SECTION 2 5:16-29 Word about the Son and the Father.
5:17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
5:19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
5:20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
5:21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.
5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
5:23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.
5:24 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.
5:25 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.
5:26 For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;
5:27 And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.
5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice,
5:29 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.
SURVEY OF SECTION 2
Because He did the miracle on the Sabbath day, and also because He commanded the healed man to carry his bed, the Lord Jesus was met by the hostility of the Jews, which in John’s gospel means the Jewish authorities. They had added to God’s simple command to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”, and by so doing had made the word of God of no effect by their tradition, as they had done in other connections, Mark 7:13. They failed to realise that God desires “mercy and not sacrifice”, Matthew 12:7, and if they had gone to the Pool of Bethesda and carried the sick from that place to the feet of the Lord Jesus they would have sanctified the Sabbath day to sacred uses, and thus have obeyed God’s command.
So the discourse of the Lord Jesus revolves around the matter of working, and is given, significantly, on the day of rest. Notice the words for working and doing in verses 16, 17, 19, 20, and also the reference to this miracle as a work in John 7:21.
That God is not indifferent to the breaking of the Sabbath is seen in the stoning of the Sabbath-breaker in Numbers 15:32-36, and the carrying away of the Jews so that the land could enjoy 70 years of Sabbath after 490 years of neglect of the Sabbath, 2 Chronicles 36:21. In no way, however, were the works done by Christ on the Sabbath a transgression of the Sabbath law, but were rather the exercise by Christ of His Divine rights.
STRUCTURE OF SECTION 2:
5:16-20(i) AUTHORITY FOR WORKING ON THE SABBATH
The Son is equal in attributes and ability, verses 17,18.
The Son is equal in action, verse 19.
The Son is equal in apprehension, verse 20(i).
5:20(ii)-23 GREATER WORKS
Raising of dead, verse 21.
Quickening, verse 21.
Judging, verse 22.
The Son has claim to equal acknowledgement, verse 23.
5:24,25 PERFORMANCE OF GREATER WORKS IN THIS AGE
Quickening, (not judging), of those dead in trespasses and sins, verse 24.
Raising of the dead of this present age, verse 25.
5:26,27 AUTHORITY TO DO GREATER WORKS
The Son has equal authority to give life, verse 26
The Son has equal authority to judge, verse 27.
5:28,29 PERFORMANCE OF GREATER WORKS IN THE AGE TO COME
Raising of Old Testament and tribulation saints, verse 28.
Raising of sinners for judgement, verse 29.
17-20(i) AUTHORITY FOR WORKING ON THE SABBATH
5:16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath day. If the man was in danger of the death penalty, so was the Lord Jesus, in their view. That He had the right to work on the sabbath day is established by the discourse which follows.
5:17,18 But Jesus answered them, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work”. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
The Son is equal in attributes and ability
The Jews persecuted the Lord for His miracle, for they believed He had broken the sabbath, or in other words, was loosing the binding force of the commandment. This statement is Christ’s answer to this persecution. Far from admitting a transgression of the Law, He asserts that what He had done was but a sample of the ongoing work which He and the Father performed constantly, even on the sabbath day. The tense of the word “worketh” is present indicative, meaning continuous action- even on the sabbath day. The original sabbath after the six days of creation was not the rest of exhaustion, but of complacency, as the Creator enjoyed the work of His hands. Despite this resting, however, creation was still maintained and preserved by Him, whether it was the sabbath day or not.
What the Lord states here is that this is His work, too. God also worked in other ways, as He intervened in the affairs of men, whether restraining, judging, blessing, forming and preserving the nation of Israel, entering into covenants, or preparing the way for the coming of Christ. The Son claims here to be involved in this work on an equal basis.
Christ’s statement was clearly understood by the Jews, even though they did not believe it, for they correctly deduced from the words “My Father” that He was claiming a unique relationship with God the Father. They immediately realised that He was saying God was His Father in a unique and special sense, for such is the force of the word “His”, meaning “His privately, exclusively”. The Jews felt it their bounden duty under the terms of the Law of Moses to kill such a blasphemer, for such they thought Him to be since they refused His claims. That He is in fact “equal with God”, the Lord Jesus goes on to explain.
5:19 “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise”.
The Son is equal in action
Note the double use of the word verily. This phrase, unique to John’s gospel, has a four-fold significance. First, it introduces doctrine that is different, a development on all that had gone before. Second, it assures us of the definiteness of the truth made known, that there is no doubt about it. Third, it prepares the way for something difficult, and beyond the mind of mere man to conceive. Fourth, it pre-empts denial, the “Nay, nay” of any who refuse to believe what is taught. Having thus assured His hearers of the truth of what He was about to say, the Lord Jesus first of all makes clear that as the Son of the Father, He cannot act “of Himself”, that is, independently. So when He made the man whole on the sabbath day, He was not acting in independence of God, much less at variance with Him and contrary to His Law. It is impossible for Divine Persons to act independently of one another, or else they would not be “One Lord”, Deuteronomy 6:4.
