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By John W. White
John 5:24 “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 unto life.” The purpose of this tract is to show that this verse is not dealing with the spirit salvation of Acts 16:30, 31, but with those who are saved and have been given ears to hear and eyes to see the word of the kingdom.
We need to understand that spirit salvation is not dependent upon our faithfulness to hear or to believe. Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned,...” Colossians 2:13 “And you, being dead [ne>krov, 3498* spiritually] in your sins... hath he quickened ... having forgiven you all trespasses;” The word ne>krov is used in two ways as shown in Matthew 8:22 “But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead [ne>krov - spiritually] bury their dead [ne>krov - physically].” The question we should ask is “If we are spiritually dead, how can we be given spiritual life?” The Philippian Jailer asked the same question in Acts 16:30-31 “... what must I do to be saved? 31. And they said, Believe [aorist tense, an event not an on going process] on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” We receive that life as an event when we are born into the family of God and that life can never be lost.
WORD, DEATH, AND LIFE: There are three nouns that are emphasized in this verse with the definite article the before them in the Greek text. The nouns are: word [lo>gov, 3056*], death [qa>natov, 2288*], and life [zwh>n, 2222*]. The word, singular in number, is a particular word; the death, singular in number, is a particular death; and the life, singular in number, is a particular life.
EVERLASTING: The word everlasting is the adjective aijw>niov and the root word aijw>n which is a noun meaning age. The translators have translated this word in so many different ways that it has created great confusion as to what the word really means. This also has caused misinterpretation of many passages of scripture. They have translated these two Greek words: ever, everlasting, world, evermore, eternal, course, … just to name a few. It is not easy to translate the noun age into an adjective that describes a person, place, or thing. Some translations of the Bible have used: agelasting, age-abiding, and age-during. The thought of eternity carries the idea of never ending. The word aijw>n does not carry this meaning. We have an example of this in Matthew 24:3 "…the disciples came unto him … saying, Tell us, … what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [age, singular, aijw>n]?" The concept of eternity is expressed in the Greek but not as one word. Eternity is expressed in Galatians 1:5 "To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." The phrase “ever and ever” is the way that eternity is expressed in the Greek. The text is as follows: eijs tou<v aijw~nav tw~n aijwJnwn, and translated “Unto the ages from the ages.” Notice that the word age is in the plural. This is consistent throughout the New Testament.
HATH: The verb hath [e[cw, 2192*] is in the present tense and is in agreement with the present tense of the participles heareth and believeth. The primary meaning of this word is to have, or to hold. It also carries the meaning of to have in high esteem or regard as in Matthew 14:5 "And when he would have put him [John the Baptist] to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted [e[cw, esteemed or regarded] him as a prophet." The following passages also support this meaning: Mark 11:32, Acts 20:24, Philemon 1:17. As long as one continues to hear and believe he will hold in high esteem agelasting life.
HAVE COME: The verb have come [e]rcomai, 2064*] is in the present tense and is in agreement with present tense of the participles heareth and believeth. As long as one is faithful he can be assured that he will not come into condemnation. The noun condemnation comes from the word kri>siv which could be translated to judge or judgment.
John 5:24 “…He that heareth [ajkou>w, 191*] my word, and believeth [pisteu>w, 4100*]...” The words heareth and believeth are both present active nominative participles. The present tense indicates that the action of subject He, the one hearing and believing, is continuous and thus implies faithfulness. Spirit salvation does not depend upon our faithfulness, but on whether or not we have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross. Acts 16:30,31 This verse is dealing with those who are faithful in hearing and believing and what their portion will be because they have been faithful in hearing and believing.
John 5:24 “…He that heareth my word, ...” Word has the definite article the before it. The word is in the accusative case and singular in number. "The accusative signifies that the object referred to is considered as the point toward which something is proceeding: that it is the end of the action or motion described…" (p. 91***) In this case it is the implied action of the participle that is pointing toward the word. The definite article before word indicates it is a particular word. If the word was plural in number then this would probably indicate all of the words of Christ.
