The Expository Files


The Dead Will Hear His Voice

John 5:28,29

"Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28,29)

Few of Jesus' statements are any more controversial today than His prediction here. Unbelievers scoff at the idea of resurrection. Eastern religions reject the idea of judgment, some suggesting that we are reincarnated into this world again. Some liberal clergy reject the idea of the judgment. Some "Christian" cults say that only the righteous will be raised but that the wicked will never exist again. Every Christian needs constantly to reacquaint himself with the certainty of the resurrection. We believe it because Jesus taught it. That is enough, and we shall shortly see why. The resurrection is fundamental. It is part of the foundation of the faith upon which everything else is built. The person with a healthy faith lives his life as if he believes in the resurrection.

Because Jesus Said So
Jesus clearly taught that all would be raised from the dead - What would He say to some of the skeptics today? We have a pretty good idea: Consider His discourse with skeptics of His day . The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection either. Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?" (Mark 12:24; cf. vss. 18-27).

Jesus also taught that it would be God's power working through Him that would accomplish this resurrection - (John. 5:21,26,27; 6:39,40). So, says Jesus, the problem with the skeptic is that he or she is either mistaken because they lack an understanding of the Scriptures, either their doctrines are mistaken or that they do not understand that it is the true word of God, or they lack an appreciation for the power of God who is creator of all, or both.

If there is no resurrection of the just and the unjust to be followed by judgment, then Jesus' teaching on the subject was false. That would be remarkable because on several occasions, Jesus Himself raised individuals from the dead - note in particular Lazarus (John 11:38-44). He also gave His apostles power to raise the dead - Matthew 10:8. If there is no resurrection, the accounts of Jesus and His apostles raising the dead are false.

There is also the matter of Jesus' own resurrection from the dead. Jesus predicted that He would be resurrected - (Mark 8:31) . Even Jesus' enemies were aware of His predictions (Matthew 27:62-66). These were people who had every reason and opportunity to produce evidence that Jesus' predictions did not come to pass. They killed Him. They buried Him. They guarded His body. They can disprove His resurrection if it did not happen.

That they did not do so is an important consideration! Oh, it is easy for the unbeliever to discount the resurrection today. It wasn't easy for unbelievers in the first century. No satisfactory explanation can be made for the empty tomb.

Eyewitness testimony substantiates each key fact connected with Jesus' resurrection:

He was actually dead - (Mark 15:43-45; and recall the spear thrust John. 19:31-37).

He was buried in a tomb - (Mark 15:46,47).

He was resurrected - (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Note: this last reference to 1st Corinthians are the words of a man who definitely would not be a believer, let alone a preacher and apostle, had Jesus not been raised! It was the resurrected Jesus who convinced this enemy of the gospel to change his life completely!

The fact of Jesus' own resurrection supports the claims He made concerning the resurrection of all men (1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20). If there is no resurrection, one is compelled to reject even Jesus' own resurrection.

Because the Apostles Said So
The work of the apostles after Jesus' resurrection was basically that of witnessing to the resurrection, and therefore the identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Savior, the Son of God, the Redeemer and the Lord (Acts 1:21,22; 4:33). From the very first, the preaching of the apostles centered on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ - (Acts 2:32; 3:14,15; 5:30-32; 10:39-42; 13:30,31; etc.).

The apostles preached that Jesus' resurrection pointed to the eventual resurrection of all mankind (Acts 17:30,31; 24:14,15). When Christians began to be persecuted, and it was very shortly after the beginning of the church, the dispute often centered on the question of the resurrection (Acts 4:1-4; 23:6-8; 24:17-21). The early teachers of the gospel understandably faced opposition from the Sadducees (who, we have seen, tangled with Jesus on the topic) as well as the Greeks, among whom it was not fashionable at that particular time in their history to believe in a resurrection (Acts 17:32).

Certainly if the apostles had known the resurrection of Jesus to be a hoax or if they had had the slightest doubt about its actual occurrence, would they have willingly suffered persecution and death defending it? If there is no resurrection, the preaching of the apostles was a fraud, and even more unbelievable, they would live it, and suffer death teaching it as their hope beyond death in eternity.

The Results of the "Say So" of Jesus and the Apostles Concerning the Resurrection
It is based on the hope of the resurrection that we invite others to obey the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:32-33;37-38; Romans 10:9,10). It is based on this eternal hope that we encourage, and are encouraged, to live righteously before God (Romans 6:4-11) and that our hope is alive and never dies for anything (1 Thessalonians. 1:9,10; 4:13-18). If is because we have confidence and trust in God's power that we have confidence in the resurrection (2 Corinthians. 1:9; 4:13,14).

There is solid reason for believing that Jesus was raised from the dead. We have eyewitness testimony from people so close to the fact that they could not be mistaken. The joy and confidence of the disciples just 50 days after Jesus' death and the dark days of Jesus in the tomb and all their hopes with Him. The resurrection reversed that despair, and turned it to joy, and this joy endured for the rest of their lives. Their hope as become our hope.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 16.5; May 2009