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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
I am going to talk today, Lord willing, about the resurrection from the dead and about the role of Jesus, and his mighty voice, in raising you from the dead. If Jesus does not come back first, you are all going to die. And then later you are all going to be raised from the dead—some of you to the resurrection of eternal life, and others to the resurrection of judgment.
Why does the apostle John tell us about these things? Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves. John says in John 20:31, “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John is telling us about how Jesus raises the dead because he wants us to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and have eternal life.
Words Awakening and Deepening Faith
What he writes is designed to help unbelievers come to faith in Christ, and to help believers keep on believing and go deeper in faith. How can mere words—things he has written—awaken and deepen faith?
The reason is that these are God’s inspired words that depict the glory of Christ. And when we see the glory of Christ depicted in God’s word, God’s grace comes to us and awakens and strengthens and deepens faith. The key verses about this are John 1:14 and 16: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
John saw and heard and touched the Son of God. He saw the glory of the Son. He saw the fullness of grace and truth. And the fullness of that grace flowed into him. And he was given life. And now the Spirit of God is guiding John (John 16:13) to depict for us in words what he has seen and heard—the glory of the Son of God—so that, as we see him, God’s grace will come to us. And as God’s grace comes to us it awakens and deepens faith.
See and Savor Jesus
And the kind of faith I am talking about is the kind that experiences Christ. It is like eating the bread of heaven and drinking the water of eternal life. It is a being satisfied with Christ. The more we see of Christ, the more deeply we know him and treasure him. And the more deeply we know him and treasure him, the more profoundly we are changed by him in every way (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Therefore, I believe with all my heart that I touch a hundred places in your life if I help you see and savor the glory of Jesus Christ. So today we open our eyes to see him and hear him as he speaks about raising the dead.
Six Observations About the Resurrection of the Dead
Consider these six observations from John 5:25–29 about Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.
1. Jesus Raises All the Dead.
John 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.” When I first read this, I thought the only dead being spoken of were believers. But when you bring in verses 28–29, the picture changes. Jesus refers back to what he just said in verse 25: “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.”
So who will be raised by Jesus? Verse 28: “All who are in the tombs.” And who does that include? Verse 29: Those who are raised to life and those who are raised to judgment. Believers and unbelievers. This is what Daniel 12:2 taught: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” And this is what Paul said to Felix when he was on trial in Acts 24:15: “There will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”
Jesus Will Raise Michael Jackson and Ted Kennedy
The main point here is that Jesus raises all the dead. Let that sink in. All the dead who have ever lived will be raised from the dead by Jesus. Millions of Chinese and Nigerians and Indonesians and Germans. He will raise Julius Caesar from the dead, and Judas Iscariot, and Isaiah the prophet, and Michelangelo, and Johann Sebastian Bach, and Adolf Hitler, and Marilyn Monroe, and Kurt Cobain, and Princess Diana, and Michael Jackson, and Ted Kennedy. He will raise them, and they will stand before him. And you too.
All these people and millions more—all people, without exception, will be raised from the dead by Jesus. Jesus is universally superior to all these people. He is universally sovereign over all these people. He holds them in being and will give existence to their decomposed bodies so that there is a continuity between the body that was and the body that will be raised. He lets no one go out of existence—there is no such loss for the righteous, and no such hope for the wicked. Jesus raises them all.
2. Jesus Raises All the Dead by His Mighty Voice.
The second part of verse 25: “The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Paul speaks of a cry of command at the second coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
It doesn’t say who issues the “cry of command.” It could be an angel. It could be God the Father. Or it could be Jesus as he comes. John 5:25 says that Jesus will in fact raise the dead by his voice. Hebrews 1:3 says, “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” And Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Stand in Awe of Jesus
So if Christ is holding the universe in existence, if he is holding together the material world, and doing it by his word—if he is speaking this universe into existence at every moment—then the resurrection would certainly be by the word of Christ. The resurrection is reconstructing parts of the material world—our bodies. And if he holds that world in being by his word, then he would rebuild it by his voice.
Stand in awe of Jesus. Stand in awe of the power of his voice. When he speaks in his office as Creator, nothingness obeys. And when he speaks in his office as one who raises the dead, decomposed matter obeys. We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. Bow your heart down and worship this Christ.
3. The Hour of the Resurrection Has Come.
Verse 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 what sense was the hour present when the dead would hear the voice of Jesus and live?
I suspect there is more than one sense in which John means this. But one is fairly clear. Jesus was showing in his ministry on the earth the sort of thing that would characterize the age to come. He cast out demons from some people on earth because there will be no demons in the age to come. He healed some sick people on earth because there will be no sickness in the age to come. And he raised three people from the dead because there will no death in the age to come.
