A Study of John 5:25
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25)
Christ was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25). Therefore, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is God’s own verdict that all His own are justified in Him. And when we experience, by faith, the power of His resurrection, we are righteous before God with an everlasting and perfect righteousness. And “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
However, this imputed righteousness is not the only gift of grace bestowed upon us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We are also raised with Him unto a new life through that same power. This new life which we have in the risen Lord, and receive through the power of His resurrection, can never be separated from the righteousness we have in Him by faith. The two are always together. It is true, we can distinguish the two. Imputed righteousness is first. It is the ground upon which we are worthy of life, just as our sin is the ground of the sentence of death that is against us. If there were no righteousness in Christ, so that we are justified in Him, there would be no life. For we must be judged righteous before we have the right to be delivered from death. The righteousness we have in the risen Lord, therefore, is the basis of the life we have in Him. But this does not mean that one can never have the one without the other. One would never be able to say that he is justified by faith in the risen Lord, while he continued in sin and death. When we are engrafted into Christ, we do not receive His blessings of grace piecemeal, first one and then the other, but we become partakers of the living Lord, and of all the glorious benefits of salvation there are in Him. Hence, through the power of His resurrection we are also raised from the dead with Him. The resurrection of the Lord is the power unto a new life.
The Word of God frequently speaks of this wonderful change that is wrought in us through the power of the living Lord. It is called resurrection from the dead. The Lord Himself declares in John 5:21, 24-25: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death into life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” It is evident that our Lord is not speaking here of the resurrection of the last moment, but of the spiritual resurrection that is wrought in us now through the gospel, and by the Spirit of Christ. The mighty call of the gospel is, therefore: “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Ephesians 5:14). The apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:3-5: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Again, he writes in Ephesians 2:4-6: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace are ye saved); And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” And the believers are admonished: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-8).
With Christ we are crucified, with Christ we are raised. His resurrection is the power unto a new life.
This new life we possess only in fellowship with the living Lord. Not for one moment do we have this life in ourselves. We must not conceive of this new life as something that is bestowed upon us only, in the moment of regeneration, and that, henceforth, we possess in ourselves, apart from Christ. On the contrary, it is never we that live, but Christ that lives in us. Just as the branch has no life in itself, but only in organic connection with the vine; so the believer has no life in himself, but only in communion with the living Lord. We live only because He lives. It is He that lives in us. If we were, even for one moment, say that this were possible, which it is not, separated from Him, that moment we would sink back into our state of death. In fellowship with Him, we are raised from the dead. By His Spirit and through the Word, it is He that calls: “Awake, thou sleeper, and arise from the dead.” He says to us “Live”, and we do live. But it is also the same risen Lord that, by His Spirit and through His Word, continues to live in us, and we in Him. And thus He constantly makes us partakers of His resurrection life. Hence, the apostle confesses: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). And this is the confession of all that are raised by the power of the risen Lord.
The question may be raised: what kind of life is it that we thus receive, and that we possess in fellowship with the risen Lord? In general, we may answer that it is like unto His own life: it is resurrection life. And this implies three characteristics: first, that it is life from spiritual death, and, therefore, without sin; secondly, that it is life beyond death: death has no dominion over it, it cannot die, it is everlasting; thirdly, that it is life from above: it is not earthy, but heavenly. Let us look at each of these characteristics of our new life in Christ a little more closely.
It is life from spiritual death. By nature we are dead in sin. The image of God in us is changed into reverse. Instead of living in true knowledge of God, we are in darkness; we love the darkness of the lie rather than the light of the truth of God. Instead of being righteous, so that we know and love the will of God, we have become wholly unrighteous, perverse of heart and mind and will, so that we seek and do the will of the flesh, and love the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Instead of being consecrated, with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, to the living God, we are corrupt, defiled with pollution, and with all our heart and desires we turn away from Him who is the sole good. Such is our death, in which we lie by nature. Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, however, we are called out of this death, and raised unto a new life. This new life is life indeed. Its essence is the fellowship of friendship with the living God. It is life eternal. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” The image of God is restored in us. This new life is, therefore, characterized by love of the light, and opposition to darkness; by love of the will of God, and hatred of iniquity; by consecration to the living God in true holiness, and an inner aversion to all that is not of Him and to His glory. In this life, it reveals itself in true sorrow after God, a hearty repentance, and a true delight in God and desire to be pleasing to Him, and to keep all His commandments. The outcry of the publican: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner”, is the cry of one that is raised from the dead, that has heard the voice of the Son of God: “Awake, thou sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!”
To be called out of our natural darkness, perversion, corruption, and enmity against God, into that life of light and knowledge, of righteousness and holiness, of most intimate fellowship with the God of our salvation, in which we dwell in His house, and taste that He is good,—that is resurrection from the dead through the power of the living Lord!
