Studies in the Gospel of John
Who is Jesus?”
From time to time we hear about a situation in which a person commits a serious crime and his family and friends say, “I guess I never really knew him after all.” And there is a sense in which that is normal. First Corinthians 2:11 says, “no man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him.”
But there is one Person whom most, if not all, of us know – but do we really? The Lord Jesus Christ is one of the most famous people who has lived on the earth – and rightly so. But because of our familiarity with Him it is easy to overlook some of the things that we should know about Him. And the passage to which we come in this study, the last 26 verses of chapter 5, is one of the clearest places where that kind of information is given.
By way of review, remember the overview of the chapter. In verses 1 through 5 we see the display of divine power – the healing of the 38 year paraplegic at the pool of Bethsaida. Then in verses 16 through 47 we see A discussion of Divine Principles – answering the objections of the Jewish leaders about His having done that healing on the Sabbath. In verses 19 through 47 Jesus is giving an analysis of the Jews’ angry reaction to Jesus’ state of equality with the Father which He had made in verse 17. He had talked about “the relationship between the Father and the Son in verses 19 and 20. And then He had started a discussion about the reciprocation between the Father and the Son, which will take up the remaining verses of the chapter.
In our last study we saw a summary of the things in which God the Father and God the Son participate in equally in verses 21 through 23. So in this study we want to look at the specifics which are given in verses 24 through 27. And the first of those is the fact that they both give life in verses 24 through 29.
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 judgement, but has passed from death into life. (25) Most assuredly I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, that 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. (28)Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all that 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.
There are four points to notice about life and death in these verses. First notice the phrase at the end of verse 24 – “has passed from death unto life.” Jesus gave physical life to the man at the pool of Bethsaida when He healed him. However, in this verse He is clearly talking about eternal life or spiritual life. Anyone who chooses to trust in Jesus and commit himself to Him in faith is said to immediately “pass from death into [eternal] life” here and now. Eternal life is unending. It doesn’t begin when we get to heaven; it began the moment we trusted Christ as Savior. And to receive it from the hand of Jesus is to be exempt from divine “condemnation.”
Moving on, verses 25 through 29 cover three periods of time. First notice the phrase “the hour is coming.” This phrase referred primarily to the Day of Pentecost which would be coming in a few months, when Jesus would send the Holy spirit from heaven into the hearts of believers and through them those who were “dead” in sin would hear the message and “live” with eternal life. And of course, this is a reference to this day in which we live now. Then the phrase “and now is” in verse 25 refers to the hour in which Jesus actually said those words – the past, as far as we are concerned. To believe in Him was then and still is today, to enter into eternal life. Then in verses 28 and 29, he goes back to the reference to “the hour is coming.” This hour that is coming is obviously different from the hour that He spoke about in verse 25. These verses make it cleat that He is talking about a future day of judgement with this reference. And verse 27 makes it clear that Jesus is the one who will sit on the judgement seat.
Now remember that we are talking about the prerogatives which God the Father and God the Son share. The first one is that they both give life. But the second one is that they both execute judgement, as described in verse 30.
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.
God the Father has committed all judgement of humanity into the hand of His Son. And verse 27 gives the reason for that “. . . God the Father has committed all judgement of humanity to the Son. And verse 27 gives the reason for that because He is the Son of Man. Who better to judge mankind than the perfect man. But verse 30 brings out that He always judges according to the will of the Father – so in effect it is the judgement of both of them. The verses just before this (verses 28 and 29) show that the particular judgment in mind here is what Revelation 20 refers to as the “Great White throne judgment” at the very end of time on earth. It is in two parts, according to verse 29. Those who have died believing in Christ will be in one group – the resurrection of life.” And those who have not accepted Him in the other group – “the resurrection of condemnation.”
The terms “those who have done good” and “those who have done evil” are not a reference to good works and lack of good works, but to the good work of trusting Christ and the “evil” work of rejecting Him. And this is clarified in Revelation 20:11-15:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. and the dead were judged according to their works by the things that were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead which were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them, and they were judged, each one according to his works. Then death and Hades were cast into the Lake of Fire, this is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Notice in verse 12 that “the books were opened” and that “the dead that were judged according to their works” which were written in the books. But verse 12 also says that “another book was opened, which was the book of life.” And then verse 15 says that the final determination was made on the basis of those whose names were “written in the book of life.” Now we know from verse 24, and many other verses that spiritual “life” comes from faith in Christ. But if that were not enough, Revelation 21:27 refers to this same book as “The Lamb’s Book of Life.”
This is a wonderful explanation of the last judgments of God. It doesn’t overlook any good work that anyone has ever done. God has recorded them all. But it also makes very clear that good works are not the basis of the judgment.