A Foretaste of the Resurrection Is Here
In the Gospel of John, the hour is present when the dead hear and live because that is what happens to Lazarus in chapter 11. Lazarus has been dead four days. Jesus goes to see his grieving friends, Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters. He says to Martha in John 11:23, “Your brother will rise again.” And Martha says to him in verse 24, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” In other words, she agrees that the hour is coming when the dead will rise. But she doesn’t understand what Jesus meant when he said in John 5:25 that “an hour is coming, and is now here” when the dead will rise.
So Jesus says to her in John 11:25–26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” In other words, the hour of resurrection is here. It’s here because I am here. And I am the resurrection and the life. I have come into the world in advance of the last day, before the final judgment, to show who I am and what eternity in my presence will be like.
And then Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus, tells them to move the stone, and in John 11:43–44 it says, “He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.”
The hour is here because the mighty voice is here. “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.” You will rise from your grave just as surely and just as bodily and just as obediently as Lazarus did. Jesus was showing in that hour what the last hour would be like. And he was revealing more of his glory—the glory of his sovereign voice over death. He commands and the command creates what it commands.
4. The Power of the Son of God to Raise the Dead Originates in Himself as God.
Verse 26 is the support, the argument, for how the Son can command the dead so that they live. It says, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”
You might think the point here is to show that the Son is dependent on the Father to give life. In a sense, that’s true because in their eternal relationship, the Father is eternally First, or Prime, or Original in eternally begetting the Son. But I don’t think the emphasis falls there in this verse—on the dependence of Christ or on Christ as a secondary channel of life.
John doesn’t say, “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to give that life to others.” In other words, it doesn’t say, The Father is the spring, and the Son is a stream that flows from it. It doesn’t say, The Father is a source and the Son is a channel. John uses the same words for the Son’s having life that he uses for the Father’s having life. “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted [from all eternity] the Son also to have life in himself.”
Jesus Has Life in Himself
I think John wants to say: Yes, the Father begets the Son eternally—there never was a time when there was no Son—and thus the Son is a perfect image of the Father. And in this case, the Son has life in himself just like the Father has life in himself. He has it as source, not as channel. The life comes from the Son, not just through the Son.
So when we think of Jesus raising all the dead by his mighty voice, John wants us to think of him doing this by the power of divine life that he has in himself absolutely—the same way the Father has life in himself absolutely. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. He doesn’t channel life. He is life.
5. Nevertheless, It Is Crucial That This Son of God Also Be a Son of Man in Order to Be Qualified for His Role in the Judgment.
Verse 27: “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” I know that Son of Man can be a very exalted, even divine, title from Daniel 7:13. But it seems to me that here the emphasis falls on another qualification besides the exalted divine one—the judge of the universe, the one who raises them all from the dead and passes judgment on them must be a son of man, that is, must be a vulnerable human.
Recall what Paul said to the people on Mars Hill in Acts 17:31: “God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” So the judge of the world, in God’s reckoning, must be a son of man—human.
A Suffering, Slain Man Will Judge the World
Or consider what John himself wrote in Revelation 5. An angel cries out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Now this stands for opening of the end of history—the unleashing on the world of God’s final judgments. And the answer to the question comes back: “‘Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’ And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain. . . . And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain’” (Revelation 5:2, 5–6, 9).
In other words, God intends that the one who judges the world will have been a slain lamb, a crucified man. The Lion of Judah must first be the Lamb of God. The judging Son of God at the last day must first be a suffering son of man.
And if we ask why must our judge be a man—a suffering man—I think the answer is that God deems it fitting that human beings be judged by one who knows what it’s like to be human. And not just human, but one who suffered to deliver the rest of us from judgment. There is something suitable that the one who sentences men to heaven or to hell would be a suffering Savior—that the judge of all men will be able to look into every eye and say, “I too was tempted. I too suffered.”
6. Finally, Eternal Life and Eternal Judgment at the Last Day Will Be in Accord with Our Deeds—Good or Evil.
Verses 28–29: “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 doesn’t mean that we are justified by our good works, or that God is on our side because of our good works, or that we are united to Christ by our good works. It means the reverse: If you are justified by faith, your faith will produce good works, and if God is on your side, he will empower you to do good works, and if you are united to Christ you will bear the fruit of good works. And in this way, your good works become the evidence, the confirmation, the verification at the judgment that you were justified by faith alone, and that God was on your side by grace alone, and that you were united to Christ before you did any good work.
That’s the point of John 15:1–8. Verse 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from the vine, there are no good works. So you can’t get into the vine by doing good works. You can only be united to the vine through trusting the vine. Resting in the vine. Receiving and being satisfied in all the supplies of the vine.
You Will Be Raised Someday
You are going to be raised from the dead someday. Your decomposed body will obey the voice of the Son of God. And you will rise from the dead and face him—the one who was humanly tempted like you are. And he will look at your life—not for perfection but simply for the evidence that you were abiding in the vine—trusting, resting, receiving, drinking from him and being satisfied in him and bearing the fruit of love.
We have seen his glory, in this message, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. And on this beam of glory comes grace upon grace. Now receive him. Trust him. Treasure him.