It is, secondly, life that is wholly free from the dominion of death. Christ is raised from the dead. Death has no more dominion over Him. The power of death can never reach Him. His life is the life of the Son of God in the glorified human nature. He is, therefore, forever victorious over all death. He is beyond the reach of death’s clutches. So they that are in Him, and are partakers of the power of His resurrection, are beyond the reach of all death. In Him they are victorious. In this respect, the life we have in Christ is far more excellent than the life Adam possessed in the state of rectitude. Adam was created a living soul. To be sure, he lived. As long as he stood in righteousness before God, he did not taste of death. But he was not created beyond the reach of death. His life was ammisible. He could fall, and become a victim of death. And so he did. But the life unto which we are raised by the power of the living Lord is everlasting. It is immortal. Death can never reach it. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” (John 3:36). “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26). To be translated out of the darkness of this present death, and mortal life, in which we are beset by death on every side, and pursued by the fear of death in all our living, into the freedom from the fear of death, that glorious state of immortality, in which the shadow of death can never spread its horrible wings over our existence anymore,—that is resurrection from the dead. And unto this new and victorious life we are raised, even now, by the power of the living Lord.
Finally, the life we have in fellowship with the risen Lord is from above. It is heavenly life. Also in this respect the new life is far more excellent than the life Adam had before the fall, in the first paradise. He was of the earth earthy. He indeed had true life. For he was created after the image of God, in true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. He knew God, and lived in covenant fellowship with Him. But he lived on the earthly plane. He did not have the life of the son of God. He knew God, not face to face, but through the revelation of earthly things. But the life we have in Christ is not of this earth. It is from above, heavenly. For Christ is the Lord from heaven. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, so we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Completely, this will be realized in the final resurrection, when also our bodies shall put off all corruption and mortality, and shall put on incorruption and immortality. But spiritually, we have the beginning of that heavenly life even now in fellowship with the risen Lord. It is that knowledge of God which is obtained, not by looking into a glass darkly, and beholding a mere reflection of God’s face, but by seeing Him face to face, and knowing as we are known. To be called into that spiritual likeness of our heavenly Lord, in virtue of which we put off the image of the earthy, and partake of the image of the heavenly,—that is resurrection from the dead. And, in principle, we now partake of that resurrection, through the power of the risen Lord.
And thus, the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord reveals itself as a living hope, that is not satisfied until the final resurrection of the last day is attained. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Peter 1:3)
What is the Christian hope?
It is the spiritual tension of the new life we have in Christ, striving upward, and looking and longing for its perfect realization, while we are still in this world, and in the body of this death. For we have the beginning of a new life in us. Yet, we are still in the old nature, and in that nature, we are carnal and earthy. The new life is holy, and in virtue of it we are new creatures: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new! (2nd Corinthians 5:17). The old life is carnal, and by its power the motions of sin are in our members. The new life is victorious: it is free from the fear of death; the old life is under the dominion of death, and death still besets us on every side. The new life is from above: it is heavenly. But the old life is still in our members, is of the earth earthy. The new life strives upward: it seeks its own level, the level of heavenly things in the resurrection of the Son of God. But the old life pulls us downward: it seeks earthy things. And the striving of the new, resurrection life of the believer in Christ to seek and attain to its own level,—that is the Christian hope.
If you analyze it, you will find, that it is an earnest expectation of the future glory. “For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?” (Romans 8:24). We hope for the final adoption, to wit the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23). The new life of the Christian is strictly “other-worldly” in the sound sense of the word. If only in this life we hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable. But we look for the city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. The future resurrection is the goal of the Christian’s hope.
The power of Christ’s resurrection causes the believer to look away from the present, and to fix his expectant gaze upon the future, to turn away from things below, and to seek the things that are above.
Secondly, that hope of the believer for the final resurrection in glory is certainty. It is not a certain doubtful and wistful yearning. Hope is certainty, for it is caused by, and based on the resurrection of our Lord. His resurrection is a pledge of our glorious resurrection. Christ is raised as the first begotten of the dead: He prepared the way through death into life for all His brethren. He is raised as the Head of the body, the Church: as the Head is raised to glory, so will the body follow into the same glory. He is raised as the first fruits. The first fruits were the beginning of the harvest: they were a sure pledge that the complete harvest would be gathered into the barns. So the resurrection of Christ is the beginning of the final resurrection harvest. In His resurrection the final resurrection is already begun. It will surely be finished. On this resurrection of Christ the hope of the Christian is based. It is, therefore, a certain hope.
The power of Christ’s resurrection gives assurance to the Christian hope of final glory!
Finally, that hope is longing, earnest longing for the final glory. It is not a cold expectation, as, for instance, one might expect that it will rain today. It is a mighty longing to be delivered from the body of this death, and to be clothed upon with that heavenly glory that shall not be fully realized until the last “moment”, when death shall be completely swallowed up of life. Then this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality, and in our spiritual, heavenly resurrection bodies we shall inherit the heavenly kingdom of God!
That is the glorious power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
Herman Hoeksema – 1950