The word does not seemed to be defined in the context. There are only five passages in the New Testament where the word, singular in number, and the present active singular participle, heareth occurs in the same verse. Those passages are Matthew 13:19, 20, 22, 23 and John 5:24. This narrows the search for the definition of the word, because it is defined in Matthew 13:19 “When any one heareth [ajkou>ontov, 191,* present active singular participle] the word [to<n lo>gon, 3588 3056,* accusative singular] of the kingdom [th~v basilei>av, 3588 0932*]…” The word is defined in this verse as the word of the kingdom. Because of the present active participle heareth and the accusative singular of the phrase the word are common in both passages I am persuaded that the word in John 5:24 is the word of the kingdom. Because the word of the kingdom is associated with the parable of the sower, the word is doctrine that pertains to the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Because of this association we should look at the parable of the sower in more detail.
The parable of the sower stimulates interest in the word of the kingdom. The parable of the sower is told in Matthew 13:3-8 and ended with Matthew 13:9 "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." The word hath is a present active participle, "one having." The phrase to hear is a present active infinitive. The word hear is a present active imperative verb. The word Who implies that not all were included. What Jesus said in essence is that some of you have been given ears that can continually hear. Since you have been given these ears I command you to faithfully hear the word of the kingdom. If anyone has not been given ears to hear, the commandment to hear does not apply to him.
The parable of the sower was given to stimulate questions about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven and not to make it plain. Jesus taught in parables to stimulate questions that only he could answer. He answered those questions in private to keep the meaning of His parables confidential. Because the meaning of parables were given in private clearly indicates that the word of the kingdom is not the simple plan of spirit salvation.
Matthew 13:10 "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?" Jesus now is able to amplify what he meant in Matthew 13:9 with Matthew 13:11 "He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, I have given you ears to hear this parable and understand it. Those who were not given ears to hear could hear the parables, and they did, but they could not understand the parable. Matthew 13:13 "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." Those who hear the word of the kingdom and were not given the ability to understand it will not be held accountable for it.
The parable of the sower illustrates how believers are divided into two groups. Those that do not have ears to hear nor the ability to understand parables (verse 19) and those who do have ears to hear and the ability to understand (verses 20-23). Those who have ears to hear and the ability to understand fall into three categories. The first group are those who endure for a while then are easily offended because of the word of the kingdom (verses 20-21). The second group are those who hear the word and endure the tribulation but they allow the word of the kingdom to be choked because of the cares of this world and riches (verse 22). The third group are those who endure tribulation, and do not allow the word of the kingdom to be choked for any reason; they are the ones who bear fruit (verse 23).
Every child of God has the ability to feed on the word. 1 Peter 2:2 "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:" Not every child of God has the same capacity. Hebrews 5:14 "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Hebrews 6:1 "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; …" Not every child of God can go on to maturity because God will not allow them to do this. Hebrews 6:3 "And this will we do, if God permit." God is merciful by hindering some from understanding strong meat because the more we understand the greater the responsibility to obey what we know. We see this in Luke 12:47-48 "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
The understanding of the word of the kingdom is the key that keeps us hearing the word. The word understand is translated from the word suni>hmi [4920*] which is a compound word with the words su>n and i[hmi. The word su>n means with or together. the word i[hmi means to send. The Greek word for understand means to have the ability to put together the word of God. There are those who are continually hearing and "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." 2 Timothy 3:7 The word knowledge is the Greek word ejpi>gnwsiv which means knowledge upon knowledge. The principle of this knowledge is found in Isaiah 28:9-10 "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:" This is the teaching method of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:13 "the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."
