Unbelievers “marvel” that the dead will someday rise (5:28 cf. Acts 26:8). The eardrums of the dead may be dead, and even dissolved back to dust, but they will “hear His voice.” Now if the words of God can raise the dead, imagine what they could do if you apply them to the details of your life?
If salvation is “not of works” (Eph. 2:8,9), why does the Lord say “they that have done good” will rise in “the resur-rection of life” (John 5:29)? It is because while we are saved by faith without works, the Jews were saved by faith plus works. Under the Law, the members of the Lord’s family are they that “do the will of God” (Mark 3:35). They had to do things like getting circumcised, keeping the Sabbath and the feasts, and bringing sacrifices. When the kingdom program was added to the Law, they still had to keep the Father’s commandments to be saved (Mt.19:16-19) but they also had to do, as the Lord said, “these sayings of Mine” (Mt.7:24). That included selling all you had (Mt.19:20-23), and forgiving others (Mark 11:25,26 notice the “do”). See the dispensational difference? (Tit. 3:5).
The Lord predicted that Israel would experience two resurrections (John 5:29), something He learned from studying Daniel 12:2. Notice they both mention the resurrection of life first, because it will come first chronologically. But in Revelation 20:1-6, we learn that there will be 1,000 years between them. We know the resurrection of Old Testament saints will come after the Tribulation, for it will include those martyred in the Trib. The resurrection of all the unsaved of all time will come after the millennium (20:11-15).
These resurrections are not to determine who goes to heaven or hell; that must be decided in this life. That’s why the resurrection of life is also called “the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14), for they are just or justified before they died, something true of us as well.
Next, when the Lord said, “as I hear, I judge,” He wasn’t talking about hearing what sinners have to say before condemning them on Judgment Day. Isaiah predicted He would not judge after the hearing of the ears (Isa. 11:1-3), but with righteousness (v.4,5). One of the books that will be open at the Great White Throne judgment will be the Bible, containing the Law, God’s perfect standard of righteousness. All will be found guilty at that judgment.
Judges in our courts allow defendants to speak because they don’t know the truth, but God will know the truth from the other books that will be opened, the books of men’s deeds. And He will judge “according to truth” (Rom.2: 1,2), and every mouth will be stopped (Ro. 3:19).
So why does the Lord say He will judge by what He hears (John 5:30)? He meant that He will judge according to what He heard His Father say (cf. 5:19). Before earthly judges hear defendants, they go to law school and hear the law. Before the Lord hears sinners, He’ll hear the Law, and with the books of their deeds opened, He won’t need to hear the lies of sinners.
The Lord knows men will claim His judgment is not fair, so He adds, “and My judgment is just” (5:30). His judgment was just, He says, “because I seek not Mine own will.” It was His Father’s will that He live a perfect life, and He did, so why would it be unjust for Him to judge men? The child of smoking parents might claim his parents are “unjust” if they punish him for smoking, but sinners can’t claim the Lord is unjust when He punishes them for sinning. It was also the Father’s will that the Lord die for our sins, and He replied, “Not my will, but Thine be done.” If you went to court and the judge said, “I served your time, but because you didn’t believe me when I told you I served your time, now you have to serve your time”—would that be unjust? The Lord did more than time for us, He died for us, so it is not unjust for Him to condemn men to eternal death.
This is what is meant when Paul says that the Lord will judge men, as he says, “by my gospel” (Rom. 2:16). Paul’s gospel was “Christ died for our sins” (ICor.15:1-4), and men of all ages will be judged by the fact that provision was made for their sins, and they could have been saved.