That this “cannot” is not specifically because He has come into manhood is shown by two things. First, it is as Son that He cannot do anything of Himself. When the word Son is on its own, it means Son of God, and not Son of man. The Lord speaks of Himself in the third person, thus emphasising the abstract character of what He is saying, and separated from other considerations such as that He has become man. Second, it is said of the Spirit that He does not speak “of Himself”, John 16:13 margin, but the Spirit obviously has not become man. Hence the emphasis in the phrase “of Himself”, is on the character of Divine persons as such.
The Son does nothing except what He sees the Father do. By seeing is meant spiritual, Divine insight, which involves knowledge of the reason for what is done, as well as the action itself. Only a Divine person has full insight into the purpose of God. Furthermore, “doeth” is in the present tense in each case, and therefore at any given moment the Father and the Son are both at work. The Son does not begin after the Father has started, nor when the Father has finished. The work of the Son is not additional to the work of the Father, but He acts together with the Father, and acts in the same way identically, this being the force of the word “likewise”- it is not mere imitation, nor is it a modification. This is seen, for example, in the way Scripture speaks of the creation and preservation of the world. Compare Romans 11:36 with John 1:3, and also Psalm 104:30, Nehemiah 9:6, with Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17.
Note it is “whatsoever” the Father doeth, for there is no limit to the work that the Son is able to do in harmony with His Father, for their powers are co-extensive.
5:20 (i) “For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth:”
The Son is equal in apprehension
The word for love here is phileo, which is love where there is a correspondence and likeness between those loving. The other major word for love in the New Testament is agape, which speaks of love because the object is valued. Both words are used of the love of the Father and the Son, so we should beware of thinking of one as being a lesser sort of love than the other. Such is the love between the persons of the Godhead that they withhold nothing from each other. The word “showeth” is the same as in John 14:8, “show us the Father”. Note the reply, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father”. Clearly the Father cannot be physically seen, (so neither the physical appearance of the Father nor of the Lord Jesus is in view), but He can be discerned spiritually as a result of knowing and understanding the person and ministry of the Lord Jesus. So here, the Father shows the Son what He is doing in the sense that He hides nothing of the purpose of His acting from Him. Because He is the Son, and therefore shares the nature of Deity, the Lord Jesus has infinite capacity to understand the Father’s purpose and actions. The work He performed on the impotent man was a very wonderful thing, therefore, for it was the reproduction of what the Father was showing the Son, and therefore was a perfect expression of Divine communications, and an evidence of the Father’s love for the Son, and His total confidence in Him.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF GREATER WORKS
5:20(ii) “And He will show Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel”.
To raise a man from his bed is a great work, but to raise a man from the dead is a greater. To cause him to be able to walk on earth is a great work, to enable him to walk the streets of heaven is greater. To warn of a more severe physical illness if sin is persisted in, is one thing, to execute eternal judgement upon men is a greater thing. Sadly, the Lord does not anticipate that they will all believe as a result of learning that He was able to do these greater works, since He knew the hardness of their hearts. They would merely marvel, and many of them would be despisers, and wonder, and perish, Acts l3:41.
The fact that the Son knows what these works are beforehand, (and it is clear from the next verse that He does), and knows, too, that the Father will show them to Him at the appropriate moment, is further testimony to the Deity of Christ.
RAISING THE DEAD AND QUICKENING
5:21 “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will”.
In verses 21 and 22 there is a two-fold justification for the claim to be able to do greater works, each prefaced by the word “for”. Of Nebuchadnezzar it was said, “Whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive”, Daniel5:19, but God declares “I kill, and I make alive”, Deuteronomy 32:39. The Egyptian magicians had to admit that to bring life out of the dust was a work of God, Exodus 8:16-19. See also 1 Samuel 2:6.
When a man dies, his spirit leaves his body, James 2:26, and returns to God, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and hence is in the control of God. One who can cause that spirit to return to the body must therefore have Divine authority. Of course prophets in the Old Testament and apostles in the New Testament raised the dead, but they did so only because it was the will of God to use them in this work. Here the Lord Jesus claims to quicken “whom He will”- it is His decision and action, but in harmony with the Father, of course.
The word quicken has altered in meaning; it means to make alive. Raising the dead has to do with the body as it is caused to stand up again, whereas making alive has more to do with the return of the spirit into the body. If the departure of the spirit means death, its return must mean life.
