Everyone is glad to have Gods help when they need it. No one minds a helper-God who can be called on in time of need. When people discuss whether or not God exists, theyre usually talking about a particular kind of God, rather than the possibility that there is a spiritual being somewhere. What people dont like is a moral God, particularly one who will hold us accountable for our actions. Thats the kind of God atheists dont believe in. If you ask an atheist why they dont believe, very shortly theyll launch into a list of accusations against God. How could He allow such evil and suffering? And sooner or later theyll get to their main point: They cant possibly believe in a God who would send people to hell.
Now I dont believe in a God who sends people to hell either. Thats not the God I read about in the Bible. I read about a loving Father who is doing everything possible to prevent people from going there. But I also believe in a God who is just and who will hold people accountable for their actions in this life. I believe that those who refuse to surrender to Him and refuse to call on Him for mercy will be given the justice they have chosen. I believe that, in large measure, because thats what Jesus taught. And I believe Him.
Father and Son
v18: Johns choice of words is indisputable. He says Jesus made Himself equal (iso) to God. He is informing us that Jesus meant to present Himself as someone who shared the same divine nature that distinguishes the Father, that He was someone who was uniquely begotten by God (Jn 1:18). And when these leaders heard this claim behind the statements Jesus was making, Jesus did not correct them, but He did immediately correct their false assumption that He was not submitted to the Father.
v19: He described His relationship with the Father in terms that imply eternal truths rather than temporal ones. What they were observing in the way He related to the Father was something that had always been true and always would be true. He accepted their charge against Him that He claimed to be Gods divine Son, but He totally rejected their charge that He was proudly usurping His Fathers role as the leader. He only did what the Father told Him to do. And in no way did He think of Himself as independent of God. The truth was He was completely dependent on and submitted to the Father. He would first perceive what the Father was doing in the spiritual realm and then perform it in the physical realm.
v20: Yet there was nothing sterile or mechanical in the way this happened. Theirs was a relationship of love: The Father loves (phileo) the Son and shows Him all the things He is doing (literal). Then He added this statement, and greater works [than] these He will show Him, that you may marvel. The raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-48) as well as His own resurrection could certainly be included in the category of greater works, but as Jesus continues to speak we discover that He was pointing to the greater works that He would do at the end of this age: It will be His voice that calls the dead out of their graves at the resurrection (vs21, 25, 28); He will be the one who sits on the throne of judgment and separates the righteous from the unrighteous (vs22, 27); and it will be Jesus before whom every knee will bow and whose name every tongue will confess to be Lord (v23) (Php 2:9-11).
vs21-23: Though Gods Son truly became a man by means of the incarnation, the divine origin of His spirit and therefore His right to exercise an authority which belongs only to God can be seen in the following statements: (v21) At the Fathers direction Jesus will be the one who calls the dead to life (1Th 4:16). In fact He was already exercising that authority in the many healings He was performing. He was replacing death with life. (v22) On the Fathers behalf Jesus will conduct the judgment of the human race (Isa 11:1-4; Mt 7:21-23; 16:27; 25:31-46; 2Th 1:7-10) and (v23) He will be honored by all, just as they will honor the Father. To dishonor Him is to dishonor the Father who sent Him.
v24: Jesus explained to these leaders that these powers He would exercise at the end of the age were already at work. Each time someone listened to Him and believed, He was raising a dead person to life. In effect when a person heard the truth about Him and chose to believe, His judgment concerning them was already decided. That person had already passed from death to life.
v27: Jesus wanted to give these leaders a scriptural basis for such amazing claims, so He reminded them of the heavenly Son of Man pictured in the Book of Daniel (Jn 1:51). Daniel was given a vision in which he saw the Father, whom he called the Ancient of Days (Da 7:9), seated on His throne in heaven. Then One like a Son of Man came up to Him (Da 7:13). The term itself simply means one who looks like a human being, but in this situation for a human being, no matter how exceptional, to walk into Gods throne room and approach God Himself is unthinkable. There must be something very unique about this person. His presence in heaven followed by the complete authority God gives Him (Da 7:14) seems to go beyond the boundaries of what is possible for a human.
