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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Trust in Christ for your double-resurrection
Text:John 5:25-29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 3:1,2

Psalm 93 (after the law)

Psalm 36

Hymn 67

Hymn 3:5

Scripture reading:  Ezekiel 37:1-14

Text: John 5:25:29

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

What happens after you die?  There are still many people today who believe in some kind of after-life.  But there are growing numbers of people who’ve been brought up believing the only truth in this world comes from “science.”  Science supposedly tells us that evolution is true.  All there is is matter which has come into existence by pure chance.  As a result, more people come to believe all you can see is all there is.  When it comes to who we are as human beings, we are simply our bodies.  All that there is to us as human beings is these bodies.  When these bodies die, we die -- we simply cease to exist.  Once your bag of chemicals stops doing what your bag of chemicals has been doing, you’re gone.  After that, you only exist in the memories of your loved ones.  There is no human soul, there is no after-life, there is no ultimate justice, there is no hope.  You’re here and then you’re gone and that’s it.  That’s the way more and more people are looking at it. 

But I think most of us understand that’s not the way the Bible teaches us to view ourselves.  The Bible teaches us that we are God’s creatures.  On the sixth day of creation, he created the first human being from the dust of the earth.  Shortly afterwards, he created the second human being, a woman, from the rib of the man.  Both of them were created in God’s image.  Both Adam and Eve were created as complete human beings with a material part called a body and an immaterial part called a soul.  They were created to live forever, but sin brought death.  After the fall into sin, human beings die.  Their souls and bodies are temporarily separated.  Scripture is clear that once you die, you do not cease to exist.  You’re not annihilated.  No, you continue to exist after you die.  There is an after-life.  There will be ultimate justice.  And there is hope for those who believe in God’s promises. 

These biblical truths come into focus this morning in chapter 5 of John.  Christ is continuing to address the Jewish religious leaders.  They were offended at him.  They were offended because he healed that disabled man on the Sabbath.  They were even more offended at him because they heard him claim to be the Son of God, and therefore equal to God.  They heard him saying that he was divine and, to them, that was absolute blasphemy.  Jesus was deserving of death. 

Prior to our passage for today, Christ went further.  He claimed he was going to do two things that only God can do:  raise the dead and carry out judgment.  When Jesus said those things, he was again insisting that he was God.  In our passage for this morning, Christ works this out further.  He reveals that he’s bringing two resurrections.  The first is only experienced by some.  The second is experienced by all, but not experienced by all in the same way.  So I preach to you God’s Word from John this morning:

Trust in Christ for your double-resurrection

We’ll see that:

  1. As Son of God he gives life to some now
  2. As Son of Man he raises all later

Jesus begins this section of his teaching with the solemn affirmation:  “Truly, truly.”  He’s demanding the attention of his listeners.  Then he speaks in verse 25 about an hour which “is coming and is now here.” That means that in what he’s about to say there’s not only a reference to the future, but also to the present.  There’s a sense in which the raising of the dead, the making alive of the dead, is a present reality. 

Christ says it’s already a present reality that the dead hear the voice of the Son of God and live.  He’s not speaking about physical resurrection here.  He’s not speaking about what happens when he returns at the end of the world.  Instead, this is something that happens as he is living and walking on the earth during his ministry.  This is something that happens as he walks among spiritual zombies, among the walking dead.

In Ephesians 2:1, we learn that, left to ourselves, we’re spiritually dead.  Not weak, not sick, but dead.  Even though we live and breathe, spiritually speaking without God our hearts are lifeless.  Without the Holy Spirit living in us, we’re like the dried out skeletons in Ezekiel 37.  Jesus lived and walked among such people in his day.  Many of the people he encountered were like spiritual zombies.  They were moving around, doing their daily things, but spiritually speaking there was no life in them.  It’s important to remember that many of these spiritual zombies were God’s covenant people.  They were people who’d been brought up with the Bible.  In our terms, we’d say that they’d been brought up going to church.  Yet there was still spiritual death in them.  These people needed someone to come and bring them to life. 

The Son of God comes to do exactly that.  He’s come to bring life to some.  You have to pay attention to how Jesus describes himself in these verses.  Look at verse 25: it’s “Son of God.”  Then notice how in verse 27, he calls himself “the Son of Man.”  These two terms encompass who he is as God and man -- they speak of both his divine nature and his human nature.  He speaks here first of who he is according to his divine nature.  When people hear his voice, they are hearing the voice of God. 