John 5:24 “…He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting [agelasting] life …” The verb hath is the Greek word e]cw which is singular in number and in the present tense and is in agreement with the present tense of the singular participles heareth and believeth. The word e]cw in this context carries the meaning of having or holding in high esteem. We do not receive agelasting life until the next age which is the millennial age. This is confirmed in Mark 10:30 "He shall receive…in the world [age] to come [the one coming] eternal [agelasting] life." and in Luke 18:30 "…and in the world [age] to come life everlasting [agelasting]." As we are hearing the word of the kingdom we esteem more and more the value of continually hearing the word of the kingdom because of the potential of entering into a life of honor and glory during the millennial kingdom age. Those who were given ears to hear, therefore have the ability to understand the word of the kingdom and are the ones who have the potential to have this life for the coming age. If we understand the word of the kingdom, we know that we have been called. If we know that we have been called, then we know that we need to make our calling and election sure. 2 Peter 1:10-11 "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting [agelasting] kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." If we do not give diligence to add to our faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (verses 5-7) we will fall. This does not mean we will lose our salvation, but an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 5:24 "He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, …, and shall not come into condemnation;…" The present middle of the verb come [for myself] is in agreement with the present tense of the participles heareth and believeth. As long as we are hearing the word and are faithful and obedient to that word we will not suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ. The Greek word for condemnation is kri>siv which is also translated accusation, damnation, and judgment. It is at the Judgment Seat of Christ where our works will be judged as to whether they have been good works or bad works. We will receive rewards for the good that we have done and suffer loss for works that are not of faith. Hebrews 11:6 "But without faith it is impossible to please him…" Romans 14:23 "…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 "Wherefore we labour [we are ambitious], that, … we may be accepted [well pleasing] of him. 10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11. Knowing therefore the terror [fear] of the Lord, we persuade men…" It takes a balance between the fear of the Lord and the love of Christ to maintain the level of ambition we need to stand at the judgment seat with joy. When it comes to the judgment seat it does not make any difference who you are, Colossians 3:25 "… he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons." Revelation 3:11 "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." We can lose rewards that we have earned. 2 John 1:8 "Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things [rewards] which we have wrought [labored for], but that we receive a full reward."
John 5:24 "…but is passed from death unto life." The verb is passed is the translation of the perfect active of metabai>nw [3327*] and could be translated have passed or have departed. The perfect tense “…implies a process but views the process as having reached it consummation…” (p. 200***) The process continues as long as the hearing and believing continue. The word metabai>nw is translated: to go, to remove, and most of the time to depart. It is translated remove in Matthew 17:20 “… If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” To pass from the death unto the life is depart from the death to move to the life.
John 5:24 "…but is passed from death unto life." The definite article the is before the word death [qa>natov]. The word nekro>s is used to refer to being spiritually dead in trespasses and sins as well as for physical death. The word qa>natov is used to refer to the death of the soul or for physical death.
Just as we looked for the meaning or definition of the phrase the word we will need to do the same thing for the death. The first occurrence of the death is John 5:24 and this does not give us much help. The phrase "passed from [the] death unto [the] life" occurs in just one other place and that is in 1 John 3:14-15 "We know that we have passed from [the] death unto [the] life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in [the] death. 15. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath [e[cw, present active, esteem] eternal life abiding [me>nw, present active, endureth] in him." Murderers can be saved but any one who is saved and a murderer will not esteem highly life for the age. Galatians 5:21 "… murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, … that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
The passage in 1 John explains what the consequences are for hating your brother in the Lord. This would not make sense if this was referring to a blood brother. This is not someone who professes to be saved when he isn't, because if he was not saved the Holy Spirit would not refer to him as a brother. Using the terms "professor and possessor" is a non Biblical way of explaining something that you can not explain and still be consistent with the rest of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit wrote 1 John 3:14-15 and He knows who is in the family and who isn't; therefore He would not call him a brother if he indeed was not a brother. I believe that a brother in Christ is more than one who is saved. A brother is defined for us in Matthew 12:50 "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, …" A brother in Christ is one who is seeking to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 7:21 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." 1 Corinthians 12:3 "… no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." You can be saved and not do the will of the Father. If you are not interested in doing the will of the Father you are not a brother in Christ.
John 5:24 and 1 John 3:14-15 both deal with agelasting life. The passage in John 5:24 makes reference to one who holds agelasting life in high esteem and in 1 John 3:15 reference is made to one who loves his brother because he holds agelasting life in high esteem. The word abiding in 1 John 3:15 is the Greek word me>nw and is also translated endureth and is in the present tense. The holding of agelasting life in high esteem does not endure or continue in a brother that hates his brother in Christ. This is confirmed in 1 John 2:8-11 "Again, a new commandment I write unto you, … 9. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10. He that loveth his brother abideth [continue, dwell, endure, remain] in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." When a brother's eyes are blinded, then the word of the kingdom can not be understood. Matthew 13:14 "… the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:" If life for the age is not regarded highly, then the word of the kingdom will not continue to be heard and then the one who was given ears to hear and eyes to see move from the life back to the death. If we justify hating our brother in Christ we have become lawless. To move from the life to the death means that there will be judgment given, at the judgment seat of Christ, for being disobedient to the new commandment. We do not have to continue to hate our brother in Christ and come into this condemnation, we can repent. All one has to do is to begin to hear the word of the kingdom again and begin to move from the death to the life again. 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning his [the] promise, … but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." 1 John 2:25 "And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal [agelasting] life." Only those who have life can perish. Those dead in sin can not perish, they are already dead.
