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THEY THAT HEAR SHALL LIVE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Evening, November 14, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"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" (John 5:25).


This verse does not refer to the future resurrection. That is spoken of in verses 28 and 29. No, our text refers to another resurrection, one that was already happening as Jesus spoke - the resurrection of sinners through God's gift of the new birth. With that in mind, let us examine the text very carefully:

"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" (John 5:25).

I. First, this refers to something already happening when Christ spoke.

We usually fix our minds by habit on the phrase, "the hour is coming." We have a tendency to gloss over the next few words, "and now is." In doing this we unconsciously push the whole verse into the future, making it a prophecy of the yet future resurrection. But this cannot be what Christ was speaking of - for He said "and now is." Those three words show us that He was speaking about something that was already occurring as He spoke.

There are three ways Christ gave life in the New Testament. First, Christ raised some people from physical death while He was on earth. He raised Lazarus from physical death. He raised a young girl and a widow's son from physical death. Second, there is the universal resurrection, when Christ will raise all mankind. This is spoken of in verses 28 and 29. "The resurrection of life" refers to the rapture. "The resurrection of damnation" refers to the resurrection of the lost before the Last Judgment. Christ will raise all those who are physically dead in the future. That is the second way Christ raises the dead, physically, in the future. But our text refers to another resurrection, and that is my subject this evening.

"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" (John 5:25).

"The hour is coming, and now is." Right then Christ was making dead sinners alive. He was giving spiritual life to those who were dead.

Look at verse 24. Notice that the life-giving is in the present tense.

"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 unto life" (John 5:24).

The moment that a person hears the word of Christ and trusts Him, he has everlasting life, and "is passed from death unto life." So it is clear in verse 24 that Christ gives spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead.

"The hour is coming, and now is." The time when Christ would give spiritual life to those who were spiritually dead would soon come in great waves of revival at Pentecost, and throughout the Book of Acts. But He was already doing that in the lives of people who trusted Him - "and now is." He was already giving life to those who heard His voice.

II. Second, this refers to the spiritually dead hearing the voice of Christ.

The text says,

"…the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

Dr. John R. Rice said that this "refers to all the period of time since Jesus spoke, when sinners hear the voice of Christ, trust Him and have everlasting life" (John R. Rice, D.D., Litt.D., Commentary on the Gospel According to John, Sword of the Lord, 1976, p. 122). John 5:25 refers to the way people get saved during this dispensation.

But notice that it says, "the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." The Apostle Paul spoke of this spiritual death when he said,

"And you, being dead in your sins" (Colossians 2:13).

He also said,

"We were dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5).

"Dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

What does it mean to be "dead in sins"? The great Baptist commentator Dr. John Gill said, concerning our text,

By the dead are meant such as are dead in trespasses and sins; who are separated from God, alienated from the life of God, and in whom the image of God is defaced: who are dead in all the powers and faculties of their souls, to that which is spiritually good; and are without spiritual breath, sense, feeling, and motion (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, vol. I, page 303).

Dr. John MacArthur, though wrong on the eternal Blood, is correct when he points out that the lost "are not dead because of sinful acts that have been committed but because of their sinful nature, cf. Matthew 12:35; 15:18, 19" (The MacArthur Study Bible, note on Ephesians 2:1). The Apostle Paul said that those who are dead in sin are

"by nature the children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3).

This is the dreadful condition of every lost person. You are dead in sin. You are a child of wrath by your very nature.

I once heard someone say, "They believe that a lost person is dead! Really dead - like Lazarus." He was speaking of five-point Calvinists. He knew that I do not hold strictly to the second, third and fourth points of Calvinism, so he looked at me and said, "They believe you are really dead - like Lazarus." I said nothing, because it would have been inappropriate. But I must say that I completely agree with the first point, that lost people are thoroughly dead in sin, and are by nature children of wrath. That is what the Bible plainly teaches.

Preaching from our text, Spurgeon pointed out that spiritually dead people can walk through a flower garden or climb a mountain and look at the glorious wonders of nature, and not think of God. Spiritually dead people can come to church - for years - and hear gospel preaching without the sermons having any effect on them. Spurgeon said,

