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RESURRECTION NOW!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, March 27, 2005
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-26).


We have often heard sermons on this passage of Scripture at funerals. That's not wrong - if the person who died was truly a Christian. I'm afraid that isn't always the case, though. And if it isn't, then we are giving a false hope to lost mourners, if we apply this verse to an unsaved person who has died.

But it seems to me that this verse should not be relegated to funeral services alone. It seems to me that we should sometimes preach evangelistically from this text. There is a great deal of evangelistic material here which is often bypassed today in our "modern" preaching. Why? Let me give you three simple reasons why these verses have been neglected in evangelistic preaching today.

I. First, because the text has been partly mistranslated
in the modern versions.

I am no Ruckmanite. I am always willing to appeal to the Greek or Hebrew text from which the King James Bible was translated. It is to the Greek text underlying the KJV that I appeal when I say that the modern translations take away the evangelistic thrust of this text.

The modern translations change the words, "though he were dead," and, by doing so, take away from us the soul-winning message of the verse. How do they do that? They do it by making a part of verse 25 refer to the future rather than the present state of the sinner.

The NASV translates it, "even if he dies" (implying the future). The NIV translates it, "even though he dies" (implying a future death). The RSV also makes it future, "though he die." The New King James Bible puts it, "though he may die" (again, future). The only widely used Bible translation that brings out the evangelistic thrust of the original Greek is the King James, which says, "though he were dead." That refers clearly to the state of lost sinners right now.

Even the center column note "e" in The Scofield Study Bible gives the future sense, the eschatological sense, of these words, rather than the soteriological sense, the evangelistic sense, presented in the KJV. The Scofield note attempts to correct the KJV, by putting in an alternative modern translation, "even though he die, shall live again."

Now, I find it very interesting and illuminating that the major translations before 1881 all render the translation the same as the KJV. The Tyndale Bible (A.D. 1525) translates it, "though he were dead." The Bishops' Bible (A.D. 1568) translates it, "though he were dead." The Geneva Bible (A.D. 1587) translates it "though he were dead."

It wasn't until 1881 that the English Revised Version translated it, for the first time, "though he die" - making these words apply to the future, rather than the present. Since 1881, all the major translations (including the one in the Scofield center note) changed the meaning of those words from referring to death in the present, to death in the future.

Why did this happen, beginning in 1881? It wasn't because the Westcott and Hort Greek text differed from the Received text. There is no difference in these texts in this verse. The English alone is different after 1881. I believe that it happened because of a shift in the translators' theology. You see, the old translators believed that man is dead in sin until he is regenerated. But the modern translators had a new view of this. The sinner wasn't "dead" in his present state. He was only sick. He still had within him, more or less, the human ability to make some sort of "decision" that would help to change him and save him. This error is known theologically as "synergism." It holds that man is only sick or misguided - not dead, not totally depraved, as the older Protestants and Baptists had always held. This change in theology was spearheaded and popularized by the evangelist Charles G. Finney. Finney did not believe that a lost person was "dead" in sin. Very rapidly, during the time of 1830 to 1880, the old view of man being "dead in sins" and incapable of adding anything to his salvation was replaced by what we now call "decisionism," the idea that man can cooperate with God, and "decide" to be a Christian whenever he wishes. Spurgeon was confronted with the new theology in the famous "Downgrade Controversy," toward the end of the nineteenth century. And it was in this milieu of theological change that the English Revised Version, for the first time, changed the wording of our text.

But the new idea of synergistic "decisionism" is wrong, and untrue to the Scriptures. The Bible clearly teaches that unconverted people are spiritually dead.

"Being dead in your sins" (Colossians 2:13).

"This my son was dead" (Luke 15:24).

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

"Dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5).

This state of spiritual death is called theologically, "total depravity." I for one think it is a good term, which describes the lost person as

"Dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:5).

That Scriptural doctrine was in the minds of all the old translators when they literally translated the Greek into English as

"Though he were dead" (The Tyndale Bible, 1525).

"Though he were dead" (The Bishops' Bible, 1568).

"Though he were dead" (The Geneva Bible, 1587).

"Though he were dead" (The King James Bible, 1611).

The old translators rendered it literally because they believed that a lost person was dead spiritually. Therefore they translated it evangelistically, as

"he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

What they meant was this: When you believe in Jesus, even though you were dead, yet you will live - because you are born again!

The correctness of the old translations is backed up by the next verse, verse 26.

"And whosoever liveth [present tense] and believeth [present tense] in me shall never die" (John 11:26).

"Though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die"

because he has been born again - he is now alive from the dead! That will preach - because it is evangelistic Bible truth! That's the spiritual resurrection of dead sinners when they are born again!

"This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:24).

That's the spiritual resurrection of a dead sinner when he is born again!

"And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1).

That's the spiritual resurrection of a dead sinner when he is born again!

"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)"
     (Ephesians 2:5).

That's, hallelujah!, what Easter is all about! That's the spiritual resurrection of a dead soul through the new birth! Shout it far and wide! Preach it from every pulpit! Shout it to this dying generation!

"Ye must be born again" (John 3:7).

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

That's the gospel message Finney and his "decisionist" followers changed. And that's the message we must reclaim - and preach with all vigour, authority and power to this lost and dying generation!

"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Born again from the dead! That's our Baptist and Protestant message. Finney and his cohorts changed it. They even messed with our Bibles to hide it. But we've got to reclaim it - and preach it everywhere, with new vigour and zeal and holy fire!

"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Hosanna! Hallelujah! Jesus has risen from the dead! Spread the message far and wide! Christ is the resurrection and the life!

