Out of the Tombs to a “Resurrection of Judgment”
1. Who are the ones that John 5:29 speaks of as “those who practiced vile things”?
WHO are the ones whom Jesus, in John 5:29, called “those who practiced vile things” and who come out of the memorial tombs “to a resurrection of judgment”? Evidently these are all the ones who have not proved their resurrection to be a “resurrection of life.”
2, 3. (a) In John 5:29, does the word “judgment” allow for two possibilities for the ones judged? (b) At whom is the judgment directed, and what, in the light of other scriptures, would this indicate as to the kind of judgment for them?
2 In Jesus’ expression “resurrection of judgment,” does the word “judgment” mean an opportunity to have the court judge decide in favor of the person on trial? No! “Judgment” here does not mean a judicial trial with two possibilities, either that of the judge’s pronouncing a person not guilty and releasing him or that of the judge’s condemning him and adjudging him to punishment.a “Judgment” means the act of judging, the intellectual or mental process of forming an opinion by considering the facts of the case, the judicial decision of a case in court.b It must be either favorable or unfavorable. Which is the “judgment” here in John 5:29?
3 The very fact that, in John 5:29, the judgment is directed at “those who practiced vile things” indicates that it is an unfavorable judgment, a condemnatory judgment. Concerning persons who now make a practice of doing vile things, Jesus said: “He that practices vile things hates the light and does not come to the light, in order that his works may not be reproved. But he that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.” (John 3:20, 21) In a warning to us against jealousy and contentiousness James 3:14-16 goes on to say: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.”—See Titus 2:8.
4 In a number of Bible verses the words “judge” and “judgment” have the force of condemning, condemnation. For example, in Jude 4, 14, 15, which reads: “Certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” “Look! Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment [krisis] against all, and to convict all the ungodly.” Acts 7:7 says concerning Egypt: “‘That nation for which they [the Israelites] will slave I shall judge,’ God said, ‘and after these things they will come out and will render sacred service to me in this place.’”
5. When appointments are considered, against what kind of judgment should the newly converted man be protected?
5 The apostle Paul instructed to appoint, “not a newly converted man, for fear that he might get puffed up with pride and fall into the judgment [krima] passed upon the Devil.”—1 Tim. 3:6.
6 The world empire of false religion symbolized as Babylon the Great will have no resurrection from her coming destruction. So, according to Dr. Robert Young’s literal Bible translation, Revelation 18:8, 20 and Re 19:2 read: “In fire she shall be utterly burned, because strong is the Lord God who is judging her.” “Be glad over her, O heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets, because God did judge your judgment on her!” “Because true and righteous are His judgments, because He did judge the great whore who did corrupt the earth in her whoredom, and He did avenge the blood of His servants at her hand.”
7 In Hebrew the word mishpát is used in the sense of “cause or ground of condemnation.” Jeremiah 51:9 says about Babylon: “Clear to the heavens her judgment has reached.” In Psalm 9:19 and Joel 3:12 we read about how the nations are judged unfavorably. Obadiah 21 says concerning the ungodly nation of Esau or Edom: “Saviors will certainly come up onto Mount Zion, in order to judge the mountainous region of Esau; and the kingship must become Jehovah’s.”
8 The Jewish ruler Nicodemus defended Jesus Christ with the words: “Our law does not judge a man unless first it has heard from him and come to know what he is doing, does it?” (John 7:51) In Matthew 23:33 Jesus says to the Jewish scribes and Pharisees: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” If this judgment is something from which to flee, how could this judgment (krisis) mean an opportunity to escape from Gehenna or endless destruction? It does not mean such!
9 Keep in mind also that, in John 5:29, Jesus Christ is making contrasts. He is contrasting “those who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things.” Correspondingly, he contrasts the “resurrection of life” and the “resurrection of judgment.”
10 In other places Jesus makes the same contrast between salvation (or life) and judgment. For example, after telling of God’s great love for the world of mankind Jesus said: “God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him. He that exercises faith in him is not to be judged. He that does not exercise faith has been judged already, because he has not exercised faith in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. Now this is the basis for judgment [or, this is the krisis], that the light has come into the world but men have loved the darkness rather than the light, for their works were wicked.” (John 3:17-19) In those verses all the cases of judging and of judgment are in a condemnatory sense. All are contrasted with salvation to everlasting life.—Compare John 12:47; Matthew 25:46.
