Life after death

Jesus’ special relationship with God infuriated the Jews because they didn’t understand how he could be equal with God when he was a human like them. Jesus referred to God as his Father (John 5:17). The idea that God could have conceived a child seemed ludicrous to the Jews who thought that God’s primary purpose was to regulate the behavior of men, not become one of them in order to deliver them from sin and death.

Jesus said, “My father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). At the time when Jesus lived, fathers and sons usually had the same occupation. While they were living at home, young men learned their father’s trade and were expected to contribute to the family’s income. Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55) and it is assumed that Jesus worked in that trade until he began his ministry at about the age of 30.

Rather than associating himself with his carpentry job, Jesus focused everyone’s attention on the joint spiritual activity that was going on between him and his heavenly Father. Jesus said, “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and will shew him greater works than these that ye may marvel” (John 5:20). The greater works Jesus was referring to was resurrecting the dead.

In order to set the stage for an unprecedented revelation about his establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, Jesus talked about eternal life in the context of faith in God. He said, “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). Jesus wanted everyone to know that eternal life was a gift that could only be obtained through belief.

Following this statement, Jesus declared that the resurrection of the dead would take place at his command (John 5:25). It was only because he had been given authority to execute judgment on behalf of his father that Jesus could command the dead to come back to life. The shocking news was that everyone would be brought back to life, even those that didn’t believe in Jesus. He told the Jews:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29)

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