“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 unto 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.” --John 5:24,25
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” --John 5:28,29
Two Kinds of Resurrection.
It is interesting to contrast verses 24 and 25 with verses 28 and 29. It is obvious that two different resurrections are spoken of here. The first resurrection of verses 24 and 25 depends upon hearing his word and believing. The second resurrection of verses 28 and 29 is to all who are in the graves. The first resurrection is to everlasting life without condemnation, the second resurrection is to everlasting life, or to everlasting condemnation, depending upon the doing of good or the doing of evil. Obviously, these are not the same resurrections.
Ephesians 2:1ff unlocks the puzzle. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and in sins....” Being saved is compared to being made alive. This is a spiritual resurrection and depends upon hearing the word of God and believing. Until a man is born again he is dead in trespasses and in sin.
The Deadness of the Natural Man:
Eph. 2:2 describes these trespasses and sins: “Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as other.”
The description of the natural man in these verses underscores his helplessness. He serves the desires of his body and the desires of his mind. There is a powerful spirit working in him that holds him in bondage to disobedience: he is under the control of the devil and can do nothing to free himself. He is by nature a child of wrath. The wrath of God is suited to the nature of the sinner just as fire is suited for the consuming of dry branches that are separated from the vine.
Because of his helplessness, if man were to be saved, it would take a mighty power, a mighty intervention. This is exactly what the grace of God provided in Jesus Christ: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works , lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” --Eph. 2:8-10.
Whatever it is that is “not of yourselves” (Whether the saving, or the faith), the end result is the same. The Holy Spirit has completely removed works from consideration as the cause of God's grace. The good works that the righteous perform are no more the cause of his righteousness than motion is the cause of a person's life. A person does not live because he moves; he moves because he lives. The movement of the Christian (good works) is the result of God's grace and has been ordained from eternity, before he ever believed. The child of God is the workmanship of God, not the workmanship of himself.
All the works which accompany salvation are said to be the work of God in the believer, not the reason for God's working. The reason that God works in the believer is always said to be grace.
God Gives Us Good Will: “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” --Phil. 2:12b, 13. We work because God has worked.
God Gives Us Good Affections: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us...” --Romans 5:5 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...” --Galatians 5:22 ff.
God Gives Us Good Understanding: “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God....” --1Corinthians 2:12 ff.
God Gives Us Love: “We love him, because he first loved us.” --1John 4:19 and Romans 5:5 and Galatians 5:22 as quoted above.
God Gives Us All Good Things. The grace of God is the source of all good things: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights....” --James 1:17
Can a person resist the grace of God? Of course he can, considering it from a natural viewpoint. Jesus said of the Jews, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” They must have been dead indeed not to have come to Christ, the most loveable human who ever walked the earth.
There is nothing more resistant to life than a corpse. It will resist breathing, it will resist eating, it will resist human affection, it will resist warmth and motion. It is the most resistant thing that can be imagined. It is its nature to resist everything pertaining to life and must be buried away out of sight or it will stink up the whole place in a few days.
Such was the condition of Lazarus the brother of Mary and Martha. “Don't open the grave,” was their counsel, “because by now he stinketh.” The sinner is no more attractive to the grace and goodness of God than Lazarus was to his beloved sisters. If a corpse does not resist life, then something very special is going on.
Something very special indeed took place that day when Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus and cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” What happened then was something not natural and not regular. Life entered into Lazarus by the power of the voice of the Son of God, and he came forth from the grace.
So it is with those dead in trespasses and sins who are called to life by the Son of God. Only the voice of the Son of God can call a sinner out of his deadness into the life of God. This is what was precisely prophesied concerning Christ in Psalm 110: “The LORD [The Triune God] said to my Lord (Jesus as Mediator), Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”
After His resurrection, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. The rod of His power (His Word) now goes forth to all the world, because He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4). The result of Christ's great power will be spiritual change in the condition of His people. Their hearts are changed, and their wills are changed, so that they gladly come to Christ. They have been quickened by the power of God's grace.
Jesus was fully aware of this during His earthly ministry. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” --John 6:45. If man is dead in sins, then he is unable and unwilling to come to Christ, for he resists God with all his deadness. It takes the mighty power of God to bring a man out of his deadness in sin and misery to the glorious light of the Gospel.
The power of Christ the Mediator is described in a wonderful metaphor in Isaiah 55:10-13 “As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”