Before this Son of Man sets up His kingdom on earth, Daniel said there will be a terrible persecution against the saints of the Highest One (Da 7:19-26). But God will only tolerate that persecution for a limited period of time (Da 7:25), after which the Son of Mans people will rule over all the kingdoms of the earth (Da 7:27). There will also be a resurrection of the dead (Da 12:1): Many of those who will sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these (everyone whose name is written in the book, Da 12:1) to everlasting life, but others to disgrace and everlasting contempt (Da 12:2).
With this prophetic background in mind we can only imagine the shock on the faces of these religious leaders when Jesus told them that He was the Son of Man to whom the Ancient of Days would give authority to execute judgment. And He would make the same claim during His trial before Caiaphas (Mt 26:63-66).
vs28-29: Daniel said that both the righteous and the unrighteous would be resurrected. Those whose names were in the book would be given everlasting life, but others would receive everlasting disgrace (shame) and contempt (they become repulsive to others). This is the moment to which Jesus was referring when He said, Do not marvel at this, that an hour is coming in which all those who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and they will come forth, the ones having done good things into a resurrection of life, the ones having done worthless things into a resurrection of judgment (literal).
Words of warning
We are listening in on a high level conversation between people who really know the Bible. These religious leaders have accused Jesus of being arrogant and unsubmitted toward God, of literally thinking He was Gods equal. The answer Jesus gave them reveals a great deal about the relationship between the Father and the Son. Basically He told them, I am equal to the Father in nature. My spirit is divine and eternal, but I am not arrogant toward Him. I am just the opposite. I am fully submitted to His leadership and always do exactly what He tells Me to do. But because the Father loves Me He has chosen to exalt Me. He will carry out His future plans for creation through Me, for He has given Me to be the Son of Man. You and I might miss the significance of what He told those leaders, but they didnt. They knew exactly what He meant. They too had meticulously studied the Book of Daniel and must have been absolutely astounded by His claim to be that person. When viewed from the perspective of Daniels prophecy everything He told them makes total sense. This passage in John is not a loose collection of Jesus sayings. His statements are consistent and logical.
To those who understood, to those who understand, His words warn us of a day when all humanity will stand before Him as their judge. It will be His voice that will call us out of our graves. It will be His throne before which we will stand to have our lives evaluated. He will separate the righteous from the unrighteous, and to Him we will bow in honor just as we will honor the Father Himself.
Jesus words, if taken seriously, were an ominous warning to these religious leaders. They needed to think twice about what they were planning. They were gathering charges against Him, so they could convict Him of blasphemy and then execute Him. They needed to think through the long-term implications of that. At the moment they were judging Him, but a day would come when He would judge them.
What about us?
What does this mean for those of us who have already surrendered to Jesus as Lord and placed our faith in His cross? Here are two ways in which I respond personally.
Urgency: The picture Jesus gives us of the judgment leaves me with a sense of urgency. The fact that all humans will someday stand before Him stirs my heart with concern for those who dont know Him yet. I cant be complacent. I need to do what I can to help others find Him. I cant reach everyone, but I can reach some and because I believe what Jesus says, it has and will change decisions I make about how I use my life. Gods love wont let me do nothing.
Accountable: And second, I realize that even though I have already passed from death to life, my obedience and service will be evaluated by my Shepherd. Paul says that, and I believe Him too. Listen:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2Co 5:10).
He seems to be describing this process of evaluating believers when he writes:
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each mans work will become evident; for the day will show it because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each mans work. If any mans work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any mans work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1Co 3:12-15).
I think that means it would be possible for me to go to heaven with almost nothing of eternal value left behind. Thats not comforting to me. It makes me sad. Its not so much that I want a reward in some tangible sense. I just want to know I pleased Him, and that I influenced as many people toward heaven as He wanted me to. As a believer Ive been given grace, but in some way Im aware that Im still accountable. Thats what Jesus and Paul say. And I believe them. Who do you believe?
1) Someone once said, I cant bail out the ocean, but because Im a Christian I have to take out my bucket full. What does that mean?
2) How does the truth that all humans will stand before Jesus change the way you live?