“Those Who Hear Will Live”

(John 5:25-29 – Saints Triumphant – November 14, 2021)

John 5:25-29 – 25“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. 26For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Dear Saints of God, who are made holy through the blood and righteousness of His Son:

On this Saints Triumphant Sunday, we celebrate the victory that all believers have over sin and death, through faith in Jesus our Savior. As we look forward to His second coming and going to be with Him forever in the victory feast of heaven, our hearts cling in hope to His words in our text: “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” (vs. 25).

Let us consider Jesus’ words: “Those Who Hear Will Live.” For by the power of His Word, Jesus promises to give us life: 1) Spiritually, 2) Physically, and 3) Eternally.

1) “Those who hear will live” – spiritually

First, we have Jesus’ promise that “Those who hear will live” – spiritually.

When He says, “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” (vs. 25), we are reminded of the Last Day, when all believers will hear Jesus’ voice and be raised to eternal life. But He also says that the hour “now is” when the dead hear His voice and live. This is because even now, as Jesus speaks to human hearts through His Gospel, He rouses sinners out of spiritual death to spiritual life.

Consider the spiritual death out of which Jesus has called us by the power of His Word. Death always involves a separation. In the case of spiritual death, it is a separation of the soul from God.

As fallen sinners, we all were spiritually dead, until God in His mercy saved us. Ephesians 2:1-3 says: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

This was the natural course in which we once walked, and would still walk if it were not for the grace of God. It may have felt like we were living life to the full, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind; but our sinful souls were cut off from the life of God. We were in Satan’s possession. We were spiritually dead children of wrath, headed for judgment and doom on the Last Day.

But God in His Word tells how He made us spiritually alive, through faith in His Son. Ephesians 2:4-5 goes on to say: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”

In order to give us this new life, it required sacrifice of life on the part of God – no less than the life of His own Son. Colossians 1:21-23 explains the sacrifice by which Christ has saved us: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight – if indeed you continue in the faith.”

On the cross, when God’s Son sacrificed His body of flesh unto death for our sins, He experienced that awful separation of the soul from God, as He forsaken by His Father for us. Now, our soul will no longer have to be separated from God on account of our sins. God was reconciling us to Himself through the death of His Son, so that we could be made spiritually alive again through faith in Jesus.

Now Jesus says this spiritual life comes to each of us through hearing His voice, for He says: “Those who hear will live.” This is not just a future event; this is the life we now have in Christ. Just before our text, Jesus gave this promise: “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” (John 5:24).

As we hear Jesus’ voice in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works saving faith in our heart. So by the grace of God, we have already passed from death to life. As we continue to hear Jesus speak to us in Scripture, His words “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63) for our souls. As He speaks saving faith and life into our souls, He presents us as holy ones – as saints – before His Father. So through faith in Christ, we already have been given triumph over spiritual death.

2)  “Those who hear will live” – physically

Next, we have Jesus’ promise that “Those who hear will live” – physically.

Once Jesus stood next to the lifeless body of a little girl who had just died. He held her hand in His and spoke to her: “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). Immediately, she stood up and walked around. The dead child had heard Jesus’ voice, and physical death was turned to physical life. Another time, Jesus stood in front of a tomb where a dead corpse had been laid a few days before. He called in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43); and at Jesus’ Word, the man who had been dead came out of the tomb alive.

Consider the physical death from which Jesus will save us, by the power of His Word. Like spiritual death, physical death also involves a separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body, so that no life is left in the body. In those two accounts, as Jesus raised the little girl and Lazarus, we see His powerful Word reversing the separation of the soul from the body. By His voice, Jesus reunited their souls and bodies to give them physical life once again.

This miracle of Jesus’ power is not limited to just a few people way back then. Jesus says: “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” (vs. 28-29). On the Last Day, Jesus’ powerful voice will rouse all the dead, believers and unbelievers alike. At His command, all will come forth bodily from their graves for judgment. No matter how decayed or scattered as dust and ashes across the earth, their bodies will be rejoined with their souls. That is the power of Jesus’ Word!

For believers who have died with faith in Jesus, that reunion of the soul with the body on the Last day will be a triumphant occasion! At the time of physical death, their soul had left their body and gone to be with the Lord. As Ecclesiastes 12:7 says: “the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.” Jesus reassured the repentant criminal on the cross next to Him of this truth. Though his body would die and be laid in the grave, yet in regard to his soul Jesus promised: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We have all stood beside the lifeless form of a loved one, being laid to rest in the grave. We have all felt that sorrow over the separation death brings. But now in Christ, we have the promise of victory over death. On the Last Day there will be triumph for all believers in Christ. His powerful Word will reunite our eternally living souls with our bodies in physical life again. We will be given glorified bodies that will never again see death or decay. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 says: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

This is true because, as the Savior who suffered in His body and died for our sins, Jesus rose again from the grave. Therefore He has become the firstfruits of those who fall asleep through faith in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20). So He declares with truth and power: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, He shall live” (John 11:25).

As believers we have “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Even in the midst of bodily suffering, Job could look ahead with faith, hope, and joy to that triumphant day of the resurrection; as Job said: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). You and I share the same hope and joy of the bodily resurrection in our Redeemer’s power. Through faith in Christ, we too will triumph over physical death.

3) “Those Who Hear Will Live” – Eternally

And finally, we have Jesus’ promise that “Those who hear will live” – eternally.

Consider the eternal death from which Jesus has saved us, by the power of His Word. Once again, eternal death is a separation. As spiritual death is a separation of a soul from God, and physical death is a separation of the soul from the body, eternal death is a separation of both soul and body from God in hell.

Jesus makes it clear that the Last Day will not be a day of triumph for unbelievers. For He says: “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth… and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (vs. 28-29). For those who stand before God apart from faith and life in Christ, the reunion of body and soul on the Last Day will be anything but joyful. For then they will experience separation from God, not only in soul but in body also, in the suffering of hell.

But for believers, the Last Day will be a day of triumph. For Jesus says: “all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life” (vs. 29).

This is not to say that those who will live with body and soul in heaven were any better in this life than those who will dwell in hell. Scripture teaches that eternal life is not something we earn by how well we have behaved. There is only one way salvation comes to sinners – as an undeserved gift, through faith in Jesus. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Therefore the good which faith clings to is not our own, but it is the good of Jesus Himself. And as God sees us covered by the perfect life of His Son, all He sees is good in us. In Baptism, Jesus has cleansed us by the washing of water with His Word, to present us holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:26-27). So as God sees us cleansed of all sin by the blood of His Son and covered in His holiness, what does He see? He sees His saints, His holy ones!

Therefore the Last Day will be a day of triumph for us. On that day, we will hear the voice of Jesus saying: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).

All thanks and praise to our Savior, who by the power of His Word has united us with Himself in His resurrection to life – spiritual, physical, and eternal life. Now every day is a day of hope and triumph for us, as we live in the power of His Word. That Word promises and delivers to us eternal life and joys without end!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be. Amen.