How is it? Why because the man is dead…The man is dead, sirs - dead. Further, the natural man is dead to eternal things. How quick-eared he is to the things of time - how swift to perceive their value, and in what haste to grasp them if he can! But ah! the eternal realities which God has revealed in Scripture, the man neither cares to hear about them, nor, hearing them, do they excite any desire within his spirit…We have had to tell you that there is a dreadful hell into which the wicked, dying impenitent, must be cast; how is it that men are not stirred by a theme so truthful and so dreadful? Because they are dead. They would be awake enough if they were afraid that their house should be on fire, and they themselves might be burned with the natural element; yet the spiritual danger, far more to be apprehended, arouses them not - because they are dead to it. At other times it has been our delight to speak of heaven, to picture the pearly-gate city with all its azure brightness, with its bejewelled foundations, and to talk of its inhabitants all blessed for ever, who walk in the light of the glorious King, and sure it were enough to…make the cold marble glow with warmth. But no, the thing moved not men. Some little joy of earth would whet their appetite far more quickly. It is because to the spiritual heaven revealed in Scripture men are altogether dead, and care not for it. Oh! sirs, 'tis sad, 'tis sad, 'tis very sad, that to the fleeting shadows we should be wide awake, but to the substantial verities we should be sound asleep; that after the poor gew-gaws and child's bubbles of this mortal state we should be all agog, but as to the solid joys and lasting pleasures of an eternal world we showed no desire! This, again, is a mark of spiritual death…He is dead; yea, to Christ himself the man is dead, for when he is preached - Christ, the Father's son, the virgin's child, the condescending Saviour, the ascending Conqueror, the exalted King with glory crowned - why the people of God delight to hear of him; to them the savour of Jesus' name is like ointment poured forth; but exhibit the Saviour to the natural man, he perceiveth nothing. How should he? He is dead, dead in trespasses and sins…the best natural man… whatever kind of light there may be in him, the light that deals with God, with the spirit-world, the world to come, is not there. He is unconscious of these, has no fellowship with them. He is dead, and a prey to corruption (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Soul's Awakening," The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1979 reprint, vol. LX, pages 28-29).

Dead in trespasses and sins. By nature the children of wrath.

"There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:11-12).

But, thank God, Jesus said,

"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"
    (John 5:25).

Which brings us to our last point.

III. Third, this refers to awakening and the new birth.

"…the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

When a dead soul comes to life it is not through the voice of the preacher. The preacher is only an instrument. The real voice that makes dead souls come to life is the voice of Jesus Christ.

"…the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

It is through the Holy Spirit that the voice of Christ speaks to a dead soul. I could preach to dead sinners for a hundred years, and not one of them would be saved by hearing my voice. Why do I preach then? Because I am an instrument of Christ. But He must take the words and drive them into your dead soul. The voice of Jesus Christ is the only voice that can call you to life from the dead!

A person can hear a thousand sermons and still be dead. But then an hour comes and another sermon is preached, and all of a sudden the words of the gospel, heard so many times before, take on new life. Then, in that strange and glorious hour of awakening,

"the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

I had heard many sermons, and had even preached the gospel as a licensed Southern Baptist preacher. But the words of the gospel I preached were only memorized words until Christ spoke to my heart one morning, on September 28, 1961. I will never forget that day when Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge preached. But it was not his voice that awakened me and turned me to the Saviour. Oh, no! That morning the "voice of the Son of God" broke through, my dead soul came to Him, and I lived in Christ.

It was the same with Spurgeon. His father was a minister who preached salvation. So was his grandfather, whom he lived with for a time. But their preaching, though I am sure it was good and sound, never brought with it "the voice of the Son of God" to his darkened, dead soul. It was not until he went to a Primitive Methodist Chapel and heard a poor man who could hardly preach give the gospel that "the voice of the Son of God" finally broke through and touched his heart. Then, in that moment, he came to Christ and lived. Then, in that moment, he believed on the Saviour and received forgiveness and everlasting life. Then in that hour he passed from death unto life, and was born again. "The voice of the Son of God" reached his heart. He heard Christ speak to him and he lived. But Spurgeon said,

You must not imagine that a man is passive in the matter… Always recollect that it is you who must repent and believe. The Holy [Spirit] will not repent for you…And the Holy [Spirit] will not believe for you…Christ gives the voice, but the man hears…the voice that saves is the voice of Christ, but the point of personal salvation is reached when the man actually hears and receives the truth (C. H. Spurgeon, ibid., pages 32-33).

"Well," someone says, "there is nothing for me to do. All I can do is wait for the voice of Christ to call me to life." No, that is not what Spurgeon said. He said,

You must not imagine that a man is passive in the matter… Always recollect that it is you who must repent and believe (ibid.).

"They that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

Always remember that you must hear Christ when He calls to you. When He speaks to your darkened, dead heart, arise and come to Him! You will not be saved unless you hear Him, and come to Him.

You can listen to gospel preaching for a long time, but if you never hear the voice of Christ, and come to Him, the preaching will do you no good. In fact it may harden you even more. How about you? Are you awakened? Are you seeking Christ? Have you come to Him? Are you converted? Or are you just listening to my words, listening, listening, listening, without hearing "the voice of the Son of God"? Are you

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (II Timothy 3:7)?

Be finished with more listening and learning. Hear His voice, when He speaks deeply in your soul. You must hear "the voice of the Son of God" and come to Him. Be saved from your deadness by Him. Be born again by Him. Be washed clean from your sins by His Blood. Come to Christ. Hear His voice and come to Him. There is no salvation unless you come to Him!

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night, Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light, Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness, into Thy health, Out of my want and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus, I come to Thee.
    ("Jesus, I Come" by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 5:19-29.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Jesus, I Come" (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).

THE OUTLINE OF

THEY THAT HEAR SHALL LIVE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"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" (John 5:25).

I.   This refers to something already happening when Christ spoke,
John 5:24.

II.  This refers to the spiritually dead hearing the voice of Christ,
Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:5, 1, 3; Romans 3:11-12.

III. This refers to awakening and the new birth, II Timothy 3:7.

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