Jesus Christ's declaration is interesting because the subject directly involves a resurrection, and it is also tied to a vital process that sets the elect apart. The key words in this verse are "hear" and "dead."
We need to add a thought from Ephesians 2:1: "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins." Before God's calling, even though we were physically alive, we were spiritually dead because of sin. However, John 5:25 says that the dead "hear" His voice. Similarly, those who are spiritually dead cannot "hear" God's Word until they are called, made part of the elect, and enabled by God to hear and thus understand His Word clearly.
Another important factor appears in Hebrews 10:38: "The just shall live by faith." Also, Ephesians 2:8 says that we are "saved by grace through faith." Romans 10:17 adds, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Finally, in John 6:63, Jesus clinches the point: "The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life."
This linkage of truths makes vitally clear the importance of the calling and election by God. His enabling of us to "hear" is what begins to sweep away the spiritual blindness that has kept us ignorant of the purpose He is working out here below. This miracle of hearing gives rise to truly effective faith. It makes God's Word truly logical and believable, making commitment in obedience to His purpose possible.
Yet, what if a person cannot "hear" what God is saying? None of these saving elements comes to pass in life because no faith is produced!
Jesus utters another awesome, humbling truth in John 10:3-4, 6, 16:
"To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." . . . Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. . . . "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd."
He describes our calling and relationship with our Shepherd—Himself—in intimate and personal terms. "He calls them by name." He personally leads them out of their pen, a symbol of the world in which we are held captive, enslaved, and spiritually dead. Conversely, verse 6 plainly depicts the spiritual condition of the uncalled: They did not understand. God had not enabled them because He was not calling them to be a part of His purpose at that time. Thus, the miracle that opens our minds so we could "hear" was not performed on them.
Romans 8:30 adds another startling truth: "Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and who He justified, these He also glorified." Only the called are justified! Justification through repentance and the atoning blood of Jesus Christ is what permits us into the presence of God, enabling further growth to glorification in God's Kingdom!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Six)
Jesus explains in John 5:25-29 that there is more than one resurrection. To understand the resurrections, it is important to discern the meaning of the word krisis, variously translated "judgment" or "condemnation" (verses 22, 27, 29-30). According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, krisis generally means "separation," "decision," "division," "turn of affairs," and "judgment." The Companion Bible defines it as "a separating, a judgment, especially of judicial proceedings." Notice that it does not necessarily indicate the end of an affair.
A very clear similarity exists between the Greek krisis and the English "crisis." Crisis means "a turning point for better or worse" in the progress of an affair or a series of events. It is not necessarily the end, but a critical juncture, and the affair continues on. In this sense, krisis indicates a turn of affairs, a turning point, in a person's life. It may be the end, but, then again, it may be a time when his life takes a considerable turn for the better! Maybe God has, for the first time, revealed Himself and His purpose to him so he may be judged.
In the biblical sense, judgment can imply a period during which a process is ongoing. The decision, or sentence, comes at the end of the judgment. I Peter 4:17 shows this pattern in relation to the church. "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
Here the word translated "judgment" is from the Greek krima. According to Zodhiates, this word derives from the same root as krisis, but in this case, it indicates the act of judging, that is, a process including the final decision or sentence. The Bible uses this word only in reference to future reward and punishment.
Again we have indications of an active process, not merely a final decision. The active process includes both what the Judge is doing (observing, evaluating; Psalm 11:4) as well what the judged are doing. A judgment cannot be made without both aspects. In I Peter 4:17, God is judging "the house of God" and "those who do not obey the gospel" within the framework of how they live their lives.
Peter says, "The time has come for judgment to begin," implying that judgment did not officially start until Christ founded the church. Now that it has begun, all mankind will eventually be included within God's judgment. The pattern for judgment is therefore being established in the church.
When we see the overall picture of God's purpose, we can better understand what occurs in a Christian's life. God calls and grants repentance. We are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, and are put into the church, where we begin to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ until we come to the measure of the stature of His fullness. During this period of sanctification, God puts us through trials, and we overcome, producing the fruits of His Spirit. Sanctification prepares us for God's Kingdom and determines our reward.
Paul helps us understand this in Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us.
All of this requires time. It is not God's purpose merely to save us, but to bring us to His image so that we will be prepared for His Kingdom. Our God is a Creator. He is reproducing Himself in us. Like a wise parent, He is judging, evaluating what is best for our development, then putting us through the next step in that ongoing process until we inherit His Kingdom. This is a true understanding of a major portion of the doctrine of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest
Hearing Christ's word and believing in God are not as simple as they appear; a single action or decision is not all it takes for these verses to apply. Even so, Jesus shows that the way is open now for some to avoid that eternal judgment of death and to pass from the state of spiritual death into spiritual life.
Passing from death into eternal life is a result of the relationship that God draws us into. A person who has been called by God, who responds by hearing Christ's word (in the sense of obedience), and begins to live a life of trust in God, is one who is now spiritually alive. If he remains in that state of spiritual life until the end, he will be in the first resurrection and given immortality.
“The hour is coming, and now is” means that from the time of His preaching forward, some of the spiritually dead would hear His voice, respond to Him, and begin living spiritually. In that case, the dead He is talking about are the spiritually dead of mankind.
But then the focus changes in verse 28 to the future: “The hour is coming.” A time will come when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and rise in a resurrection. “All who are in the graves” refers to those who have physically died. God, in His mercy, will resurrect each person at some point, “each one in his own order” (I Corinthians 15:23).
The fact that death is not the end is a major change from where things stood after Adam's sin. Each person will have the opportunity to live life spiritually, in union with God, because He “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). He will, then, give everyone a chance to repent, to come out of his or her spiritual death, and to experience a life of reconciliation with Him. That opportunity could happen in this age, or it could happen in the resurrection to physical life that takes place after the Millennium (see Revelation 20:5).
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 5:25: