"Neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son. Coming is an hour, and now is, when the dead shall be hearing the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall be living. And He (the Father) gives Him (the Son) authority to do judging, seeing that He is a son of mankind. Coming is an hour in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and those who do good shall go out into a resurrection of life, yet those who commit bad things into a resurrection of judging" (John 5:22-29 quoted in part).
"In accord with your hardness and unrepentant heart you are hoarding for yourself indignation in the day of indignation and revelation of the just judgment of God, Who will be paying each one in accord with his acts (his works):to those, indeed, who by endurance in good acts are seeking glory and honor and incorruption, life eonian; yet to those of faction, and stubborn, indeed, as to the truth, yet persuaded to injustice (He will be paying) .. indignation and fury, affliction and distress, on every soul which is effecting evil—yet glory and honor and peace to every worker of good ... in the day when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity according to my evangel, through Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:5-16 quoted in part).
The passage from John's account is quoted as it reads in the Concordant Version with only brief annotations in parentheses. It bears a notable resemblance to an early part of Paul's letter to the Romans which appears following John's account. Both passages relate to a future experience of all who die unsaved. From Romans as well as John's account we are told of some future judgment when the unsaved dead will be judged according to their works, and the two Scriptures agree that good works as well as bad works will be taken into account.
The passage quoted from John's account is not restricted to Israel, nor is the quotation from Romans restricted to the Gentiles. Though it is true that John was one of The Twelve whose fortunes were otherwise localised to Israel, this quotation from his account has a wide application to all who will have died unsaved and come forth from the tombs together at some far distant "hour" beyond a future Millennium. They include Gentiles as well as the unsaved of Israel. Furthermore, these are not words supplied by John as a teacher. Here he was not teaching only faithfully reporting what our Lord had once spoken in the presence of His disciples which He said the Holy Spirit would recall to their memory, "reminding you of all that I said to you" (John 14:26).
Though Paul had been severed from the Twelve to evangelise the Gentiles as well as his own generation of Israel with a message of salvation in grace, received through faith,the passage quoted here from the early part of Romans does not allude to faith. It deals only with works, as do also the words of our Lord quoted here from John 5:28-29. It relates to the destiny of all the unsaved dead at some remote future judgment; some who by good works in this life are "SEEKING glory and honor and incorruption, life eonian," which no one oan obtain that way, not even by the best of works, yet such are distinguished here from other persons whose works are "of faction, and stubborn, indeed, as to the truth," so those are said to be "persuaded to injustice" (preferably "un-righteousness"). They are said to be hoarding for themselves "indignation in the day of indignation and revelation of the just (righteous) judgment of God."
We are told that all this will take place "in the day when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity aooording to my evangel, through Jesus Christ." Thus even though judgments are not any part of the good news whioh oonstitutes Paul's evangel, they will be ACCORDING THERETO. For all those who even without the hearing of present faith are by nature disposed to good works and thereby instinotively seeking a righteousness not obtainable by works, those future judgments will yet result in "glory and honor and peace"—not because of the works but because persons disposed to good works will be predisposed and responsive to the righteousness of God in Christ, never before revealed to them until the righteous judgments of God are made manifest in that future day. On the other hand, for "every human soul which is effecting evil" there will be "indignation and fury, affliction and distress" though as Paul shows later (Rom. 5:l8,19), this does not preclude the ultimate salvation of all.
According to the text from Romans as well as the other from John's account, we perceive that when all in the tombs come forth at that far distant "hour", there will be a distinction between those having done good and those having done evil, yet they all come forth from the tombs unsaved. Unlike persons previously saved in grace, through faith, they will have had no part in any former resurrection, but some go out into a resurrection of life while for others there is to be a "resurrection of judging."
Lest those who then have done good should be mistaken for persons previously saved in grace through faith, it is well to reexamine the passage cited from John's account to note where believers do and do not appear. They DO appear in verse 25. For reasons yet to follow here, they do NOT appear in verses 28 and 29. Believers are in view where our Lord said first, "There cometh an hour and NOW IS" (our emphasis). From that "hour" onward He said some persons called "dead" would be hearing the voice of "the Son of God," a title He used of Himself only very seldom; a notable contrast to "The Son of Mankind" which He otherwise used most often. There were but precious few among the many who realised they were hearing "the voice of the Son of God" AS SUCH. From that hour onward He said only those would be "living." They had not been physically dead but dead in their sins; like other persons our Lord called "dead" who were going about burying their dead (Matt. 8:22}. In spirit and by faith those hearing and recognising "the voice of the Son of God" AS SUCH would pass from death unto life. Others hearing a voice which they recognised only as the voice of a "son of mankind" would still remain "dead"; yet our lord said also it is just because He is indeed a "son of mankind" as well as The Son of God that He had been given authority to do judging.
Omission of the definite article here preceding "son of mankind" is very significant, for it is the only place where our Lord ever spoke of Himself only as "son of mankind," and this was not accidental. In more than eighty other passages He always used the definite article in referring to Himself as "The Son of Mankind," but this does not rule out that He is likewise a "son of mankind," one among many, whereas He alone is The Son of Mankind (literally THE SON OF THE HUMAN}, a title by which He distinguished Himself from all other sons of men.
There is an important reason for this. The first man Adam had been granted universal dominion over all the earth, so until the entrance of sin that dominion belonged potentially to all of Adam's posterity, but because his dominion had been lost through sin before Adam had any son, and since the effect of the first sin passed through to all mankind (Rom. 5:12), it follows that no son of Adam was eligible to redeem the lost dominion until the sinless One appeared. Thus He became as Paul says, "the second man" and "the last Adam." According to John 5:22 our Lord had said "Neither is the Father judging anyone but has given all judging to the Son," yet according to verse 27 He was careful to indicate that this right of judging was contingent on the fact that He, like others, is a "son of mankind"; therefore not as if He were of another race, a foreigner unsympathetic to those He will judge, but He is one of their own flesh. He was made for a little while in all respects like His kinsmen of mankind except that, unlike them, He had no sin (Eeb. 2:9; 4:15).
The voice that all in the tombs will hear at some far future hour is still the voice of a "son of mankind," yet a voice speaking then with preeminent power and authority, because at that eventful moment the unsaved dead are to learn with astonishment that this is indeed The Son of God and uniquely THE Son of Mankind. At the command of that voice all in the tombs shall come forth; some to a resurrection of life, others to a resurrection of judging.
When all in their tombs hear the voice, all alike will be roused to their former state of consciousness, but none then as yet will be "living" in the spiritual sense which the text there first denotes; not even those among them who come forth to the resurrection of life, which then they have yet to receive. Until then their works are not made manifest; until then they have not yet heard and recognized the voice of The Son of God; and until then their names will not have been entered in that which is called the scroll of life, to be considered here later.
Those coming forth to a resurrection of life who will have been SEEKING "glory and honor and incorruption", not by faith but by good works, should not be mistaken for those who die in the faith and are therefore previously "roused incorruptible" (ICor. 15:52,53). Those in John 5:29 who go out "into a resurrection of life" are not roused ALREADY incorruptible; they go out from the tombs and into a subsequent resurrection of life. The Greek EIS for "into" is the same preposition which for idiomatic reasons is sometimes rendered simply as "to" but even then it may indicate only an approach, not an entrance; rather, direction toward an entrance. Thus for example in John 28:3-5 where Peter and John are said to have come "to the tomb," EIS there is rendered "to," but we are distinctly told that John had NOT entered. The elder Peter running at slower speed than the youthful John was still running toward the tomb after he and John are said to have came "TO the tomb," yet John waited outside until Peter arrived before either of them entered.
While those who go out into a resurrection of life are therefore more fortunate than others roused at the same "hour," the fact remains that their works too are judged, though judged more favorably than the bad works of others. This, however, is no reason why those who are said to have done the good works should be mistaken for believers who are "roused incorruptible." It is only because of their faith that believers enjoy such a distinction over those who have done good works but die outside the faith, not having heard the evangel. The works of believers will be judged also, even as the works of others. While our Lord indicated that there are conditions under which believers would not be coming into judging (John 5:24), this does not contradict what Paul said elsewhere in Romans; that although. there is "no condemnation" for those "in Christ Jesus" (8:1), yet "we all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (14:10), and elsewhere he shows that this is in order for our works to be judged "whether good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10). There are certain works of believers which may have to be "burned up" while the workmen whose works they are will be saved (I Cor. 3:15). Works performed by other workmen among the believers may be judged good and for those they receive a reward (I Cor. 3:14) quite separate and distinct from God's free gift of salvation in Christ, because that is obtainable only by faith and not because of works. This is wholly consistent with a resurrection of life for some who have done good but die outside the faith, not having heard the evangel. When they are saved ahead of others whose works have been bad, it is not because of their former good works but, having been disposed to good works, they will be predisposed to receive a righteousness not their own, once it is revealed to them that this is a righteousness God has wrought for them in the Cross of Christ which they can receive only as a free gift of grace; not as reward for their past good works.
The sequence of events by which all this comes about was later revealed to John from the isle of Patmos when he in spirit had been projected down into a prophetic "day of the Lord." From there he was privileged to see a preview of that post-Millennial time we may conveniently call the White Throne Judgment. There John saw a phenomenon which now to many may appear incredible. He says he saw the dead standing. "And I perceived the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. And scrolls were opened. And another scroll was opened which is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged by that which is written in the scrolls in accord with their acts (their works)." Here we are about to find that the scroll of life is first said to be only a "scrollet of life," though this is something we must leave to examine in a following paragraph. Meanwhile we note that the dead are to be judged by the content of other "scrolls", stated in the plural, each of which contains a record of works by the person concerned.
This accords with a symposium of former revelations showing there, the same as here, that when the unsaved dead are judged it is always the good works rather than the bad which are first taken into account. Even from the Hebrew Scriptures we learn that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccl. 12:14). Note that the good works are evaluated first, then the evil works. This coincides with our Lord's words in the passage we have quoted from John's account where we find first a resurrection of life for those who have done good and then a resurrection of judging for those who will have done evil. Likewise in Romans we read first of those who endure in good works; afterward we read of those who are said to be "of faction, and stubborn, indeed, as to the truth, yet persuaded to injustice" (preferably, "unrighteousness"). Those who will have done good are correlated to "glory and honor and peace" while those who are "of faction" and persuaded to unrighteousness are correlated to "indignation and fury, affliction and distress".
The truth that good works rather than bad works are first to be considered in future judgments has been much obscured in Revelation chapter 20 because of incomplete rendering from the Greek. There in verse 12 of most versions we read first about "the book of life" but the Greek word rendered there as "book" is BIBLION, a diminutive of BIBLOS, so it indicates something smaller than the misrendered "book". The diminutive BIBLION corresponds well to what we would call a "scrollet" while BIBLOS corresponds instead to a scroll The two words BIBLION and BIBLOS are related to each other as a smaller booklet is related to a larger book.
This notable contrast between the diminutive BIBLION as the smaller scrollet and BIBLOS as the larger scroll is of vital significance here just because the two words appear together in the same context. Elsewhere either a scroll or a scrollet, if standing alone, could indicate a book either large or small, depending on its purpose, because a physically large book could be small in one situation and a physically small book could be large in a different situation; but here where the diminutive BIBLION is followed in the same context by a greater BIBLOS it plainly indicates an increase of size to accommodate an increase in the number of names entered in what is first only a scrollet of life until it is expanded to a larger scroll adequate for additional names.
Just what doss this increase imply? For believers of present and past generations we have already observed that persons such as they were saved in grace through faith by hearing the words if not also the personal voice of the Son of God. Yet in proportion to all humanity, these have been relatively few in number. It may well be true that many others who remained unbelievers have little if any excuse for not having heard; especially those who have lived in lands where the Cross of Christ has been proclaimed, be that ever so poorly. Aside from those, however, this still leaves the greater part of historic mankind who have never heard of Christ and were not within the range of His voice or the hearing of His word. Of that vast number we venture not to suggest how many or what part may have been like those Paul calls "of faction and stubborn indeed as to the truth, yet persuaded to unrighteousness;" nor how many or what part have been seeking "glory and honor and incorruption" while they vere guided only by their conscience. History appears to oonfirm there have been some of eaah kind, but God alone oan know how many of those pursuing good works would have listened and believed if they had enjoyed the same oppotunity as we ourselves. When future judgments are to be sa Paul said "acoording to my evangel," Scripture clearly indicates that the hearts of those who have been righteously disposed will be made manifest; so will the hearts of others who have not been yielding unto the truth but yielding unto unrighteoueness. Thus we are told that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing", even as Paul says elsewhere that when the Lord shall be coming, He will..."also illuminate the hidden things and manifest the counsels of the hearts" (I Cor. 4:5).
This is not to say that those of the unsaved who have done good and go out "into" (in the direction of) a resurrection of life will therefore realise immediate "glory and honor and peace;" nor that others who come forth to a resurrection of judging will pass directly into a "second death" for some remaining part of eonian times. Instead we are told that scrolls will be opened; whioh apparently means individual accounts of all past works; and the dead will be judged aocording to their works, whether good or bad, "by that which is written in the scrolls."
In order for this to take place, all in the tombs are roused though they are not "roused incorruptible," as Paul says elsewhere of those who die in the faith (I Cor. 15:52,53). When the unsaved dead are roused they are not yet vivified, not even those among them who will have done good. They too at first are only roused. For all alike who are roused at that far future "hour" there must be first a "revelation of the righteous judgment of God;" and for those among them who all along were righteouely disposed, that will be conducive to a "resurrection of life"; a prooess of UP-STANDING as the Greek "anastasis" suggests, thus eventuating into "glory and honor and peace."