We should not deduce from this verse the idea that the Father raised and quickened in Old Testament times, and the Son does it in New Testament times. Rather, two statements are made, one about the Father and one about the Son, and both are true at all times.
5:22 “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgement unto the Son:”
This is the second example of greater works which the Son performs. His work of quickening is illustrated by the restoration of the impotent man; His work of judgement is hinted at by the words “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee”, verse 14. The Father is still the judge of all, Hebrews 12:23, and He still judges His children, 1 Peter 1:17, but He does it in and through the Son. The reason for this will be seen in verse 27. That the Son is entrusted with the entire work of Divine judgement in all its aspects shows that the Father is confident of His ability, and this in turn shows His Deity. Only one who is God can judge infallibly, as He must do if He is to have the Father’s confidence. Joseph was able to make predictions about life and judgement, but he was not able to bring them to pass, Genesis chapter 40.
5:23 “That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.”
The Son has claim to equal acknowledgement.
The ultimate purpose for which quickening and judging is done is here disclosed by the Lord. If He quickens as God does, and has all judgement entrusted to Him, He must be due Divine honours. All men shall have to acknowledge God eventually, Isaiah 45:23, and here they are said to honour the Son “even as” they honour the Father, in other words with the same kind of honour; not simply the honour of respect, but of the recognition of Deity. The Father regards the withholding of honour from the Son as a withholding of honour from Him, since there is unity between them. See also similar thoughts in John 15:23,24; 1 John 2:22,23; 2 John 9.
PERFORMANCE OF GREATER WORKS IN THIS AGE
QUICKENING AND NOT JUDGING
5:24 “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.”
The phrase “Verily, verily” marks a development in the teaching, which reveals how a person may be quickened or made alive. First, in this verse, as to spiritual life, then in verse 25, as to resurrection life. To hear His word displays a different sort of attitude to the “marvel” of verse 20, for it means to receive the truth of the doctrine He makes known. “Word” means theme, topic, or subject. The theme in this passage is the equality of the Son with the Father. It is vitally important that those engaged in evangelising the lost should make it abundantly clear who the Lord Jesus is, in order that they may then exhort sinners to believe on Him as one who is utterly dependable, being equal with God. The apostles “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ”, Acts 5:42. They taught who He was, then preached that men should believe. Their preaching was not sinner-centred, but Christ-centred, in accordance with Romans 1:1,3, “The gospel of God…concerning His Son”.
Sinners should also be warned of the consequences of refusing one who is thus equal, see John 8:24. The seriousness of the matter is heightened when we consider that to not hear Christ with the hearing of faith, is to disbelieve God, for their testimony is one. Thus by believing the Father when the Son speaks, a person assents to the truth of their equality. On the other hand, to not believe, is to deny their equality.
There are few references to everlasting life in the Old Testament, and they refer to life in the Messianic kingdom of the future, Psalm 133:3; Daniel 12:1,2,9,13. Here the Lord is announcing that everlasting life may be the present possession of those who believe His word. This fits them to be in the kingdom of God, irrespective of whether that kingdom has been manifested on the earth or not, see John 1:12,13; 3:3. This life enables a person to know, initially and progressively, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, John 17:3.
Those who know Christ as the Life-giver, as He exercises His Divine right to quicken, shall never know Him as the Judge, nor will they be tried for their sins. Those who remain dead in trespasses and sins, however, rejecting eternal life from Christ, are in grave danger of both the process and carrying out of judgement.
Note that “from” means out of, not away from; and “unto” means into, not towards. In other words the change from death to life is complete the moment faith is placed in Christ; it is not a gradual process away from death towards life.
RAISING OF THE DEAD OF THIS PRESENT AGE
5:25 “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”.
The repetition of “Verily verily” so soon after its previous use in verse 24 signals a fresh revelation. Having spoken of the present availability of eternal life, the Lord now enlarges on the future availability of life in resurrection conditions. The expression “the dead” is the usual one for those who are in the grave, and is not a description, as in “dead in trespasses and sins”. That He is able to raise the bodies of dead saints in the future is shown by His raising of Lazarus, for the hour “now is”. The power is vested in Himself, so if He is present, so is the power. Compare John 11:23-27, where Martha learns that far from needing to wait for the resurrection at the last day, He who is the “I am”, and therefore unaffected by time, can do the work immediately if He so chooses. Note that to receive eternal life we must hear His word, which involves faith, whereas here the emphasis is on the voice of the Lord Jesus calling to His own in the graves to summon them out. This is illustrated by the raising of Lazarus in John 11:43,44, for Jesus “cried with a loud voice…and he that was dead came forth”. All the dead that hear the voice of the Son of God when He comes for His own will be given resurrection life. Having recognised Him to be the Son whilst they were on earth, they respond to Him in that capacity again. Every believer of this church age who has died shall be raised from the dead when Christ comes into the air with a shout, I Thessalonians 4:16. If the Son of God was glorified by the raising of Lazarus alone, how He will be glorified when He raises all His own at His coming! This subject is further developed in I Corinthians 15:35-58, where the mystery is revealed as to how living saints will partake in the resurrection even though they have not died.