11 In John 5:24, just a few verses ahead of where Jesus mentions the resurrection of the dead, he makes the same contrast between life and judgment, saying: “He that hears my word and believes him that sent me has everlasting life, and he does not come into judgment but has passed over from death to life.” Hence in John 5:28, 29 Jesus shows the two distinct and opposite outcomes of the general resurrection or coming out of the memorial tombs.
12 They are (1) “life” and (2) “judgment,” that is, a condemnatory judgment, a condemnation, a “damnation” in the now out-of-date language of the King James Version Bible; an adjudging to punishment by the utter loss of all life anywhere.
13. (a) A real contrast between “life” and “judgment” will not allow for what interpretation of the word “judgment”? (b) So then, what kind of thing does the word “judgment” here mean?
13 Jesus does not contrast (1) “life” and (2) a “judgment” the outcome of which is uncertain, either life if the resurrected one turns from practicing vile things or death if he does not turn from such practice. This would be no real contrast, for eternal life would then be possible by the “resurrection of judgment” as well as by the “resurrection of life.” And since Jesus said that “all” would come out and that all would come out to a “resurrection,” to a “resurrection” either of life or of judgment, it would then reduce itself to a universal salvation of “all those in the memorial tombs” who hear Jesus’ voice and come out. To the contrary of this, “judgment” here means, not a divisible judgment, but a single judgment with but one sentence that adjudges the practicers of vile things to a loss of all life.
14. (a) Since the word “judgment” is used only in connection with “those who practiced vile things,” does this mean that the gainers of life do not pass through a testing? (b) Since the 144,000 gain an instantaneous perfection in heaven, when do they have their judgment period?
14 Accordingly, John 5:28, 29 indicates two general classes that are distinguished from each other by the outcome of their course of action after they are resurrected. In John 5:29 Jesus uses the Greek word krisis only in connection with those who do vile things, but this does not mean that those who gain the “resurrection of life” do not pass through a trial or testing before they actually enter into their life eternal.c In the case of the 144,000 who become associate judges with Jesus Christ in heaven, they have an instantaneous entrance into perfect immortal spirit life with Christ. But they have been on trial here on earth, for, as 1 Peter 4:17 says, “it is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God?” Consequently, when they die faithful in the flesh, the end of their judgment period comes. In God’s due time they take part in the “first resurrection” and then “the second death has no authority” over them. (Rev. 20:4-6) They then become judges instead of being put on judgment.
15. When do those who experience the “resurrection of judgment” have the judgment executed upon them?
15 However, when do those who come out of the memorial tombs to a “resurrection of judgment” on earth have the judgment pronounced and executed on them? Not immediately after they take their stand before the “great white throne and the one seated on it,” but only after they “practiced vile things” either during Christ’s thousand-year reign or at the end of the thousand years when Satan and his demons are released from the abyss to tempt restored mankind.
16. Having their names “written in the book of life” depends upon what, and when may the “second death” be applied, and why then?
16 Revelation 20:11-15 pictures how all those on earth who are given up by the sea and Hades and death have an opportunity to get their names “written in the book of life.” Whether they will be judged worthy of that will depend on how they lived up to the “scrolls” of instruction that will then be opened up and according to which they will be judged. Some of these may be found unworthy before the thousand years are ended. So they may then and there be executed with the “second death,” because in a vile way they have refused to live up to the Kingdom requirements and to progress toward human perfection and holiness.
17. When will others be executed, and why then?
17 Others will be executed after the thousand years are over. By then they will have attained to human perfection and to ability to live sinlessly in harmony with all the laws of God and in support of his universal sovereignty. But when Satan and his demons are loosed to test them, they will vilely turn from righteousness and side in with Satan the Devil, the great rebel against the universal sovereignty of the Most High God. For committing such vileness they will fail under the final test and prove unworthy of eternal life. They will then be “those who practiced vile things.”
18. For such people their resurrection turns out eventually to be what kind?
18 Revelation 20:14, 15 says: “This means the second death, the lake of fire. Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire.” For such people the resurrection that they enjoyed when they came out of the tombs turns out to be a “resurrection of judgment,” to annihilation; because when the time finally came for the judicial award of life or condemnation to be made, their record showed them to be “those who practiced vile things.”
