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When the priests in Jerusalem accused Jesus of “making Himself equal with God” in John 5:18, Jesus began His explanation in verse 19 with “Amen, Amen.” There is no indication that the priests had adjured Jesus to testify, but nonetheless, He treated their question as if He were under oath in court. The relevant law is found in Lev. 5:1,
1 Now if a person sins, after he hears a public adjuration to testify, when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt.
In other words, a public adjuration compels men to testify what they know about a case. They cannot plead a Fifth Amendment right to be silent. For this reason, when Jesus was formally tried before the Sanhedrin, He “kept silent” until He was adjured (Matt. 26:63). Once adjured to testify “whether You are the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus told them the whole truth about His identity. Then Jesus gave them the full truth that He would be the One “sitting at the right hand of Power (Psalm 110:1) and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64; Dan. 7:13).
Why did He break His silence? Because Lev. 5:1 said that to refuse to testify when adjured was a sin. Jesus could not violate the law of public adjuration.
Today in our courts of law (USA), the witnesses take an oath, saying, “I do.” God’s law uses the term “Amen, Amen.” The Hebrew word Amen means “truly,” and when used twice is an emphatic oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For this reason, the remainder of the fifth chapter of John should be taken as Jesus’ testimony in court about His relationship with His heavenly Father. This relates directly to the first few verses of John’s gospel, where he speaks of the Logos being “with the God” and “a God”.
As we will see, Jesus’ testimony in John 5:19-47 is lengthy, and yet He says nothing about the Trinity, nor does He claim equal authority with His Father. As always, He remains subject to His Father and claims only to be a perfect Son in the image of His Father. In verse 19 He claimed to do whatever He saw His Father doing. In verse 20 He stated that “the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing.”
In other words, Jesus conducted His life according to the revelation of His Father. Because the Father loves the Son, He shows the Son what He is doing, so that the Son has the ability to manifest the glory of the Father in the earth. Jesus then alluded to “greater works” that He would be doing in the days ahead. John 5:21 says,
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes [thelo, “wills”].
This is the prime example of the Son doing the will (thelo) of the Father. Thelo is the verb form of the noun, thelema. The Father raises the dead, so the Son does so as well. First of all, when one is baptized, he or she symbolically dies to the old life and the old self. He is then raised to newness of life (Rom. 6:4, 5). John 5:22, 23 continues,
22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
Here we see that the Father has delegated “all judgment to the Son.” Hence, the Father is doing the judgment, not personally, but through the agency of His Son. This is how we are to interpret Dan. 7:11-14,
10 I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat… 13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom….
First we see “thrones” (plural) being set up in the divine court. In Rev. 20:4, John writes, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them.” He then tells us that these thrones are for the overcomers who will reign with Christ (Rev. 20:6).
Yet when Daniel “kept looking in the night visions,” he saw “One like a Son of Man” coming to the Ancient of Days. The Ancient of Days is the Father, and the One coming with the clouds of heaven is “One like a Son of Man.” When Jesus was adjured by the high priest at His trial, this is how Jesus identified Himself (Matt. 26:64).
The purpose of presenting the “Son of Man” to the “Ancient of Days” is to delegate all authority for judgment to the Son, as Jesus said in John 5:22. To dishonor the Son, then, is to dishonor the Father, the Ancient of Days. It is mandatory that all men respect the authority of the Son and treat Him as the authorized agent of the Father. To do so, Jesus said in John 5:24, will result in “eternal life.”
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life [Life in the Age], and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Later in the chapter, Jesus will distinguish between the two resurrections that are a thousand years apart (Rev. 20:5). But in verse 24 above, Jesus focuses upon “he who hears My word and believes Him.” These are given Life in the Age. In other words, they will be raised in the “first resurrection” (as John calls it), so that they receive “life” (immortality) at the beginning of that Age and may enjoy it throughout the Age.
These are the overcomers. Having been raised in the first resurrection, they will not need to be raised at the end of that Age when the general resurrection takes place. Neither will they “come into judgment.” That is, they will not be judged at the Great White Throne with the rest of humanity. Instead, they will be given “thrones” and the authority as agents of the Son of Man to participate and assist in the judgment of the world. We might think of the overcomers as a jury in the divine court. They qualify because they too have the mind of Christ and are in agreement with Him and His laws.
