of His divine powers to only those God desired Him to use.  He would have restricted His life-giving power, perhaps He did for the first 30 years of His life, but not now.  And He demonstrated it by raising dead people.  More importantly He was giving spiritual life.  He was bringing people alive spiritually, those who hear will live eternally.

So, Jesus then claims even then, right there standing in front of those Jews, to be giving life, to be raising spiritually dead people.  He has the power of spiritual resurrection.

Secondly, verse 27 to 29, the power of physical resurrection…the power of physical resurrection.  “And He gave Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man,” and here’s how that judgment will work.  “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming, not now is, but is coming, this is all future, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth, those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”  Clearly now we’re talking about something that is all future…future.  Verse 22, “The Father has given all judgment to the Son.”  Verse 27, “He executes that judgment.”  The word “execute” appears in verse 27.

The Son of Man is an interesting title.  It’s a Messianic title from Daniel 7.  It appears as His title in judgment, whereas Son of God back in verse 25 appears as His title in spiritual resurrection.  It takes God to raise the dead.  Why is He called Son of Man in judgment?  Because as Son of Man, He is the Messiah. But as Son of Man He understands perfectly because He lived as a man and being tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, He has perfect knowledge of all human experience and therefore His justice, of course, is secured by experience as well as divine knowledge as just and accurate and perfect judgment.  It is not just God judging man, it is not just man judging man.  If it was just God, there would be no experience of man’s dilemmas.  If it was just man, there would be no divine omniscience.  He is the God/Man, His judgment cannot be impugned, either from the side of divine omniscience, or the side of human experience. 

So God gives Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this.  Do not marvel at this.”  I mean, this is a preemptive statement because what He’s going to say is so shocking.  An hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice.”  Don’t be shocked by what I’m going to tell you, but an hour is coming when the voice will be hear d again and it will empty the graves of this planet, it will empty them.  It will draw out of graves bodies no longer there. They will be created for eternity.  When He says the tombs are empty, all He means by that is not necessarily that there better be something there or nothing’s coming out.  What will that do to all the cremated folks?  All He means is that the dead will take on a physical form.  This has no present aspect, this is not now is, this is future. This is not the effectual heart-hearing that brings salvation.  This will awaken dead people. And this will bring bodies to join their spirits already out of the presence of God or in the presence of God.  The same voice that wakes the spiritually dead, will pierce the clods and the waters of the world and the dirt and dust and find the dead and bring those long-forgotten forms into the world of the visible.

This is astonishing power. mind-boggling power.  How do you literally in a moment recreate every human being who has ever lived and join that recreated form suitable for heaven or hell with the spirit of the person already in the presence of God or out of His presence?  The power is beyond imagination…beyond comprehension.  But that hour will come…that hour will come.

As we said earlier, an hour is a period of time.  The hour that now is has gone on for two thousand years.  The hour that will come will go on for a long time also.  It will begin with the Rapture of the church when believing Christians who are alive will be caught up in the air and they’ll be changed on the way up.  It will be followed by resurrections through the period of the Tribulation time.  There will be a resurrection at the end of the Tribulation, Daniel talks about that, resurrection of Tribulation believers and Jews.  There will then be a millennial kingdom of a thousand years and at the end of that, the dead from all human history who are unregenerate and ungodly will be raised and brought before the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20 to be judged. So there is a period of time, starting with the Rapture of the church, ending with the final hours of the great time of the millennial Kingdom when that judgment will be carried out.  It isn’t all in one moment.  People confuse this.

There was already a resurrection, the resurrection of Christ.  There was even a kind of a preview of resurrection, you remember, at the death of Christ, the tombs were open and believers came out.  There will be in the future the resurrection of the just…the just, the righteous and that will include the Rapture of the church, the resurrection of believers at the end of the time of Tribulation. And there will be resurrections, no doubt, during the millennial kingdom when believers die, they’ll come back, and they’ll die and they’ll come back, and they’ll die and they’ll come back.  Then there will be the resurrection of the unjust at the end of the thousand years. 