The death is our last enemy. Physical death is not an enemy because in 2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." and in Philippians 1:23 "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:" we see that to be present with the Lord is far better. 1 Corinthians 15:26 "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Until we are in the presence of the Lord, the death [qa>natos] is our enemy. 1 Corinthians 15:54 "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, [the] Death [qa>natos] is swallowed up in victory." 1 Corinthians 15:56 "The sting of [the] death [qa>natos] is [the] sin [lawlessness]; and the strength of [the] sin is the law." The sin is a reference to lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 *** "Every one who is doing the sin, the lawlessness also he doth do, and the sin is the lawlessness,"
John 5:24 "…but is passed from death unto [the] life." The phrase “the life” first occurs in the Greek New Testament in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter ye in at the strait gate: ... 14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto [the] life, and few there be that find it.” This is not the way to be saved. We believe to be saved. To look for a strait gate and then maintain our walk on a narrow way for salvation makes the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross unnecessary. When we believe to be saved the transaction is done, we are saved. Entering the narrow gate does not guarantee “the life,” it just leads to “the life.”
Another occurrence of the phrase “the life” is where the rich man asked “… what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life [agelasting life]? 17. And he [Jesus] said… if thou wilt enter [eijse>rcomai, 1525*] into [the] life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:16-17 The man asks how he might have agelasting life. The word might have is translated from the Greek word e]cw but is not in the present tense but is aorist tense. In this case the meaning of the word e[cw is to have. To help us to understand what the man asks him, Jesus clarifies the question with the phrase "if thou wilt enter into the life" in verse 17. To have life for the age is to enter into the life. To enter into the life is further defined in verses Matthew 19:23, 24 “Then said Jesus ...That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 ...It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” To have agelasting life, to enter into life, and enter the kingdom of heaven is further defined in Matthew 19:27-28 when "…Peter …said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" In other words, we have done what you told the rich man to do, so what are we going to get? Then in verse 28. "… Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The reference to the regeneration and the throne of His glory is a reference to the kingdom of the heavens which is the millennial reign of Christ. The life in John 5:24 is the same as entering into the kingdom of heaven or God and this is defined in Matthew 19:28 as sitting upon thrones judging the nations of the world.
Salvation comes before the calling. You can't be called if you are not saved. 2 Timothy 1:9 "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," The calling is unto His kingdom and glory which has to do with the word of the kingdom. If you do not have ears to hear the word of the kingdom you do not have ears to hear His calling unto His kingdom and glory. John 10:3 "To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name…" John 10:27 "My sheep hear [ajkou>w, 191* present active, they have ears] my voice, and I know [present active] them, and they follow [present active] me:" Not all have ears to hear, so only the many have ears to hear and therefore they are the ones who are called. Matthew 20:16 "So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen." Those who have been called to His kingdom and glory through the word of the kingdom, have to root themselves in the word of the kingdom or they will be offended. Those who have been called must walk worthy of the kingdom by refusing anything that would choke the word of the kingdom so that they would not become unfruitful. 1 Thessalonians 2:12 "That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory." To walk worthy of the Lord is to bear fruit. The message of John 5:24 is to be faithful in hearing the word of the kingdom and you will not be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ. If we are faithful to the word of the kingdom, then we will bear fruit and enter the life of the kingdom of heaven ruling and reigning with Christ. If we stop hearing the word of the kingdom then we will become unfruitful and forfeit an abundant entrance into the coming Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
* Numbers are from the Strong’s Concordance
** Youngs Literal Translation of the Bible
*** Dana & Mantey’s Manual Grammar
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