THE TWO RESURRECTIONS
John 5: 24-29.
In this short passage the Lord Jesus Christ plainly showed the Jews of His day how those born in sin may be saved, and being saved, realise the importance of life, even life eternal ; and then proceeds to enlighten them as regards the two general resurrections. In considering this most important statement it may be divided into three parts:-
1. In verse 24 the Lord speaks of salvation from sin and the awful consequences of sin, freely granted to the true believer :
"Verily, verily [Gk. ‘Truly, truly.’] I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life".
2. In verses 25-27 He tells them of the first resurrection, and the reason why He as Son of God has power to give life to the dead; and, as Son of man, to execute judgment on all:
"The hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God ; and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself : and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man" (verse 25-27).
3. In verses 28, 29 He speaks of the second or general resurrection, and of those who shall arise at that time:
"Marvel not at this : for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come fourth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment".
1. verse 24.
Doubtless all who study this verse will agree that our Lord is here referring only to those who are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, who, when they hear His Word with an attentive ear, and believe on God the Father, will not come into condemnation, or judgment (relative to eternal salvation) of the Great White Throne, because their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, and they have passed out of the death of unbelief into the life of faith, even life eternal. This must of necessity refer, to the spiritually dead, and only to these, seeing it would be impossible for those physically dead to hear His words from the lips of mortal men.
2. But with verse 25, we have a fresh paragraph, emphasized by the Lord's strong introductory words: "Verily, verily, I say unto you," dealing with the First Resurrection only, and which, He shows clearly, is not universal, but limited to those who shall hear the Voice (not the words in some book,) but "the Voice of the Son of God." "Verily, Verily, I say unto you, the hour (or the time, Gk.) is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." Here there is no reason for spiritualizing the words of the Lord. They can be taken literally, and should, therefore, be so taken, even as any ordinary statement. The physically dead that shall hear His Voice shall live, and presumably those that do not hear His Voice shall not live at that time. The ‘now is’ gives us the clue to a right interpretation of the verse. The words "now is" clearly shows that the time referred to was not only in the future, but had already begun, when the Lord was upon earth. Hence, we read of Jairus's daughter, the young man of Nain, and Lazarus, were all restored to life by the Voice of the Son of God. In like manner, at the first resurrection, when the Lord comes, "with a shout, with the Voice of the Archangel," then "the dead in Christ" (that is, those "accounted worthy" Luke 20: 35) and the living (those alive upon earth at the time of His return - the end of the great Tribulation), will both arise to meet Him in the air,( 1Thess. 4: 13-18.) and "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump . . . the dead (that hear His Voice, and presumably only these,) shall be raised incorruptible, and we (i.e. those who love, (2 Tim. 4: 8.) and are ‘looking for that blessed hope,(Tit 2: 13 ; and 2 Tim. 4: 8.) and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" shall be changed - become immortal. This was the prize, "the out-resurrection out from amongst the dead," (Phil. 3: 11, 14) for which the Apostle Paul was striving, lest when He had preached to others, he himself should be a castaway, i.e. rejected at the judgment seat of Christ for the prize ; and, calling upon us to do the same, he writes: "Become imitators of me, even as I (am) of Christ." For "I subject my body to hardship, and treat it as a slave, lest having preached to others I myself may become disqualified (after trial)." This also was the prize for which the martyrs suffered themselves to be tortured, "not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection," that is, the first resurrection, and hear His Voice when He comes to call the dead. How important it is then for us to examine ourselves, and see whether we be in the faith; and if we find ourselves lacking in any way, from the high ideal set before us by the Apostles and Martyrs - an ideal to which the Apostle Paul knew he had attained when he wrote this last epistle to Timothy (2 Tim. 4: 7, 8) - may we confess our sins, and truly repent of our short-sighted folly, pleading earnestly for grace to help in our time of need; so running the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, that when "He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be shamed from Him in His presence" (1 John 2: 28) ; but may be permitted to stand before His judgment seat (the Bema) when He comes. And may we ever bear in mind the solemn warning contained in the judgment meted out to the wicked and unprofitable servant - His own bond-slave, entrusted with his Master’s goods, and which had been more or less carefully preserved - "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest . . . thou oughtest therefore . . . take the talent from him . . . and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 25: 30.) Is this one, then amongst those whose names are not found written in the book of life,(See Rev. 3: 5) who are condemned before the Great White Throne and cast into the Lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, the Second Death? We are not told that he is, but rather we may conclude that as he is his Lord's own bond-slave, bought with His Own most precious Blood, entrusted with His goods, his name was entered in the Lamb's Book of Life; and, just as the prodigal son who wasted his loving Father's goods in the far country was reinstated in the old Home; as the incestuous saint at Corinth was forgiven, though his body was handed over to "Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5: 5.) ; and again, as every man's work shall be tried by fire, and only that which can pass uninjured through the flame be of any value - the wood, the hay, and the stubble, being all consumed, even though it had been built on the right foundation, but the man "himself . . . saved yet so as through fire" ; so, surely, we may reckon this wicked and slothful bond-slave, ( if his name has not been blotted out of the book of life. See Rev. 3: 5.) will be raised up "at the last day" as a believer, and enter into life eternal life, though he will of necessity have missed reigning with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, and in some way or other, we are not told how, during that time, he will have to suffer in the outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, cast out of the Kingdom of the Heavens, which he may perhaps see, but will be unable to enter. (Comp. John 3 : 3 , 5.)
3. Strange as His words must have sounded to His hearers, the Lord had yet more wonderful things to tell them, so in verses 28-29, He immediately passes on to the account of the second or General Resurrection - "Marvel not at this," He said, "for the hour (the time, Gk.) is coming in the which all that are in the graves (whether they wish to do so or not) shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth ; (at one and the same time, apparently) they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have practised evil (Gk.) unto the resurrection of damnation or judgment." Then will be fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel (chap. 12: 2) "many (Many, not all as some will have risen at the first resurrection.) of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake (at one and the same time, apparently) some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt " ; which the Pharisees acknowledged, affirming "there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust." Here then we have our Lord's own statement concerning the second or General Resurrection for the good as well as the evil. This separation and judgment must take place when the Great White Throne is set, and "the dead, small and great, stand before God . . . and were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" ; those whose names are not written in the Lamb's Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire ; whilst those whose names are in that book, but were not judged to be worthy of the first resurrection, now enter into eternal life, so for them the Lord's promise as recorded in John 6: 39, 40, 44, 54 four times repeated, will be literally fulfilled, they will have everlasting life, being raised up as promised "at the last day," which He defines in John 12: 48 (that there shall be no mistake), as the day in which "the word that I have spoken . . . shall judge him" that "rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words." But - let it never be forgotten, - he will miss the prize, the first or the better resurrection, the joy of entering the Marriage feast, and living and reigning with his Lord during the Millennium.
In conclusion, let us notice how definitely Our Lord disposes of the idea which is, doubtless, causing much luke-warmness in the Laodicean Church, viz., that all believers, dead and living, will be translated to meet our Lord when He comes into the air, and so they will ever be with the Lord. Further in the passage we have been considering, He distinctly refutes the very erroneous idea that only the good are raised from the dead, and the wicked are annihilated after death. "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, "let us persuade and exhort one another so to watch and pray that we may be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of man when He comes, and render a good account of our stewardship that we may obtain the commendation, "Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Understanding all things,
This is God our Father:
What have we to fear?