Both the Father and the Son give life, verses 24 through 29 say, and verse 30 says that they both execute judgment. But a third thing in which they share, or “reciprocate” is that they both receive honor, according to verses 31 through 47.
Jesus knows what is going through the minds of His enemies as He makes these stupendous claims, never made by any mere man. He knows that at the very least they must be thinking. He knows that at the very least they must be thinking, “what evidence can you bring to support these unheard of claims?” And so in these verses He condescends to meet their opposition by producing independent witnesses to the claims.
And the witnesses are listed in verses 31 through 37. He sets the stage by saying, in verse 31,
“If I bear witness of myself my witness is true.”
Of course, being God He was absolute truth incarnate, so what does this mean? Jesus is simply speaking in terms of the Old Testament law of Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 that there must be at least two witnesses to claims such as this. But Jesus actually calls three witnesses. First, He reminds them of John the Baptist in verses 33 through 35.
You have sent to John and he has born witness to the truth (34) Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. (35) He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.
John the Baptist had repeatedly borne witness to Jesus Christ as recorded in John 1:19, 20, 26,29,35 and 36. In verse 34 Jesus says that although He did not depend upon any merely human witness, He was willing to use any which they could understand in order that they might believe Him and be saved. Verse 35 refers to the glowing light of John the Baptist’s witness. Although the Jews were willing to rejoice in the light, it was only temporary. By the time Jesus was saying this John had already been put to death by the Jewish sympathizer, King Herod. We should be careful that if the voice of one of God’s messengers touches our life too closely we try to get rid of him or get ourselves out of the sound of his voice.
But there is a second witness in verse 36. Not only John the Baptist, but, Jesus says, His own works witness to the fact that He is God.
(36) But I have a greater witness than John’s, for the works which the Father has given me to finish, – the very works that I do, bear witness of me bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.
The miracles, such as the healing of the lame man in the first part of this chapter, were done primarily for the of providing a witness to the fact that Jesus is God. But in addition, the fact finished work of Christ – His miracles, His teachings, and His death and resurrection, would also form a solid witness for all time as to Who He was and is. Two witnesses would be enough to satisfy the OT law, but in verse 37 He gives a third: the Old Testament scriptures.
And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.
This is a reference to the Old Testament prophecies. One of the proofs of inspiration and of the deity of Christ is the way the Old Testament predicted Him and the way He fulfilled those prophecies. And other references to this witness of Christ are scattered through the rest of this chapter, but in a little different context.
Now we have been talking about “the witnesses” to the honor of Jesus Christ as God. So out of that background, in verses 38 through 47 we find a solemn warning to the Jews (and to unbelievers in general) on the basis of that.
But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me. (40) I do not receive honor from men (42) But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive Me, if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you to the Father, there is one who accuses you: Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; But if you do not receive his writings how will you believe My words?
Even though John the Baptist, the works of Jesus, and the Old Testament prophets all witnessed to the deity of Jesus, these Jews still refused to hear him. Verse 39 points out that even though they “searched the Scriptures” which testify so clearly about Him, they refused to come to Him. And verse 44 points out the reason: they loved their own reputation and seek honor in the eyes of men instead of seeking first the honor in the eyes of men instead of seeking first the honor that comes from God alone.
The climax comes in verses 45 through 47 – their very unbelief of the witness of the Old Testament accuses them before God. This is reminiscent of the story that Jesus told of the rich man and the beggar. When they both died they went to “Hades” When they both died the rich man went to “hades,” and the poor man went to “paradise.” (The Old Testament equivalent of heaven and hell.) The rich man was in torment, and asked that someone go from paradise to His brothers who were still alive and warn them of their danger. But Father Abraham replied, “let them read Moses and the Prophets,” The rich man said, “they will not hear the Moses and the Prophets, but if one came to them from the dead they would listen.” But the reply was, “if they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not hear though one came to them from the dead.”
Even for those of us who have trusted Christ as Savior, there is a solemn warning in these words. First, think of about the extreme honor that Jesus deserves. It is easy to overlook that because of our personal relationship with Him. But He is the God of the universe, not just “another way to God.” We need to be very careful that we don’t let others get by with lowering Him to their level if we can do anything about it. But second, do we consciously or unconsciously make some of the same mistakes that these Jewish leaders were making? Do we “receive” or give special recognition to people who come in their own name (their reputation or achievements?) while we refuse to give Jesus the place of honor in our lives? Do we refuse to follow His instructions or stand for Him because it might involve our honor in the sight of men – our intellectual reputation, our pride, or our social standing? Do we hesitate to come to Jesus because we would then be committed to live by Jesus, even as He lives by the Father? Let us seek honor in the sight of God by coming to Jesus now. Either to “pass from death unto life,” if we have never done so? Or if we are already Christians, to experience in our daily lives that fulfillment that comes from the intimacy of a personal relationship of loving obedience to Him in all things.