This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
“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 judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:24-30 (NKJV)
When Jesus spoke these words, He spoke to the audience who surrounded Him at that time and to the audience who would hear and understand them ever since that time through the written account of John’s gospel. This is one of the many instances when Christ put to rest many false teachings that persist today. He clearly identified Himself as the Son of God and as equal to God. Religions and sects who see Christ as anything less than this must overcome a lot through John’s gospel.
But Jesus also shows us something about ourselves in these words. He describes two groups of people who will hear His Word. The first group is the dead, and the second group includes those who are in the graves. We might think these two groups are the same, but they aren’t. These are two different groups. The group’s identity that will hear Jesus’s words in the grave is simple enough to figure out. What about the others?
The reality is that we are all born into death. We are, so to speak, the walking dead. We are born into darkness and death and bound to an inevitable and dismal fate.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Romans 5:12-14 (NKJV)
The reality of the gospel is that Jesus came to rescue us from this fate. His words were intended to wake the walking dead to a new reality of life they could enter.
he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life
The word passed in this passage comes from the Greek word metabaino. It means moving from one place to another and changing one’s abode or dwelling place. Jesus is describing an event that takes shape when we hear His Word and believe in God. A doorway opens, and we matabaino (pass over) to a new place, a new dimension, a new starting point for life.
The life in Christ is not like the old life. We may still have old sinful habits and thinking systems that need to be broken, reformed, and redeemed, but when we metabaino (pass over), we enter into a new way of life. This world of darkness does not govern that new life. The darkness has no authority there. Life and judgment, truth and reality, strength and victory, are found in the nature of Christ, which we reach for every day.
Our salvation experience is more than a sinner’s prayer and a commitment to do better. It is the beginning of a new way of life, conceived in the heart of God, governed by His will, and led by His Spirit. Jesus calls all of us to this new life, but the door is only opened when we hear and believe!
So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 (NLT)