John 5:25 says,
25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.
Christ is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. The difference has to do with His relationship. He is the Son of God by virtue of being begotten by God; He is the Son of Man through His mother, whose genealogy traces back to Adam.
The Son of God raises the dead; the Son of Man exercises the dominion given to Adam in Gen. 1:26.
Adam himself was the original “son of God” (Luke 3:38), created in the image of God, but when he sinned, he could no longer reflect a clear image of God. Hence, he lost the full dominion mandate, and from that point on, his dominion mandate was diminished, because he himself had been sold as a slave to the earth.
By the laws of redemption, the earth became Adam’s redeemer, becoming responsible for the debt that Adam had incurred through his sin. The judgment, or “curse” of the law passed to the earth itself and, by extension, to all who were under its dominion. So God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you,” or on account of your sin (Gen. 3:17).
Adam did not lose his authority entirely but was himself placed under a new master—the earth. Though he desired to exercise dominion righteously, he found himself under the authority of his new redeemer, who ruled by “the law of sin” (Rom. 7:23, 25). This made it virtually impossible for Adam to exercise dominion properly, for as the Apostle Paul also discovered, that which he wanted to do, he could not do (Rom. 7:19).
Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, was begotten by the Spirit, walked in righteousness, and was thus qualified to regain all that had been lost. He Himself needed no redeemer, and so the earth had no authority over Him. Instead, He became the Redeemer of the earth, thus reversing the order of authority that had been imposed upon Adam.
Just as the earth had ruled by the law of sin, Christ rules by the law of God (Rom. 7:22, 25). In the end, by redeeming the earth, He has the power to save all who had been under its dominion. Furthermore, He will succeed in His mission, for although many resist His love during the present age, in the end He has the right to rule all things, and so all things will be put under His feet (1 Cor. 15:27, 28).
The title, “Son of Man” first appears in Psalm 8:4-8,
4 What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? 5 Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God [elohim], and dost crown him with glory and majesty! 6 Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under His feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the sea.
God delegated authority (not sovereignty) to man, and for this reason, Christ had to come as a man in order to receive that authority. Though God Himself exercises sovereignty, He does not undermine the authority that He has delegated from the beginning. Man’s authority is as real as God’s sovereignty, because all authority originated with God (Rom. 13:1).
Men have usually misunderstood the relationship between sovereignty and authority, giving rise to the disputes between God’s sovereignty and “free will.” Authority is not free will; authority is subject to sovereignty, whereas “free will” declares itself to be independent and to have the right to overrule God’s sovereignty—as if man has been given sovereignty over himself.
Fortunately, God did not give man sovereignty, and for this reason alone, God has the power to overrule man’s will and to save all of mankind.
The process of saving the world, however, is complex, because not everyone is being saved at the same time. In the present age, God is calling a few to bless the many. Then at the great judgment, the Son of God will raise the dead and summon them to the Great White Throne. This will be done by divine decree, and men will not be given a choice.
There every knee will bow and every tongue will profess Him as Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). They will be judged according to their works (Rev. 20:12, 13), but they will not be lost or discarded. The age of judgment will end with the Creation Jubilee, wherein all sin-debt is cancelled, and all return to their lost inheritance (Lev. 25:10, 41).
Getting back to John 5:25, the apostle tells us that the Son of God raises the dead, whereas later, in verse 27, we read that the Son of Man judges the dead. Christ is both, but He exercises authority differently according to status.
Raising the dead is not just a future event, for Jesus said, “the hour is coming and now is.” Raising the dead, then, is both “coming” and “now is.” Some teachers focus upon the future resurrection, others on the present, but the fact is that resurrection applies in both ways. We must understand both in order to get a complete picture.
The present resurrection applies to those who are being called and saved during the present age in each generation. We see it in the rite of baptism, where believers profess Christ and express their faith in His blood that was shed at the cross. Such believers are crucified with Christ, so that they may also be raised to walk in resurrection life (Rom. 6:4). So John 5:24 says that these believers will not come into judgment, for they have “passed out of death into life.”
