Bible Articles

Bible Articles

Raising The Dead

I am not a fan of the macabre genre in Hollywood entertainment. It appears to me, however, that nearly all "terror" flicks deal with death, an intimation that death is one of man’s greatest fears. A favorite theme of such films is the resurrection of dead people. They rise from the grave, with movements approximating life, but still showing the vestiges of the corruption which is characteristic of death.

Some of Jesus’ comments about life and death must have seemed strange or even bizarre to many who heard His teaching. John records that Jesus said, "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" (5:25). Such a statement, without further explanation, might call up images of dead people with ears cocked to hear and doing the mummy shuffle. The previous verse, however, gives sense to this statement: "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" (John 5:24).

Taking both statements together, we understand that Jesus was referring to people who were physically living as "dead," meaning that they were dead in sin (see Ephesians 2:1-5). Sin is inexorably linked with death, just as it was from the beginning (Genesis 2:16-17). Death is a separation of body and spirit (James 2:26) and man’s sin separates him from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; 1 Peter 3:12).

Those who would hear His voice, i.e., hear His word and believe in God, would be given life and would not "come into judgment" (John 5:24). Jesus claimed both the ability to give life to whomever He wished (John 5:21) and also to execute judgment (John 5:27).

With these affirmations fresh in the minds of His listeners, Jesus spoke of a different resurrection. "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29). He didn’t describe these people as merely "dead," but as those who are "in the graves," (note the difference from verse 25) indicating that He was now speaking of the physically dead. Not just some, but all who are in the graves will arise in that hour (i.e., at the same time). The result of this resurrection of the body will not be the same for all. For some, this reanimation and changing of the body will result in eternal life, but for others it will lead only to condemnation.

Why the difference in results? The difference lies in the life of the person being resurrected. Those who do not participate in the first resurrection (the spiritual resurrection of verses 24-25) cannot hope to continue to enjoy spiritual life after the second resurrection.