So there are components of the resurrection to come.  But simply stated, it can be divided into two parts in verse 29.  All will come forth because they’ll hear His voice, the power is His, so it will be the same power that He exerted at the grave of Lazarus when He said, “Lazarus, come forth,” only this time He won’t say “Lazarus.”  He’ll just say, “Come forth.”  And they will come forth.  And those who did the good to a resurrection of life, and those who committed the evil to a resurrection of judgment.  That’s believers and unbelievers.

It poses an interesting question. Why does it say those who did good to resurrection of life?  Is that how you get saved?  Is that how you get to the resurrection of life by doing good?  Why does He say that?  Doesn’t the Bible say, “By the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified?”  Doesn’t the Bible say, “Not by works lest any man should boast?”  Why does He say that?

Because the contrast demands it.  The contrast demands it.  He can’t compare believer’s faith with unbeliever’s faith because unbelievers don’t have any faith.  He can’t compare believer’s life with unbeliever’s life because they don’t have any life.  They’re dead. But He can compare their works, that’s the only common commodity.  We have faith, they don’t.  We have life, they don’t.  We have works, they do.  So on the basis of that, He makes the comparison.  Believer’s works are ta agatha(?), the excellent things.  Unbeliever’s works are ta falla(?), worthless things..  In the end, it’s the same thing Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.”  Believers whose faith is proven by their good deeds are compared to unbelievers whose good deeds demonstrate they have no faith.  So two resurrections are coming.  Spiritual resurrection, Jesus says, and it’s already begun and yet it’s coming.  And it will hit with a bang on Pentecost and after that, as the church grows by the thousands, and it will go through history and we’re part of it, spiritual resurrection.  But there’s also going to be a physical resurrection and every person who has ever lived in the history of the world will be raised to life in a form suited for heavenly blessing, or the punishment of hell.

“What will that body be like?”  Well for us, Philippians 3 says it will be like unto His glorious body.  That is His resurrection body.  It was visible, He walked, He talked, He ate, but at the same time He walked through a wall, rearranging the molecules to pass through a wall. I can’t say any more than that.  I do know that 1 Corinthians 15 says that God’s designed a whole lot of bodies and He can take care of it. But there also needs to be clear understanding that there’s a body for torment so that when you want to dismiss as merely some kind of metaphoric concept the idea of torture in hell or fire in hell or weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, you have to stop yourself before you go too far and remind yourself that there will actually be a form in which the people in hell will exist that will experience suffering, torment.

“How do you avoid that?”  Back to verse 24.  “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and doesn’t come into judgment but has passed out of death into life,” to hear the Word of Christ, the voice of Christ, and believe Him.  It is a work of God, but not apart from faith.  What can the sinner do?  We’ve said it again and again since the third chapter, “Believe…believe…believe.”  Do I have to remind you of the simple statement of John 3:15?  Whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.  Believe…believe.  Cry out to God to grant you faith to believe.  Pray with me.

We are so stunned by the words that come out of the mouth of our Lord Jesus and they’re familiar to us, we can’t comprehend the experience of those who stood there that day and listened to Him say these things. But it’s all true.  I pray, Lord, that You will speak loudly, savingly, let Your voice be heard in hearts today, hearts of people who have been here in this church for a long time and have grown accustomed to their unbelief, who have grown comfortable with their sin, who haven’t seen You hand of judgment yet and have not recognized that Your patience and forbearance is meant to lead them to repentance and faith.  Lord, burst into their darkness and bring light, burst into their deadness and bring life, burst into their unbelief and bring faith.  Cause sinners to cry out for You to empower them to believe, to escape the judgment of condemnation and enter into the blessings of eternal life.

Father, now we ask that again we might live lives that are overwhelmed with thanksgiving. We have escaped hell.  How can we become so petty, to trivialized, so upset about things that don’t matter, so selfish?  Help us to live in constant joy because we have eternal life through Christ, we pray in His name.

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Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969


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Since 1969