This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama: A guide to the end-times, which I plan to self-publish in July. rmb
We will consider the larger context of John 5:26-29:
25 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. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 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.
OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE: These verses give us a condensed picture of both of Christ’s advents. John 5:25-26 are about Christ’s first advent and 5:28-29 are about His coming in glory. Also, in a sense, this entire passage is about resurrection. John 5:25-26 is about spiritual resurrection. It is about passing from spiritual death to spiritual life, as in John 5:24. These two verses are about being spiritually “born again (John 3:3, 5).” In 5:25-26, Jesus speaks figuratively of time (“an hour is coming, and now is”), life, and death. “Spiritual resurrection” will occur not only during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but it will explode and reach to all the Gentiles with the commissioning of the church (Matthew 28:19-20). “Spiritual resurrection,” which is eternal life, is the whole purpose of the gospel of John (see John 20:31).
THE PHYSICAL RESURRECTION
But Jesus also teaches about a physical resurrection in John 5:28-29. Here, our Lord speaks literally about time (“an hour is coming”), life, and death. In John 5:28, “an hour is coming” is to be understood literally. There is coming a moment in time on the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; etc.) when the Son of Man will utter His voice and all the tombs will be emptied. Then the physical resurrection will occur and all those who are physically dead 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 (5:29).” This teaching is consistent with the rest of the New Testament. The righteous will be raised to glory, and the unrighteous will be judged and condemned.
From Jesus’ teaching about the Resurrection on the last day in John 5:28-29, there are several truths that we can see:
- In terms of who is resurrected, Jesus makes no distinction between people on any basis. There is nothing conditional about this event. ALL who are in the tombs will hear and will come forth. The good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are “in the tomb” (meaning “if you have physically died”) when Jesus utters His voice on the last day, you qualify. You will “hear His voice and come forth.”
- The passage (John 5:28-29) makes clear that the Resurrection is a single, sudden event that occurs on the last day. When Jesus utters His voice, all the dead will immediately arise. In John 11:43-44, Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb. “Lazarus, come forth,” and the man who had died came forth immediately. Just so, at the Resurrection, Jesus will utter His voice and all those who are in the tombs will immediately come forth.
- While Jesus makes no distinction in who will be resurrected (“ALL who are in the tombs will come forth”) in this single event, He does make a radical distinction in the destination of those who are resurrected based on their works while they were alive, either to a resurrection of life or to a resurrection of judgment. The righteous will be raised to glory, and the unrighteous will be judged and condemned.
- NOTE: In John 5:28-29, Jesus does not teach about those who are physically alive when the Son of Man calls with His voice, but only about those who are physically dead when He returns. Teaching about “we who are alive and remain (1 Thessalonians 4:17)” is covered in numerous other New Testament passages (upcoming article “The Resurrection of the living” will be another excerpt from the upcoming book).
SDG rmb 5/3/2021