The Dead Will Hear and Live

Posted on January 20, 2011


I am so thankful and humbled that God would continue to reveal His sovereign grace to me. Since surrendering my life to the Lord Jesus Christ in March 2009, He has slowly unraveled the mysteries of His divine providence to me in ways that I could handle, in small bits at a time. As I began reading through the New Testament, realizing God is indeed sovereign over man and if it were not for His sovereign grace no one could be saved, I marveled at the vast distinction between the traditions of men and the clear teaching of the Word of God. As fallen creatures, there is nothing good in us that gives us even the ability to respond to His outward calling for all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel. It is impossible.

Spiritually dead. Blind. Deaf. Unrighteous. Depraved. Wicked. Rebellious. Lawbreakers. Hell-bound. That describes every baby born into this world. We are corrupt creatures with corrupt desires, corrupt emotions, and corrupt wills. If one accepts this truth about man’s condition, rather than supposing man is not naturally sinful and has the ability to choose God apart from His divine work (which is heresy mind you), then one must accept that apart from God’s sovereign and effectual calling on a person, no one could possibly be saved. Why? Because we are dead, blind, deaf, unrighteous, depraved, wicked, rebellious lawbreakers hell-bound on the fast track.

Speaking of being dead, two days ago Al Mohler tweeted the following Scripture from John 5:25:

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.

I may or may not have recognized the meaning of this verse before, but Tuesday I was astounded by its richness in speaking of the effectual calling of God. I read it several times over, went to the chapter to engage the context, and rejoiced in yet another treasure being revealed to me. There are three “simple” things going on here so let’s take a look at them.

The Dead.

Who are the dead Jesus is speaking of here? Going back to John 5:24, we see Christ is speaking of our spiritual condition:

Most assuredly, I say to you, 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.

Those who believe the words of Christ and God the Father who sent Him will receive eternal life, passing from death into life. Understanding this, every born again believer was once dead in their sin,

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, – Ephesians 2:1

and unable to discern spiritual things:

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.- 2 Corinthians 2:14

These statements are absolute. The natural man cannot receive the things of God and he cannot know them. Christ, therefore, is speaking of spiritually dead people who have absolutely no capacity to understand and accept through saving faith the truth of the Gospel. It is impossible for a dead man to live. Unless!

The Voice of the Son of God.

Unless the dead hear the voice of the Son of God! The Father has given Christ all authority, as we see in John 17:1-2,

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

Jesus has the power to give eternal life to everyone given to Him by the Father, “for as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).

The Dead Will Hear and Live.

Every person who hears the voice of the Son of God will live! Every person. Jesus said the dead will hear, and those who hear will live. What are the implications of this, then? Is it that Christ calls all dead men, and all dead men will hear and be made alive? Or is it that Christ only calls those given to Him by the Father (John 17:2), and those He calls forth will indeed live? I must go with the latter. Furthermore, none who hear the voice of the Son of God are able to resist His voice. Although John 5:25 can support itself in this regard, we can also look to John 6:37, 44 (emphasis added):

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

The emphases here are critical. Tying in to John 5:24-25, we find that no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him; and all who are drawn by the Father will indeed come, which is to say every dead man or woman drawn by the Father will hear the voice of Christ and will live and will pass from death to life. Isn’t that marvelous!?

Borrowing from a quote I used from John Samson in the post Can Man Choose God?, the story of Lazarus is a primary example illustrating John 5:25:

Lazarus, being a lifeless corpse in the tomb, did not cooperate with Christ with regard to his own resurrection. Jesus simply cried out “Lazarus come forth!” and this call was powerful and sufficient in and of itself to bring dead Lazarus back to life. Christ did not interview the dead man Lazarus and ask if he would like to be resurrected, and once he got the “all clear” went ahead with his plan, now having obtained Lazarus’ permission and assent. Nor did Lazarus, once brought back to life, immediately take Jesus to court in attempt to sue him for violating his free will – his libertarian rights as a dead man to stay dead! No, for the rest of his earthly life, Lazarus was deeply grateful for the unspeakable mercy he had received from the Master.

This is a beautiful picture of what God does in our regeneration from spiritual death. Man, once receiving this grace of regeneration, then infallibly responds in faith to the effectual call of God.

Lazarus was dead, just as we are spiritually dead. While we may seek the god of religion and spirituality, we have no capacity to seek the God of the Bible without He drawing us to Himself. Just as it is impossible for a dead man to resurrect himself to life, so it is it impossible for a spiritually dead man to resurrect himself to spiritual life.

For purposes unknown to us, God has chosen to redeem a people for Himself for His glory alone to the praise of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 1:3-14). Our flesh hates this doctrine, but that does not make it any less true. If you are one who struggles or even detests the absolute sovereignty of God in our salvation, please go before God and plead with Him to reveal these magnificent truths to you. I cannot tell you how blessed I am knowing that God called me forth from death to life, not according to anything I had done (including any such “foreseen faith” I might would have), but according to His divine providence out of the counsel of His own will. Knowing this, I can rest in His grace all the more, being confident of the work He started in me will indeed be finished by Him.

Soli Deo Gloria!

For further reading, please see:

Circumcision of the Heart and the Irresistible Call

God’s Light Must Shine in Us. First.

According to the Foreknowledge of God

Chosen from the Beginning

Edwards and Spurgeon on Divine Sovereignty and Election