Those who do not hear in the present age will certainly hear His voice in the future when they are summoned to the Great White Throne for judgment. All of the dead will indeed be raised, but some are raised sooner than others.
John 5:26, 27 continues,
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
John stated earlier in John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” When life speaks, it creates the light of truth and reality. Jesus Christ is the Logos, the word spoken at the beginning of creation, which created that first light. Jesus said that the Father has life in Himself, and the Son therefore also has life in Himself. “He gave” presents a scenario where the life of the Son is derived from the life of the Father. It is replicated.
In all of this, the two remain distinct, but yet the Son, as a derivative of the Father, remains subject to the Father. The Father is “the God,” and the Son is “a God” (John 1:1). But in Christ’s capacity as the Son of Man, He has been given “authority to execute judgment.” All things have been put under His feet. The highest authority has been delegated to Him, according to the plan from the beginning to give man dominion.
It is for this very reason that evil spirits seek to inhabit human bodies. As spirits, they have no real authority in the earth except as they may be able to usurp the authority of an earthly body. Yet when we know who we are and are bold enough in that knowledge to exercise our God-given authority, we are empowered to cast out those usurping spirits and to restore the rule of the Son of Man over creation.
Jesus then spoke of the future resurrection in John 5:28, 29,
28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 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.
There are two future resurrections. Rev. 20:4-6 speaks of the “first resurrection,” which is limited to a few who are called to “reign with Him for a thousand years.” These we call the overcomers to distinguish them from the rest of the believers. But in the passage above, Jesus passes over the first resurrection and speaks of the general resurrection at the Great White Throne judgment.
There we find that both believers and unbelievers will be raised. In other words, not all believers will be raised in the first resurrection. There are many believers who are not overcomers who will be part of “the rest of the dead” who are not raised until the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ (Rev. 20:5).
At the second resurrection, the remaining believers will be given “a resurrection of life,” in that they will be given immortality at that time. The unbelievers will be given “a resurrection of judgment,” for Rev. 20:14 and 15 says that they will undergo “the lake of fire.” Fire is the biblical metaphor for the judgment of the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2, KJV).
In Dan. 7:10 it is pictured as “a river of fire” flowing out from the fiery throne (Dan. 7:9). A throne is an ancient symbol of law by which a monarch rules; hence, the fire represents His judgments or verdicts through His exercise of judicial authority. The fire was never meant to be understood as a literal fire, for the law prescribes restitution for most sins. It is only if a man has sinned by burning someone else that he himself might be burned (Exodus 21:23-25). Even then, such burning is not unending, as is so often taught in Christian circles.
The law of God sets forth the definitions of true justice that proceeds out of the divine nature. God is love, and all true judgment meets that standard. Loves’ purpose is to use judgment to correct and restore sinners. The New Covenant is based on the promises of God to save all mankind, and so His judgments are subordinate to those promises and work toward that end.
Each individual being judged will be issued a debt note based upon his “evil deeds,” as Jesus said. In the end, no unbeliever will have the means to pay his or her debt, and so the law says that they must be “sold” (Exodus 22:3) to a redeemer. The redeemers will be those who had already been raised earlier in the first resurrection, for as perfected saints in the body of Christ, they will qualify as redeemers.
As redeemers, they will have authority to rule over those who lacked the resources to pay for their sins. They will also be responsible to teach them righteousness, for Isaiah 26:9 says, “for when the earth experiences Your judgments, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” The redeemers will teach them by personal example, for as perfected saints, they will manifest the love of God to all who are under their authority. This is the verdict of the “river of fire” in Dan. 7:10. This “river” then forms a “lake” during the age of judgment, as men bow their knees to Christ and as they learn righteousness.
The law of Jubilee limits all judgment through the mercy and grace of God. In this case, I believe that this law, applied on a creation level, comes after 49,000 years of Adamic history. We are completing the first 6,000 years of this history. The next millennium will be the great Sabbath on a creation level. The Great White Throne will summon the dead at the start of the 8th millennium. The Age of Judgment will last another “six weeks” (i.e., 42,000 years). By that time, all sinners will have learned the ways of righteousness and will be released by the grace of God. They will then return to their lost inheritance (immortal life), “that God may be all in all” 1 Cor. 15:28).