That Are in the Graves Shall
By Bill Grimes
While I was searching for passages in the New Testament dealing with the resurrection of the saints, I was surprised to find so many in John's gospel (John 5:17-30, 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48; 14:3, 28; 15:18; 16:1; and 16:19). But then again, why should I have been surprised? John wrote The Revelation.
The teaching under consideration today is Jesus' answer to the Jews who wanted to stone Him for being a Sabbath-breaker. In John chapter 5, verses 1-16, we read that Jesus had healed a man at the pool of Bethesda. He told the man to pick up his mat and walk, which he did. The Jews then rebuked him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He told them that his healer had told him to do so, but that he did not know who he was. Jesus later met the man in the temple and told him not to sin any more, lest something worse happen to him. The man went and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. While they looked at Him with murder in their eyes, Jesus gave them this answer:
17 My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
At that, the murder in the eyes of the Jews must have blazed even hotter, because Jesus called God His Father, making Himself equal with God.
18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He had not only broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:
23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
Notice that Jesus specifically mentioned two works that He performs: the raising and quickening of the dead, and judgment, both of which are given to the Son to perform, so that all may honor Him as they honor the Father (verses 21-23). Next, He proceeded to discuss these two works in the order in which He mentioned them. The first is a resurrection of life (verses 24-26). The second is a resurrection of judgment (verses 27-30).
The work of raising the dead and quickening them is a present and on-going work. It is also a future work. The present, on-going work is described in verses 24-25 and the future work is described in verses 28-29.
The Present and Ongoing
24 Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.
25 Verily, verily I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
That the raising of the dead and the quickening is a present activity is evidenced by the phrase "and now is" in verse 25. That it is a future activity is evidenced by the phrase "the hour is coming" in the same verse.
Before people hear and believe, they are in a state of condemnation and death (verses 24 and 25). The Greek word for death in verse 24 is thanatos (Strongs #2288) This word denotes a death of the body in which the soul and body are separated, here with the implied idea of misery in Hell. The Greek word translated "dead" in verse 25, however, is nekros (3498). Christ is here speaking of those who are spiritually dead. Nekros is used in Scripture by our Lord to refer to both to physical death and spiritual death. Consider the following cases.
22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow Me; let the dead (3498) bury their dead (3498).
Ephesians 2:1, 5-6
1 And you hath He quickened, who were dead (3498) in trespasses and sins.
5 Even when we were dead (3498) in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved)
6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
So we see in these two passages that nekros (3498) refers both to those who are physically dead and to those who are still physically alive but spiritually dead. It must be noted too that in the verses quoted above from the book of Ephesians, the verbs are in the past tense. This is a reflection of John 5:24-25, where the resurrection was referred to as a present and on-going
work of our Lord.
What do we know of these who hear and live? We know from these verses that they are dead spiritually (verse 25). They are in a state of death and condemnation (verse 24). If you have ever been to a wake at a funeral home and viewed a body, you know that you can tickle it, yell at it, cuss at it, and talk sweetly to it, but there will be no response. So how do the spiritually dead hear?
The spiritually dead hear Jesus' voice because they belong to Him (John 8:47). They hear His voice because God enables them (John 6:65). God acts on believers in such a way because they are His already.
The Future Physical Resurrection
Consider the heritage of those who belong to God, whom He enables to hear His voice, and thus to believe in Him:
John 6:39-40, 44, 54
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day.
44 No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw Him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
54 Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
As you can see from these passages, the promise is clear that those who belong to Jesus, those who have seen and heard Him, those who have believed in Him and in the one who sent Him, will be raised up by Him on the last day. This promise is solid. It will happen! And this promise is in regard to a bodily resurrection, as we shall see in our discussion of verses 28-30 of John. First, however, we must look at verses 26 - 27.
26 For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;
27 And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.
Verses 26-27 essentially repeat verses 21-22, and serve as a transition between the spiritual resurrection discussed in verses 24-25 and the bodily resurrection discussed in verses 28-29. Verse 26 speaks of the life which those who have heard and believed now enjoy, which will lead to a bodily resurrection to life (verse 29). Verse 27 speaks of the execution of judgment which those who have not heard and have rejected Christ's word will one day face. It is the bodily resurrection of damnation spoken of in verse 29. We also read of it in the following passages:
48 He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him at the last day.
18 He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear the sound of His voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
This resurrection is a different one than that spoken of in verses 24-25. Note the difference in the time statements. Verse 25 reads "…the hour is coming, and now is…". But verse 28 reads simply "…for the hour is coming…". This resurrection is yet to come, at an unspecified time in the future. The resurrection in verse 25, however, was going on at that time and would continue in the future.