For others who have been "stubborn indeed as to the truth yet persuaded to unrighteousness," there will be a resurrection of judging. The text from Revelation indicates that for some this will involve what is called a "second death" of some unrevealed duration, though we know from other Scriptures that it will be restrioted to eonian times. There is no Scriptural basis for concluding that this applies to all who come forth from the tombs unsaved, as if no names were added to the scrollet of life while the White Throne Judgment prooeeds. Quite to the contrary, we have noted that the smaller sarollet of life in verse 12 where the reawakened dead first appear is progressively expanded, because in verse 15 before the conclusion of the judgment, the smaller scrollet has become a major scroll. The text indioates only that there will be some whose names then have not been entered in the scroll of life. Here far from saying ALL, it says rather IF ANY—"If any was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire." Still it would be unfair to contend that this implies none may incur that judgment. Another Scripture shows quite plainly there will be some who are cast into the lake of fire called "the second death" but it carefully defines those to whom it will apply in a manner which essentially excludes all others. Those to whom it will apply are characterised only ss "The timid, and unbelievers, and the abominable, and murderers, and paramours, and enchanters, and idolaters, and all the false" (Rev. 21:8). There even the timid and unbelievers appear to indicate only such who have had a responsible opportunity to hear but remained as obstinate DISBELIEVERS. It is scarcely conceivable that others who have never heard of salvation in Christ yet were all along righteously disposed would share the same judgment as "murderers, and paramours, and enchanters and idolaters"—the very worse of mankind. Seeing that those who sustain a "second death" are so carefully defined, this obviously leaves a wide latitude for the many who by endurance in good works have been "seeking glory, honor and incorruption;" especially those whom Paul describes as "they of the nations (Gentiles) that have no law," who instinotively "by nature" have been doing—"that which the law demands" and were therefore "law to themselves...displaying the action of the law written in their hearts" (Rom. 2:14-15). Even according to our present unequitable systems of jurisprudence, it would be libelous indeed to characterise persons so instinctively disposed to righteousness as if they deserve to share the same judgment with wilful unbelievers, murderers, paramours, enchanters and idolaters. In the light of a revealed righteous judgment under whioh a scrollet of life expands proportionately to contain certain names of those who go out into a resurreotion of life, it beoomes unworthy of responsible Scripture study to disregard thie merciful provision which Soripture indicates for many who were unevangelised but righteously inclined.
Perhaps someone may ask, What manner of persons are those whc have been instinctively disposed only to good works, who have sought a glory, honor and peace which always lay muoh beyond their reach, while others have obtained the promises of God because of faith and not because of works? It may well be that many such commendable persons have lived in every generation and in every nation. Perhaps they include some of those who lived among the 120,000 inhabitants of ancient Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah but were never blessed, as we are now, to hear of salvation in Christ. Others may have lived among the doomed citizens of Tyre and Sidon. Our Lcrd said if the mighty works He had performed in the Galilean cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done of Tyre and Sidon, they could have repented and reformed. He told the religious people of Capernaum in His day that if the works He had done in their sight had been done in Sodom, she would have remained to that very day. Accordingly He said it will be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment than for many of His own people Israel (Matt. 11:20-24).
In ancient as well as modern nations no doubt many humble persons of little note have lived, served and died seeking not their own gain or pleasure but often only the needs and the rights of others. There were times too when Gentile kings of ancient nations have obeyed the voice of divine revelation. There was, for example, the Pharaoh of Joseph's day. There was Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to whom Daniel ministered. "Truly, said the king, "your God is a God of gods." There was also a Darius who wrote "to all the peoples, nations and languages that dwell in all the earth," and saying "I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel" (Dan. 6:25-26). There was a oertain Artaxerxes who wrote letters of intercession to contemporary kings on behalf of Jeremiah and the exiles of Judah (Neh. 2:8). There was Cyrus of Persia, destined even before his birth to be a type of the Lord's anointed, who proclaimed freedom to the former captives from Judah and supplied them with necessary means to build a new temple at Jerusalem.
As these or untold others come forth from the tombs unto a resurrection of life, they will not be saved because of their former good works but, having been instinotively disposed to righteousness, they may well be predisposed to receive and praise God for a righteousness He has wrought in Christ on their behalf, though to them it was never before revealed. This at least would be consistent with a time when the righteous judgments of God are made manifest "in the day," as Paul says, "when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity according to my evangel through Jesus Christ."
Melvin E. Johnson (Instalment Nine, May-June 1973)