It’s this voice which brings the spiritually dead to life.  The voice of God, the words of God, are heard.  They’re heard not only in terms of being sensed, but also in terms of responding appropriately.  “Those who hear will live” – that means those who hear the voice of the Son of God and believe what he says come to life.  They come to the life that lasts forever.

And life is something the Son of God is able to give, because like the Father, he has life in himself.  That’s verse 26.  That’s referring to God’s self-sufficiency.  In himself, God has everything he needs to exist.  God doesn’t depend on anyone else.  When you have the verb “need,” you can’t ever have God as the subject.  Actually, you can, but only if you say “God needs nothing.  God needs no one.”  You see, “need” is a creature word, it doesn’t apply to God.  That was powerfully illustrated in the Old Testament with the burning bush in Exodus 3.  Moses encounters that bush which is on fire but is not being consumed.  This is a fire which is a most pure fire -- it does not depend on any other elements to burn.  This fire does not need fuel.  It needs nothing.  The burning bush pointed to God in his almighty self-sufficiency.  Now Jesus says that just as the Father has life in himself, so also the Son has life in himself.  The Father has given this to him.  Thus the Son of God too is the self-sufficient God.  Never needing, always giving.  And he gives life to whomever he wills.  He speaks, and those to whom he wants to give life, will be given life.

So what are we supposed to do with this?  Well, the Son of God spoke on earth in his day and those who heard and believed did come to life.  They were like the skeletons in Ezekiel 37.  They heard the Word from God, the Spirit came upon them, and they were miraculously raised from the grave. Today the Son of God continues to make his voice heard.  He does so through the Bible and through the preaching of the Bible.  The Son of God is the master cardiologist.  He comes to cold dead hearts with the defibrillator of his Word.  He gets them beating again, fills dead bodies with life.  But it’s always through the Word.  So what are we supposed to do with this?  Praise God that we have his Word, praise him that we have the preaching of his Word.  Loved ones, make use of the Word – not only in your daily routine, but also on the Lord’s Day when you have the opportunity to hear the Word proclaimed.  Don’t neglect the Word, because this is the way the Son of God gives life to some now already.

Verse 27 reaffirms that Christ has also been committed with the judgment of the whole human race.  It’s reaffirmed.  It was already stated in the passage before this.  In verse 22, it said “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”  But it’s not just repeated here in verse 27.  Something more is added.  Jesus says that this judgment has been entrusted to him “because he is the Son of Man.”  That’s something we haven’t heard before.  What does it mean?

Jesus refers to himself more often as the Son of Man.  Already up to this point in John’s gospel, he’s used that term at the end of John 1 and in John 3 when speaking with Nicodemus.  Whenever you hear Jesus say that he is the Son of Man, you have to think of the Old Testament and what it says in Daniel 7.  That’s the background.  In that passage in Daniel 7, there is a “son of man” – he’s a human being.  And God gives to him dominion, glory, and a kingdom – he gives him divine rights and privileges.  This Son of Man is lifted up and all peoples, nations, and languages are obligated to serve him.  So this is a figure who is a human being – that’s why he’s called the Son of Man – but he is exalted by God and given the divine right to rule and to be served by all.  When Christ uses this term, he’s drawing attention to the fact that he entered this world as a human being.  After his resurrection and ascension, this man was exalted to God’s right hand and from there he will rule and also come for judgment.

This reminds us that the coming Judge is one of us.  He came the first time in our human nature, and he’s coming back in our human nature.  The Judge therefore understands the human experience.  He understands the challenges we face.  He’s fully aware not only of our sins, but also of our human weaknesses.  He walked more than a mile in our shoes as a true man, and thus as the Son of Man he’s qualified to judge justly. 

You have to understand that what Christ is saying here would have been like nails on a chalkboard to those Jewish ears listening.  This would have driven them nuts.  He’s claiming to be the Son of Man spoken of in Daniel 7.  He’s claiming that the Father has given him authority to judge.  In the Old Testament, only God can judge.  So Jesus is again claiming divinity here.  He’s saying this and he knows that it’s going to provoke the kind of reaction that will bring him to suffering and death on the cross.  He’s speaking not only to inform our minds, but also to portray his love for the sheep for whom he’s going to offer himself.  He’s putting love in action for you and me. 