19, 20. (a) In the face of this understanding of John 5:28, 29, does it matter how we live now? (b) How do Peter’s warning and the fulfillment of prophecies for our time determine the right answer?
19 From all the foregoing, let nobody draw the conclusion that it matters little how we live now and that only what we do under God’s kingdom after Har–Magedon will really decide our eternal future. Remember 1 Peter 4:17 to the effect that the appointed time of judgment has already begun at the Christian house of God. Also, Babylon the Great (the world empire of false religion) is in the “hour of the judgment by him,” that is, judgment by God. She has fallen under his adverse judgment and is now approaching her violent destruction from God. The kings of the earth and their armies are also being gathered under demon influence to their destruction at Har–Magedon. Do we want to be destroyed with all of them and forfeit a resurrection from the dead? Then get out of Babylon the Great now! Break away from the international march to Har–Magedon. Save yourself from Gehenna!—Rev. 14:7, 8; 16:13-16; 18:4; 19:19-21.
20 The people of the nations are now being separated like sheep and goats according to the parable that Jesus gave at the close of his prophecy on the end of this system of things. Do you want to prove yourself a “goat”? No! For “these will depart into everlasting cutting-off [punishment, the opposite of life], but the righteous ones [the sheep] into everlasting life.”—Matt. 25:31-46.
21. (a) If we die before the destruction of Babylon the Great and the war of Har–Magedon, in what condition do we want to die? (b) What other possibility is there for us of today?
21 A short time remains yet before Babylon the Great’s destruction and the war of Har–Magedon. If we die before then, we want to die worthy of being kept in God’s memory, like being kept in the “memorial tombs.” Then, in due time, we shall hear the voice of the Son of man and come out to the prospect of everlasting life in God’s righteous new order of things, to a “resurrection of life.” But it is also possible that we may be among those of the “great crowd” who will not die but who will live through the war of Har–Magedon and pass directly on into God’s new order of things.
22. What, then, would it be well for us to do now, and with what benefit to ourselves?
22 How advisable it is for us, then, to keep from practicing vile things now and to prepare for the righteous new order! In the love of righteousness we do well to choose to do good things in harmony with God’s will and in imitation of his Christ now! In that way we shall get an advance start in the way of righteousness that leads to everlasting life in happy harmony with God.
“The rendering of our Common Version, ‘resurrection of damnation,’ is a serious error which has greatly assisted in beclouding the minds of many respecting the true import of this passage. Many seem to gather from it the thought that some will be resurrected merely to be damned or condemned again. The very reverse of this is the truth. The word rendered ‘damnation’ in this verse is the Greek word krisis, which occurs repeatedly in the same chapter and is properly rendered judgment. It should be so rendered in this case, and is so rendered in the Revised Version.”
Krisis is also rendered judgment in the New World Translation.
b The meanings of the Greek word krisis are given in A Greek Lexicon, Volume I, by Liddell and Scott, on page 997a, as follows:
“1. separating, distinguishing; 2. decision, judgment; 3. choice, election; 4. interpretation of dreams or portents, LXX, Daniel 2:36; II. judgment of a court; b. result of a trial, condemnation. Matthew 10:15; 2. trial of skill or strength; 3. dispute. III. event, issue; 2. turning point of a disease.”
In A Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament, by Parkhurst, on page 342a of the 1845 edition, the meanings of krisis in the Christian Greek Scriptures are given as follows: “I. judgment; II. Judgment, justice. Matthew 23:23. Compare Mt 12:20: III. judgment of condemnation, condemnation, damnation. (Mark 3:29; John 5:24, 29); IV. the cause or ground of condemnation or punishment. John 3:19; V. a particular court of justice among the Jews. Matthew 5:21, 22.”
The meanings of the Greek verb krinein (to judge) run parallel with the meanings of krisis above.
c On page 187, lines 4-7, Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Hand-book to the Gospel of John speaks of the resurrection of krisis in John 5:29 and says: “krisis] to which judgment pertains, and judgment, according to the context, in a condemnatory sense (to eternal death in Gehenna); and accordingly anástasis zoés [resurrection of life] does not exclude an act of judgment, which awards the zoé [life].”