"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Christ the Lord is risen again, Alleluia!
Christ has broken death's strong chain, Alleluia!
     ("Christ the Lord is Risen Today" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788;
          this stanza by Michael Weisse, 1480-1534).

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
     That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
     Was blind but now I see.
         ("Amazing Grace" by John Newton, 1725-1807).

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

It seems to me that we should sometimes preach this text evangelistically. There is a great deal of evangelistic material here which is often bypassed today in our preaching. Why? First, because the text has been partly mistranslated in the modern versions.

II. Second, because we have not grasped the evangelistic
thought that is expressed here.

"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Please turn to John 5:25. Let us stand and read this verse aloud. Jesus said,

"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).

You may be seated.

"The hour is coming." Oh, yes, it was coming! Three thousand would hear His voice and live on the day of Pentecost about two years later (Acts 2:41). Shortly after that, five thousand more would hear His voice and live (Acts 4:4),

"Many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand" (Acts 4:4).

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them… [and] when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:5, 12).

Yes! Yes!

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

That hour was certainly coming, which was predicted by Christ in John 5:25. The dead would hear His voice and live, and be born again! But notice in John 5:25 that Jesus said, "and now is." Right then, as He was speaking, those who were spiritually dead were already hearing His voice and being saved! It was not just something that would happen in the future when they were physically resurrected. It was happening already to those who were being saved! "The hour is coming [in the book of Acts], and now is [right then, while Jesus was on earth], when the dead [spiritually] shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25).

Let us preach this evangelistically! "They that hear shall live"!

"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Come to Jesus! Believe on Him! Though you are dead spiritually, He will quicken you. Though you are dead spiritually, He will save you from death, and you "shall live." You will be born again the moment you believe on Christ! When you believe on Him, you have "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). He who believes on Jesus

"hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).

"He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Out of the depths to the glory above,
I have been lifted in wonderful love,
From death's cold fetter my spirit is free -
For Jesus has lifted me!
Jesus has lifted me!
Jesus has lifted me!
Out of death's night into glorious light,
Yes, Jesus has lifted me.
     ("Jesus Has Lifted Me" by Avis B. Christiansen, 1895-1985).

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

It seems to me that we should sometimes preach this verse evangelistically. There is a great deal of evangelistic material here which is often passed over today. Why? Because that verse has been partly mistranslated in the modern versions, and because we have not grasped the evangelistic thought that it expresses.

III. Third, because we have not grasped the law,
as well as the gospel, that the text reveals.

Yes, the verse tells us that Christ is the resurrection and the life. Yes, the verse tells us that we will have life if we believe in Him. But it also says, "though he were dead." That's law. That's the Bible telling you that you are a sinner.

You must feel that you are dead in sin, or the promises in the text will be meaningless to you. A person who doesn't think he is dead in sin will not value the life that Christ offers. You may feel sorry that Jesus suffered and died on the Cross - but it will only be a moment of sorrow. It will only be pity at best. It will not have any connection to your life.

Also, you may be cheered up for a moment when you hear that Jesus rose from the dead. After all, Easter Sunday is a happy time.

I remember going to church as a little boy, one time, with my mother, to a Church of Christ, across the street from where we lived. We only went there once. I wanted to go on Easter, and she took me. It was all very happy. We were glad to hear that Jesus rose from the dead after dying such a horrible death. But His death and resurrection meant little more to me then than a moment of sadness, and a moment of joy. Christ did not grip my heart. I was not saved then.

It was only later that the great truths of Christ's death and resurrection gripped me. It was only after I felt the depths of my sin and need for Him that I fully came to Him and trusted Him, and was finally saved. Only then did the great truths in our text become real to me.

"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

Out of the depths to the glory above,
I have been lifted in wonderful love,
From death's cold fetter my spirit is free -
For Jesus has lifted me!
Jesus has lifted me!
Jesus has lifted me!
Out of death's night into glorious light,
Yes, Jesus has lifted me.
     ("Jesus Has Lifted Me" by Avis B. Christiansen, 1895-1985).

At Biola College, when Dr. Charles Woodbridge preached the gospel in chapel, on September 28, 1961, I finally looked to Christ, came to Him, and was saved. I was dead to God before that morning. But, thank God, "he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live"! And Jesus said,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

Will you come to Jesus? Will you rest on Him alone? Will you believe on Him now? May God grant you the faith to trust in Christ alone.

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved"
     (Acts 16:31).

Amen. Let us stand and sing hymn number 7. Sing it good and strong!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o'er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun. Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed,
Let shouts of holy joy outburst. Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The three sad days have quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead:
All glory to our risen Head. Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of Hell;
The bars from heaven's portals fell:
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell. Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Lord, by Thy stripes which wounded Thee,
From death's dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live and sing to Thee. Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
     ("The Strife Is O'er," translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 20:24-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Jesus Has Lifted Me" (by Avis B. Christiansen, 1895-1985)/
"The Strife Is O'er" (translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

THE OUTLINE OF

RESURRECTION NOW!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" (John 11:25-26).

I.   These verses have been neglected in evangelistic preaching
in our time because the text has been partly mistranslated
in the modern versions, Colossians 2:13; Luke 15:24;
Ephesians 2:1, 5; John 3:7, 3.

II.  These verses have been neglected in evangelistic preaching
in our time because we have not grasped the evangelistic
thought that is expressed here, John 5:25; Acts 2:41; 4:4;
Acts 8:5, 12; John 5:24.

III. These verses have been neglected in evangelistic preaching
in our time because we have not grasped the law,
as well as the gospel, that the text reveals, Matthew 11:28;
Acts 16:31.