It’s the anticipated shock that leads him to say at the beginning of verse 28, “Do not marvel at this…”  He knows what he’s saying is hard to take if you’re Jewish.  But he reassures his listeners this is the way it’s going to be.  He speaks of the hour that’s coming.  So whereas before he was speaking about present realities, now he’s speaking about the future. 

In the future, all who are in the tombs will hear his voice.  That’s referring to all the human beings who’ve ever died.  “Tombs” here is not being used in the literal sense of the word.  It’s a word that just means everyone who’s died.  It really does mean absolutely everyone.  Nobody gets annihilated out of existence.  Everyone who dies experiences a temporary separation of body and soul.  Then the hour comes when everyone experiences a reunion of body and soul.

So when is that hour?  Paul speaks of it in 1 Corinthians 15.  He says that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised.  The sounding of the trumpet refers to the second coming of Jesus.  We know from Acts 1 that he’ll return in the same way that he went up into heaven before his disciples.  His return is going to be public, it’s going to be audible, and it’s going to be visible.  When Christ returns, you’ll know it’s him and you’ll know it’s happening.  There won’t be any mystery about it.  It’ll be obvious it’s him.                                 

One more thing that Scripture is clear about is that we don’t know the exact time when this will happen.  In Mark 13:32 Jesus said plainly that “concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  And in Matthew 25:13, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  When it comes to Jesus’ return, the sure sign of a false teacher is date-setting.  Whenever you hear someone say they know when Christ is coming back and they set a date for it, you know that he’s a false teacher on that point.  Because Christ said repeatedly that no one knows when that hour will be that he’s speaking about in John 5:28. 

But the hour will come, the trumpet will sound, the Saviour will call out and all the dead will rise.  All those dead bodies that have decomposed and decayed will be reconstituted, just like happened with the dry bones in Ezekiel 37.  All will again breathe air into their lungs, all will again have blood flowing through their veins and arteries, all will again have light coming into their eyes and sounds coming into their ears.  One of the first things that that they will see and hear will be Jesus, come for judgment.  Their eyes will behold the Lord of lords and King of kings.  Their ears will hear his human voice announcing the judgment of all.

Verse 29 tells us this resurrection isn’t just something for Christians.  It’s not just for believers, but for all people.  That means even unbelievers are going to have their bodies raised and reunited with their souls.  All people are going to enter into an eternal existence as whole human beings, with body and soul together.

But not all people are going to experience that eternal existence in the same way.  There are two experiences.  One is a resurrection of life.  The other is a resurrection of judgment.  There’s no middle ground.  There’s no third alternative.  For every single human being, it will be either the resurrection of life or the resurrection of judgment.  We’ll look at what each of those mean in a little more depth in a moment. 

For now we have to grapple with what determines which you receive.  Jesus says those who’ve done good experience the resurrection of life, but those who have done evil experience the resurrection of judgment.  So there are those who do good, and there are those who do evil, and that’s what determines what you experience.  We could just leave it there, but doesn’t that sound like our eternity is determined by our works?  Doesn’t Jesus make it sound like it’s your works that make the difference when it comes to the resurrection?  We need to spend a moment on this and think this through carefully. 

Elsewhere in the Gospel According to John, it’s clear that salvation is based only on what Jesus Christ has done.  For example, there’s the most well-known verse in the whole book, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  If you believe in Jesus Christ, you’ll have eternal life.  That eternal life begins when you believe, it continues when you die, and it continues when Jesus comes back and raises your body to be reunited with your soul.  This is taught not only in one or two places, but all over the Bible.  Salvation isn’t based on our works, but only and entirely on what Christ has done for us.  We receive what he’s done for us in his life, death, and resurrection only through faith.  Only through resting and trusting in him.  So unless we’re going to say there are contradictions in the Bible, one thing that verse 29 cannot mean is that we’re saved through our good works.  We’re not.  You can only be saved through Christ alone. 

But then why is it that those who do good experience the resurrection of life?  Listen carefully.  Here we have to remember what happens in those who are redeemed by Christ.  The Holy Spirit lives in true believers.  He ensures not only that people believe in Jesus as their Saviour, but also that they love him and want to follow him.  And so they do.  They do follow the Saviour in growing measures in their life.  Because they have the Holy Spirit to strengthen them, because they have the blood of Christ to cover any clinging sin, Christians do good works in the sight of God.  These good works aren’t the basis of our salvation, but they’re the proof we’ve been saved.  They’re the evidence that we do belong to God, that we do have the Holy Spirit.  Good works mark out those who have been bought with the blood of Jesus.  And it’s for that reason that Christ can speak about those doing good.  Those who do good as the fruits of their salvation, as the necessary consequence of their redemption through grace, they will experience the resurrection of life.

