Chapter five of John's gospel describes a scene where Jesus is near the pool of Bethesda with a number of blind, lame and paralyzed people waiting to be healed. There is a spiritual parallel to that scene. We meet "spiritually blind people" every day, people who can’t see that they are headed for disaster and don’t even know it. There are "spiritually lame people" who can’t walk as they ought. They know how, but they can’t seem to make themselves do it so they stumble and fall. There are "spiritually paralyzed people" who want to do more than they are doing, but their will seem to be in a grip they can’t break. They return again and again to habits or thought and attitudes that they know are wrong and hurtful to themselves as well as others.
That is a picture of each one of us before we get saved. We were unable to “heal ourselves” so Jesus went to the cross in our stead and provided healing for us.
One man near the pool of Bethesda had waited to be healed for thirty eight years, but he had no one to help him into the pool. He couldn’t help himself; he was lame. Jesus healed the impotent man and he went on his way carrying his bed.
How wonderful it is when one of those we know hears the voice of Jesus and accepts “the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23b
The Jewish rabbis formulated rules they regarded as equal to scripture and one of these was that no one was to do any work, including healing, on the Sabbath. When the Jews saw the man carrying his bed, they accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath because they knew He had healed the man on the Sabbath. In the presence of human need, God does not keep the Sabbath. Our Lord responded to a need and He told the Jews that He was doing such things because it was the will of God the Father, and He had come to do the work of His Father.
In John 5:20, we read: "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel." What could be greater than the miracle of healing He had just performed? He explained what these "greater works" will be in verses 21-23. “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23. that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
When Jesus says, “the Father raises the dead” (and gives to the Son the same power), He is declaring the first of the “greater works” He is going to do. He is going to give life to the dead. "The dead" that our Lord speaks of in verse 21, are physically alive but "spiritually dead." God can raise the spiritually dead to eternal life through the shed blood of the Son and the Son has the same power.
Then He states, "the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son." It is the work of Jesus that determines where each one of us will spend eternity. He is the Judge, and all judgment is in His hands.
Jesus gives life "to whom he will." It’s not a matter of arbitrary selection on His part as some would like you to believe. There is clear responsibility to those who "hear His words and believe in Him who sent Him."
When we believe His words and obey what He says, immediately we "have eternal life." All judgment is past and the believer has "passed from death into life."
Our Lord is making it very clear to these Jews, and to everyone else who reads His words, on what terms one passes from death to life.
We don’t like to talk about death, but we are all headed for death. Beyond death, unless we have eternal life, lies the second death. The most important question anyone has to settle is whether they have believed in Jesus and received the gift of eternal life.
Verses 24-27 He deals specifically with spiritual death. John 5:24-27. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25. Most assuredly, I say to you, the 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 as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27. and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”
People who never think about their accountability to God, who never make any response to the things of God, who deal only with the material and the visible, who believe their existence is only from the "womb to the tomb" are spiritually dead. Their life consists of what appeals to the body and the soul. That is spiritual death, but Jesus has the power to give life to even those people.
That might seem like an arbitrary thing so the question is “how do we get this eternal life and on what terms?” Well, Jesus gave the answer to that in Verse 24. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
The gift of eternal life comes through Jesus. We read, in 1 John 5:10-13. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Jesus Christ wants you to have this most important relationship of your life with Him because it determines your ultimate destiny.
In Verse 25 Jesus extends this well into the future: "Most assuredly, I say to you, the 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 as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”
What does Jesus mean by "the hour is coming" and who are “the dead who will hear His voice?” The hour is a reference to the fact that this gift of eternal life would be open to Jews and Gentiles alike all over the world through all the succeeding periods of time. Already the "hour" Jesus speaks of is over 2000 years long. During that time, whoever heard His word and believed on Him who sent Him has received eternal life.
The “dead,” are the spiritually dead but physically alive who have not accepted Christ as their Savior. If they will listen to His voice and believe in Him, they will receive spiritual life.
"The hour now is," indicates that individuals were receiving the gift of eternal life at the time of Christ. In chapter 3 of John's gospel, we can read about Nicodemus, the Jewish religious leader who came to Jesus by night in an effort to find peace. Jesus said to him, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up [on a cross], that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life," John 3:15. Nicodemus believed and received the gift of eternal life.
The Samaritan woman at the well had been married five times and was living with another man, hoping to find satisfaction, but her life was still empty. She came hungry and thirsty to Jesus. He said to her, "If you knew who is speaking to you, you would have asked of Him and He would have given you a well of water springing up to eternal life," John 4:10. She asked, and He gave her eternal life, and she went away so excited she brought the whole town out to hear this One who could give the gift of eternal life. So it was already happening then. "The hour is coming, and now is," when the spiritually dead would hear the voice of the Son of God and those who took it to heart would live.
As the Son of God, the One who is eternally with the Father, Jesus has always had the ability to give life to the spiritually dead. This life is "in Himself." We see incidents in the Old Testament as well as the New that prove He has always had the power to give eternal life.
He adds something more here, in verse 27. “[God] and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man."