Also notice who is resurrected. In verses 24-25 it is the dead who hear and believe that are resurrected. I have demonstrated that these are spiritually dead people who belong to God; that He enables them to hear, and thus to believe. In verse 28, the Scripture reads, "…all that are in the graves shall hear His voice…". (italics mine)
Charles R. Swindoll writes:
The normal sense of this phrase is that all corpses in their graves will hear Jesus' voice and will come out. Just to be sure that we're not reading anything into this, let's examine a few other passages. Let's look at some verses from the Old Testament first, because Jesus was a Jew speaking to Jews who would understand the things He was saying in light of the Old Testament. In each of these, it is obvious that the word grave is used to refer to a physical object in which corpses are placed, rather than to the place where the spirits of the dead dwell.
When the normal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense.
14 Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.
The scene in this verse is death and decay in the grave.
5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom Thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from Thy hand.
11 Shall Thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or Thy faithfulness in destruction?
The slain lie in the grave, cut off from God's hand. No praise comes from the grave.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
Our eventual destination will be the grave. Our bodies will remain there until the last day, as we shall soon see.
As so we can see from these Old Testament verses that graves were places in which the physically dead were lain. Jesus used terminology familiar to His listeners to tell them that one day the corpses would rise from the grave.
The Greek word for "graves" in verse 28 is mneimois (3419), which is a plural form of the noun Mneimon . This word is as specific in its meaning as the Greek word for virgin, parthenos. Mneimon is used 42 times in the New Testament. It is translated 29 times as sepulcher, 8 times as grave, and 5 times as tomb, all in the literal sense of the word. To quote my wife Ruth, this word means "a hole in the ground where you put a dead body." That is the only way this word is ever used in the New Testament.
There is not a single place in the New Testament where mneimon refers to the place where the spirits of the dead dwell. The Greek word for the place where the spirits of the dead dwell is Hades. It is not used here. Consider the following two verses, which are the only other places in the New Testament where the exact Greek phrase en tois mneimois found in verse 28 is used:
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
In each of these, en tois mneimois refers to literal, physical tombs.
And so we conclude beyond a shadow of a doubt that in John 5:28, Jesus is saying that all of the corpses in their graves will hear His voice and come forth, just as Lazarus heard Him and came out of his grave in John 11. He is foretelling a bodily resurrection, according to the sense in which one would normally take this verse.
Another difference between the spiritual resurrection described in verses 24 -25 and the physical one in verse 28 is who is being resurrected. The resurrection described in verses 24-25 applies only to "he that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me". This is how "the dead shall hear… and …they that hear shall live."
This is a believers' resurrection.
In verse 28, however, we read "ALL that are in the graves" will hear his voice and come forth. This must be a physical resurrection. It cannot refer to the spiritual resurrection, because it includes both believers and nonbelievers. It has been said regarding some scripture passages that "all" means all without distinction, not all without exception. This is a case, however, where "all" definitely means all without exception. The plain sense of this verse is that every corpse will rise and face judgment.
There is no evidence of a bodily resurrection of the saints to immortality occurring at any time during church history, except possibly the one described in Matthew 27:52-53. This occurred in AD 33 just after Jesus' resurrection:
52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
53 And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
This did not involve all of the saints, however. All of the other resurrections of saints recorded in scripture were temporary ones, in which the resurrected person died again. Regarding the universal resurrection, consider the following passage as well:
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
The graves and the sea will give up all the dead which are in them for judgment.To those fortunate enough to belong to God, fortunate enough to have been enabled by Him to hear and believe Jesus' message, God will say the following words:
34 Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
To those whom He leaves in a state of condemnation and death, however, He will say this:
41 Then shall He say unto them on His left hand, depart from Me, ye cursed, into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Yes, when the bodily resurrection takes place, we will either enter the joy of our Lord or spend eternity in the lake of fire, alive and feeling every minute of it. Are your eternal reservations made in smoking or nonsmoking?
The only spiritual resurrection that the Bible records anything about is that which happens when a person is born again. Jesus described it as both a present and future resurrection in John 5:24-25. This has been happening for 2000 years and is still happening today.
The bodily resurrection to immortality is yet to come. In John 5: 28 we read "all that are in the graves shall hear the sound of His voice, and shall come forth." The Greek word mnemiois, translated "graves," here, is only used in the New Testament to refer a place in which corpses are lain. This word never refers to the place where the spirits of the dead dwell. Because of this, Jesus can only mean that the literal, physical corpses of all who lie in the graves will rise and come forth from them. He cannot be referring to a spiritual resurrection, because this resurrection involves "all" persons, and not believers only.
1999 Bill Grimes. All rights reserved. The contents of this article may be reproduced for free distribution provided no changes are made to the contents and the URL to this website is provided. Quotations must be referenced by the URL to this website. No other use shall be permitted without written permission from the author.