Now we can reflect for a moment on that resurrection of life.  It’s going to be experiencing life forever as a complete and glorified human being.  You’ll be sinless, perfected.  Disease and death will be no more.  There’ll be no more tears, no more grief, no more brokenness.  Those things alone make it sound awesome.  But the best part of the resurrection of life is who you get to spend it with.  You get to spend it with Jesus.  Forever you’ll be with him, enjoying his presence, savouring his love, worshipping his majesty.  You’ll be able to walk and talk with Jesus as his disciples did when he was on this earth.  You’ll find gladness in an eternal relationship of intimate communion with the one who gave his life for yours.  You’ll find happiness in a holy eternity spent in worship of the one who loved you to death.  Brothers and sisters, it’s something to eagerly anticipate!  I can’t wait and I pray you feel the same way.

The wonderful nature of this resurrection of life is held to us as an incentive to trust in Christ.  It’s revealed in Scripture so that we go to the one who will make it happen.  God tells us about this so that we’ll say, “I want that.  I want that resurrection of life.  How do I get it?”  The answer is simply:  trust in Christ.  Trust in him, and you’re alive today.  Trust in him, and you’re alive forever, and in due time, that’ll be true of you both body and soul.  Place all your confidence in Jesus alone. 

But for those who don’t, there’s the resurrection of judgment.  Those who have done evil can anticipate the horrific opposite of the resurrection of life.   By doing evil, Christ means those who have committed sins, but have never repented, never turned away from them, and found forgiveness for those sins through him.  They will face the resurrection of judgment.  They too will be raised.  Their bodies and souls will be reunited.  But it’ll be to face eternal justice.  They’ll be punished eternally in body and soul.  They’ll be cast into the lake of fire.  Unrepentant and unbelieving evil doers will be where people weep and gnash their teeth.  “…Their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh” (Isa. 66:24).  There will be eternal, conscious torment for the wicked.  There will be hell.  Hell is the place where the wicked make the payment for their sins, a payment which never ends.  Hell is a place of no love, no worship, no communion, no joy, no peace, no smiles.  Hell is the place of God’s wrath and justice never ending.  Hell is absolutely horrible to contemplate.  Yet Scripture reveals it as an inescapable reality for those who will not turn from their sins and flee to Christ. 

Loved ones, I pray that you agree that the resurrection of life is far more attractive.  I pray all of you hear about hell and shudder.  Shudder and remember this is what you’ve been saved from.  That’s what you deserve.  But in mercy, you’ve been plucked from that fate.  I pray that you hear about hell and shudder to think about those who are still heading there.  That family member, that friend, that co-worker -- those people who don’t know Jesus in a saving way.  Hell is real, and if they don’t know the Saviour, they are really heading to hell.  They are really heading to the resurrection of judgment.  You know this.  They don’t.  You have a responsibility to love them, pray for them, and where you can, share the gospel of life with them.

Brothers and sisters, the world in which we live is consumed with fantasies.  A fantasy is something people invent to escape reality.  Evolution and a way of looking at the world that just sees material and physical stuff – that’s a fantasy.  Annihilation after you die – that’s a fantasy.  That’s not the way it is.  The reality is described here by Jesus.  There’s life in him for some now already.  Those who have him as their Saviour can anticipate a resurrection of life.  That’s real.  But judgment, that’s real too.  Let’s be aware of the fantasy world that’s out there.   Let’s steer clear of these fairy tales about the way the world is.  Let’s embrace the reality described by our God, and by his grace, let’s also be the reality check for unbelievers around us.  AMEN.                                   


Merciful God,

Thank you for the life we have right now in Jesus Christ.  We thank you also for the hope we have of the resurrection of life in him.  When our Saviour returns, we look forward to all the blessings that have been won for us by him.  We look forward to life forever in your presence and in the presence of our beloved Saviour.  Father, we pray that you would bring that day quickly.  As we wait for that, help each one of us to keep our eyes fixed on Christ Jesus.  Father, with your Spirit keep our heads out of fantasies and grounded in reality.  We pray that you would help us to help others do that too.                  



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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