He became one of us so He understands how we live, how we feel and what we face, and He has the right to pass judgment on whether we have accepted the gift of life or remain in death. Jesus lived among us as a man and He understands us. He knows the pressures and the problems we face, and He knows when we have reached the place where we are ready to give up depending on ourselves and are willing to take Him as our Savior and receive the gift of eternal life.
The only way we can be permanently changed is to receive the gift of life, regardless of our personal record. The only thing that can transform our heart and make us new again is the gift of eternal life. With the gift of life in our heart, we can never go back to what we once were. Our life is in God's Son.
Jesus has the authority and power to execute judgment on man because He is the Son of Man, and, as a man, He took our place on the cross and died for our sins. Those who refuse Him as Lord and Savior will be found guilty of sin and will spend eternity in the lake of fire. Those who accept Him as Lord and Savior will be judged innocent of sin and they will spend eternity with Him in heaven.
God gave us our life and one of these days we will have to give it back. We try to ignore those two facts, we don’t like to admit we are aging and we don’t like to think about our death, but that won’t change either one of them.
The world operates on a basis that life belongs to us and it will go on as long as we want it to. That is not true; that’s not based on reality. Sooner or later we will have to deal with life and death the way they really are.
What the Bible calls "eternal life" is "spiritual life." It’s not merely "everlasting." It’s true that it goes on forever, but the Bible is primarily talking about the richness, the fullness, the beauty of the "spiritual life." It’s a life that circumstances can’t diminish and death doesn’t end and it’s given to us now. It begins here and continues in heaven after we die.
Our very physical existence has come from Jesus and our spiritual destiny is in His hands. More than that, He is the central figure in all the universe. This is stated all through the Scriptures. If we refuse the life He offers us, then we will remain exactly as we are, and we are on our way to hell.
John 5:28-29. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29. and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
In Verses 28-29, He is talking about the physically dead, "all who are in the graves." He is going to raise the believers in Him from the grave and meet them in the air to spend all eternity with Him in heaven. Those who refuse Him in this life will be raised to face Him in judgment at a later time.
These are such amazing claims we have to wonder how Jesus’ words sounded to those who heard Him that day. They must have thought that He had delusions of grandeur or was crazy and was trying to pass Himself off as something He wasn’t, or that He truly is the Son of God and that He holds all life in His hands. There are no other alternatives.
He is going to empty all the graves of the world. There is an hour coming when all the dead, the good, the bad, the kind and loving, the unloving, the murderers and rapists all will come forth from the grave. Those who have "done good" will experience the resurrection of life.
What does "done good" mean? Many people take this verse out of context and make up their own ideas about what it means to "do good." They say if you have been a fairly good moral person and try your best to obey the Ten Commandments, then maybe the good you’ve done will outweigh the bad and God will let you into heaven.
But that is not what this verse is saying. This is just a few verses removed from how Jesus said we get the gift of eternal life. To "do good," of course, means to have received eternal life. Only those who have the life of God dwelling in them can "do good" in God's eyes. Those who have obeyed His word are the ones who have "done good."
Those who have "done evil" obviously refers to those who have refused His life, turned their backs on His truth, and shut their ears to the offer of grace from God. This would include those who have denied the witness of nature and the witness of their own hearts. Those are the ones who have "done evil" even though there were times when they thought they were doing good. They will come forth to the "resurrection of judgment."
Jesus’ claim is that our life belongs to Him; He only loans it to us for a while. That sure goes against the grain of the modern philosophy of our day.
The news media and many “best seller” books and magazines tell you that your life belongs to you, and you can do with it what you want, that you can make it whatever you want it to be. We are bombarded with that daily but it’s a lie. Your life is not yours; it’s in God’s hands. Here is a quotation from the well known Christian writer, C. S. Lewis.
“God is going to invade this earth in force. But what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream, and something else, something that never entered your head comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us, and so terrible to others, that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.
That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we have really chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”
That bears out the words of Jesus. No wonder the people of that day who heard Him were challenged and His words challenge us today.
Verse 30: “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
Jesus gives the assurance that the judgment He gives will be righteous because it comes from God the Father. He forms no biased opinion and there will be no argument against His judgment. No one can complain that it is unfair because it is the work of both the Father and the Son, the Father who gave us life to begin with and who knows all that is in our hearts, the Son who lived as one of us and knows how we feel. In this life, we choose whether He will be our Judge or our Savior by what we do with His words.
The New Testament tells us there is a Man in heaven appearing before God on our behalf. As surely as Adam and Moses were men, He is a man. He is glorified, but even in His glory He is still like us and yet, He is heir of all things, the firstborn of the new creation, the head of the church, He holds the keys of death and hell, He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
The way to God is through faith in Him and when we accept Him as our Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us. Jesus paid our debt when He took our sins and died for them and rose again from the dead to set us free and He is our Mediator between God and man.
This is the true Christ,
the One who died for our sins.
Is He your Lord and Savior?
Or are you on the road to a lost eternity?
Salvation comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!" Acts 16:31.