AUTHORITY TO DO GREATER WORKS
5:26 “For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;”
As Son He has equal authority to give life
The life needed to quicken those dead in trespasses and sins, and to quicken their mortal bodies at the resurrection, is sourced in God the Father. But the “as…so” of this verse signifies the same as it does in verse 21, namely just as, even as. So not only does the Son have life in Himself just as the Father does, as John 1:4 indicates, but in addition it is given to Him to have this life in Himself for others, see I John 5:11. He is the vessel full of the water of life, and men are invited to go to Him and drink, John 7:37; Revelation 22:17.
5:27 “And hath given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of man.”
As Son He has equal authority to execute judgement
In verse 22 the right to judge men is vested in Christ’s Deity, for one of the results of that judgement will be that He is recognised as equal with God. Here His right to judge is vested in His manhood, for He is Son of man. As a real man amongst men, Christ has given men the opportunity to react to Him, for He has been on earth to make Himself available, and the record of his life and teaching is available also, now that He is no longer on earth. When He was here, He lived a blameless life, and this condemned the lives of other men, and should have made them abhor themselves, and want to be like Him. As Son of man, Christ is relevant to all men, and has universal rights over them.
PERFORMANCE OF GREATER WORKS IN THE AGE TO COME
RAISING OF OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS AND TRIBULATION SAINTS
5:28,29(i) 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;
That one who possesses Deity shall judge men should not be a cause of marvelling, for God is the Judge of all the earth, Genesis 18:25, and the Judge of all, Hebrews 12:23. The hour mentioned here is not a period of sixty minutes, but a time marked by a certain character. The word was used by the Greeks for the seasons of the year. Since the theme of verses 27 to 29 is Christ’s authority to execute judgement, the reference is to the Day of the Lord, a period extending from the time when God’s wrath begins to be poured out upon the earth, until the Great White Throne judgement. Compare Isaiah 2:10-22 with Revelation 6:12-17 for the commencement of the Day, and for its end, see 2 Peter 3:10, where the passing away of the heavens takes place during the Day of the Lord, showing that it extends to the end of the millenial reign of Christ, Revelation 20:1-11.
Old Testament saints will be raised when Christ comes to the earth to reign, near the beginning of the Day, whilst at the end of His reign of 1000 years all the unsaved dead of every age will be raised Thus they all will be raised in the same “Day”, and in the same “hour”, or season of judgement. Those who believed during Old Testament times are described by Paul as “them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality”, who will receive “eternal life”, Romans 2:7. For Old Testament saints there will be the announcement of God’s verdict, through Christ, on their lives, so it is fitting this should be mentioned in the section that deals with judgement, for all judgement has been committed to Christ, see Revelation 11:15-18. It will not be the sort of judgement, however, which sinners will know when they are raised.
That Old Testament saints will be raised when Christ comes to earth to reign, (an event totally distinct from His coming for the church), is seen from a consideration of the following Scriptures- Job 14:13-15; Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:16-21; Daniel 12:1,2; Revelation 11:15-18. Ephesians chapter 3 makes clear the absolute distinction between things revealed by prophecy in Old Testament times, and the mysteries relative to this present church age. Martha expected her brother to be raised along with Old Testament saints when the Messiah came to reign, John 11:24, but she learns there is to be a resurrection before this, John 11:25,26.
RAISING OF SINNERS FOR JUDGEMENT
John5:29(ii) And they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
The unsaved dead will be reunited with their bodies and stand before the Great White Throne. For these, there will be nothing but damnation, their last opportunity for salvation having gone when they died, as Hebrews 9:27 makes clear. Note that the matter which divides the two companies in this verse is whether they were characterised by good or evil in their lives, for this is an infallible indicator as to whether they had faith, which, if genuine, is always followed by good works; see James 2:21-26, 1 John 3:7,10.
Thus when the righteous and the wicked have been raised, both rights conferred on the Son will have been fully exercised, namely the granting of life to those who believe, and the judgement of sinners. Before believers enter into an eternity of bliss, however, and the unrepentant are banished for ever to the Lake of Fire, a further thing happens. As the solemn procedures of the “judgement of the great day” come to an end, a name is uttered- the name JESUS. At the mention of this name, every knee will immediately bow, whether of beings heavenly, earthly or infernal. At last Christ will be honoured universally as being equal with the Father.